A3: 2D Object Prototype

Intro

Week 3 of HCDE 498: Introduction to Prototyping got us acquainted with the laser cutter and 2D modeling in Rhino 3D. The assignment was to create a stand to hold a smartphone steady while shooting video. The only requirement was that it must be able to be taken apart and flat-packed for portability; no glue, no tape.


Design

I decided to add a couple more requirements for my design. First, the stand needed to be adjustable to allow for different shot angles. Second, no more than two pieces could be used. With this in mind, I began sketching simple configurations.

I decided on a zig-zag style form that would not only fulfill the adjustability and component requirements, but it would also collapse to eliminate the need to take it apart for transportation. Once I had the basic profile down, I started getting some rough dimensions worked out.

Next, the flat patterns were created in Rhino 3D. The five slots on the upper piece allow for the angle to be adjusted. The red lines indicate where the laser will cut and blue lines indicate where it will score.

Before going to the laser, I made a rough mockup by printing the pattern and cutting it out of cardstock by hand. While it was not strong enough to hold a smartphone, it allowed me to verify that the slot placements and overall dimensions were correct.


Overall, I was pretty happy with the size and adjustability, so the next step was to cut it out on the laser using chipboard to make sure the design would still hold up in the final material.


Laser-cut Prototype

The laser cutter at work.
The final flat pattern design in chipboard.
The stand in its collapsed form for transport.
The stand fully assembled and adjusted to mid-angle.
Zig-zag profile. The stand is surprisingly stable despite it’s simplicity.
The camera points to this side of the stand and may be placed in either portrait or landscape (shown) without interference by the support structure
Here’s a quick video showing how the stand assembles and collapses.

Analysis

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at the stability and functionality of the stand given it’s minimalistic design. I met the requirements set by both the assignment spec and my own stretch goals. The collapsibility kind of fell out of my initial exploration and was sort of a “happy accident.” There are, however, a few things I would improve in a subsequent iteration. While the center three adjustment slots worked great, the top and bottom need some small tweaks. When in the most upright position, the phone cradle has a tight angle that does not fully contain phones with a curved back. The bottom slot, on the other hand, is a little too loose which causes the adjustment tab to pull out and the stand to collapse under weight. The slots were all made slightly larger than the material thickness to account for the entry angle of the tab. However, the angle is very shallow on the lowest slot so this is unnecessary. A simple score that allows the tab to bend once inserted to keep it in place should fix the issue. Additionally, I would chose a more durable material for the next version. Chipboard has a tendency to fatigue and tear when bent, and the collapsible feature has already caused detrimental wear.

Something I’d like to mention is that one of the most notable lessons from this exercise was the incredible number of approaches that were taken from the students in the class. With a limited set of tools and materials, just one week of time to learn both software and hardware, and a very specific functionality objective, every student’s design was unique. I was incredibly impressed and inspired.

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