Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Project Doduo: The Making of My Own iPad Case

A few weeks ago, I finally dipped my feet into the world of tablet computing with the purchase of an iPad 2. I did not buy a cover/case for it because I was rather dazzled by how many choices are out there. Apple's Smart Cover seemed enticing, but I couldn't justify spending $40 on a product that only covers half of the product. I remembered deep down from my blog reading about a DIY Moleskine Case for the first iPad, and decided to give it a try for myself with my own twist: splicing the Smart Cover with the Moleskine/Dodocase.

My cost of supplies was basically the same as the one listed in the MDP post (all of the bookbinding materials were also ordered from Hollander's), with the exception of a 8x10 piece of plywood (I used a bamboo board because a scrap piece was available in the shop) a few small magnets. Once the supplies were gathered, it was time to get friendly with a set of calipers..

I realize my approach might be overly meticulous, but I guess that's the way my engineering brain works... Also, I realize I have access to a lot of tools that are not commonly available in most households, but most are substitutable.

My first few days were spent entirely in CAD land. I had to adjust the widths of the partitions because my cover has a spine. When rolled into a stand for typing, the height must be included into the triangular profile.
Once my mock-ups were satisfactory, the binder's board was cut to size with a laser cutter. (An x-acto will be fine for this! just more tedious..)

I set up my work area with lots of clamps and laid the sheet of imitation leather out. The ruler helps keep things square, and is handy for marking out your guidelines. After the lines are laid down, a few clamps kept the sheet secure as the glue-covered boards were placed in their proper positions.

After the pieces are all in place (remember to leave proper spacing! I left 3mm between each panel) apply even pressure to all surfaces..

This next step is optional, but I wanted the wake/sleep functionality of the real Smart Cover as well, so I placed magnets in holes carved out of the board. (more info on what's underneath the iPad/Smart Cover is available from iFixIt's Smart Cover Teardown). I found the locations of the magnets through trial and error (repeated placing of magnets on the iPad and measuring)

Add in the elastic strap (wouldn't be a true Moleskine-style cover without it, right?) I used a 1/2" wide elastic

Next comes the really tricky part. I made a 3D CAD model of a tray similar to the Dodcase, then used the laser cutter to etch the layout. After the board was cut and squared off, it was time to hollow it out on the mill...

This step is definitely difficult, and I was very lucky to have access to a mill. Considering how many hours I spent manually machining this, the Dodocase is definitely worth the price. However, since I'm weird and consider this a lovely way to spend a Saturday evening, I'm quite pleased the the result.
With the tray done, I was ready to place the lining paper in and install the straps to the tray. Stretch elastic over the corners of the tray, and bind with the bookbinder's glue (clamp for at least 20 minutes) Since the front cover is designed to fold, remember to wedge the liner paper in to the gaps! A small squeegee made this very easy

After another wait under the weights, the cover was finally finished.   

The folds don't quite work in the upright position, but I found this this alternative position works quite well.

And if you have a binder clip handy...

So there you have it. One of my coworkers warned me against dropping the case because of his broken dodocase tray incidents, but hopefully this will last me a while. Like many of my projects, this is definitely a work in progress as I'm missing some features (like a hole for the camera! doh!), and will be sure to post updates as this evolves.

UPDATE I've received a few requests for posting some drawings up. The PDFs I've posted here are full-scale, but fitted to A3 paper... If you tell your printer to tile the whole document to multiple pages, it should preserve the correct scale/dimensions. If you like this project, consider helping me out by using this link to sign up for Dropbox so I can keep posting content to my public folder.


Byron Cheng said...

You should post the CAD model, or at least a 1:1 printout for tracing.

Iceman Baldy said...

Outstanding project. Given your time and expertise, you've helped many of us affirm that what we paid for our cases was worth the money even though many of the notebook style cases available have their unique flaws.

I've found that the Portenzo case is the closest to ideal given the camera port and unique sound chamber along with customization options and an innovative approach to securing the iPad in place.

Thanks for posting your work on this project.

Anonymous said...

Looks like a laptop to me.