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Create a Custom USB drive / Figurine out of Polymer Clay

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Picture of Create a Custom USB drive / Figurine out of Polymer Clay
  This Instructable shows how you can customize most USB drives and make them look like a figurine, statue, toy or whatever you can come up with. But most importantly, you get to bake your USB circuit board! 

 I had this ugly 2GB USB drive that I found laying around, and decided to do some experiments with it,  like  wrapping it in oven bake clay, which looks and feels like plastic when baked.

The yellow square head guy I created is kinda lame, I had this idea in my mind of some complicated Maya sculpture with different colors and layers etc. but the thrill to see if the circuit board survived the oven made me rush it.  But the important thing here is to show that you can do the same and do something that you like with your USB drive and clay.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Proceed at your own risk.  This could be problematic because you will be baking a USB circuit board at a relatively high temperature (125°C) and short time in your oven and this could be dangerous for reasons unknown to me (maybe fumes from some components or blowing parts, someone correct me if I am wrong).








 
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Step 1: The Ingredients

Picture of The Ingredients
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  You only need two main ingredients:


- Oven bake clay ( I used  Sculpey, but there's also Fimo and others that should work the same)
   You should be able to find this at most craft and art stores around you.

 - A USB drive you can take apart. ( I will not go over how to take it apart because that is part of the fun and there are so many different enclosures that it would be pointless). You just need the internal circuit board.

You can use some tools to shape your little sculpture, or just your fingers. There are some nice techniques out there on youtube that allow you to create patterns, stripes and other cool things using multiple colors. This could be neat to try.

 I used my fingers and a couple of very simple tools that can be replaced with about anything.

You also need an oven, of course!   NOT A MICROWAVE!!!     but a regular one, where cookies are made for example  :)



Step 2: Preparing the clay

 This is a quick video I created in case somebody is new to this type of clay, sorry for the off camera action.



   Basically you need to soften the clay a little bit with your hands until it is flexible, and then create a square plane of about 2/8th of an inch thick, or whatever you think is best, and wrap it around the circuit board leaving space for the connector, remember it needs to be plugged in to a computer :).

  Then you can shape it any way you like, create a lid, add more colors, etc. Be creative. I did not create a lid because I lose them all anyway.

   Something to keep in mind: connect your bare circuit board to a computer and check what side faces up, because my square face seems to face down all the time when I plug it in,  looks like that USB orientation is a standard.

Step 3: Burn!

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 Once you are done with the modeling,  you are ready to bake, I hope. 

   All you do is follow the instructions of the clay. Mine said  bake at 130°C (275°F)   for 15 minutes  per 6mm (1/4" ) thickness.

 Put your masterpiece is a plate, something metallic, or directly o top of the grill thing all ovens have (like I did), don't worry this clay does not stick to anything, as far as I have experienced.

  I would not go over 125°C (~265°F) degrees to be safe, and do not leave it more that 15 minutes in there unless the clay is very thick. I decided to do all this because I read somewhere that circuit boards are exposed to 125°C for long periods of time to rid them of humidity (I guess they do that when someone drops a device in water?)

  Also I created a temporary lid to prevent the usb connector from getting too hot and perhaps melt a little plastic part that it has inside, although I think it probably would not have made a difference if I had not created it. The idea was to keep the hot air away from the circuit board, so try to seal it a bit if you are going to do it. you can remove it once you are done. You can see the lid in the previous video, I show it for like 2 seconds.


 WAIT UNTIL IT COOLS DOWN  before you plug it in to your computer, just to play safe.  If everything goes well, your USB drive/ artwork will work just like before, only with different looks, if everything goes wrong, everything goes wrong. It must be very similar to plastic surgery.


Hope this is useful, and please let me know If this instructable is horribly wrong and dangerous or something or if you have any comments in general.

