Have you seen the Deckmate yet? I'm a big fan and use it quite often. A thoroughly useful attachment system for the Steam Deck and I had the chance to speak to the creator about it.
Q: First of all, can you introduce yourself?
"My name is Siri Ramos. Mechanical engineer by trade, maker/designer also by trade, DIY home renovator by night."
Q: How did you get started making things like the Deckmate?
"Surprisingly, it’s only recently that I started to make the connection between my childhood desires and my current skill set. I always watched How it’s Made on the Discovery Channel with intense fascination and was endlessly entertained by gadgets and product design. Looking back now it seems like destiny that I ended up doing what I do.
It was only by pure chance that I ended up in my field. I didn’t even know it existed until I was a junior in college. I stumbled across it during a career fair while I was searching for my first internship. Another coincidence: I studied the exact right discipline that would land me a job in this field.
Once I discovered Product Design Engineering, my entire focus landed on getting that first job in the field. I took design for manufacturing classes, my senior thesis was a product idea I wanted to make, I delved into the world of startup design. The field seemed endless at the time, and I was at just the right school to tackle it, Carnegie Mellon University.
By the time my curriculum was complete, I had one big choice to make. On one hand, I had landed an incredible job offer from Apple as a Product Design Engineer. On the other hand, we were getting some traction with some seed round investors on our senior thesis idea to redesign the Epipen to be flat packed as an iPhone case.
The choice boiled down to: Do I venture out and make my own product, or do I accept the job offer from Apple?
In my young naivete, I turned down the Apple job.
We got a seed round of funding, and we all aligned our lives to try and make a brand new medical device. 3 broke and inexperienced college kids taking on one of the most complex type of product design that exists. Medical devices, in hindsight, was one of the worst entry points to release a product. Regulatory compliance, high cost of failure (people dying!), and very little money add up to a company that was doomed to fail from the very start.
Needless to say, less than a year later we were even broker and at each other’s throats as founders. I made the tough decision to leave on a Friday morning in October.
That afternoon, I emailed the hiring manager at Apple that had previously offered me the job. Tail sheepishly tucked back, I asked if he still had a role open for head count.
What happened next honestly astonished me. He called me immediately after opening my email saying the team was off the following Tuesday to all fly to China for work. He asked if I could come in and interview with the team on Monday before everyone flew out. Of course I said yes.
After a whirlwind of flights and interview prep, I arrived on Monday morning semi-ready for a full 8 hour day of back to back technical interviews. By the end of the design challenge around 4pm, my new manager walked me out and offered me the job. I had the job offer in hand less than 1 business day after I had quit my startup.
I learned everything I know at Apple. From design for manufacturing to how things are actually made, I consider Apple to be my university for product design. This is where I learned how products are truly made. Not in theory, but in practice and at MASSIVE scales. I was single handedly designing products that were being manufactured at a peak rate of 1 million units per day. Needless to say the engineering side was technical, and it had to be perfect.
I chugged along designing stuff for other companies and startups for over 10 years. It’s only recently that I decided to delve fully into a little side project I designed called Deckmate."
Q: How did you get the idea for the Deckmate? Why did you make it?
"Honestly, I got the idea because the Steam Deck needed it. Some things you use and the design is begging for a slight modification. This is what happened to me and the Deck. Within one day of using mine (got an early unit around April), I knew it needed a kickstand at the very least. Then it got my design brain thinking about everything else it could do. It really made me want to have a quick system that could interchange and morph into exactly what I needed based on how I was using the Deck.
After posting the rough idea on Reddit, I got feedback and ideas for other use cases. This is how the VESA mount was born. To be honest this is my favorite mount of all. My Steam deck lives essentially permanently above my PC on a monitor arm unless I’m using it to go.
There are tons more mount ideas in the works, and the system will expand to far more devices as well. My intention is to make Deckmate the Quad-lock for video games. Every mount to fit your needs on any device you own."
Q: Could you tell us a little about how you actually make it? What’s your process like?
"It all starts in a software program called CAD. I use a professional grade CAD program by Siemens called NX.
The process goes a bit like this:
- Sit back and process what idea you want to make.
- Start modeling in CAD and solidify how it will work
- 3D print a prototype
- Repeat 50 times
The modeling in CAD is where a lot of the experience comes in. As you model you need to not only know how to use the program to effectively model what you want, but you need to keep in mind all the constraints that you’ve learned over the years. Everything from manufacturing limitations and cosmetic concerns, to strength and product reliability must be kept in mind when modeling.
It’s very easy with 3D printing to design something that you can print. This is because 3D printing has relatively few manufacturing constraints. When you are designing for Injection molding, the parts have wildly different constraints. This is the big reason the molded parts are different from the 3D printed parts that you can download on the website.
Once you’re happy with the design, you reach out to molding suppliers and start a process called DFM (design for manufacture). They process what it will be like to actually make in the mold. Everything from where the material shoots into the empty cavity, where the cooling lines in the steel are, how the plastic flows across the cavity, temperatures and pressures, etc. This is where the really technical stuff gets done and determines how your final product comes out and how reliable it is. Here are some screenshots of that process:"
Q: Had any weird attachment requests from customers?
"The one I always find a little different is people asking about a way to mount a screen above the Deck. It’s a very interesting application, but I don’t think Deckmate is the right solution for it unfortunately. With the spring system in the Deckmate, having a screen mounted wouldn’t do well with vibrations."
Q: It’s been out for a little while now, has it been a success?
"I would say it has been a phenomenal success! I’ve now shipped almost 3,000 orders with only 4 people who wanted to return it. That’s a phenomenal return rate.
More importantly, I get people messaging me every day how much they love it. And that’s my main motivator. I want to make things people love and that can make their lives easier. My biggest indicator of success came when I got an email from a customer who was using their Deckmate system to allow them to mount their Deck to their leg. It honestly melted my heart and it made me feel the most success over anything."
Q: Any plans for more Steam Deck accessories? Or perhaps you have some more attachments for the Deckmate planned?
"There are so many more mounts that I want to tackle: Car mount, airplane mount, ¼-20 camera/tripod mount, etc.
There are also a ton of other devices I want to make grips for: Nintendo switch, All the Aya devices, etc.
With those two approaches together I think Deckmate can become a pretty powerful mounting system for video games!"