Thursday, February 01, 2007

Making a case for Myphone

I mean that in both senses of the phrase "making a case". I have produced a lump of plastic, and I have good reasons why I want to build my phone.

Here are the first parts I made, two copies of an LCD bezel with a rounded outside surface and a cutout to locate the LCD. The standing part is as it was made in the 3D printer, sideways on to get a smoother finish, and with additional "support material" that holds everything in place while the "model material" sets. The part lying flat is the same, but is face down and has the support material removed. The size is about 5" by 3" and the bezel is 0.1" thick. It took about 7 hours to print the pair of bezels, each contains 0.6 cubic inches of model material and the total including support material was about 1 cubic inch. The bezels cost $10 each to make at Techshop in Menlo Park ($100/month for membership, $10/cu inch to use the 3D printer).

This experiment went quite well, and the next step was to extend the design to form a complete top and bottom case that fit together. This was kicked off using black rather than white plastic, and lying flat, face down. This prints more quickly, but uses more support material to create the base. The base will give the phone a textured surface, which can be made shiny by dipping in acetone, and I'm hoping it will look cool, like a carbon fibre finish. Pictures of the design, cad files, and a photo of the 3D printer in action can be found at the SVHMPC Wiki, I'm updating them as work progresses. The case walls are thicker than they need to be, so the final design will use less plastic and cost less than the $40 I was charged to make this complete case.

The purpose of this build is to figure out where to put the contents, so I can mold support brackets into the design and make an attempt at a working prototype.

Why am I doing this? Some of us are attending the Emerging Telephony conference in March, and I want to have something to show. Also its fun to make things, fun to hang out at Techshop, I'm learning a lot from the 3D printer instructor, and in the end I will have a phone that evolves rather than being thrown away every few years. If I want more memory, a bigger LCD, or different trade offs in features/size/battery life, I don't have to start from scratch or accept someone else's set of compromises. That's why I call it my phone.

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