This section goes more in depth on how the Statial was created and choices made during the development of the prototype. If you are more interested in the Statial as a product (what it is and how to use it) than please go to the Product FAQ, Assembly Video and Fitting Video.
I was originally going to use a high end mouse for the base but this would have created a bunch of collateral problems:Barrier to Entry
In general, people don't like taking apart and potentially destroying things they just bought and the more expensive the thing, the more difficult it will be to convince them. I mean honestly, if you just bought a new sports car for MSRP and at the same time purchased a friends old car for $200usd which one would you be more inclined to disassemble and rebuild?These are pretty grounded assumptions so my direction when looking for a mouse to build around was to make the whole fear of taking apart reaction as low as possible. That means as low a cost object as possible.
This also plays into the total cost of having a working Statial. My goal was not to create a PR stunt or to be "the first 3D printed mouse that is incredibly expensive" but to create something that had unmatched features for a comparative price as other mice on the market. High end mouse devices have been hovering in the ~$100usd area for a while now so the cost of the Statial + base mouse was going to have to be less than that dollar amount or else I felt it would be relegated to a fringe art piece at best.
The base mouse had to also be easily disassembled. The more complex the base mouse was to take apart and combine with the Statial, the fewer people would be interested in it. Higher end devices tend to have more parts and be much more finicky in general to tear down and reassemble.
The base mouse had to be widely available too. In general, if you could order the Statial to your location you also had to be able to get the base mouse where you live. This means limited production models restricted to certain regions/countries were out. It had to be one of the larger mouse manufacturers (namely Microsoft) or Logitech with a global distribution network.
Models of all products change over time. This creates a tricky problem for anyone who wants to make a new product that exists on top of another product. Generally speaking, more expensive products are expected to be upgraded with new and improved features regularly. This means that the design and physical body of a higher-end mouse will be changing yearly (or faster).
You can probably start to see the problem already. If the product that I was building off of is constantly changing than I would have had to constantly alter the Statial to fit it ("Statial Model A only works on mouse X from 2010", "Model B only works on the 2011", etc.). This would confusing for you, me and everyone involved.
Lower margin products (usually lower cost items) on the other hand tend to stay the same over longer periods of time. Companies usually create lower cost/entry level products with the idea of investing in expensive tooling once and then recouping the investment by selling many units over the course of many years. This incentivises companies to not change low margin products or invest in new tooling over the course of a longer stretch of time because they do not want to jeopardize taking a loss on a low margin product.
All of the above reasons added together to very much nudge me in the direction of making the Statial based off of an entry level mouse device.
Unlike traditional product manufacturing the price of 3D printed objects are based off of total volume not complexity of the part. Essentially for every cubic mm you cut away the final print cost decreases. By putting a hole pattern through the exterior the price of the Statial dropped noticeably. Also, having an exterior surface like that would be very expensive if this was manufactured normally (injection molded) so I figure this kind of detailing has the potential to be more common as 3D printing parts for production matures in the design industry.
The Statial is only currently available as a Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) printed part in Nylon.
The SLS process was chosen over FDM because of the level of detail required to make the moving parts in a single print. Nylon was the the most cost effective material to use in the SLS process to get the durability I was looking for.
I tried many available printing methods and printing materials while developing the Statial but was forced to choose only one in the end. This is because of the tolerances or space between moving parts has to be extremely tight for the Statial to work the way it should. The space between moving parts in this model was adjusted down in .05mm steps to get everything moving together correctly (for reference a normal sheet of paper is around .1mm thick) and every 3D printing process and material has a different tolerance for moving parts.
While a Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) print may need a .75mm gap around a hinge for it to move, an SLS/Nylon print may only need a .2mm gap to operate. If you make an FDM print with a .2mm gap it will come out bricked (none of the parts move) where if you print an SLS part with a .2mm tolerance everything will be loose and the components will not lock into place. This means that early on in development I had to choose a single print method and material that would work best in the end. The material had to have consistent tolerances, high durability and be cost effective and I felt SLS Nylon fit the bill (I debated making it out of SLS'd gold for a while but figured $35,000.00usd per print may dent my development budget $500usd more than I wanted).
SLS Nylon prints usually come out white and colors are either applied by spray or dip-dyed onto the surface. I left early models white and discovered that the SLS surface is more porous than you would expect. This has consequences. The rough surface would pick up dirt and UV exposure would yellow the material after time so the mouse would turn a really striking brownish/yellow color after a few weeks which was...not awesome.
On the plus side, it turns out the paint/dye helps to act as a bonding agent for the print. White versions that didn't have this surface bonding would tend shed Nylon particles which leaves an amazingly bad sand/dust feel to the general area where the mouse was used.
So, in lieu of a sandy/dirt/yellow experience I decided a color was in order.
I didn't. The first couple models came back bricked (hinges were all fused together) and I had to change all of the hinge/gap tolerances. As I developed the Statial I also found that every time I made a change to the larger design I would have to adjust many of the tolerances sub hinge tolerances.
In the end this was a good thing. After the first miss-fire I printed hinge probe boards that were basically just a bunch of hinges with different spacing around them in a single part. I could print these in different materials/colors and reference them later to make new things.
I started by creating a digital model of the base mouse in 3D software that I could then build the Statial on top of.
Using a set of calipers you can figure out the length, width, height and wall thicknesses of the object to manually build in digital 3D space but the M100 base is not a block. It is made up of complex curved surfaces that are very difficult to get solid measurements on so I ended up with a 3d model that was a good but still a "best guess". This ended up causing pretty constant problems throughout the process of making the Statial.
When I started modeling the Statial I was very confident I could do it in 3 prints. That is, I would upload a digital 3D model, get back a part, make changes to my virtual copy of the part, re-upload and repeat two more times before all the parts would be dialed in and it would be ready to sell.
The "stl11" tag on top of the Statial is short for "type 11" or 11th major redesign. Most of the redesigns also had multiple sub-revisions that were printed. That means it actually took me in the 13+ print attempts area to get the model right. Sometimes it is a good thing to not have good estimates on what you are going into...
I would like to be able to complain about this more but it was actually pretty fun to do. For every mistake I was given a new bunch of ways to solve the problem would spill out into things that would come in handy later. Plus, when I got sick of it I would just make an entirely new thing up to take some time off from thinking about the Statial (most of the Elements, the hinge/spring probes and the Marker would not have happened if the Statial had been easy).
Honestly, I think thats the best thing about doing something in a new ecosystem like 3D printing. I wanted to make the Statial in 3 trys and it took 14 attempts. The collateral damage of that wasn't that I lost my house or went into debt. I mean, for the price of an Xbox I got 3 new products and still ended up building something that had never been created in the history of ever faster than ever before.
What can I say, pretty easy to fail upwards in the new world ;)