If You Don’t Have A Steampunk Smartphone…

Steampunk Smartphone

[Richard] has been working on the concept of “incorporating more feeling into our digital objects”. His design is still just a concept but hopefully someone will take up the idea because we think the results would be amazing. The attention to detail in the design is impressive, the Rotary Mechanical Smartphone as he is calling it contains a generic smartphone maintaining all the features such as the touch screen, but also including a set of interchangeable rotary dials on the back. There is the true rotary dial just like an old phone and a push button dial, for complete integration of the old and new technologies.

Once the design was complete, Richard built himself a proof of concept model to show off his work. The shell was 3D printed and copper plated to get the desired steampunk finish. The rotary dials are made from brass plate and hand finished. [Richard] has put in a lot of effort getting the finish right with electroplating, painting, and sanding. The final results are nothing short of impressive. Check out his site for some very nice photos and build details.

21 thoughts on “If You Don’t Have A Steampunk Smartphone…

  1. “The shell was 3D printed and copper plated”


    i work with finishing companies spray, rotary, electroplating, and etching. How does one copper plate relatively soft plastics? chemical deposition? what type of 3d printable plastics stay within specs after that?


    why not use investment casting to do the real deal instead of simulating for more money? why not have it stamped and tada! you are ready for mass production the moment your prototype is done. why not mill it for more strength out of any base material under the sun?

    these are the little pragmatic details i am curious about.

    the etching primer was a real nice bit of work. the bag is a good design too. it is an entirely new field of study all together to make vintage aesthetic leather. coffee stain works pretty well.

  2. @silvesterstillalone

    Dunno where HaD got the “The shell was 3D printed then electroplated” bit from, the page they link to quite clearly says the body is copper which has then been eletroplated.

  3. needs video

    bad:makes phone like 5 x bigger
    looks far too expensive and impractical if he wanted to make any money off it
    looks like he wants it to be an entire phone – when i first saw it i thought it was a case

    i understand this is just a design and he seems to be more of an artist making a work than trying to make something to sell

    imo what he should do is abandon the phone idea and make it a case for a popular phone
    then have it connect to the phone and dial the numbers with only the rotary thing, forget the button one.
    don’t use brass- brass colored plastic

    there is a pretty cool ‘exploded view’ of it on his page though

  4. Does anyone else feel like Steampunk is the new Goth? Of course individuals should have the right to engage in whatever frivolity they like to make their own existence more interesting, but as a movement steampunk seems forced and artificial, as if it is begging for a dedicated store at a mall near you.

    I’m really impressed by the ingenuity exhibited in projects like these, but I can’t help but feel that the fundamental thesis is obnoxious and misguided. It seems to be entirely rooted in fantasy, facade and consumerism.

  5. @FDP True steampunk will (hopefully) never go the way of mass produced, mall rat frivolity. Steampunk is about getting away from the 21st century ideals of throw away tech and high price clothes that are already falling apart.

  6. Steam-punk is fantasy loosely based on an “alternative” Victorian-Era. Basically it ignores the brutal reality of those times for a twisted sense of “style”. While there have been some really nice hacks with elegance and functionality, most are just ordure with bits of brass tacked on it.

    I grew up in the era of the rotary dial, and it’s about the most “clunky” and least user friendly interface encountered. Thankfully DTFM came along. A telegraph or radio key would be a more representative technology and is considerably more useful.

  7. Re:Steampunk – you guys have to consider the premise here (alternate reality where technology remained based on steam power and mechanics); whether that would have worked in practice is questionable, but it’s obvious that it very rarely works in practice today – thus, the overwhelming majority of steampunk stuff today is of not so much functional but much more of an ornamental quality. It’s pure aesthetics, where all the little gears and pipes usually do nothing.

    This obviously might imply for some people that all of it is useless – others simply enjoy its specific blend of organic and metal in a world mostly ruled by plastics and invisibly performed electronic magic. It’s basically the difference between a steam locomotive and an electric/diesel one – nobody denies that the latter is more efficient, but the former has lots more character (and is generally much more fun to watch).

    Sometimes this leads to seriously impractical objects – and this phone is probably one of them – but often it adds class and distinction to objects without hurting practicality too much (like in the USB drives or the typewriter-style keyboards).

  8. I’d rather dress my phone up in steampunk than Hello Bleedin’ Kitty or download mindless ringtones and benal wallpaper on the screen.

    Well done that chap for making an interesting and original piece of ART.

  9. art, sure. hack? not really… unless the rotary works which I couldnt find any evidence of.

    steampunk is mostly people adding, often quite literally, useless bells and whistles to something. Its a nonfunctional aesthetic emphasizing style over usefullness. Folks just slap some copper pipe and/or random gears onto something as decoration.

    take this classic example:

    Look and you will see that gear configuration all over the place in steampunk. In case you didnt notice, when gears are arranged like that, THEY WONT MOVE. Call me what you will, but every time I see those gears I want to slap someone.

    I love copper, brass, fine woods and a lot of the design elements used in steampunk. I just hate the lack of actual design. What makes mechanical watches so cool is each part has a purpose. When you just glue watch parts to a USB drive, it looses its magic IMHO

  10. hessianerd, that is a pendent, of course it’s not functional. Furthermore almost everything that gets ‘steampunked’ does not run on steam so of course anything designed for steam (gauges, valves, pipes, etc.) are going to be non-functional. I have a feeling you don’t quite get steampunk.

  11. meh, I think he gets it completely.

    “I love copper, brass, fine woods and a lot of the design elements used in steampunk. I just hate the lack of actual design.”

    steampunk is a nice combination of engineering and art. if you take the engineering then you take away half the appeal.

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