Last winter, I designed a phone case for fun. When I designed it, I envisioned it out of aluminum. This idea was quickly scrapped as I thought about the effects on signal strength and how it was very easy to 'hold the iPhone 4 wrong,' according to Steve Jobs. In the summer of 2012, BU got a MakerBot Replicator and I decided to give my design a shot.
There happened to be black plastic in the machine, so the case was black. It was a pretty good first try. The major things I didn't like about it were how flimsy it was, and how it didn't hold on to the phone as well as I wanted. It could be pushed side to side over the grooves on the iPhone 4 very easily. Additionally, the buttons were a bit tough to reach, despite the little recessions in the case.
At the time of the pictures, I didn't have any 1/2" 4-40 screws on hand, so this is the best I have. The screws were filed down and a hex nut was put on the back to hold it in place. This idea was scrapped because the nuts kept falling off and also placed unnecessary strain on the very thin corners of the first iteration of the case.
The next iteration came in late November. I had been using the first version for about a month after my 'real' case bit the dust. Props to Speck though, that case lasted me a year and a half. This second version had several modifications. The first was that the buttons were SUPER easy to reach, and the second was that everything was thicker. I did print one back piece with hexagonal cutouts for nuts just to entertain the idea again, but it felt forced and didn't look that great, given that I wanted to keep the case as compact as possible.
|This time the plastic in the machine was not black, but red!|
After using the case for a few weeks and completing finals for fall 2012, I realized that I hadn't got any gifts for most of my friends for their respective winter holidays. Like any clever, financially broke engineer, I printed them iPhone cases with a little bit of personalization to make it seem like I put some effort into their gifts. (Boy, did I fool them...) Unfortunately, several weeks later one of them reported a four foot drop onto a tile bathroom floor which spawned a crack in the top. This quickly propagated inward and the upper left joint came loose. Just today, the other friend sent me a picture of his mutilated phone case, which had suffered similar failures. I'll take this time to say that my 'V2' case is perfectly fine and has survived several drops, albeit not onto tile floors.
|Tile floor: 1|
Case V2: 0
Regardless, this motivated me to design version 3, which made the top piece significantly thicker and changed the structure of the side on the front only. The left side now appears to be whole from the front, but has a chunk cut out so that fingers can easily reach buttons from the back without sacrificing structural integrity.
So there you have it. We'll see how this iteration fares in the real world and I'll update the post with changes. Side note: several people have suggested that I try to mill this out of a stronger material, such as polycarbonate. This sounds like a good idea and wouldn't be too difficult to do in theory. This might happen. Hmmm.