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Designing 3D printable bumper for Nexus 4

Design

A new phone a new project so it seems. When buying the new Nexus 4, I though this was a good time to invest some time in 3D printing. Would it be possible for me to a bumper for my phone, such as a bumper, and actually use it? I’ve always been pretty doubtful towards this technology in terms of “wear & tear”. Materials used for 3D printing always seem so fragile, and a good phone case/bumper should be the complete opposite; very durable and sturdy. Nevertheless, 3D marketplace Shapeways is full of cases for all kinds of smartphones; except one for the Nexus 4…

First Try

So after some messing around I created the first version of the bumper. I kept to a wall thickness of 1.2mm, in order to minimize the used material. On top of this, I removed “unnecessary” walls in order to create a minimalist look; maximum protection with minimum material. For the first “test print” I chose white material, but in the end I’d like to have a black version, it would color way better with my phone. The white one would still look nice with the future “White Nexus” though.

Nexus Bumper

First 3D print as received from Shapeways

Looks can be deceiving; this material is actually pretty strong.

Looks can be deceiving; this material is actually pretty strong.

As can be expected when trying to design a bumper from scratch.. This first one didn’t fit. On the upside, I experienced how strong this “strong & flexible” material really is. I literally tried to force my phone into this case, putting all kinds of pressure on this model, but it didn’t help; the model was just a few tenths of millimeters too small.

Second Try

So I headed back to the drawing table. The reason the first case didn’t fit completely had to do with the Nexus’ complex curves. This makes it difficult to make a bumper which is both easy to “attach” and also fits tightly around the device. I figured I should also do something about this in this second iteration of the bumper. I came up with the following: I replaced the top part of the bumper with an interrupted line. This should provide the bumper with enough “flexibility” to easily snap around the phone, while retaining the tight fit around the phone itself.

A render of the new bumpers.

A render of the new bumpers.

nexusbumpers sideview

Print results

The second iteration fits the phone perfectly, as you can see in the pictures below.

Black bumper shot from the front

Black bumper shot from the front

Sideshot of the bumper

Sideshot of the bumper

Currently this new design is being printed and I hope to tell you more about it when I have received it. I noticed that the black version (as shown in the pictures) can be a little rough, since this is the texture that is caused by the SLS process. I recommend to use a very fine sanding paper in order to make the whole bumper a bit more smooth. Some other material colors, such as white and blue and red are produced together with a polished finish, this makes the product feel smoother and attracts less dust and dirt overall.

The bumper is now for sale at Shapeways!