iPhone and the Amazing Microfluid Dreamcoat
Oct 30, 2013 5:00 AM PT
Here's the premise: CODE Fluidics thinks people are interested in expressing themselves through color, so the company developed a microfluid technology that lets consumers change the color of their products in real time as often as they want.
The company started with an iPhone 5/5s case -- an obvious choice, given the popularity of the product and customers' desire to case their iPhones.
Microfluids at Work
Technically speaking, the CODE Case works by precisely forcing very tiny amounts of fluid into itsy-bitsy translucent channels that make up the flat back panel of the case.
The case consists of two basic parts: a plastic or polycarbonate exterior hard bumper frame, and a translucent back panel with the micro channels encased inside. On the bottom edge of the bumper case are two small holes so that colored fluid can get into and out of the case channels.
Consumers will be able to connect a fluid container to the holes in the case and force a new color of fluid into the back panel, effectively turning it green or blue or orange or whatever.
The polycarbonate frame itself doesn't contain any channels -- at least, not at this time -- so it's a fixed color.
The results appear bright and vivid in the photos of the prototypes, but the expression of color doesn't cover 100 percent of the back portion of the case. Because the channels are like one long, skinny tube that folds over on itself again and again, the effect is like looking at a fence with boards that have a small gap between them. At a glance, the fence is one big brown rectangle, but you can see the gaps and see through them if you pay closer attention. In this way, you can actually make out the Apple logo and iPhone name through the colored covers.
Can CODE Fluidics Do It?
Based on two years of work and more than 100 prototypes, CODE Fluidics seems to have worked out the kinks. To get the cases into mass production, the company has found a manufacturer in Minnesota that can create the injection molding for the cases and the cartridges that will hold the fluids.
As for the microfluid channel panels, the fledging company found an experienced company in Los Angeles that specializes in microfluidic systems for medical device makers. This company has the ability to scale parts volumes into 300,000 to 400,000 units.
If the Kickstarter campaign actually goes viral, CODE Fluidics has a backup manufacturer in Australia. Either way, CODE Fluidics has timelines from these scenarios that go from successful Kickstarter funding to finished products in about 15 weeks (March 2014).
Since its Kickstarter launch on Oct. 24, CODE Fluidics has nabbed more than 57 backers who have pledged about US$4,140 (as of this writing). The goal is $55,000, and the funding period ends Nov. 23.
The funds will let CODE Fluidics get the mass production molds produced, as well as buy the raw materials and make an initial production run.
An early bird pledge of $35 will get 250 backers a white or black iPhone 5/5s case with three color MicroCartridges that hold the fluids. Color choices include red, blue, green, yellow, orange, purple, pink, black, Kickstarter Green, and Clear. The retail price is $59.99.
At the $45 pledge level, backers get the case plus 10 color cartridges. As is typical with many Kickstarter projects, backers who act fast get the best options. When the available early bird support slots run out, prices jump to $50 and $60.
Create Your Own Pattern
If you've got $500 in spare change lying around, CODE Fluidics is offering a cool backer option: a limited edition, custom pattern CODE Case. All you have to do is send CODE Fluidics your design and they'll use it on your case. The catch? The pattern can be anything as long as you can draw it without picking up your pen and the paths don't cross.
Ultimately, CODE Fluidics plans to produce other color-changing products for other types of consumer goods that people want to customize, like hats, sunglasses, watch bands, and shoes -- but it all starts here, with the iPhone 5 and 5s.