The Gift of Touch

by Erick Vega

At GoEngineer Tech Support we take auricular comfort very seriously. After all, it’s 90 percent of the job. After it became increasingly harder to hear our customers during heavy phone traffic times with our old headsets, GoEngineer management was kind enough to provide us with new comfy Siberia headsets. Now we can’t complain about high noise volumes, headaches, broccoli ear, or lack of style.

Gift of Touch

Personally, I favor the new headset considerably. Productivity and comfort have gone through the roof, but the new headset came with one bump to iron out: the volume control.

The volume control wheel has no distinguishable tactile feature that serves as a quick orientation for volume direction. While the case was not perfectly symmetrical, it was still pretty hard to tell its orientation without looking at it.

Gift of Touch

I had to rotate the wheel in one direction a couple of times to figure out which way the volume went. I kept hurting my ears with unexpected volume changes from my PC ringtone and the volume difference from one phone call to the next.

Eventually, I realized I was losing concentration fiddling with the volume control while trying to understand a customer’s problem—and one missed detail could prolong a phone call and a customer’s issue. I needed to fix this ASAP.

The Need

First I considered taking the case apart and modeling an entirely new one, but breaking the case could destroy the headset (the case was either glued or ultrasonically welded).

Pass.

I decided to make a case to surround the existing case. My case would have a prominent tactile mark so I would immediately know if the control is in the up or down position. I wanted a snap-fit to hold the pieces together so each user could decide if the tactile mark will mean volume up or down, or easily remove the case. The case also needed to be large enough to accommodate a GoEngineer logo on one side. Here is my first try.

Gift of Touch

The picture on the left shows the halves in different colors and the tactile features in red. The tactile features are on opposite sides, so sliding my thumb in one direction will increase or decrease the volume regardless of what side my thumb is on. The photo on the right shows the case printed on our Stratasys Fortus 250mc with a 0.07 in. layer. This resolution allowed for enough flex to snap the case in place without breaking layer bonds. The 0.01 in. layer print was not so lucky due to the thin walls.

I was VERY pleased with the test drive: I could now lower the volume in less than a second.

The Option

I mentioned this project to the GoEngineer Rapid Prototyping team, and they offered to print cases in different materials and colors on the Stratasys J750. I took advantage of the offer, and being inexperienced, I chose a mix of Tango+ and Vero at 28µm resolution, assuming some material flexibility would be beneficial, but it made my design unusable.

Gift of Touch

While this absolutely incredible material could be used for so many other things, it made it impossible for the case to stay on the volume control. The snap fit was more of a slop fit. It may have worked better if the parts were thicker, but it was flimsy with 0.06 in. at the thickest section.

The photo below is a Stratasys sample wheel that helps in choosing materials. The Tango+ and Vero mix felt like the Shore 60 tab.

Gift of TouchThe Improvement

The Rapid Prototyping team stuck with the Stratasys J750 but instead used Vero white with a mix of GoEngineer colors at 28 µm. Their choices could not have been better.

Gift of Touch

I had never realized what an incredible job the Stratasys J750 did until I had a side-by-side comparison.

As to the snap-fit: flawless. This video shows how well the snap fits for all three cases.

A video does not do justice compared to feeling the “snap” with your own fingertips, but you can hear the crisp sound of it.

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