Laser Cutting


Laser cutting is a quick way of bringing an idea into the physical world. I’ll talk about my process of designing and cutting a simple iPhone stand.

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Cell Phone Stand

I wanted a stand that was versatile —- product that could be placed on a desk for simple viewing and used to film prototypes. The assignment called for the use of mat board. Although this is a practical building material, I decided to create my stand using birch. As I wanted the final product to be simple, durable, and easily portable, and birch was ideal for this.

One of my primary goals was to design a phone stand that would pack down to as few pieces as possible. This would ensure that set up time was minimal and transportation was easy. A simple notched design was what I discovered to be the best solution to this goal. Additionally, the stand needed to allow the charging cable and headphones to be plugged in while the phone was resting in portrait position.

Another goal was to create a stand that would help amplify sound when the phone was resting on it. I explored several options, but I ultimately settled on a stand with a hole for the iPhone speaker and a bent base to push the sound towards the user. I also included holes for the headphone jack and charging cord.

Finally, I wanted the stand to function in both portrait and landscape position, so I aimed to create a back that would not protrude above the phone in landscape position but would remain sturdy in portrait position.

Sketches

Phone Stand Sketches

First Iteration

The first stand had no bend in the wood and was unstable. I began by sketching a scale version, measuring it, and cutting it from birch. The initial attempt left the device too top heavy with a viewing angle that was tilted too far away from the user.

Phone Stand V1 Phone Stand V1 Alt

Second Iteration

The second iteration had a curved base achieved through a pattern of hairline cuts all the way through the wood. The iPhone was still top heavy and wanted to slide off the stand in portrait mode. Landscape mode worked well, although I wanted the device to be well balanced in both positions. Also, the wood did not bend as much as I had hoped for.

Phone Stand V2 Phone Stand V2 Alt

Third & Final Iteration

For the third iteration, I tightened the distance between the cuts and increased their number to make the bend longer and more flexible. To prevent the phone from slipping off, I etched a groove on the ledge, allowing the stand to grip the phone when placed in portrait mode. I also included a groove in the back to wrap a charging cord around.

Phone Stand V3 Phone Stand V3 Alt

The weight of the phone causes the wood to bend, acting as a scoop for the iPhone’s sound output.

Phone Stand V3 Phone Stand V3 Alt

Closing Thoughts

I was please with the simplicity and functionality of the final product. What began as a basic design for a straightforward task actually became quite refined after several iterations. I found that as much as I could plan, a lot of my improvements were not realized until I actually cut something out and was able to hold it in my hand and use it. Because of the speed of laser cutting, this designing in this way is absolutely doable.