Aluminum plate wallets

All design projects begin with a statement of problem, and most problems we have are based on existing archetypes and how or why they are no longer satisfactory.

Currently there are few options for securing a passport, be it from RFID, or physical damage. Not only did we want to protect the passport, but also offer opportunities for pairing other important travel documents in one package such as boarding passes and itineraries. We were concerned with how easy it is to loose such documents and had the concept to “anchor” them to something substantial. We are interested in designs that are indestructible in their build quality with stripped down performance driven aesthetics. With these issues on the table, we began to conceptualize.

Our solution was to sheath a passport in aluminum, but the problem of access persisted. We considered hinges, various types of straps and pivots but ultimately asked what could be simpler than a rubber band? We proceeded through multiple prototypes utilizing soft rubber o-rings. We found a few examples of metal plate wallets that are held together by a strap or band and saw a great deal of potential in the idea along with many aspects that could be improved upon. Design is a process of constantly creating new iterations of existing archetypes. The wallet needed to open easily, but not be so loose that contents would be unsecure. Ultimately, the bands needed to move, as the plates were pulled apart to reduce the tension.

We developed a mechanism deploying two o-rings that allows one of them to roll down the sides of the wallet to release the tension when opening. The wallet then snaps closed, and the ring is manually rolled back up. The o-rings are available in various sizes which allowed us to test them, settling on the proper diameter and tension for securing one, to multiple cards and bills. This was accomplished through notches and cuts in the edge of the aluminum plate. In addition to making the wallet easy to open, the use of common o-rings allows for a non-proprietary, user serviceable and economical way to unify the plates.

A good detail can be scaled, and we applied it to multiple sizes resulting in a complete system of wallets. Some use the rolling o-ring mechanism, and others simply relay on the geometry of the plate to allow for easy access.

All moves were based on perfomance as we attempted to strip them down to their most basic forms. Aside from the passport holder, we integrated a bottle opener into all the wallets, just in case. We made countless prototypes to test and refine the design resulting in a complete system.

The concept was produced in multiple sizes. These experiments have led us in other directions to find more uses for o-rings and laser cut aluminum. Currently all sizes of this wallet in both hard-coat flat black anodized and clear anodized are available.