Several days after excitedly upgrading from an iPhone 4 to an iPhone 6, I discovered how the words "smooth," and "slick," often positive descriptors for smartphone design, also mean "floor magnet," and "yeah, pretty much already broken." Fortunately, the floor was relatively forgiving, and I just ended up with a scuffed corner, but I did realize that my new acquisition probably wouldn't survive the next few days without a case. I was standing next to some 3D printers at the time, so the solution seemed pretty straightforward. After mucking around Thingiverse for a half hour or so, I didn't find a case I wanted, or even one I trusted with my phone. The vast majority of cases were designed for rigid plastic (PLA/ABS), and none of the flexible ones were for the right phone.
Enter SketchUp and NinjaFlex. As I mentioned above, I was switching from an iPhone 4 to a 6. One of the big benefits (or drawbacks, depending on the size of your hands) is the much larger screen. Awesome though this was, I felt that it made holding the phone, and using it at the same time a bit difficult, so I had an idea. I designed the case with a bar along one side that could be printed separately and inserted afterwards. This bar could serve as a secondary grip, and allow me to reposition my hand so that my thumb could reach much more of the screen, while improving my grip, and hopefully reducing the number of less-than-friendly encounters my thoroughly untested case would have with concrete and tile. So I made this:
Impressed? Me neither. Didn't even print this version. Phone case wouldn't sit flat on a table, and the compulsive engineer in me pointed out that there was a lot of blank space that could be used for things, and decided it was unacceptable. So I came up with some things to use it for:
I found a fairly cheap, super thin 32GB USB stick, added a holder for an SD card (for g-code files, of course. If the images above don't make it clear enough, I'm no photographer.), a holder for a micro-USB to lightning connector, double-purposed the bar I added for grip to hold a hex key I use a lot at work, and the little black nub next to the adapter is an audio port plug (also printed). I put in a little slot so that the head of the hex wrench could be centered and used as a kick-stand, put my logo in the corner, and that was my case for the next year or so. Not only was it successful at protecting my phone, and super useful, but it also got a lot of comments in public, and it was a terrific example to have when I needed to explain to people what on earth 3D printers are and what they can do. Of course, the continuous process improvement virus and the customization monster hit pretty hard with this one, combining forces with a couple requests from friends and strangers to design a case for them, and I eventually upgraded again to an iPhone 6S+, so I now have a version of the case for iPhone 4/4s, 5/5s, 6/6s, and 6+/6S+. The one at the top of this page I designed for Maryland Day, where my university invites people to come check out all the cool stuff going on here and give out free pens and frisbees. I helped staff the Innovation Center, and tried to convince people that 3D printing isn't just for toys and the occasional oddly shaped gear. Anyways, here, you can check out some of the different versions that made it to the physical world:
I'll upload some .stl files when I get to it, feel free to email me and request them in the mean time. As always, please reach out with any questions you have, I love hearing from anyone interested in this stuff.