Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Phone Case Versions 1-3

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

Bear attack.

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.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Noble Six Helmet

Wow, it's been a really long time since I've updated this, mostly because I've been busy recovering from an appendectomy and pretending to be musical. A few posts ago, I mentioned that I was making something for a friend's birthday. That thing was my short-lived adventure into the world of prop making. Basing my designs off of those from 405th.com, I created laser cuttable files for Noble Six's helmet, from Bungie's Halo: Reach. I replicate the pepakura build in AutoCAD and cut the shapes out of 110 lb cardstock. The designs ended up on 11 sheets of the stuff, and took about two hours to cut, including setup. I still have most of the ream of cardstock. As a joke, I printed an essay on it, but have found no other use for it.

Guided by the original files in Pepakura Designer, I made a few of the major pieces, and then gradually glued them all together. 
Note to those thinking about doing this: hot glue is strongly advised because of the quick set time and the ability to heat it up again if you make a mistake. Keep plenty of glue on hand (I went through about a dozen of the small sticks in the process) and give your glue gun a break every so often - the handle on mine got pretty hot after a while.

Next in the process was the fiberglass and bondo. I used fiberglass mat and resin on the inside for structural integrity (bonus: itchy fingers) and bondo on the outside to smooth out the fairly wrinkly paper, add some bulk where needed, and hide errors.

Fiberglass. Note to self: use cloth next time; mat sucks.

I just realized that I don't have a picture of the helmet after I sanded down the whole thing. Oops. Anyway, the next step was painting the thing. The order of coats are 2X black matte, 2X silver, 2X blue, and finally black on the back and the visor perimeter. Painters tape was used to section off different areas that didn't need to be painted after a certain point, such as the visor. Vaseline was applied in 'swaths' to imitate scratches from battle.

Second coat of black. Nice and thick... and drippy.

First coat of silver.......... right.

2X silver.

Blue (as per Ben's character in the game)

It's a lion.


Bonus ALVIN.
So at this point you're probably thinking something along the lines of, 'That came out pretty well for his first shot at making a prop from a video game, but how the heck is he supposed to see out of the darn thing?'

I was thinking that too; I'm glad we're on the same page.

At The Saturday Thing sometime in the fall of 2012, I got around to trying to make a visor for the helmet. This was supposed to just be practice, but I sorta decided it wasn't worth the effort to do it again. I started out by cutting out the silver chunk and making a frame/jig that I would use to press the acrylic piece into place. I used a heat gun and a large PVC pipe to make a rough bend in the acrylic, pressed it into place with the jig, and glued it into place. Not perfect, but it'll do.

The visor-hole and rough cut/bend of the acrylic piece.

This took a long time.

"So thats our new number Six?"
So there you have it. I have another blank helmet in my garage that I built on a whim, thinking I would have the time to make another helmet. I may try to do something with it, or it may just sit indefinitely.

 I have a few more posts coming soon, mainly something about a phone case and some really tiny things. Happy reading!