remote control holder take two: the modular arm approach

After learning that I needed to redesign the wall-mounted remote control holder due to its inherent design flaws — at least in the location it is in our home — I spent the past week trying to work out a better version.

My first thought was just to make the arms of the holder thicker and harder to break. It was the easiest solution, requiring little modification to a design I knew printed well. After going down that path, I saw that it was kind-of ugly; chunky and visually “heavy”.

The next thought was to make a version that the arms and the bottom lip were connected, making a basket of sorts — kind-of like a kiddie-swing seat. This should increase stability by making the whole thing one piece. If it got knocked by an arm again, it would have a better chance of surviving.

Due to the location of the screw hole, I needed to keep an area of the front part open, so it wasn’t a solid “basket”, so I had an opportunity to make it more “artistic”. Thoughts of neat art deco swooshes came to mind, but I quickly threw those ideas out because a) this is a piece that I would need to leave in the condo after we move out, and b) ti didn’t really fit with the rest of the decor. I ended up with just a geometric “T” shape cutout.

It also struck me that there was a lot of excess plastic on the back of the holder — a great place to reduce the amount of plastic, though really it was offset somewhat by the additional plastic wrapping the front.

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Holder_v3_2

I ran the object through ReplicatorG, adding the raft to get the interior support structure added. After a few minutes I had a gcode file ready to print. Doing a quick print job estimate in ReplicatorG told me it would take three and a half hours to print! Ouch! The majority of the print time was just in support material. Time to rethink.

What could I do to cut the print time and still make this better?

Then I decided to take a different approach. Instead of trying to make the whole piece better by making it a single object, what if I re-did the holder in such a way that if one of the arms gets broken, I could just reprint another arm? That is one of the pros of having a 3D printer — printing things on-demand, when needed — right?

Time To Get Modular

So I chopped the arms and front of the of newest version, leaving a cross-like back piece. I then re-worked the ends of the back where the arms would attach to create slots that the new arms would slide into. Finally, I made some new arms that would fit into the slots and were a little more interesting than all right-angles.

Since the arms could lay flat on the print platform, they could be printed without the need for support material, or even a raft. In fact, I could arrange all of the pieces on one plate and print in one go. I laid out all the pieces, ran the whole thing through ReplicatorG and did a time estimate of the gcode: just a little over an hour to print. Awesome!

I put a single arm file through the same process and the time estimate to print a new arm was only 17 minutes. Perfect. Break one, print a new one. Good to go.

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As I was printing the plate of objects, I thought about other types of arms that could fit into the slots. For instance, I could make a long, flexible strip that would wrap around the entire front of the remote control, perhaps building in holes and pins to fasten together in the front. I pondered whether or not I could even print a thin-enough piece to let it be flexible. The good thing is that I can play with this idea over time, and simply pull out and replace the arms when I have something that will work.

After the printing, I did realize a flaw in this design: what if the thin plastic around the slots holding the arms breaks when an arm breaks? As you can see in the pictures, they are already stressed looking (I should have expanded them a fraction larger than I already did). While printing a new back on it’s own would only take 40 minutes (I did a gcode estimate on that as well), that isn’t really solving my original problem; I’ve designed a new version that is as flawed as the original. We’ll see should we ever break one of these arms.

I also think that this object, once I’ve held it in my hand, is rather ugly. It’s just weird. While it serves the purpose it is intended to serve, it is angular, rigid, and cheap-looking. I wonder if a pass at finishing would help it; perhaps a sanding, a layer of Bondo, and some nice paint would really spruce it up… I don’t know. I want it to be effortless. Airy. This is neither. This is like a recognizer from the original Tron. But not in a good way.

Maybe by the time we break one of the arms on this model I’ll have come up with something better. Maybe.

Download the files from Thingiverse.com

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