This Instructable serves a guide for individuals interested in designing and creating a personalized carbon-fiber cellphone case.
- Chemical exposure to un-cured epoxy
- Epoxy holds the potential to be harmful to the skin, eyes, and nose
- Set epoxy and carbon fiber
- Cured epoxy and hardened carbon fiber are incredibly difficult to work with mechanically; epoxy is incredibly difficult to remove once set, while carbon fiber may potentially become sharp and difficult to cut. Handle both with proper care.
- Both carbon fiber dust and excess plaster dust are released when using the dremel to add finishing details to your case.
- Follow proper "lab safety"
- Wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE) when handling epoxy resin and hardener
- Proper lab-safe clothing, goggles, gloves, etc.
- Note: Consult a glove chart to ensure gloves are compatible with the epoxy resin
Step 1: Material Preparation
Comprehensive List of Materials
Personal Protective Equipment:
- Dusk mask
- Nitrile gloves for epoxy
- Vinyl gloves for plaster
- Note: Check compatibility on glove chart
- Appropriate clothing/apron
- Phone case
- Note: The phone case doesn't experience any damage, so you shouldn't be hesitant using your own.
- Plaster of Paris
- Carbon Fiber
- Epoxy Resin
- Epoxy Cure
- Plastic Wrap
- 16 oz Plastic Cups
- 3 oz Dixie Cups
- Plastic Wrap
- Paper towels
- Popsicle Sticks
- Foam Paint Brushes
- Carbon fiber specific scissors are most optimal
- Vacuum/Vacuum bag
Step 2: Making of the Mold
- Obtain a cellphone case
- Ensure that the case properly fits your phone, for it will be the base mold for your carbon-fiber case layup.
- Prep your work space
- Secure your workstation from plaster residue by taping down a sheet of saran wrap.
- Tare a section of Glade Press and Seal plastic wrap
- The piece of plastic wrap (Glad Press'n Seal) should be slightly larger than your phone case
- Tip: increase all edges of the perimeter by an inch to ensure it properly fits and is easy to later remove
- Press the sheet around the inside of the phone case
- The plastic wrap should be free of any air bubbles/creases
- Add extra space in areas containing holes (camera hole, charging port, etc).
- Prepare your plaster
- Pour 3oz of plaster to a large (16oz) plastic cup
- Add a small amount of water and stir thoroughly using a wooden popsicle stick
- Continue adding small quantities of water and stirring until the plaster reaches a thick, smooth, and easily pourable consistently
- The entire interior of the case should be coated with plaster
- Smooth and bumps on the surface using a popsicle stick
Step 3: Remove the Plaster Mold From the Cellphone Case
- After the plaster has set, remove the plaster phone mold from the cellphone case.
- The hardened plaster mold will cause some difficulties, so it's most beneficial to start at the most flexible part- the corners.
- Smooth down any rough edges using a popsicle stick as your polishing tool
- Wipe case to remove any excess dust when desired look is achieved
Step 4: Carbon Fiber Mold
Clean your work station; properly dispose any excess plaster, epoxy, or worn saran wrap.
Secure a fresh sheet of plastic wrap around you work station.
Cutting the Carbon Fiber
- Measure your phones length and height, then add an extra 1.5 inches to each dimension
- Tape out said dimensions on a sheet of carbon fiber; this will mitigate fraying edges
- Cut out the rectangular sheet of carbon fiber, making sure you cut along the middle of the taped edges
Prep the Plaster Mold
- Cut a sheet of wax paper approximately 1.5 inches longer on all dimensions than your phones true perimeter
- Wrap it around the plaster mold and tape down the edges to make sure the plastic wrap is tightly attached
- Leave a gap in the center of the mold; this will enable easy removal in the future
Wrap the Carbon Fiber
- Wrap the carbon fiber sheet around the phone mold
- Ensure corners are laid down in an aesthetically pleasing manner
- Note: You may want to practice various folding techniques using a sheet of paper to decide which method would be best for your phone case
- Secure the carbon fiber down by taping the edges
- Avoid getting tape in areas you wouldn't want them when the phone case is fully done; it will be hard to remove these pieces after the case has been coated and vacuumed
Step 5: Coat Your Carbon Fiber Case
Prepare your Epoxy
- Measure 45 mL of the fiberglass resin into a 3oz dixie cup
- Measure out 15 mL of fiberglass hardener into a 3oz dixie cup
- Note: The solution should be 3 parts epoxy, 1 part hardener
- Transfer the epoxy to a 16oz plastic cup
- Slowly add the hardner to the epoxy
- Use a popsicle stick to stir the solution for two minutes
Coat your Case
- Apply epoxy to the front of the carbon fiber case, using a foam brush
- Coat all of the edges
- Place your case on an apparatus (a plastic cup will do), to enable you to coat the back of the phone case
- Make sure that the case is fully impregnated with epoxy; all fibers should be fully saturated
Step 6: Vacuum Seal
Prepare your Vacuum Bag
- Cut a sheet from the vacuum bag role, ensuring it's large enough to encapsulate your phone case
- Cut a piece of vacuum seal tape the length of your previously cut bag, adding an additional inch to the end
- Remove the adhesive and tightly seal one side of the bag
- Place the vacuum nozzle and hose attachment in your vacuum bag
- Cut another piece of vacuum seal tape, identical to the previous length. Attach it to the other end of the vacuum bag, but avoid sealing
- Place your phone case into the vacuum bag
- Note: avoid the center; it's most optimal to place the case near the corners or edges
- Remove the adhesive strip from the tape and seal the bag shut
Turn on the Vacuum
- Remove any wrinkles by pressing firmly against the case
- Note: it's best to start from the middle and work your way out towards the edges
- Securely attach the vacuum hose onto the nozzle adapter
- Seal connection with additional vacuum bag seal tape
- Plug the vacuum pump into the wall and turn the power on
- Note: listen and look for any leaks in the vacuum bag
- Flatten any potential bubbles on top of your cellphone case
Step 7: Additional Features
Make sure you have a clean workstation!
Lay a fresh layer of plastic wrap down and get your safety equipement on!
Removing the Plaster
- Put on a dusk mask
- Crack the plaster with a hammer and use a screwdriver to remove remnants of the plaster
- Continue until the core of the case is completely free of plaster
- Use a Dremel to cut holes in the case
- Examples: camera hole, charging port, volume buttons, etcetera.
- Note: choose desired heads and speeds to achieve desired look/features
Step 8: Top Coat
Note: This step isn't necessary, but it enhances the overall look of the phone case.
- Prepare epoxy using the same formulation as before
- 3 parts epoxy/1 part hardener
- Coat your finished cellphone case to achieve a shiny and slick look
- Let the epoxy cure for 24 hours
Voila! You have created your very own carbon fiber cellphone case!