Our friends at NOTCOT recently posted a feature about the design and development of our new Perforated Snap Case, so we thought we’d share the expanded version of the conversation with Joe (Chief Design Officer) and Markus (Vice President of Design) here. Visit NOTCOT to enter their giveaway of our Perforated Snap Cases, but don’t wait too long–they’re picking a winner on Friday, December 11.
What inspired you to create a perforated iPhone case?
The Snap Case (non-perforated) form factor is our lightest, most minimal case in our iPhone case product lineup. The inspiration for perforation stemmed from the idea to further minimize the case by reducing weight without taking away the functional aspect of it being a protective solution.
The first idea that came to mind was using a simple, geometric pattern. From there, we started exploring how to perforate our Snap Case with different shapes, scales and pattern densities, pushing the limits of what is possible to manufacture.
Describe the design and development process for the Perforated Snap Case.
At the start of any product development process, we begin with a team brainstorm session to generate as many ideas as possible. From there we narrow it down to the most promising concepts and refine them with sketching and rendering. Once an idea is committed to, the design team builds a 3D CAD model, which serves as a database to create Stereolithography models, a prototyping process that enables us to print a desired shape in 3D.
Next, we test the prototypes and further refine the geometry. A final design is then agreed upon and we analyze and study its geometry to determine manufacturing feasibility. Once a product passes this stage, the tooling process can commence.
To start the tooling process, we begin with large blocks of steel and machine out the negative shape of our case to make a hollow form that is later injected with polycarbonate material. Because of the all-over perforated design of the Perforated Snap Case, the tooling process is very intricate and takes a relatively long period of time to accomplish. Individual steel pins with varying degrees of curvature for each hole are needed to create the perforated design.
Once the tool is cut, it is then textured and finished. Following this stage of tooling, we shoot the first test shots in plastic, which help us to further debug and finalize the tool as well as the injection settings to create the perfect molded part for the production run.
What types of engineering challenges did the Perforated Snap Case pose?
Injection molding makes it relatively easy to perforate a pattern in one direction, but for the Perforated Snap Case, we were challenged with wrapping a pattern evenly onto a surface that contains multiple directions and very thin wall sections. Our goal was to keep the perforated pattern aligned regardless of the angle from which it is viewed. Because of the curves of the case, it became rather challenging to determine the best way to mold it.
Our product development process is one of continual refinement—we go through many prototypes and trials in order to find the one that will work best for manufacturing.
Please describe the intricacies of the tool and the mold injection.
For the injection molding process, we use hardened steel tools that are the negative (or hollow) form of our case. These are necessary for the mold injection of plastic that creates the positive case form.
Thin steel pins within the tool create the intricate perforated pattern of the case. When in production, injection-molded plastic flows under high pressure and temperature in between the pins. The challenge is to find the perfect balance—the pins cannot be too small, since that would cause them to break under high pressure; and the spacing cannot be too dense, as material needs to flow through the mold easily and evenly.
Since the perforated pattern runs throughout the case, multiple complicated tool actions are required to achieve a consistent pattern.
How many holes are in the case?
Are there benefits to using this case over another iPhone case? How does it differ from other cases on the market?
Our Snap Case is our most minimal case and provides just the slightest elevation around the bezel, which allows the iPhone widescreen to be raised above a surface while it lies on its front face. The design of the Perforated Snap Case gives a unique surface texture, resulting in a better grip because of the pattern. And of course, its perforated design adds visual interest as well.