3D Printing for the iPhone

Low volume fabrication for consumer productsProduct design company Design Human Colectiv are used to traditional production processes.  It’s the standard formula: traditional prototyping in the development phase followed by high volume fabrication of the final product.  However, one of their current projects – a steady cam for the iPhone 4G, potentially represents a shift in focus, moving towards the next generation low volume production.  This process evolution means that the steady cam is only the beginning of low volume production for DHC.  Pleased with Ponoko service, the company has several other projects in the pipeline to be made with Ponoko in the near future.

The initiative behind the iPhone steady cam is the rapid development of the phone’s photo/video features, as “once phones have acquired the ability to shoot HD it’s just a matter of time that shot quality becomes important”.  DHC are taking the pendulum concept and aiming to deliver it in the smallest possible package.  The brief is for a design that’s simple, easily transportable and reasonably priced.  Styling is another crucial factor – the product must make a statement that entices the user past the purely functional level.

The initial steady cam prototypes were printed in Rainbow Plastic to explore the possibility of color options.  The material proved to be too brittle for this particular task, and the second prototype was made with a much more resistant Durable Plastic.

Interview with the design manager Chiara Gasparetto under the cut:

How would you describe your creative process? In one word “immersive”. We start our with a need, a negative emotion. In this case, the frustrating lack of stability when shooting video with an iPhone: although the quality is good since shot in HD, the footage is shaking. Once we agree on the “inception” of a potential new product, we go up to the moon and look down to experience the view and feasibility. If we like what we see, if there is enough need, enough frustration and we can see our production connections open for a product we start brainstorming. We brainstorm about all possible solutions, concerning technical problems, feasibility, target, style, production, development. We than rise back up to the moon with our new-found information and re-evaluate our product map. Does it still work? If yes, we are off with the sketches: find ideas that work in the best possible way to address the problems identified. The product develops itself out of need and it’s look takes hold by the design choices we make, by understanding and following the needs of our intended user – the individual frustrated as we were with the problem we are solving. We know what people want and look to give them the pride in showing what they find! Once we know the product through the many iterations of discussions, sketches, rough prototypes and Computer Aided 3D Development, in other words the mental forecast, we start making the first set of prototypes to use, abuse and break. We learn just as much and again go up to the moon to re-evaluate everything. If happy now, we have a product.     What, if any, finishing is involved after you receive the parts from Ponoko? We want to make this design available for purchase: the entire idea is based on a certain collaboration between Ponoko and Instructables.com ( where neither Ponoko or Instructables have to do anything). The holster where to insert the phone and the handle will be bought on Ponoko, while on Instructables.com the buyer will find the instructions to assembly the steady cam. Basically the buyer will have to buy some simple items (a threaded rod, some nuts, some washers and a pipe) in whatever home improvement store (like the big orange or big blue), download the pdf from Instructables, assemble all the pieces, balance and the steady cam is ready to be used.

Do you have any tips for other makers? First step is to take the step. Afterwards, spend your time attempting to kill your own product … it’s the fastest way to create a good solution. If you have a team is easy. Someone inside the team usually takes care of the shooting down attempts and the rest do a good job defending. Just remember that it’s the process and don’t take it personally. Follow your process and let the world know what you are trying to do.

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