When it comes to phones, new materials and design concepts can lower costs and boost market appeal. At least that's what GE Plastics (Pittsfield, MA) found when it designed three prototype mobile phone housings. The project involved showing how high-performance plastics, coupled with advanced processing technology, could create unique products that are inexpensive, yet of high quality.
"These prototypes demonstrate potential responses to the needs and aspirations of specific user groups," says Dan Drees, GE Plastics industry manager, telecommunications. "Leading companies recognize that having unique products for each segment can improve profits and benefit the customers with a more 'custom' product. All three designs--a mass market Brand Phone, a Personal Phone, and a Kid's Phone--combine our simplified production processes to reduce cost and increase productivity, while using enhanced surface decoration to increase the aesthetic appearance of a mobile telephone."
The British product design consultancy Random Product Design prototyped the phone housings on an identical electronic module. Here's a look at each concept:
- The Brand Phone uses in-mold decoration to incorporate 3D graphics within a single-piece upper casement, while including innovative features, such as the key design and integrated lens. A single-piece printed film, injection-molded from the rear, extends across the entire front of the phone to carry logos, product messages, or graphics. Even small production runs could be completely personalized with messages or any variety of decorations.
- The Personal Phone features the use of a new generation of Cycoloy(reg) (polycarbonate/ABS) Magix(TM) resins to create special surface effects that range from marble and stone to metallic-effect finishes. It also incorporates thin-wall technology to allow more space for internal components, without sacrificing performance. The 0.8-mm-thick wall sections have high levels of impact resistance, strength, and heat resistance.
- The Kid's Phone, for children between the ages of 8 and 12, has a simple, yet creative design. A "home button," for example, could be programmed so that it automatically connects callers with their home phone number, while excluding other expensive services. It also has a built-in connector to take pre-paid cards. Colorful, soft-touch elastomers give the phone an appealing look and feel for the younger market.
"These phones are not intended as production models," Drees explains. "They simply demonstrate the capability of our materials, and show what might be achieved by incorporating the latest production techniques into established areas of design."