Producing Cheaper and Better VR headsets Through 3D Printing
3D Printing -Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality today is becoming more and more mainstream with companies like Facebook (Oculus), Microsoft (Hololens) and dozens of other providing platforms for creating and viewing immersive virtual reality and augmented reality experiences such as games, walkthroughs and virtual tours.
We even have companies like GoPro throwing down solutions and camera rigs that can make it possible for anyone with a budget to capture and share VR content.
What role can 3D printing play in this revolution? The relative affordability and ease of access to 3D printers makes it possible for anyone to design and create viable 3D headset. Just like what Google Cardboard offers, it is even better or preferable to print a 3D viewer from any of the materials 3D printers can work with.
The beauty of building a VR headset using 3D printing is that users aren’t forced to fit whatever one-size-fits all design a Google Cardboard template has to offer, but can easily tailor the fit and size to a user’s particular needs.
To use a 3D printer to create your own version of Google Cardboard, here’s a quick guide. First, choose a template from a 3D model repository like Thingiverse or YouMagine.
The virtual reality headset pictured above was designed by maker Abars for a Nexus 5, but it can easily be modified to accommodate other handsets like the Samsung Galaxy. Commenters have verified that any modern 5″ Android phone should fit easily.
Once you’ve settled upon your design, the next step is to source the lenses and magnets. Several vendors are offering parts-only kits. I Am Cardboard has a great value set for only $9.99, including 1 Pair of 25mm Biconvex Lenses (45mm Focal Length), neodymium magnet, a ceramic magnet, an NFC tag, velcro strips and rubber bands
We’ve seen other virtual reality headsets prototyped with 3D printing, like the Pinc VR headset which was designed around an iPhone 6 Plus and was 3D printed and refined through various iterations. While cardboard-type solutions may seem simple and cost-effective, they don’t really look and feel like long term solutions (even though some companies are selling these for $20.00 – $45.00 to cash in on demand).
3D printing offers a wider range of materials and a more cohesive and longer lasting product. Using polymers of various sizes and thicknesses allows for more customization over cardboard which is just thick, porous paper that’s not entirely designed to be worn on a person’s face for long periods of time.
The open source nature of 3D printing source libraries makes it possible for designers from around the world to download, test and even improve existing designs so that they fit better or are optimized for specific smartphones.
We’re truly at the cusp of emerging technologies that could truly democratize 3D printing for the masses.