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Protect your iPhone with EFM's D3O smart material technology

17 Feb 2017

Not all phone cases are equal, at least that’s what EFM set out to demonstrate to me with the arrival of a rather strange selection of props.

As a tech reviewer it’s not unusual to get the odd package in the post. Occasionally, the items can be rather bizarre.

A few weeks ago EFM sent me a demonstration kit for their range of Apple iPhone cases featuring D3O smart material technology. The package included a circular sponge, an orange “plastic-like” disk, a ball bearing a pot of orange gooey “stuff” and a hammer.

3DO Demo Kit

Time for some science!

Now, if you drop your phone you are likely to break it, an unfortunate situation familiar to most of us.  

In physics, what has happened is the potential energy stored when you picked the phone up, against the force of gravity, has been released, driving the phone into the ground. The energy that you used to pick it up is then dissipated through the phone, usually cracking the screen and resulting in a huge repair bill.

If only IPhones absorbed the force of impacts better. But they don’t.

Whilst wrapping your phone up in a plastic case will stop it from getting scratched and perhaps hold it together a bit better if you drop it, the force of the impact is still going to get absorbed be the phone components potentially cause damage within.

No matter how you look at it, dropping your phone is a bad thing. But what if you could surround your phone with something that designed to absorb force?

Enter D3O, and their energy-absorbing smart material which is used for impact protection in sport, motorcycling and defence applications.

Obviously, they had little success in getting folks to volunteer their iPhones for demonstrating how good their cases where, so they needed a better way of demonstrating the technology.

And this is where my parcel of bizarre props comes in.

If you drop the ball bearing onto the foam sponge it bounces a few times before coming to rest. Whilst the foam is soft, it takes several impacts before the energy in the ball bearing has been totally absorbed into the material.

Ball-bear bouncing on a sponge

That’s your phone, wrapped in a sponge, hitting the floor and some of that impact force still penetrating into the components, cracking your screen, or worst, breaking it entirely.

Next, that orange disc, which is actually made from D30 smart material. This time, dropping the ball bearing results in a rather unnatural, abrupt stop- the material absorbing 100% of the energy of the impact. A case made of this stuff really is going to protect your phone.

So, how does it work? Well, D3O is a fluid until it receives an impact. The energy pulls the molecules together to create a hard, solid mass.

D3O goo

The best way, it seems to demonstrate this is to flop the gooey D3O over your hand and whack it hard with the supplied hammer.

Hammer time

Not wanting to break my fingers on the first go, I started slowly with some mild taps. You could see the material locking up into a solid lump with every strike. I hit my hand harder, and harder, and harder. I stopped only because I figured that there must be a limit to the material’s ability, and it was never my intention to test the material, or my hand, to destruction.

All in all, an odd set experiment, but very effective in demonstrating the properties of D3O without actually throwing an D3O encrusted iPhone at the floor.

Renown phone case outfit, EFM, have incorporated D3O technology in their iPhone 6 & 7 Aspen Case Armour range. Not only do the cases look snazzy, but also, as the lack of bruises on my hand proves, the D3O surround will do a great job of protecting your iPhone.


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