Transforming Takeout (Phone Box + Dock)

The simplified problem statement for this assignment was to design a take-out container that would serve as both a was to take food to go and then “transform” into something else, like a plate, for eating.

Students were given some leeway in the project with a more general problem statement. Basically, the more general challenge was to create multi-purpose packaging for anything. However, the requirement was that the box be only made out of cardboard or cardstock. That meant no other adhesives or fasteners.


The first thing I did was actually look at a bunch of pictures online of different food containers, but that wasn’t really anything that grabbed my attention. I sketched out typical Chinese take-out box with a spoon keeping the box together, but that seemed like sort of a flawed design. Taking out the spoon would just cause the box to fall apart. I’m not really sure where I got the inspiration to work on a phone box / dock, but I start sketching out those ideas pretty soon.


Basically every phone sold comes in some sort of cardboard or cardstock box, most of which as discarded immediately after the phone is unpacked, so I figured it might be a good idea to come up with a design that furthered the life of the box. I sketched out how the box might look and how the phone and charger might be integrated into the box.


Here’s where I really took my first stab at figuring out how to fold this box. I first sketched the outside of the box and determined which faces should be solid and which ones were permissible to part. I then added folds and the hidden parts of the box along with the sheets that would “jig-saw” together to keep the box from falling apart.


Before trying to lay out the pattern for the box on cardboard, I grabbed a couple flat sheets and made a mock-up phone out of cardboard, too. That cardboard phone would serve as the form around which I made all the other dimensions.


With a straight edge, pencil, and marker, I marked out everything carefully. In the above layout, there’s actually an extra segment on the left end of the pattern. I had to trim the extra segment out and shift a couple lines toward the right.


After cutting everything out, I used a pretty dull pizza cutter and a straight edge to pre-crease all the fold lines. I had some issues with pressing too hard and tearing through the one side of the corrugated cardboard, but this was my first prototype, so it didn’t really matter.


After making a couple folds, it became pretty clear that I had to trim around the outside of the pattern by about 3mm to compensate for the thickness of the box in order to make sure the walls of the box ended up straight up and down.


With some tape, I was able to hold the first prototype together to get a picture of what the product might look like in the end. Seems fine so far…


After quite a number of hours with Solidworks, I had the pattern for the box along with the shelves and the charging cable holder assembly. These were then laser cut out of cardboard.


Here’s a close-up for how the charging cable is being held in place within the assembly.


Assembling this proved to be a little bit difficult, but doable. This also served as good practice for assembling the final one that I would end up submitting.


When laser cutting my final pattern, I had issues with the laser intensity. Despite using the same cardboard and laser power and speed settings, the final pattern did not cut properly. Using a headlamp to backlight the pattern, I was able to trace the cuts with an X-acto blade to free it from the rest of the cardboard.


There’s the final pattern for the phone box + dock. I added two semi-circular cutouts for the tab at the bottom of the box to allow users to pull out the tab more easily. The parts for holding the charging cable had to also be altered to compensate for the off-center mounting of the cable.

Mak_Anselm_ps2_101_productMak_Anselm_ps2_102_product Mak_Anselm_ps2_103_productAnd those are the pictures for the final product! For a short video of the product unboxing click on the following Youtube link:


Coffee Cup Conundrum

This is the first “problem set” assigned to students for the Special Topics in DIY Design and Fabrication class at CMU. The students were given a couple different design goals with different target audiences and were required to select one of the target audiences.

Being a pretty typical mechanical engineer, I decided to go with the design that required assembling.

As always, I start the ideation process with sketching; however, I had to document the sketches much more that I am usually accustomed to, as the process of sketching out my ideas is part of my grade.


The first thing I did was write down the requirements of the design. After that, I wrote up some other design considerations to sort of guide the design. Once those requirements were out of the way, I could start actually sketching out some ideas.


One of the first considerations was where the fingers would go. Initially, I thought having two fingers above the indentation and two fingers below would be the most stable. The size of the cup would force me to change that later.


Once I had the basic idea down, I had to figure out how to actually make this cup holder out of multiple parts and how it might be assembled. This was an idea for having two mirrored parts that would snap together around the cup. The acrylic parts, however, would be really long and skinny, making them structurally unsound.


Here, I tried to get an idea of a fastener for attaching the different parts. The sort of wedge-shaped clip would make it to the final design.


I wish that could have been the final design. I guess the “assembly” could have been interpreted as stabbing the cup with the pencil.


In retrospect, this probably should have been my final design. The reason I had ruled it out was that one of my personal requirements from earlier was to have a design that could be assembled onto the cup without picking up the cup. With careful measurements, this would have been possible in this design, but I decided to go with something a little more flexible.


Instead of having one piece retaining the top of the cup, I decided to go with two pieces, so this could definitely be assembled onto the cup without picking up the cup.


That’s the isometric-esque sketch o the product. I ended up having to remove one of the steps in the handle to compensate for the size of the cup, which was much smaller than I expected.


That was the model made in Solidworks. Of course, it did not end up fitting that well, and I did not have quite enough time to make multiple cuts to make sure everything fit really snuggly. The translucent part was the handle part before bending. I used a heat gun to get the bends in the final product.


And there’s the final thing. There were definitely quite a number of issues in the design, as i was no all that stable and was in fact a little too fragile. Plenty of the other submissions in the class were far better… so I decided to step up the amount of effort I was putting into this class by quite a bit for my next submission.

Special Topics in DIY Design and Fabrication

So just as a quick update, I am taking a class at CMU that’s sort of just for fun. The class basically covers some pretty basic sketching skills, design, and fab. It’s sort of a quick (one semester) and dirty course for people to get their hands dirty and toy around with the ideation, design, iteration, and fabrication processes.

Those single-picture posts from earlier will get better well-documented design steps and walkthrough-esque posts of their own.