- Mobile phone accessories are some of the most 3D printed items by home users.
- Increasingly companies are also discovering ways to prototype and produce items for smart phones.
Cell phone accessories are some of the most widely 3D printed items worldwide. Desktop 3D printer users have in great numbers taken to designing and manufacturing all manner of accessories. The most popular item by far is smart phone cases. Also common are stands, charging docks, stands that you can use to hang the phone from, styluses, cases that become wallets and many more items.
There is a wide array of different styles of these accessories. Some are purely functional with no real design elements, a case designed to be hung from an aircraft tray table hook for example. Some are pure esthetic designs that offer little in the form of increased functionality. These designs can be very personal or be inspired by gothic, modernist or futurist designs. Fractal inspired designs are very common as well. Relatively few items combine both pleasing esthetics with functionality.
The vast majority of the designed items fall into two categories: they are either meant to have a functional purpose or they are just fun items meant to make a phone prettier. The more fluff type items seem to be whimsical things that are created in order to satisfy some curiosity or flight of fancy. Other items are rather dour from a design standpoint and this illustrates the practical nature of the 3D printer operator.
Many items are designed by people for themselves, a design and a 3D print with an audience of one. Other items are specifically designed for the community at large and are meant to benefit a wider audience of people. Some cases are only for one particular phone or a very niche application. Customization tools and parametric designs let one model be adapted so it can be used for many different types of phone. Simultaneously some designs themselves can be customized so that someone can put their name on their 3D printed phone case or add a depth map to it.
There is also real invention taking place with new solutions being developed for mobile phones through 3D printing that did not previously exist. An integrated speaker and mobile phone stand for example or a stand which lets the phone be placed on top of the plug when it is in the power outlet. These novelties are often quicker to market than the thousands of mobile phone acessories companies are. The low cost of prototyping with 3D printing and the fast production process ensure that for a few dollars someone at home can print out any idea they have in a day or so.