Hi, you get a very good step by step tutorial.
Allow you to showcase your work?
http://world-of-jewelry.ru/shop/

Awesome. I always wanted to make a Legend of Zelda USB drive, but I had never thought to use Sculpey. I love how polymer clay looks so neat and plastic-like. Perfect for these projects. You did a good job.
moderator for 10 months already
hello instructibles.com
some usb flash drives work successfuly,my other usb works nice
but when i got another usb,it blew up my oven
anyway i use sculpey clay too
i used some air dry clay
cool
dstanke3 years ago
I made these for my husband using polymer clay, but I didn't remove the original shell.I just made a case and glued it on with epoxy.See more at suzyhomefaker.bolgspot.com.
Picnik collage (33).jpg
p.s. I was able to literally give my Big Brother the finger for Christmas. Had some good laughs!
brunoxyz (author)  joeythepainter4 years ago
that's a good one.
My wife and I made these as Christmas presents last year, we had a blast, well received by the family. Thanks!

usb.jpg
brunoxyz (author)  joeythepainter4 years ago
that is so awesome! you guys did a great job, very skillful. I am glad my instructable was helpful :) I like the elephant the best I think, just because it has good memory.
lol, the finger & artist palette ended up being probably the most functional as they're less weighty and plugged in without interference of things like tables or gravity. Fun to work on for sure, strangely though the USB packaging was all the same - but some had blinking LED lights/circuit boards, and others w/o lights were much smaller and easier to design around.

The walleye, which we gave to my Dad was one with the lights and I had one eye centered over the blinking light, so an unexpected special feature best viewed lowlight conditions.

Thanks again!
If you are not happy using clay that you have to bake, how about DAS clay? It air hardens, so no need to bake.. Just a thunk. Anyway lookup DAS clay on your favourite search engine or try this http://www.amazon.co.uk/Das-White-Air-Dry-Clay/dp/B000RL5GOC Windy
brunoxyz (author)  Windy Miller5 years ago
sounds good, never heard of that before.
ShasO Fish5 years ago
Any idea if two-part epoxy would work in the place of sculpting clay?
brunoxyz (author)  ShasO Fish5 years ago
  No idea about that, but I wouldn't try it unless you were sure it isn't dangerous, those things have more dangerous chemicals I believe and could result in  disaster. 
I was figuring more on the Kneadite two-part epoxy (which seems safe enough), but I suppose it would probably be a good idea to check.

At the very least, sealing it with a few layers of matte gloss would probably take care of any problems.
brunoxyz (author)  ShasO Fish5 years ago
hah, sorry, for some stupid reason I thought you were going to put the epoxy on the oven.   I think the only concern then would be electric conductivity, if the epoxy is conductive it could create some short circuit.
thepelton5 years ago
Your picture reminds me of the easter island stone head sculptures.
brunoxyz (author)  thepelton5 years ago
 oh yes, I thought of those heads too once I was finished, it looks similar. 
thepelton5 years ago
I have been making roller seals, much like the ancient Mesopotamians, that leave a repeated raised image on a soft material.  I could use one to decorate a flash drive with this.
nickodemus5 years ago
This is nice! In case you didn't already notice, you used Instructables colors too! (orange/yellow) But does it still work after being baked?
brunoxyz (author)  nickodemus5 years ago
 haha, true, I didn't realize that till now.    and yes, it works perfectly, I even left files inside while baking and they were there afterwards.  Looks like USB drive circuit boards are not affected at all by such low temperatures (125 C)  for 15 - 20 minutes. 
 I'm feeling a Instructables Robot mold USB hack coming on..
craig35 years ago
This is pretty cool, good idea. Do you use sculpey clay often? if so you should make some more insteuctables on how to use different techniques with it and what not
brunoxyz (author)  craig35 years ago
 Hey thanks,  I am not very experienced with sculpey clay, I only use it once in a while, but the techniques seem to be fairly straightforward, you can find tons of these tutorials on youtube, just search for polymer clay, fimo or sculpey tutorials and you will see them.