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An atom-based product, developed in bits


   THIS from the two New Yorkers who designed the Glif, a tripod adapter for the iPhone 4. It's a hunk of rubberized plastic with a threaded bushing that will ultimately retail for $15. Last week, its designers hoped to raise $10,000 through the crowdfunding site Kickstarter. In the first three days, the total contributions were $70,000. Fund-raising will continue until November 2nd. Tom Gerhardt makes interactive kiosks. Dan Provost works for frog design, a product design company. The two are long-time friends; they have never moved an idea all the way to production on this scale before.

The Glif iPhone 4 tripod adapter can also be used as a stand. They started with a computer model of the adapter, created with Rhinoceros 3D design software. The software is $995 for Windows, but they used the beta test They tested their designs through rapid prototyping, uploading files to Shapeways in the Netherlands. It took about ten days for Shapeways to "print" each prototype in 3D, and a day later it would be in the designers' hands in New York. Shapeway charges by material volume, so each each Glif test cost about $10. They would try out a few variants each time just to meet a $25 minimum.

With a completed prototype model, the designers turned for a manufacturing estimate to Protomold, a short-run injection-moulding production firm. Injection moulds commonly produce millions of like results; Protomold specializes in smaller runs, and can make dozens to thousands of castings at a reasonable per-unit price. The company examined the 3D model, helped refine a version that it could actually manufacture, and provided a production quote. For the Glif, the two designers needed to pay for an initial mould and enough units to cover the manufacturing costs. With $10,000, they could break even. (They will source and install the brass bore for the tripod screw at a later stage. The partners originally expected to spend a weekend with a heat gun to do it themselves, but they've already pledged far too many units.)

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