Introduction: How to Make a Carbon Fiber Cell Phone Case

Picture of How to Make a Carbon Fiber Cell Phone Case

This tutorial will guide you step by step to create your very own carbon fiber cell phone case. Carbon Fiber (CF) is an increasingly popular material to use for cell phone cases because it is strong and lightweight but most importantly because of its sleek look! The visible woven fibers give your cell phone case a versatile unique look that will keep you falling in love with your phone more and more.

Prior to starting your CF cell phone case, it's important to consider safety! Please consider using the following personal protective equipment:

  • protective clothing that won't expose skin to avoid contact with Epoxy
  • goggles to protect your eyes from coming into contact with any of the materials
  • vinyl gloves when handling the epoxy and carbon fiber. Keep in mind that handling the carbon fiber bare handed may cause itchiness and irritations

Step 1: Run Down of Materials

Picture of Run Down of Materials

Here's a comprehensive list of everything you will need to create the cell phone case and an explanation of why it is used!

Materials:

  1. Existing Phone Case
  2. Plastic Wrap
  3. Plaster
  4. Carbon Fiber
  5. Epoxy Resin/Cure (Hard for structural purposes)
  6. Epoxy Resin/Hardner (Shiny for aesthetic purposes)

Plastic Wrap:
You will need plastic wrap for two purposes. First is to set down on your working area to prevent anything from getting dirty. This doesn't necessarily have to be a plastic wrap, but it has to be something that won't stick to the epoxy or else that will quickly become a disaster and not a cell phone case! The second plastic wrap is of importance as you will use to create the mold for the cell phone case. This plastic wrap should also be epoxy resistant, I used Glad Press and Seal. I particularly liked the Press and Seal because if you are ever unpleased with how you are laying out the plastic lining you can easily rip it off and still use the material.

Plaster:
The plaster I used was DAP- Plaster of Paris. This plaster will eventually become your phone mold!

Carbon Fiber:
Carbon Fiber selection is up to you. I used a woven carbon fiber- Fibre Glast 3k weave. It is up to you whether you want a woven or unidirectional carbon fiber, depending on how you want the phone case to look.

Hard Epoxy Resin/Cure:
The hard epoxy will be used to structure your carbon fiber into the desired shape of your mold. It strengthens your phone case and can be regarded as the "backbone" of the case. The epoxies I chose for this purpose is Fibre Glast 2000 Epoxy Resin and Fibre Glast 2120 Epoxy Cure.

Shiny Epoxy Resin/Hardner:
These epoxies will be added LAST and is not to be confused with the previous epoxy. This epoxy serves to give your cell phone case that final shiny glossy look. For this, I used TAP General Purpose One to One Epoxy Resin/Hardener.

Tools:

  • Plastic Wrap
  • Popsicle Sticks
  • Firm Card
  • Cups
  • Foam Paint Brushes
  • Scissors
  • Flat Head Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Dremel
  • Razor
  • Vacuum and Vacuum bag
  • Tape

Step 2: Plaster Up! Make Your Mold

Picture of Plaster Up! Make Your Mold

Time for the fun!

  • First obtain a cell phone case you already have to be the base for our mold. Choose a case that fits your phone nicely as your carbon fiber phone case will be shaped after this case.
  • Lay down plastic wrap on your working area
  • Grab the Glad Press and Seal plastic wrap and rip off a portion that is bigger than your cellphone case. Consider leaving about an excess inch of wrap on the perimeter of your phone case
  • Start to "Press and Seal" your plastic wrap on the inside of your phone case
  • Start from the middle of your case and press outward
  • Pay close attention to corners, use the firm card to press around these edges
  • Try to avoid any wrinkles
  • Exaggerate indentations of your phone such as buttons and camera slots so that they are well defined on your case
  • Follow the directions on the plaster container for mixing and mix your plaster to a "milkshake" consistency
  • Pour the plaster inside your plastic covered phone case
  • Use a popsicle stick to smoothen out the poured plaster
  • Wait for your plaster to dry inside your mold!

Note: do not use plastic plaster, you want your plaster to maintain a ceramic feel so that it is brittle and easy to break later in the process when trying to remove the mold from your carbon fiber (don't break it now! that would just be silly now wouldn't it)

Once the plaster dries, carefully remove the mold and plastic lining from the case. Be very careful to not break your mold or else you'll have to start over or will get aggravated and quit at this point- nobody likes a quitter!

