Thursday, April 30, 2015

Call it the Future: 3D Printers Allow Us to Reimagine Mobile Phones

Call it the Future: 3D Printers Allow Us to Reimagine Mobile Phones

Let’s face it, our world has changed immeasurably since cell phones became small enough to fit into our pocket, and powerful enough to look up random Star Trek trivia. That quick accessibility is important when you’re trying to win a bet, but it’s even more useful when you need directions or want to know if a restaurant is worth your money. In fact, cell phones have become such an inextricable part of our day-to-day lives that we’re now seeing 3D-printed accessories that augment, protect, and beautify our devices. Although we haven’t reached a technological level where people can print custom cell phones from scratch, that time isn’t far off. Until then, here are two imaginative objects inspired by our phones:

The Wearable Phone Glove
It’s official — the future is here, and it comes in the form of a telephone glove. Designed by Bryan Cera, Glove One goes one step further than current wearables on the market and actually puts a phone on your hand. Like an 80s sci-fi film come to life, there are working buttons on the inside of your fingers that correspond to the number keypad. The thumb has an earphone and the pinky finger has a small microphone, so you literally hold your hand up to your face in a mimed “talking on the phone” gesture. It’s a whimsical take on the smart phone accessory, and Cera has shared detailed instructions for how to build one at home.

First, you’ll need to start by gathering all of the required materials and tools, including an unlocked cell phone to place into the device. If you’re feeling particularly confident about your engineering skills, MIT’s media lab has also shared an open-source way to build your own phone from scratch. Next, you’ll need to make a paper prototype of the glove that fits your hand, so that the end product is comfortable to wear. With the prototype as a guide, you can create a digital model of the glove using 3D graphics software, which will sync up with the 3D printer. Once the plastic parts are fabricated and printed, you’ll need to wire the electronic components together and secure the phone’s buttons into the glove. Finally, take a walk around the neighborhood with your finished product and count how many confused looks you get.

 The Volcanic Case
For a slightly more down-to-earth approach, Cubify has joined forces with the Freshfiber design team to create a 3D iPhone case that looks like volcanic rock. This one doesn’t wrap around your hand or secure to your wrist, but its porous texture does look like it was shaped by boiling-hot lava. That’s the magic of today’s 3D printers — they offer almost limitless complexity because each design originates as a digital file, so you can draw microscopic details into a plastic object and make it look like something entirely different. In this case, the 3D iPhone case is made from black nylon, but your eyes will have a hard time discerning whether it’s synthetic or natural.

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