If you’re an iPad user soaking in the retina display rays of the latest tablet tech, you’re flipping open a cover that’s flimsy, only allows viewing at 10 degrees off a flat surface and doesn’t even stick to the magnets you’ve embedded in your abs. That’s about to change in a flippin’ big way. The FlipSteady is an iPad cover that’s smarter than any ‘Smart Cover’ with multiple viewing angles, mounting options and ten time the cool factor when you whip it open at your local coffee shop. Prepare to make people gasp in delight.

FlipSteady iPad Case

Isaiah Coberly is the creator of the FlipSteady iPad Case. He’s a designer and artist from Washington who was frustrated with the options to prop up tablets. The FlipSteady is a new Kickstarter project that’s achieved funding in just a few days. Before you run off just because it’s an ‘iPad’ cover, you’ll should hear the story, see the manufacturing process and learn

I’d like to congratulate Isaiah. First for getting funded so quickly, but also because a year ago TODAY he created the first video of the first FlipSteady prototype – a mash-up of black duct-tape and cardboard that set the stage for the awesomeness to come. Nine prototypes (YES, NINE) and a year later, he has a product that’s not only putting other covers to shame, but making tablet computing more enjoyable. We talked with Isaiah because we wanted to find out about the design of the cover, what software he used and what challenges he went through. To get an idea of how the cover works and the design and manufacturing process that went into it, you’ll want to see this video first.

Why an iPad cover? Aren’t there enough covers?
I actually discovered the device when I was looking for solutions to prop an ASUS ep122. The Asus slate is a touch screen x64 windows tablet with Wacom pen input that is capable of running CAD and graphics Aplications – a truly beautiful tablet for a designer. The Slate came with a case that was very limited and there were no 3rd party alternative cases on the market. My need to stand the slate up and get some CAD work done lead me to develop the FlipSteady. After making and testing several prototypes on the EP121, it made sense to refocus the design effort for the much more popular iPad.

I started showing my prototypes publicly and realized that I had come up with a simple mechanism to stand a device that no one had ever seen before. Not just for an iPad but for any device. A single tether pulls an inversion in an articulated panel. The panel automatically folds into a unique stand with an array of possibilities. The stand is so naturally suited for tablet computing that I become baffled that I came up with such a thing. It feels more like I found the thing in a cave and I’m just the messenger. I’m endlessly surprised by the the structure and how it naturally adapts. So no, their weren’t enough covers. The best one has been missing until now. 🙂

What software did you use to design the cover?
The first three prototypes were made entirely by hand. I didn’t have the money, time or resources to trouble someone for CNC time. When I switched to designing for the iPad, I switched to designing concepts in Rhino and 3D-Coat. I downloaded a 3D model of the iPad from Turbosquid and got to work. 3d-Coat was excellent for quickly sketching out the concept for the case right on the iPad. Think of it like drawing with clay all over the iPad. I was able to come up with several possibilities very quickly. I brought the resulting retopologized mesh from 3d-Coat into Rhino for measurement, and to make clean geometry and surfaces for manufacturing. I started working with a local shop to have the internal panels laser cut out of aluminum. I was happy to find that my process was right and I had nailed the fit of the case on the first try.

How many iterations of the design did you go through?
I guess you could say that I’m on Prototype #9. I kept a running log of materials and design changes from the beginning. I started almost exactly a year ago with cardboard and Duct tape and now use Ultrasuede, synthetic upholstery leather and aluminum.

What were the challenges?
The challenge for me was to develop a process I could use to prototype that would easily graduate into a production process with more appropriate tooling.

I wanted the FlipSteady to be easily modified to fit other tablet devices and sent immediately into production without the need for a lot of custom tooling. I can redesign the FlipSteady for any tablet in a matter of a few hours and actually be assembling the new design very quickly there after.

I wanted to keep the case free of plastic parts and velcro. I found that magnets and low profile snaps were the best fasteners for the product and the manufacturing process. rather than plastic hinges, the case uses a system of fabric hinges to allow the cover to be opened and closed.

A big thanks to Isaiah for filling us in on the details. If you want to get in on the early stages of funding and be part of the first that gets the case, you can help fund the FlipSteady project here.


Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.