XLS Production Diaries #1: Prototyping

Idea to product, DITA's engineering and design edge lets us see the our product's manufacturing process from start to end, a privilege few other manufactures have.

The Dream XLS is no exception, but, that this time, we documented the manufacturing process of a pair of flagship earphones behind closed factory doors.

In this series, we take you with us behind the doors of factories and labs to show you what goes into producing the Dream XLS. 

Our first post takes you through DITA's prototyping process: The stage where a new design improves and evolves.

Production and manufacturing is a monumental task, and prototyping tells us how to best tackle our manufacturing projects with minimal headache, going a long, long way in helping us iron out inefficiencies in materials and methods.

1. Parting and Shaping

Starting as planks of raw material, titanium slabs are measured and wire-cut using a thin wire with a high electrical charge.

This results in the Dream's trademark comma-shaped chassis, cut out before CNC milling — this is known as parting.

While this is mainly is so that we won't have to find a way to maneuver a 4-metre metal block to fit into a comparatively tiny CNC machine. It's also because a earphone's chassis is a delicate thing to mill, making it easier to start from a smaller piece. 

2: Planning Screenshot

It's not all machine work, though, a surprising amount of human soul goes into the CNC process.

The XLS' titanium chassis and small size makes for a challenging CNC project. Titanium metal has an inherent hardness that can easily wear out the thin, delicate CNC tools used for milling the inside of the chassis.

This means that the CNC machine operator or engineer has to sit down to optimise the machine's workflow: Reducing machining time and prolonging tool life, all while ensuring the integrity of the piece. 

3: Testing the outside and inside for machining

Above is an image of a rough surface-cut test, keen eyes will notice that it looks a different from our finished product: Mainly due to it's harsh edges.

This iteration of the XLS' chassis lacks an edge radius, adding a bit of roundness around the edge of a chassis that lends it that extra bit of sophistication. 

This rough cut piece will be used for jig, fixture, spindle speed and feed rate testing. 

4: Version 1 to Version 3

As the XLS inches towards its final iteration, flaws and kinks in the design are identified and rectified. 

For instance, Version 1 of the XLS' chassis in the image above has the circular faceplate completely integrated into the chassis' design: still a far cry from the completed XLS chassis. 

In the XLS' third iteration. On the way to the final version with a dedicated space carved out for the XLS' signature gold ring and sapphire glass faceplate.

The XLS still looks slightly blocky at this stage. Contouring and smoothing will occur at later stages of prototyping, requiring advanced maneuvers with the CNC machine

5: Testing for surface flatness

The chassis' internal surfaces are as much an object of focus and effort as its outer appearance, testing ensures that each internal surface is completely flat so that the earphones' parts can lie flush against each other. 

6: Fit testing for parts 

All components are fitted into the XLS' chassis to ensure that they fit within the chassis — during time of testing, the original OSLO cable had yet to be manufactured. 

The process of prototyping allows us to find our own solutions and optimise every aspect of the product, allowing the listener to get as close to an ideal listening session as the audiophile hobby allows.