Bespoke and Repetitive: The Design of a Custom-Fit Computer Mouse

Zerong Yang
5 min readMar 18, 2022

Zerong Yang | MDes Thesis | Design Phase | Winter 2022

1. THESIS OVERVIEW

The potential growth in personalization is coming as the result of a set of advancing and potentially disruptive digital design tools that have been evolving over several decades. The growth of 3D scanning, generative design, and digital fabrication has come to impact product design in different ways, and the intersection of these three technologies could trigger growth in designing for bespoke products.

In the research phase, I researched the background and advances of the three technologies, conducted interviews with experts who work with custom products, and categorized custom products into different groups. To better identify the opportunities in the design of custom products, I selected gaming mouse within the repetitive use tools subcategory as a case study to show the potential. I started exploring different paradigms of manufacturing to find out how designers’ roles have changed.

2. CASE STUDY — CUSTOMOUSE

2.1. Problem Space

Most people spend a considerable amount of time with a mouse to interact with computers. Heavy use of a mouse can result in a repetitive strain injury to the wrists. With over 2.7 million office visits for hand, finger, or wrist symptoms per year in the United States alone, the target group for our product are PC gamers who want better performance and mouse users who have health concerns on their hands. PC gamers have a relatively larger chance to hurt their wrist due to the heavy use of the mouse, and people who have health issues related to their mouse hand are looking for ergonomic mouse and wrist support solutions.

Two common hand injuries due to mouse use are carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and forearm muscle fatigue. Too much compression to the carpal tunnel area combined with a lot of repetitive motions can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, and it can be permanent damage if left untreated. For muscle fatigue, if the mouse user holds the hand in an extended position and keeps the same position for a long time, the activated muscles in the forearm will get tiring and even painful.

2.2. Solution

Cutomouse can customize a mouse with wrist support based on the user’s palm shape, finger positions, grip styles, and weight tendencies through the technology of 3d scanning, generative design, and digital fabrication. It reduces the time for people to find suitable mice and wrist pain treatment and provides a solution to reduce pain and maximize comfort.

The customized mouse shape fits the user’s hand perfectly. It provides the maximum comfort and eliminates unnecessary muscle activations in the fingers, hand, and forearm.

The wrist rest prevents forearm fatigue and carpal tunnel. It has a constant slope from mouse to desk to keep the wrist straight and does not end right at the carpal tunnel area causing the extra pressure.

Customouse (White) and Regular Mouse (Black)

2.3. Description of Demo

There are five steps in the process to make one of the Customouse. The video below shows the detailed information.

The Five-Step Process

2.3.1. Preparing

The users will start with a survey on the website to answer the following questions:

· Hand size or length

· Left or right-handed using the mouse

· Grip styles (palm grip, claw grip, fingertip grip)

· Types of games played (FPS, Moba, Strategy, RPG, MMO)

· Health concerns of the mouse hand

· Wrist support type

· Number of side buttons

· Desired mouse weight

Based on their responses to the above questions, The result will recommend a mouse fitting kit type which includes one of the 12 base models of the mouse with a layer of thermoplastic on the top.

2.3.2. Molding

I tested water-based clay, paper clay, plasticine, polymer clay, and thermoplastic in their performance of making hand impressions. For now, I decided to use thermoplastic, which is moldable when heated, easy to manipulate, and hardened at room temperature.

2.3.3. Scanning

3D scanning is a way to capture a physical object’s exact size and shape into the computer world as a digital 3-dimensional representation. After the users create the impressions, I will 3D scan the mold and import the files into the software.

2.3.4. Processing

The 3D scanned object will be cleaned up using an image editing software (MeshMixer) and imported into the generative software (Grasshopper or nTopology) to generate a custom fit mouse and wrist support. I am still in the process of developing the algorithm in Grasshopper with an expert in the field.

Rendered Pictures of Customouse

2.3.5. Finishing

The mouse shell will be 3D printed and assembled with other components and electronics. I am interested in trying the three different types of 3D printers: stereolithography (SLA), selective laser sintering (SLS), and fused deposition modeling (FDM). For the materials, I also need to test out different types of plastics and even metal or carbon fiber to make the outcome durable and stable to use.

Mouse Disassembly

2.4. Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge

During the quarter, I used this project to apply for the 2022 Hollomom Health Innovation Challenge, and our team was one of the 21 finalist teams to present at the event. Although we did not win any prizes, all the judges’ feedback was valuable. Through the competition, we performed several business analyses and validated the potential of the bespoke product design to succeed in the real world.

Booth at the Event

3. NEXT STEP

S. Jack Hu published a paper in 2013 to review the development of the paradigms of manufacturing, which includes mass production, mass customization, and the emerging paradigm of personalization.

I will analyze designers’ roles in each paradigm, propose a new approach of systematic customization, and show examples to support my claim.

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