Step 3: Carbon Fiber Layup

Picture of Carbon Fiber Layup

okay... NOW the fun actually starts, making a mold wasn't the most exciting part but I needed you to stick with me

Preparing CF:

  • Get your roll of Carbon Fiber ready
  • Place your cellphone mold on the carbon fiber sheet
  • Tap a rectangle around you phone case so that you cut on top of the tape and the tape holds together the woven fibers
  • Leave about an inch excess on the perimeter
  • Cut your sheet along the tap

Preparing your Hard Epoxy:
Remember that this hard epoxy is the "backbone" of your cell phone case so it is important that you follow the directions on the bottle and mix it well! The ratio is 3x 2000 Epoxy Resin to 1x 2120 Epoxy Hardener. Mix the epoxies together slowly to not create too much agitation and bubbles. This epoxy is a 2 hour epoxy meaning that from the second you poured the epoxy out, it will dry past usable standards within 2 hours.

CF Lay-Up:
In my opinion this is the hardest part of the entire process!

  • Gently paint both sides of you carbon fiber with epoxy and put a light layer of epoxy on the backside of your cell phone case
  • Wrap you carbon fiber around your mold and again press from the middle around your edges
  • Make sure corners aren't overlapping and that you are pulling the carbon fiber tightly onto the mold
  • Paint your carbon fiber lay up with a generous amount of epoxy, but not to the point where your mold and soon to be case is dripping with epoxy
  • If you get one side of the cell phone case to fit nicely around the case but keeps slipping off when you go put on the other side, feel free to utilize the plastic wrap to hold part of it in place- remember the epoxy won't stick to the plastic.
  • Keep gently working your carbon fiber around the mold while making sure your woven fibers are aligned the way you want
  • Wrap excess carbon fiber on the flip side of your mold; this can all be trimmed later
  • Once you get your carbon fiber laid up the way you would want your cell phone case to look, wrap it in plastic wrap
  • Tape any stubborn CF or plastic wrap to your mold
  • Breathe sigh of relief, the hardest part is over and you now have something that looks like the final product!

Step 4: The Vacuum

Picture of The Vacuum

It doesn't matter when the last time you vacuumed your living room was, you can't skip this vacuuming step

The vacuum serves to dry and settle your epoxy as well as tightening your carbon fiber around the mold to finalize its shape

  • Make sure your carbon fiber case is fully enclosed in the plastic wrap
  • Place you CF case with mold inside a vacuum bag
  • Ensure that the vacuum bag is free of any holes
  • Seal the bag
  • Push any visibly air bubbles in you bag towards the nozzle
  • Turn on your vacuum and make sure that it is removing as much air as possible
  • Once your CF is tightly on your mold with and your bag is free of air, keep the vacuum running for 2-3 hours for the epoxy to settle

Step 5: Removing CF Cell Phone Case From Mold

  • Remove your CF cell phone case from vacuum bag
  • Unwrap the layer of plastic wrap and get rid of any tape
  • Remove excess CF from the side where the mold is visible with a dremel so that you can begin to take out the mold
  • Grab your flat head screw driver and dig in into your mold
  • Use a hammer to hit the flat head screw driver like a chisel
  • Break the mold completely and gently remove your phone case
  • Use the dremel to cut straight lines around the edges of your cell phone case
  • Carefully use the dremel to cut any holes that your case will need (charging ports, camera, etc.)
  • Use a razor to cut excess fibers and perfect your phone case
  • Clean your case with soap and water to remove all excess dust
  • Dry thoroughly, I used pressurized air

Step 6: Make It Shine!

Picture of Make It Shine!

  • Grab your General Purpose Epoxy Resin and Cure
  • Get a cup and mix at a 1:1 ratio
  • Use the popsicle stick to mix slowly to avoid too many bubbles, you should be a pro at this by now
  • Use the foam paint brush to evenly apply the epoxy to your cell phone
  • Apply epoxy quickly to avoid having it dry prematurely on you
  • Leave the cell phone case out in a well ventilated area to let it dry

Step 7: Enjoy Your Case!

Picture of Enjoy Your Case!

Once your shiny epoxy has dried, you are finished!
Use a razor and some sandpaper to smoothen out the edges or get rid of excess dried epoxy.

Enjoy your case!

Comments

AlfieF2 (author)2017-06-03

May I ask the thickness of your Carbon Fibre. I have some in my garage that is 0.28mm 3k Twill Weave and I am not sure if it is suitable for this product. Thanks, Alfie

sharath83 (author)2016-07-27

How are the patterns designed for these carbon fiber? Can a custom design be made for those?

