3D Printing, Mahogany Woodwork, and Near Field Communication

It may seem an unlikely combination but my most recent small project combined 3D printing (via fused filament fabrication on a Solidoodle), some hand-worked mahogany wood, an NFC tag, and a paper product. A few years ago, my boss (the CEO of the company I work for) created a small notepaper product called an “Idea Catcher.” It is a heavyweight piece of cardstock, about twice the size of a business card, with your monogram in the corner. He provided me with a stack of them and I wasn’t really sure how to carry them with me. I endeavored to make some sort of carrying case. The utility of a box of paper wasn’t there for me, so I decided to add NFC to the mix as well as a means of sharing my personal information. My initial design looked like an oversized business card case.

The first design iteration of an NFC paper holder.
The first design iteration of an NFC paper holder.

I intended to bring some warmth to the design via a hardwood cover. I wanted to use cloth elastic to adjust the thickness of the holder to the number of cards contained within it.  After the first few iterations, it became clear that such a design would not work well. The tooth of the paper was too great and it made removing the “catchers” too difficult. I knew that if I were going to use the things, they would need to be easy to access. So, I adjusted the design to have a fixed size and a flip-top.

The final design of the note holder.
The final design of the note holder.

I began by prototyping the cover and container in plastic. Once I had a basic shape, I cut a piece of craft mahogany to size and began to carve away the joinery. When I had the basic shape down, I stained it, then sanded away the surface stain to create greater contrast in the grain.

Once shaping was complete, I glued up the cover to the body of the holder (FFF printed in black). I added a small steel bar (piano wire) to act as a pin for a hinge to come later.  I coated the mahogany in poly as well with a few sets of coating and sanding.

Next, I printed the flip top cover, printed a hinge cover, and hand rolled a small brass sheet to create the hinges. The NFC tag I embedded in the hinge cover, so it cannot be seen from any perspective.

The finished product opens and closes nicely, providing easy access to a stack of the Idea Catchers, and carries my professional information on it. It’s essentially a business card with the utility of a notepad.

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Creative director and technologist. Lover of light and maker of things!

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