Apr 18, 2017 | By Benedict

Slickwraps, a smartphone case company based in Andover, Kansas, claims to have developed a product called “Contour,” a $300 3D printer that can create customized 3D printed “skins” for smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices. Unfortunately, there’s a caveat.

There are many reasons why you might want to protect your smartphone from physical damage. For starters, these things are expensive: even though relatively basic mobile phones cost hundreds of dollars a decade ago, these newer, fancier models are almost like computers—and their price tag reflects that.

Moreover, smartphones these days are all about their giant screens. This is great for watching Snapchat videos on the go, but for durability? One little accident and your phone (and dreams) could be shattered.

The increasing fragility of expensive smartphones therefore remains a constant worry for the consumer, but it has at least ensured that smartphone cases and skins continue to be a popular product. Cases are, after all, a lot cheaper than insurance.

But more importantly, having a protective case on your smartphone is no longer the nerdy taboo it once was. With so much at stake when you carry an iPhone around in your pocket, it’s simply common sense to have the thing wrapped up in cotton wool—or silicone, I suppose.

Kansas company Slickwraps has been capitalizing on the interest in protective consumer electronics cases for several years, producing a multitude of designs to suit individual products as well as individual tastes.

Its latest product, however, takes customization to a whole new level…or at least it would, if it were real. The company recently unveiled Contour, a 3D printer whose sole purpose is to 3D print customized, durable vinyl skins directly onto "iPhones, Androids and other mobile electronic devices."

It sounds cool, but there's a pretty big caveat here: the product was "launched" on March 31, right on the brink of… yep.

Here's the thing: for an April Fool's joke, it hasn't exactly panned out in the usual way. For one, Slickwraps is yet to own up that the 3D printer is indeed fake—they even created a whole website and marketing campaign for it, which hasn't been taken down or modified at all in the weeks since April 1. It's also not the most outrageous idea for a product, either: sure, calibrating a printer to hit the exact edge of a smartphone would be difficult, but surely someone could do it…

"Through the meticulous sourcing and re-use of existing technologies, we have worked with Mongolian engineer Edward Nara to create a product which can spray a durable yet safely removable skin made from 3M materials," Slickwraps says. "Proudly, we are able to recreate our entire catalog of textures and appearances such as wood, glow, carbon fiber, and more."

Unfortunately, there are a couple of good reasons to think that the actually very useful-sounding Contour 3D printer is in fact a hoax. Firstly, Slickwraps has previous: last year, the company claimed it was branching out into customized condoms, apparently fooling many customers. And second, the $299.99 "product" on the company web store has been "out of stock" since its launch—this despite no customers claiming to have bought the thing. Thirdly, as has been kindly pointed out by readers, the "Contour" is just a Robox 3D printer with stickers on it.

Overall, we're a little disappointed that the Slickwraps Contour won't be printing vinyl skins onto our smartphones anytime soon. But hey, it's a pretty cool idea.

For those who just want a cool smartphone skin without any tomfoolery, have a look at Slickwraps' online skin customizer instead.




Posted in 3D Printer



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