Some of the perks of working at CADimensions include access to the CADFABLAB and a brother who knows SOLIDWORKS in the next office over. I recently purchased a magnetic car vent clip for my phone, so I can easily view my GPS directions during my trips to customers. The idea was great, until I realized the vents on my car didn’t firmly hold the clip, which in turn meant my phone ended up falling underneath my seat. By the third time this happened, I was ready to give up on my new purchase. Instead of finding a garbage can, I found an engineer.

car clip

Ultimately, I needed to ask my brother, Tom DiLaura, to take a “universal” part and make me a custom solution for my car. What I gave him was the vent clip and the keys of my car. After he verified I didn’t just install the clip incorrectly, he grabbed a notebook and ruler and started sketching designs. When he got back to his desk, he launched SOLIDWORKS and started making a model that would fit on the center console. By the end of the day, I was sent this screen shot (left) asking what I thought. From what I could tell, it looked good, so I gave him a thumbs up. About an hour later, he pulled something off our lab’s MakerBot Z18, and I had a 3D printed part (right) on my desk to test with.

MakerBot Part

I first tested to make sure the vent clip fit inside the cavity, which it did, but it was a little wobbly. I then tested the fit in my car, where I found that the rigid edges didn’t contour to the console. I gave Tom back the 3D printed part, my notes, and my car keys again.

At this point I was heavily involved with the design process, and started to realize just how beneficial prototyping really is. We came up with a lock bar in the cavity to better keep the vent clip in place and Tom added some detail surfaces that matched the curves of my car, in addition to some spots on the back and bottom for double sided tape to lock the part in place.  After prototype #2, we realized we could trim the bottom and top to take up less room and increase the fit.  He complained that a 3 feature part became 10 times more complex, but I was just happy to have my part.

3D Printing

With the prototypes completed, Tom added some cosmetic fillets to the model and sent the final part to the uPrint in the CABFABLAB.

3D Printing 3D Printing


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