If you’ve spent any time thinking about buying a synth over the past few years, you’ve undoubtedly encountered the legions of small format, desktop machines that make up a growing swath of the hardware market. From Korg’s ever-popular Volca series to the compact yet wonderfully versatile Teenage Engineering OP-1, these sorts of devices are filling the homes of more and more producers and players, leaving many to look for creative solutions on how to best house and support their instruments within their workspaces.
Enter 3DWaves, a Reverb seller based in Texas that produces a range of affordable and highly usable synth stands produced via 3D printing. We recently caught up with designer and founder Jason Hale to talk about his design process and what’s in store for 3DWaves next.
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How’d you get started in making these stands?
I got into making stands for synthesizers because a lot of newer desktop models don’t face you when you’re playing them while sitting down at a desk. I had just purchased a new monosynth, the Waldorf Rocket, and was having a hard time seeing where the knobs were set and what each knob did.
3DWaves founder Jason Hale
This was especially frustrating because the Rocket has two functions for each knob, making it really hard to tell what is going on unless you are right up on it. I figured other people had the same problems with their instruments, so I set out to put together a stand design to have printed out.
At the time, I was going to school for engineering and had just taken a class in drafting, so I was eager to put those skills to use and to get something 3D-printed, since I didn’t own a 3D printer at the time. I found someone that was in the area to print them out, and took them home to see if they fit. By a stroke of luck, they fit perfectly, and I was instantly hooked.
After that, I spent the next year printing and designing on a small budget printer in order to learn how to operate a 3D printer, as well as how to make designs that were 3D printer-friendly. About a year later, I upgraded to a bigger printer and started listing the stands online for sale.
Many of your stands are custom-made for specific synths. Do you find yourself buying lots of gear to base the designs around? What’s the process there?
Definitely. At first, we were doing designs for synthesizers out of my own collection, which was pretty modest at the time, since I was a college student with no income aside from what I had made from selling guitars and other guitar gear online. After having the designs online for a while, we started to get requests for gear that I didn’t have or couldn’t afford, so we made the designs using the measurements sent in to us or from ones that we found online.
Synths set up using 3DWaves printed stands
A few months ago, I decided to do 3DWaves full-time, and now I’m buying a lot of gear. The process starts out by looking for B-stock items or lightly used gear on Reverb. If I can’t find anything right away, I’ll add it to our feed and keep an eye out for one to pop up, which usually doesn’t take very long. It has now gotten to the point where I am running out of room for gear, so usually I will spend a month with it, put out a couple of designs, and then list it back on Reverb.
What are your best sellers?
Our best sellers are for the Korg Volcas, Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators, and the Roland Boutiques, with XL version of the Roland Boutique stands as our all-time best seller. What’s cool about these instruments is that they use a repeated form factor, which allows the manufacturer to produce multiple variations at a reduced cost.
3DWaves Dual Tier Stand for the Roland Boutique Series
3DWaves XL Stand for the Roland Boutique Series
The XL stands was one of our first requested designs, and my favorite part about them is that they lift the boutique high enough to fit behind a MIDI controller, like the Arturia Keystep, with the cables plugged in. Normally, if you want to use a boutique in this type of setup you need to leave a 1- to 2-inch gap in between the devices to make room for the cables, which takes up available desk space and can make things hard to see.
We’ve noticed some really cool new designs hit your shops recently. Any other new products you currently have in the works?
We just released stands for the Yamaha Refaces and the new TR-8S by Roland, which we’re really excited about. As far as new products go, we are working on larger dual-tier designs, and a new general purpose stand with adjustable angles. We have some other projects involving embedded electronics that we have been working on for a while now, and hopefully those will start to come out by the end of the year.
How has your business grown and expanded in the past year? Where are you going from here?
This has been a crazy year for 3DWaves. Our business has gone from running two printers part-time while I went to school, to having six machines running all day. Over the past 12 months, we’ve added 50 designs to the roster, incorporated new materials like MDF and dowels to our products, and started screen-printing or stamping all of our boxes. From here, we are looking to find a bigger spot for production that will accommodate more printers, and we are hoping to hire on a couple more members to the team. Right now everything is printed on demand, so the extra production capacity would be used for developing an inventory for 3DWaves as well as for other companies.
3DWaves printing vases
Do you 3D print any other cool stuff?
For sure. When there is spare time on the printer I like to try out new colors by printing out vases and cute characters, like low-poly Pokemon, that I find online. Every order from 3DWaves includes a 3D-printed toy from models found online in order to showcase the full potential of 3D printing. Our designs are more streamlined and utilitarian, so if this is someone’s first experience with a 3D-printed product, I wanted them to get the full effect of what 3D printing is capable of.
What innovations in the realm of 3D printing are you most excited about?
Even though fused deposition modeling, or FDM, printing is a relatively mature technology there are still some really exciting advancements being made in the field. I’m really excited about the recent advancements in multicolor printing. It’s been around for a while, but the new advancements allow you print two to four colors with one extruder. This reduces the weight of the assembly, allows you to print faster with less artifacts, and is easier to set up. As these features become more standard on printers, we will start to see new objects that combine multiple materials and colors that were previously unable to be produced.