Introduction: How to Make a Carbon Fiber Phone Case
In need of a strong, durable, and protective phone case? Look no further! This tutorial will tell you all you need to know about how to make a carbon fiber cell phone case. Carbon fiber composites are becoming a leading material in various industries due to its superior strength to weight ratio, its corrosion resistance, and its ability to conform to complex contours and designs, along with other superior properties. Carbon fiber would make a great cell phone case that will not be bulky or heavy all while retaining properties of strength and flexibility for ultimate protection of your phone.
Carbon fiber weave
- I recommend 1K, Plain Weave Ultralight Carbon Fiber Fabric
- For most cell phones I would suggest about an 8 x 5 piece of carbon fiber
- 2 hr set epoxy and hardener for forming the case: I recommend Fibre Glast 2000 Epoxy Resin and Fibre Glast 2120 2 Hour Epoxy Cure
- 30 min set gloss epoxy and hardener for applying on complete shell: I recommend TAP General Purpose Epoxy Hardener One to One and TAP General Purpose Epoxy Resin
Plaster of Paris
- I recommend DAP Plaster of Paris Professional Quality Dry Mix
Dremel Tool (with varying bits, one for cutting, one for sanding)
Vacuum Bag/ Vacuum
Cell phone case to use as mold
Plastic Cups (to use for mixing epoxy)
Be sure to wear googles and gloves at all times during this process. Plaster can get in eyes while breaking. Carbon fiber can cause splinters or irritate skin. Carbon fiber dust flies up while using the Dremel tool. Gloves also prevent getting epoxy on skin.
To make your phone case you must prepare your work area in order to prevent damage to the lab table and areas surrounding.
Lay down a large piece of Saran wrap and tape down to create your workspace. Be sure you have the materials laid out for each step.
Step 1: Creating the Mold for the Phone Case
Preparing the phone case
Take your current cell phone case and lay a piece of sticky wax paper inside and mold it to the edges and crevices. Make sure the wax paper is tightly fit to your cell phone case to ensure the best results for the mold. Be sure to push down and add a little room in the wax paper on the holes in the case. This is to make it easier to cut out the holes later in the process.
Preparing the plaster
Fill about half of a solo cup with plaster of paris.
Add water in small increments of water and stir until the consistency is about that of pancake mix.
Pour the plaster mix into your cell phone case until it is level with it. It might help to pick up the case and lightly drop it a few times to smoothen out. (Think of when you make brownies or cake and you are trying to make the batter even throughout the whole pan.)
Let mold sit for at least 30 minutes.
Step 2: Wrapping the Mold in Carbon Fiber
First, remove the plaster mold from cell phone case and throw away the wax paper.
Cut your sheet of carbon fiber from the roll. Make sure you have enough to wrap around the case but not too much as too overlap in the middle. It can be difficult to break the plaster from the mold if there is too much carbon fiber overlapping the center.
Lay your phone case over the sheet of carbon fiber and determine a method to lay it around the corners. I chose to make two 90 degree cuts a each corner of the carbon fiber. See image above for clarification.
Mix the 2 hour set epoxy resin with the hardener. It should be 3 parts resin to 1 part hardener. Be sure to mix throughly so that it is even throughout without more hardener in one part than the other.
Lay the carbon fiber sheet over the plaster mold on a piece of wax paper and begin brushing on epoxy. Do not over apply has it will be very difficult to break out the plaster mold, but make sure that the epoxy soaks into the carbon fiber.
To keep the edges of the carbon fiber tight around the mold wrap it up in the wax paper.
Place your wrapped phone case in a vacuum bag and vacuum out the air to ensure an even tighter fit to the mold.
Once this process is complete, the mold with carbon fiber should look like it does above. Be careful with how much epoxy you used. My example probably contained too much as the fibers started coming apart and making it more difficult to mold.
Step 3: Breaking Out the Mold
Be sure you have a bucket to place plaster parts in.
You may need to take the Dremel tool to cut out parts of carbon fiber that overlap the center of the mold.
Once this is complete take your screwdriver and angle it on the center of the plaster in your mold. Use the hammer to tap the top of the screwdriver. Parts of the plaster should begin to fall apart. Continue this process while making sure to continuously dump plaster pieces into the bucket.
Once you knock out all the plaster from the carbon fiber shell, rinse it off and dry.
Step 4: Shaping the Case
Your phone case is now ready to be shaped and trimmed to fit your phone.
Safety: The Dremel tool is sharp so be cautious with your finger and make sure your hair is tied back. Make sure you still have your goggles on as carbon fiber dust tends to be released as you use the Dremel tool.
Use the Dremel took to cut out the excess carbon fiber around the edges and holes where needed for the camera, volume buttons, etc.
Keep your current phone case or model that you are using near by to refer to it for placement and measurements of the cuts.
Use the sanding Dremel bit along the way to smooth out all edges.
Scissors also may be of assistance to cut off excess pieces before using the Dremel or sanding.
Step 5: Applying the Final Gloss
Take your phone case and prop it up on something such as the bottom of a red solo cup as seen in the picture above. Be sure your workspace is covered in Saran wrap to collect any epoxy that drips. Mix 30 min glossy epoxy by using 1 part resin to 1 part hardener. I would recommend mixing it in a small container such as a Dixie cup that can be throw away when done. Again, be sure that the epoxy is thoroughly mixed because if it is not it can cause the gloss to be sticky once it dries.
Using a brush, carefully coat your phone case in a layer of the gloss epoxy.
Let it dry overnight to ensure that it has time to set completely.
Step 6: Completion
Remove your phone case from the cup.
It is now ready to be used to protect your cell phone!