Hello! Today we will be designing, modelling and 3D printing a custom cell phone stand from scratch!
For one of my first year university courses, we were challenged to design a cell phone stand on paper and then to solid model it using Solidworks. Finally, it would be 3D printed for us to keep. This Instructable documents each step of the design process - from defining constraints and criteria, to drawing initial designs, to solid modelling, and finally 3D printing.
For this project I had access to my school's software and 3D printers. However, if you do not have access to either of these, no fear! I will try my best to find alternate ways so that everyone can have a chance to design their own model.
I hope you will be able to learn something from this Instructable. Bringing an idea to reality is an awesome feeling, so get creative, and have fun!
PS: I've included the STL file I used to print the phone stand you see me make in this Instructable. I designed it for the HTC One X, but it should work just as well with pretty much any 4.7" phone. You can find that file attached in Step 4.
PPS: This instructable is my entry to the 3D Printing contest! If you like it I would really appreciate your vote! :D
Step 1: Design and Specifications
If you want to get straight into the drawing, you can skip to the next step. But be warned, this step is important when making good designs!
The first step when designing anything, be it a cell phone holder or a bridge, should be to identify the constraints and criteria your product should have. Constraints are your "must have" items and usually always quantifiable. Criteria are your "would like to have" items, and usually are qualitative. Here are the list of constraints and criteria I decided my stand must adhere to (some set by myself, and some set by the professors that assigned the project)
- Must have a volume of 2 cubic inches or less
- Phone angle must be 65-70 degrees (optimal viewing angle, keeps phone balanced)
- Features must have a minimum width of 1mm (to print properly, recommended 3mm+)
- Must be 1 piece and a stationary design (reducing complexity of print and lowering cost)
- Should be aesthetically pleasing
- Should work equally well regardless of phone orientation
- Should provide some secondary function
Notice the keywords "Must" and "Should", and how constraints are both numerically based, and justified.
Now that we know what we have to do to build within our specifications, its time to draw!
Step 2: Drawing Out Ideas
If you want to get straight into the solid modelling, you can skip to the next step. But drawing out ideas beforehand can spark designs that may not have occurred to you otherwise.
For this step you will need:
• Paper and Pencil
Just make rough freehand sketches for as many ideas as you can think of even if you think they would defy the laws of the Universe. It could give you inspiration for another, possibly more 'realistic' idea afterwards. There are no bad ideas, only ideas you've drawn, and ideas you haven't.
Once you feel you've exhausted all your ideas, now is the time to begin to narrow down and converge upon what you believe is the best design. "Switch hats", from thinking creatively, to thinking critically.
The pictures show part of my design process and finally the design I settled on.
Step 3: Introduction to Solid Modelling
Solid modelling is the process of turning a 2D hand or CAD (computer aided design) drawing into a 3D model for visualization, or in our case, 3D printing.
There are countless numbers of 3D modelling programs out there on the internet. Most are paid, but some are free and still powerful. Although I have access to the student edition of Solidworks software through my school, software such as FreeCAD or SketchUp should work as well.
Alternately, you could use a standard 3D modelling program, such as Blender or Maya, to produce a model and convert it to solid form. I'll be focusing on solid modelling in this tutorial, but there is a wealth of resources out there you can read about modelling in Blender and exporting for 3D printing.
FreeCAD (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Step 4: Completing the Model
CAD software such as Solidworks is great for producing very accurately defined objects. It implements 2D drafting techniques as well so if you have experience with AutoCAD... or even drawing things on paper to scale with dimensions, half of the experience is already there.
Here is a time lapse video of how I went about modelling the cell phone stand in Solidworks. In it I narrate what I'm doing on the screen. If you prefer to read or can't watch the video, the steps are below and I added lots of screenshots with annotations to the top of this page.
Steps to Solid Modelling the Cell Phone Stand
Note: the photos above can help you visualize these steps!
• First I created a side profile of the cell phone stand. I did this by drawing lines and curves, and applying specified dimensions and constraints as required. You do this so that all of your lines are dimensioned with respect to each other and the model becomes fully defined.
• Once I was finished with the side profile, I created a 3D shape by extruding the curve profile sideways.
• Now that we have the general shape, I used a 3D geometry subtraction function to remove some geometry from the legs of the stand. This is often called a Boolean subtraction
• I drew a shape on the front of the stand and Boolean subtracted it to create a hole.
• Finally, I added the text curves and extruded them, ensuring the text was large enough to fit my constraints of minimum 1mm pieces.
I've also attached my STL file for this project for you to print out yourself if you want to!
Step 5: 3D Printing
3D printing is rather simple, but the steps required differ depending on your printer. However, generally you need to ensure that your model is physically printable (ie no floating pieces) and your geometry is clean (most programs will warn of or fix geometry errors on export), and then export your solid model to .STL format.
My university has a web based model upload and payment option. If you have your own printer, you can just upload the model file through your printer's software.
If you don't have access to printer, there are websites that will get your model printed and mailed to you. I've listed a few below, but you may be able to find local 3D print shops that will get your model printed for cheaper. Search online for "3D print service (your location)"!
Step 6: Conclusion and Reflections
The printer was able to print all features of the stand as intended. I would have liked to have had it printed in black, but the 3D print lab ran out of black filament before printing mine. Also, if I was to change anything about the design of the stand, I would probably raise the front lip a little bit. The phone sat in the stand fine, but the lip looked a little bit too short and fragile.
I definitely learned a lot from this project, and I hope you were able to learn something from this Instructable. After making the stand for class, I made another one for my girlfriend (who is majoring in music) with a treble clef indented on the body of the stand, and the legs shaped as bass clefs!
As far as what you make with 3D printing, the sky... and your design constraints and criteria... are the only limit! Have fun and thanks for reading! :)