Yonatan24 (author)2016-03-17

How much do those huge containers/bottles of Epoxy cost?

I sure do know someone that could use that much ;)

ElenaM35 (author)2016-03-02

Cool idea !!!

Here is an example of how to make a Phone Case

https://youtu.be/C7XFD391ZJE

Arghus (author)2016-02-15

Seems a bit over the top and unnecessary

Homee2010 (author)Arghus2016-02-21

Then, don't make one, Arghus.

This is a great and interesting project, thanks for posting!!!

rala82 (author)2016-02-19

hi, wtih this vacuuum method u can work inside ur house, or still nead large and ventilated areas?

The Phantom Chemist (author)2016-02-11

Awesome and well-articulated instructable. It was just what I was looking for for my own project, except I will probably make a mold around the outside of the object. Any special tips for that? Also, how many coats of the epoxies did you do in the first part of Step 3's "CF Lay-up" subsection and Step 6? Thanks a lot!

Two more things: first, could you please send me the link to where you bought the Fibre Glast 2000 Epoxy Resin, Fibre Glast 2120 Epoxy Cure, and TAP General Purpose One to One Epoxy Resin/Hardener? Secondly, is there any way to keep the mold intact while taking the new product out?

I would have to get back to you on where the supplies were purchased as I was not the one who ordered them.

For the mold, I'm sure you can make a reusable mold, but I wanted the phone case to curve around and cover the front of the phone as well. In this case, after you vacuum the CF onto the mold, it's difficult to remove the mold without messing up the case. For me, making the mold brittle and breaking it after forming the case was the best option.

The first epoxy coating in Step 3 was about 2 coats. You want enough epoxy to keep your CF shaped how you want but not an excessive amount where it will be dripping.

On Step 6, I put one generous coat, but I'm sure it depends on the epoxy you choose. This one thick coat was enough to give my phone the glossy look I was going after.

mrmeik (author)2016-02-08

Hey there... Awesome insctructions and great job! Looks very nice. I did the exact same thing about 2 Years ago and had extreme troubles with phone reception. The Carbonfibre blocks a lot of phone signal.

Do you have the same problem?

GabrielB54 (author)mrmeik2016-02-16

I have not had any problems with phone signal. Try finding out where the internal "antenna" on your phone is and perhaps leave that area of your phone uncovered.

CraigM5 (author)2016-02-12

Slight problem, carbon
fibre blocks radio waves, so it will reduce your signal.

lr10cent (author)2016-02-12

I may have missed it in the instructions, but:

When you're using the Dremel, do it near a running vacuum cleaner or outside on a breezy day. Don't let the carbon fibers get into anything electrical, because they conduct electricity. Make sure you wear a mask or have some other way not to breath the dust.

Watch out for splinters and cuts when you're trimming off the extra fibers after the epoxy has set. Very sharp.

If you use unidirectional carbon in several layers, at right angles, it will be stronger and stiffer than woven carbon. I'm not sure how to cope with the curves, though.

Either use heat resistant epoxy, paint the case a light color, or never leave it in the sun! Garden variety epoxy can soften in the heat. I lost a very nice model airplane wing that way.

strayturk (author)2016-02-11

What type of vacuum bag and sealer are you using?

J SquaredA (author)strayturk2016-02-11

It looks like he just took a large plastic bag and duct taped the edges to make sure it didn't leak and stuck a vacuum hose in the opening and duct taped it.

Cool case btw :P

strayturk (author)J SquaredA2016-02-11

It doesn't look like duct tape. He is using some type of paste.

strayturk (author)strayturk2016-02-11

or gummy something

lr10cent (author)strayturk2016-02-12

Auto body strip caulk works well. Comes in a box with individual strips on non-stick paper.

J SquaredA (author)strayturk2016-02-11

Yeah that us true but duct tape would probably work too if u dont have that paste or whatever he is using...

strayturk (author)strayturk2016-02-11

or gummy something

strayturk (author)strayturk2016-02-11

or gummy something

richg99 (author)2016-02-11

Nice....It's great to see a project that anyone can build. They don't need access to laser cutters and 3D printers....just some easily purchased materials. Thanks.

Jack Rodgers (author)2016-02-11

An extra idea might be to use a graphic logo, photograph, etc. underneath the glossy expoxy or maybe cut a hole in the carbon fiber and place a photo in the hole. This will require a bit of skill...

DIY Hacks and How Tos (author)2016-02-07

Great idea! This would make a really cool cell phone case

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