At this point, most of us have entered the world of smartphones and tablets without a second thought. Unfortunately there are many people out there who are physically incapable of handling and manipulating these sleek devices due to their limited manual dexterity. I have a family member who was quite eager to be able to use voice commands, video chat, popular apps, and have the ability to take photos larger than a postage stamp, but had difficulty just holding the phone. Never mind being able to use it efficiently.
I decided to put my 3D Printer to good use and design an assistive case that would allow the phone to be held securely and operated with both hands while still retaining all the normal functions like being able to hold the phone for phone calls, use the camera, and store it inside a purse. (pockets are probably out of the question though)
3D printers are perfect for this task, as they allow you to build and test completely customized designs almost immediately.
Please consider voting for this instructable in the 3d Printing Contest if you find it worthy!
Step 1: Materials
All you really need to get going is a 3d printer. If you don't have one you can have the prints made for you with sites like 3D Hubs or Shapeways. Check your neighborhood for maker spaces and even local libraries are now getting 3d printers!
In addition to my 3d printer I used some E6000 Adhesive so I could 3d print 2 separate colors and join them together.
Step 2: Measuring
The phone currently in use was an aging flip phone. This phone had the benefit of being small, light, and easy to handle. My first step was to study exactly what it was about this phone I needed to translate to the new case so that a larger phone could effectively be used in the same way. I decided that the size of the piece being grasped needed to stay the same. I took rough measurements so I could translate them into a 3d object.
Step 3: Design
My plan at this point was to find a .stl file of a phone case that would fit (in this case an iPhone 5) , and modify it so it could hold the phone and have an appropriate size handle that replicated the old flip phone's size. I began by creating the rough shape in tinkercad, and rounding the edges.
Step 4: Print
I printed the case first and tested the fit of the phone. Once I knew it would work I printed the handle separately. The first version I tested worked well, but the shape looked pretty clunky and the top corner of the handle obstructed part of the camera. This was because the case I printed had a hole for the apple logo right where I wanted the handle to attach. I had to modify the case slightly to fill that hole in the next version. After the case was printed, I printed the handle attachment and used E6000 to bond them together.
Step 5: Field Test
The most rewarding part of this process is putting the prototype into someone's hands and watching them put it through it's paces. It proved to be a success almost immediately. Within minutes it was evident that it was possible to browse the web, show the phone to other people, and even take photos horizontally. I had a difficult time getting everything back because she was so excited to start using it right away.
Step 6: Modify
After the testing, I made some modifications to the dimensions of the handle so it would not block the camera, and added a lanyard hole, making sure to place it in a way where the lanyard would not block the camera. I also redesigned the original shape to have more rounded corners and a more aesthetic shape. Then I printed the case in it's requested green and did the handle in glow in the dark.
Step 7: Finally
This case ended up being a great success! It allowed someone to use a smartphone who otherwise wouldn't be able to use it. I have included the stl files for the iphone 5 case and the handle. I'd be happy to hunt down some other cases on request, as I'm sure many people have newer phones. It's also worth nothing that the handle can be printed and attached to just about any hard plastic case. You don't necessarily need to 3d print the case. E6000 seems to be working well as an adhesive, just be mindful of where your camera is.
I'm also considering adding some Plasti-Dip to the handle to increase the grip even more. I'll get some feedback on that after this case is used for an extended amount of time.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to toss me a vote for the 3D Printing contest if you feel it's worthy!
After a few months of use, the case began to show some wear and tear and needed some modifications to the points that were more likely to stress and break. I did a slight redesign to add more structure to the thinner portions and make it just a bit more ergonomic. The included .stl file has been replaced accordingly.