Captain’s Log – PuzzlePhone Episode 3: Develop build principles

Developing build principles in many ways defines where the balance can be found between the vision and the ocean of mechanical challenges. Every detail matters because every tiny detail can make it or break it, and quite literally so especially when you are building a modular smartphone.

At some point we were considering a front facing camera that can be replaced independently. Did we choose this path? Follow us and you’ll find out 😉

To paint the entire picture of just how mind tingling it is to create something modular but extremely robust we would probably need to stream a live video feed from our relentless engineering wizards’. Instead we will suffice with estimating the amount of “Ooops!” heard during the development of build principles. And I am afraid to tell you this folks, we ran out of digits. But we choose to follow the path of Marie Curie: “Nothing in life (electronics) is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”, and forge on finding solutions on how put the puzzle together.

Just to highlight the extent of the dilemmas we work with think about the friction between designing for recycling versus designing for upgrading and repairing. Recycling is only cost-effective when it can be done in seconds. The easiest way to reach break-even in the recycling process is work with glue and related methods where the phone is taken apart with force rather than technique and thus the components are no longer available for reuse but only for recycling. The question we keep coming back to is: is recycling enough or can we design for both? We will get back to this topic later on but in the meanwhile, here are few interesting links: iFixit, Remanufacturing and Product Design report, Autodesk Education.

Why do we choose to spend countless hours to something that by common logic should not be possible? A product that is at the same time resilient and yet can easily be taken apart. Well, it is our mission and we are determined that it will be where we will leave our dent in the universe. We want to allow access inside the PuzzlePhone for those who want to get it on with our hot hardware because you deserve better hardware and the world needs it. And this is what makes PuzzlePhone different – we are making a modular phone which is easy to upgrade and repair in order to make the handheld hardware lifecycle both sustainable and rewarding.

For the hardware wizards out there, we’re developing a platform for customized mobile phones and other customized mobile devices. The interactions between three main modules and mini-modules within the main modules allow you to play under the hood. Imagine being able to easily replace and upgrade those bits that you usually have to replace the whole phone for. We will make sure that we are specifying the highest quality components for longevity.

Here are the basic questions our team of engineers keep asking when putting the product together:

  • Antenna & audio performance: is this thing able to communicate with the outer world?
  • How do we put the materials together? Screws, glue, clips…
  • How do these methods affect modules afterlife and the recyclability vs reparability dilemma?
  • How do we align the components to build strength?
  • How do we distribute components & functions across modules?
  • Which are the crucial connections between components?
  • Do we know everything about the materials?

Mechanical & Thermal simulations: will it survive in the real world?
And now just consider that all these questions, and their answers, are interconnected forming a complicated matrix of risks and opportunities, which means decisions and compromises to be taken.

Here’s a sneak peek to couple of 2015 simulation models. A keen eye might notice that we have twisted and turned around the topic of SD card and double SIM 😉

Next we’re off to Oulu for an R&D camp to drive the design forward. Keep an eye on this blog and join in the journey to design, engineering and manufacture the revolutionary PuzzlePhone in Europe. Would you like to be involved in future testing or give input? Just contact us. We will keep you all updated in the web, the newsletter and trough our social media channels.

Alejandro Santacreu (CEO)
On behalf of the PuzzlePhone team
The PuzzlePhone!The Android you’ve been looking for! 

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Circular Devices Oy
c/o A Grid
PO BOX 13100
00076 Aalto

Copyright © 2015 Circular Devices Oy. All rights reserved.

This project has recieved funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research
and innovation programme under grant agreement No 680640 and 730308