USB drive, reimagined

3D Printing the i-secur-c: An engineering journey.

Here I talk about the usefulness of 3D printers, in regards to prototyping the i-SECUR parts.

Creating the MVP IRL (in real life)

3D printing is an indispensable ability when an individual, team or company wants to release a brand new, never before seen product to the market, because everyone will expect an MVP, which stands for Minimum Valuable Product (not Most Valuable Product unfortunately).

This MVP should be the physical representation of their digital or conceptual designs, a tangible manifestation of their 3D CAD designs or their technical drawings. It doesn’t need to be mechanical engineering related either; it could be a software application that delivers the bare minimum of the promised feature, or a piece of art with the minimum sketches in place. In any case, it should serve as proof that the project is in fact legitimate, not just all hype and talk.

In the case of the i-SECUR, which markets itself as a rugged, durable, and waterproof USB drive, it requires perhaps only one of the advertising points to be a MVP, such as being waterproof.

But since you can’t test fluid interaction on a computer (unless you got a really beefy computer and an equally expensive fluid simulation software), then your best option is probably making a prototype in real life.

How 3D printing solves prototyping inefficiencies

When someone wanted to create a prototype in the past, they would either have to carve it out of wood, or piece together what arts and crafts material they have lying around.

Then the 3D printer was introduced to the public market, which was quite a revolutionary event for prototyping. It was of course, extremely inefficient for mass production, and so was relegated to hobby action figure makers and 3D artists.

But I saw potential in its ability to create extremely precise parts down to 0.05mm tolerances, a crucial requirement for any engineering part, especially small scale ones like the i-SECUR. A human hand can never carve a hole exactly 1.66mm wide, even with drill bits, but 3D printing can.

The origin of the i-SECUR

And so, on December 10 of 2021, I created usb-housing-v1, and it’s quite alien compared to the i-SECUR that is seen today:

It originally had 10 unique parts, and had a cable system along with magnets.

On the computer, it looked fine, but it was when I 3D printed it out and tried to assemble it was when I realized that the design was poor and needed drastic changes. So with my trusty workhorse, the Ender 3 Pro along with an enclosure for stabilizing ABS temperatures, I created not one, but at least 3 ABS filament spools worth of parts.

As I am writing this, the 3D printer is whirring away, putting 0.1mm layers on top of one another with unerring accuracy, and driving up my electricity bill at the same time. But it is a vital tool for the creative engineers, and this concept of FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) has been utilized outside of just making plastic parts, such as the company ICON, who makes 3D printed houses by extruding concrete, one layer on top of another. Perhaps it could be used for mass production after all.

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