Introduction: Zombie Apocalypse Proof Ipad Case?

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I recently got an Ipad 2 as part of an education grant. The teachers were required to supply their own case for the Ipad, so instead of purchasing a regular run of the mill case, I decided I would build one of my own to demonstrate to my students some of the things we are capable of doing in my classes.

I *love* working with metal. I wanted my case to be strong enough for use in a shop environment, so making the case out of metal made sense. The purpose of this Instructable is not really to explain how I built the case. My main purpose is to describe the DESIGN PROCESS using this case as an example. 

To start us off, I'm going to give a little background on how I teach the design process. I use what I call IGSBEP. This is a simple way to remember the 6 steps of the design process:








Follow along as I explain the steps of the design process and build a zombie-apocalypse proof Ipad case.

Step 1: Identify the Problem

The first step of the desing process is to Identify and Understand the problem.  It is very important that all issues are understood BEFORE coming up with ideas and building your project.  It is a lot easier to plan ahead than it is to re-build a project to meet specifications you "forgot" about...

So for this project, Identify the Problem:  I need an Ipad case that is durable enough to permit use of the Ipad in a shop environment.  In addition, the case must be able to be manufactured using existing tools in the shop, must be totally functional, must look good, and finally must use only materials available to my students.  It would be NICE (but not required) if the case also permited the Ipad to be stood up at two different angles, one for typing and one for viewing.  It would also be NICE (but not required) if the case had a pocket to carry papers and writing utensils.

In list form:

Case must be:

1.  Durable
2.  Built using only tools in the shop
3.  Built using only materials available in the shop
4.  Totally functional
5.  Aesthetically pleasing

If possible, the case should:

6.  be able to stand Ipad up at 2 different angles
7.  be able to hold papers, pens, and pencils

Alright!  Now I have a basic guidline for what the case needs to do.  Time to start figuring out how to make a case that does all these things!

Step 2: Generate Ideas

Apple is kind enough to provide a blueprint of their devices, showing just about every measurement you would ever need to manufacture a case. 

"Blueprints" for case design:

Great info regarding things to take into consideration when designing a case:

Ipad 2 Specific:

Generating Ideas can be a lot of fun.  One tool I like to use is called Concept Sketching.  A concept sketch is quick, rough sketches usually done in PEN.  Doing the sketches in pen prevent you from spending too much time on any one idea-  we are not trying to get out fancy drawings, we are trying to spit out ideas from our brain onto paper.  Using a pencil gives us the opportunity to stop, erase, and make changes.  We do that later!

I started with some rough sketches of what I wanted.  I new I wanted it made out of steel, but I also wanted the cover to be hinged so that it could support the Ipad in a few different positions- as a screen when using it with a keyboard, or on a slight angle so I could use the keyboard on the screen.  This was probably the hardest part to design, but I finally came up with an idea that I'm pretty impressed with. During this step, I also listed out the materials I had at my disposal.

After you have a few ideas out on paper, we can start solidifying ideas by Drawing them out.  There are many ways to do this- pencil and paper, CAD, any media that allows you to "model" your ideas in greater detail and make changes to them as you go.

Once I had some rough ideas I began modeling on Sketchup.  I built a complete model and tested out the "hinges" and "latches" by moving parts around to see how they fit.

Step 3: Select the Best Idea

This step is really straight forward.  After you come up with several different ideas, CHOOSE the best one!  Sometimes the plan you choose is not any one idea, it most likely will be a combination of all of the best parts of all of your ideas.

I feel it is productive to BE SPECIFIC at this point.  WHY do I think the plan I chose is the best one?  Well, it meets all of my design requirements yet is not overly complicated.  I believe that my students, by the end of my class, would have the skill and know-how to build a case just like this one.

Once you have settled on a plan of attack, it's time for everybody's favorite step-  gettin busy with the tools!

Step 4: BUILD! (My Favorite Part of the IGSBEP)

Building requires a lot of practice and skill to get it right.  Usually, the building phase also involves a fair bit of the next step- Evaluate.  As I built my case, I tested a few different ideas out, evaluated them, and made some changes to my original design.  It came together fairly well though. 

The hardest part of building this case was the layout-  there are bits and pieces all over the Ipad that need access- a hole for the headphone jack (yup, I forgot to punch that one out...), a slot for the charger to plug into, a cutout for the power and volume buttons, vents for the speakers, etc.  All of that was taken into consideration in Step 2, Generating Ideas.  Laying them all out can be a challenge, make sure you know how to use a ruler, dividers, and a scratch awl!

This entire Instructable could have been written on just this step, but again, that is not my purpose here.  I can go into detail about the build process if anyone is interested. You get a general idea with the pictures and descriptions on this page. Suffice it to say you need access to all the sheet metal tools- brake, shears, notcher, edge former, drill press, hammers, rivet sets, scissors, etc. 

Step 5: Evaluate

Evaluating your project is a continuous process.  It really starts as soon as you begin putting ideas down on paper-  "will this really work? Is there a better way?  What would happen if...".  When a product is "finished", TEST IT.  There will be weaknesses and flaws.  This is NOT a problem, it just means we need to jump backwards to generating ideas, come up with some changes, and try them out! 

While building, I had to test the cover locks and hinges several times, and made a few changes.  There were some issues building the locks- they definitely didn't come out right the first or even the second time.  The key is to KEEP ON TRYING!  How many times did Thomas Edison try to invent the light bulb?

Evaluation can have several different perspectives- durability, design, ergonomics, capability, etc.  Even though I've been "testing" my case for almost a year now, it's not finished in my mind.  It has some weaknesses- its heavy, it has some sharp edges, the cover locks fall off.  Those problems will be solved in version 2.0.  :)

Step 6: Present

Once you have a solution to a problem, you've built it, tested it, and decided that it works- you need to PRESENT that solution!  Ideas need to be shared; with potential investors or with whoever takes the time to read about them on Instructables.  There are thousands of ways to present an idea.  You could write a report.  Make a video.  Do a live presentation.  Put an ad in the paper.  Shout it from the street corners. Submit it for review to a governing body.  The list is endless.

The good and bad thing about presenting a product is that a good presentation can sell a bad product.  A bad presentation can't sell a good product very easily.  When preparing to present something, it's a good idea to start with the END.  What is the most important thing you want your audience to get from your message?  A good presentation must be practiced and smooth.  It must make sense and contain only the applicable information.

Well, there you have it- the IGSBEP.  I truly believe that you can apply the design process using these steps to just about any aspect of school or life.  I like to tell my students that even if they are taking a geography test and come to a question they don't know the answer to, they can generate a few ideas, select the best one, TRY IT OUT, and see if it makes sense.  Much better than making a wild guess!

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