Medium Fidelity 2.5D
Laser Cutting a phone stand
Our task this week was to design and build a phone stand using the Maker Space’s Laser Cutter. This was an extremely challenging design task, but an extremely fun and rewarding one as well. I started this design by sketching a few different initial ideas, then beginning to set them up in Rhino for use on the Laser Cutter. This project was much different than my first two assignments, and I really liked having the freedom to create my own product. I decided that I wanted to use the fewest number of pieces possible, while allowing both a participant as well as a test moderator to interact with a paper prototype while the prototype remained in the viewing area for the camera.
After deciding the basic philosophy behind my phone stand’s design, I roughly sketched 3 designs, focusing on a single main feature each time. In the end, the object I created borrowed aspects from each of these three sketches.
My first sketch was focused around simplicity and flexibility. I envisioned using only three pieces, with no reinforcement and no folding. The two side supports would have a small slit cut near the top, which the top piece would slide into. The weight of the phone and the top piece would push the side supports down into a stable position. This would allow for a huge user testing space beneath the camera, and would be extremely easy to set up/take down. I also designed the top piece with several different viewports, which would allow the stand to accomodate many different phone positions and orientations for filming. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that this design would not be sturdy enough in cardboard or chipboard, and thus was inappropriate for this assignment. My final design did include a version of the multi-viewport top piece, however.
My second design used twice as many pieces as the first, but I believe that the stand’s stability is much better in this design. The two arch-like pieces are connected together with two supports on each side, and a phone platform connects the two pieces at the top. This design is extremely stable and would still offer a large prototype testing space. In the end, I decided to stick with my initial commitment to using the fewest number of pieces possible and go with a different design.
My third design is the one I ended up pursuing further. In many ways, it is extremely similar to my first design. The major difference is the improved stability and strength of this design. I decided to take the two support beams and fold them in half, giving a much more solid base and eliminating the need for a constant weight load.
For me, the toughest aspect of this assignment was taking my sketch and translating it to a 2D laser cutter schematic in Rhino. Below is a screenshot of the final Rhino drawing.
One particularly difficult challenge for me was figuring out the hinges on the side support pieces. I needed them to fold easily and precisely, but also realized that the joints needed to be durable enough to go from flat, to folded, and back to flat several times without separating. To accomplish this, I decided to create my own makeshift perforation. I alternated between 5mm sections of full-depth cut (red lines) and 5mm sections of scoring, or surface etching (blue lines). The perforation ended up being extremely effective, and I plan on using this type of hinge in future projects.
After cutting and assembling my final product, I was able to conduct a quick round of user testing. This testing gave me extremely valuable insight into important design considerations for future iterations of the product. Both users that tested out my stand really liked the simple design, and loved that it folded flat and was easy and intuitive to assemble and break down. They also believed that the viewing space directly below the camera provided ample space to complete paper prototype tests, while not being so large as to be cumbersome. With that being said, they both felt that the design could have been even sturdier, and that positioning the angles of the support legs was difficult to set up, and was prone to shifting during use. They also found that of the 5 cut viewports, only the middle 3 were actually usable, partially because their phones were too large to utilize the other 2 viewports, and partially because those viewports are too close to the support legs to get a good angle on the action below. In order to address these concerns in a future iteration, I would do two things. First, I would eliminate the outer two viewports, as these are not necessary and do not work, as stated above. In order to address the stability and position issues of the support legs, I would include some sort of locking mechanism, that keeps the support legs at the correct angles for operation. I would also probably cut the entire product out of a slightly more rigid material, such as acryllic or wood, in order to increase the overall stability of the system.