October 6, 2021 | Case Studies
Phone Mount People: Next Gen Entrepreneurs
What do three talented robotics team students do when challenged with a real-world problem? They find a practical solution using performance plastics and build a business!
From Inspiration to Implementation
In the spring of 2020, the COVID-19 epidemic began hitting the U.S. hard and creating an immediate demand for health care workers to see patients via virtual visits. A nurse from Aurora Medical Center in Summit, WI approached the robotics team at Arrowhead High School in Hartland, WI looking for a way to use cell phones for video conferencing while leaving their computers free for charting.
Aurora doctors and nurses first connected with the students a couple of years ago when they toured the hospital to see its da Vinci Surgical System and knew they possessed design and manufacturing capabilities.
Grace Dai, Teekay Kowalewski, and Joshua Otte immediately got to work sketching out ideas and constructing cardboard mockups to develop a product to sit on a laptop as well as hold a phone. Knowing that numerous industrial plastics offer benefits of moisture-resistance, rust-resistance, and lighter weight over metal and wood, they started the material selection process smartly. Additionally, plastics can provide ease of fabrication, long-term performance, and endless ascetic options, so they narrowed the options to a see-through substrate. Though clear polycarbonate is in high demand for use as germ-preventative barriers, it is also widely-recognized and readily available for prototyping. Naturally transparent, it’s extremely durable and can be thermoformed without cracking, making it an excellent choice for the phone mount.
They then used Creo CAD Software to make their design 3-D, printed it on a flat sheet of polycarbonate plastic, and cut it using a CNC machine. Next they used a heat gun and custom-built press machinery to bend the plastic into shape. It took the team just two days to take the model from concept to creation.
The team came to Cope’s Waukesha, WI branch when sales volume and need for more material increased, and we were able to fulfill thanks to our stocking position and vendor relationships.
The students decided to donate 20 of the phone mounts to Aurora Medical Center and 80 to Lake Country School teachers, including Andrew Zuercher, who teaches physics and engineering courses at Arrowhead.
Zuercher got his phone mount from the students in April 2020, soon after the high school went virtual because of the pandemic. To teach from home, he mounted his phone on top of his computer to display video and audio while keeping his computer screen available to run presentations. He said Arrowhead’s technology and engineering program emphasizes that good engineering and manufacturing is really about empathy and identifying a need, exactly the approach these students took.
Receiving positive feedback fueled the idea that there may be a larger market for their product, so in September 2020, the students decided to turn their project into a full-blown business called Phone Mount People. They have also applied for a product patent.
They’re now using an industrial CNC router that can produce nearly 60 phone mounts in an hour and have launched the product on Etsy and Amazon. Sales have been steady, and they sold out of on-hand inventory in early 2021. The team is learning about business processes, launching products to market, and marketing strategy, with the goal to keep expanding and growing. They plan to put their profits toward college and reinvesting in the company. Interested parties can connect with Phone Mount People on Facebook.
Key product features:
- Minimalist design, made of extremely durable clear polycarbonate plastic.
- Ideal positioning – holds cell phone above a laptop screen and places phone at face height.
- Hands free, comfortable viewing angle.
- More flattering teleconference video and dual screen functionality.
- Easy to use – zero setup time, nothing to adjust, no damage to devices, small and easy to transport, and saves space on your desk.
- Compatibility – works with all cell phone and computer types, collapsible phone sockets, and charging.
- Increased productivity and convenience for video chat while laptop screen is being used for other tasks.
- For work or play – diverse usage for teleconferencing, multi-tasking, doing homework, watching videos, playing music, cooking, and more.
- No need to add adhesives or magnets to laptop or phone.
- Handmade in America.
In March, Grace, Joshua, and Teekay were named by the Hartland Chamber of Commerce as 2020 Future Leaders of the Year. Cope was so impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit of these young adults that we met with Teekay via video (using their phone mount, of course) to learn more. The future is bright for these three—we hope our business relationship continues to flourish and look forward to supporting their forthcoming fabrication needs!
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