Now, having an alpha prototype can be far from having a “working prototype”. The marvelous contraptions that 3D printers are, still have the downside of available materials to print with. Our material requirements were very specific. And a 3D printer could not provide those, thus leaving us with a semi-working product. Nonetheless, we still had a very good reference point to work from.
When it comes to building anything a human will interact with, that’s when it gets tricky. The case has to be sturdy so it won’t break but also flexible enough for you to slide your phone in. Meticulously designed so that it will appeal to the eye and feel nice to hold; ergonomic as to not strain your fingers, durable in order to not fall apart after just a week, resistant to fingerprints and at the same time easy to slide in and out of your pocket.. Working on all of these fronts, testing dozens of materials, and constantly reworking our phone case design led us to our early-βeta.
But after finger melting testing, we decided that the feeling wasn’t entirely there; and not wanting to settle, a result of severe OCD & childhood dreams, we decided to take it a step further as we wanted our crowdfunding campaign to feature a finished product. So we went about to design and build our own custom molded buttons.
And that’s when it escalated even further. How hard/stiff should the buttons be? What kind of geometric structure would work for that? Which material would work best? How should they feel against your fingertips? How can we extract nostalgia out of them? After two weeks of endless brainstorming and design concepts, we finalized on a basic principle. Following that we needed to source the proper raw materials in order to build the buttons as we had designed them. Another two weeks on that, 200 emails exchanged (some of them going unanswered) led us to two variations of similar materials to experiment with.
With the designs and materials at hand. What we were lacking was the actual molds. Jumping onto that, it took us three painful weeks to get from initial design to the finalized and approved one, to buying to rough aluminum plates and milling them to our own exact specifications.
About a dozen days later and we were now rocking, or were we? We had the materials and the mold at hand. So what’s missing this time? Well… the manufacturing process we picked for the buttons was vulcanization, the way it works is rather simple. You have your raw material, you stuff it in between the two blocks of your mold, and then you crank the heat and the pressure up. And when I’m talking heat, about 180 °C (That’s 356 °F for the folks in the land of the free) and with regards to pressure around 5 tons (10.000 lbs or about 39,094.82 bananas). To get there, we employed a rather straight forward method. We built two heating elements, sandwiched the mold in between them and put that thing under a hydraulic press. Not your typical vulcanization, but it got us the desired result.
In the meanwhile, we were constantly busy improving the case design. And after another 3-4 variations in materials, attributes and design; this time with molded buttons, we came down to our final working βeta. We were now looking good. Still, we had room to improve. And in conjunction with the mass production plant that will handle the very important task of keeping our backers satisfiedwe came down to a vastly improved pre-production prototype.
And on the final leg of going ballistic on our Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign I suggest you follow us and subscribe as we are constantly sharing exciting news with our close fans. And not just on the product part…!