Custom case designs... (the dot-org perspective)

Matthew S. Hamrick mhamrick at
Tue Jul 3 21:51:20 CEST 2007

But there's another way to think about this...

I think if you ran these numbers past a business person in the states  
they would have all sorts of problems. You're talking about a fair  
amount of investment for "not all that much" return. I mean if we  
knew the Neo was going to sell as many units as the RAZR and the  
iPhone combined, you would be talking about thousands or tens of  
thousands of units and it would be easier to make the argument solely  
on business terms.

But... the great thing about the TechShop is users can get their  
hands dirty building all sorts of fun stuff. So maybe this is more of  
a project for a user-group instead of a business. If there's anyone  
out there interested in learning about injection molding, this would  
be a great project to start with. Jim over at the TechShop is talking  
about buying an injection molder sometime this summer, so they'll  
have all the parts needed for a low-volume run soon. In the mean  
time, interested persons could use the 3D printer to print out new  
cases for their Neos.

I don't know that I would have the time to participate in such an  
operation, but I suspect that somewhere in the bay area there are  
enough interested designers / makers that sharing the cost and effort  
would bring the costs down to something pretty reasonable.

Oh... and it would also be easy to laser etch designs on the newly  
created plastic cases.

-Matt H.

On Jul 3, 2007, at 12:31 PM, Matthew S. Hamrick wrote:

> Also.. to follow up on what Adrian recently said.. The tech shop  
> also has a CNC milling machine. I'm no expert, but I believe that  
> the idea is that you put a CAD file in one side and take out a  
> completed part out the other. So... if you have the CAD files for a  
> case, you could feed them into the CNC milling machine instead of  
> the 3D printer and viola! aluminum case.
> Jim Newton at the TechShop also mentioned he's looking into getting  
> an injection molding machine. I've seen a couple of these sorta 1  
> shot injection molders. You use the CNC machine to create your  
> mold, then you pour plastic pellets in the top, press a button and  
> an electric motor turns the screw that forces the semi-molten  
> pellets into the mold. So.. you could have any number of different  
> cases made for your Neo.
> My "back of the envelope" calculations for the cost are:
> Fixed Costs:
> 	Mold Design Time	5h		$0
> 	Mold Milling Time	3h		$75
> Variable Costs: (per production run)
> 	Mold setup			1h		$10
> Variable Costs: (per case)
> 	Plastic Pellets		(1/10)h	$3
> So assuming a CAD file for the NEO case were to magically fall out  
> of the sky, perhaps as part of a program to seed a third party  
> ecosystem (*hint*hint* Sean, are you going to be in the bay area  
> soon? *wink*wink*) The cost per case for a production run of 10 and  
> 100 identical cases would be:
> 10 cases: 9h, $115
> 100 cases: 18h, $385
> Let's say that I'm terribly impressed with myself and I want to pay  
> myself $65 / hr. for my time, the price goes up to:
> 10 cases: $700
> 100 cases: $1555
> But I'm not going to sell them myself. I'd rather sell them through  
> SparkFun or even (but I don't know if either of these  
> guys would be interested.) So, I'm going to add a little bit of  
> margin. This is a risky business, so I'm adding 35%.
> 10 cases: $945
> 100 cases: $2100
> Nathan and/or Gordon are going to want a margin as well, but I'm  
> thinking I'm going to offer them a low-risk proposition: "just put  
> the SKU on your website and I'll handle the fulfillment." So I'm  
> going to argue them down to 7% margin. So in other words, I'm going  
> to pay them a commission for every case they sell. That fee would be:
> 10 cases: $65
> 100 cases: $147
> We're not talking about a lot of coin, here. From a business  
> perspective, the reward of $147 for selling 100 isn't that great.  
> It's probably not going to pay for Nathan or Gordon's time to setup  
> the SKU in their system. But there's always eBay...
> Let's say sales taxes are an additional 8.5%:
> 10 cases: $86
> 100 cases: $191
> Shipping and handling:
> 10 cases: $90
> 100 cases: $900
> End Price:
> 10 cases: $1186 ( $118.60 per case )
> 100 cases: $3338 ( $33.38 per case )
> So... the question is...
> 	a) is it possible to convince Nathan or Gordon to sell these  
> things through their websites for $65 - $147?
> 	b) is there actually a demand for 10 or 100 of these after-market  
> cases?
> 	c) is there a "one size fits all" design that will satisfy  
> everyone who wants an after-market case?
> So, I'm not saying I want to get into the business of making after- 
> market Neo cases, but someone who was thinking about getting into  
> this market would do an analysis just like this. So... if there was  
> a solid demand for 100 cases, it's possible the price could be  
> brought down to about $35-$40.
> On Jul 3, 2007, at 10:18 AM, Frederic Kettelhoit wrote:
>> 2 points:
>> 1.) Aluminium would be quite cool. I would like to have such a  
>> case, too. But the problem is, that the gsm radiowaves are not  
>> able to pass the aluminium. Probably that's the same with the GPS  
>> and the W-LAN? I don't know. There is mobile phone made by Porsche  
>> and - I think - Sagem. It is basically made out of aluminium, but  
>> the GSM Processor is mantled with plastic. Quite difficult, but  
>> very cool IMHO. Does anyone know, whether there is the possibility  
>> to make a case 100% aluminium without making the GSM processor  
>> useless? Would be great.
>> 2.) The rounded corners are not very pretty, that is right. In my  
>> opinion a phone has to look quite good, it is a lifestyle item. A  
>> few people may like the design, but the great majority of people I  
>> asked said that they hate these corners (me too). I would buy an  
>> ugly but open phone, but many won't. So it would be really really  
>> great, if there would be the possibility to change the case. I  
>> will try to do it, too, but I am not very familiar with case  
>> modding and mobile phone cases in general.
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