Personalize Your Phone

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Introduction: Personalize Your Phone

With the help of a laser cutter you can personalize your possessions in really amazing ways. In this example I added a Trilobite image to a friend's phone.

Step 1: Find Yourself a Laser Cutter

Laser cutters are becoming more and more common. This is due to the amazing things that you can do with them and the fact that their cost keeps dropping. I would expect that in another 5-10 years they will be found in every Kinkos.

For right now, there are a number of services that you can go to who have laser cutters. In the Bay Area we have Tap Plastic or East Bay Laser & Water Jet. Once you've tasted this tool you will never be happy without one.

In our case we have a 45W Epilog Mini 24. Shown here:

Step 2: Find Your Art Work

The next step is to decide what art work you want to put on your phone. Black & White line art works very well, as does any sort of text.

This image started as a GIF. I then imported the image into Corel Draw and sized it correctly.

Step 3: Choose Your Target

You can etch into a huge range of different materials, including:
+ Wood
+ Plastic
+ Rubber
+ Cork
+ Anodized Aluminum
+ Steel

This corresponds to a huge variety of different items that you can personalize:
+ Phone
+ iPod
+ Keys
+ Fruit
+ Picture Frames
+ Etc. Etc. Etc.

Step 4: Choose Your Laser Settings

Unfortunately this step depends heavily on the material that you are engraving into and the power of your laser cutter. In my case I chose a Raster Mode cut with 100% Power and 100% Speed. These settings work well for any semi hard surface, including anodized aluminum, wood, and acrylic. For softer materials like some plastics you want to use a lower power setting, (otherwise the material melts too much and you lose image definition.) And, if you're engraving into glass you might want to use a lower speed.

Step 5: Do the Engraving

I recommend doing a test engrave first to make sure that the image is sized appropriately and looks good.

Then make sure you position your object correctly and HIT START.

It's not unusual for small sparks to pop off the surface, but in general this should be a reasonably safe thing to do. That being said, my recommendation is to never walk away from a running laser cutter and be prepared to stop it if things go wrong.

When it's done. Take it out, wipe off the surface, and enjoy.

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    40 Discussions

    So, uh, where would one get any such laser cutter? Are these only good for engraving, or can it make thru cuts?

    2 replies

    Most of them can :) Depends on material, and how strong they are... www.benheck.com <--- He used a laser cutter for some of his projects :) Also, maybe you know about the fat@home project? It's a rapid prototype printer for the average person, still under developement. That is also cut with a laser cutter, a 65W if I remember right: www.fabathome.org

    I think maybe this is in the 'nice to know how' category.  These things are way too expensive for the casual hobbyist IMHO.

    1 reply

    That's so cool! It looks like there is a trilobite fossil in the phone.
    Nice work.

    1 reply

    yeah it is, so is mine. WE MUST MATE THE PHONES TO SAVE TEH SPECIES FROM EXTINCTION!!!!

    1 reply

    Has anyone or does anyone know how to make "skins" or tattoos (using labels) for phones or notebooks. I know they are available for sale in stores on online, but I would prefer to try my own designs. I think templates for each phone is the key. Thanks

    2 replies

    1. take measurements of what you'd like to make a skin (or scan and make a template for your sizing)
    2. Make your design in your preferred graphics program
    3. Go to your local sign making or promotional services company
    4. Have your design printed and cut out on a printer cutter onto vinyl sticker material (i'd suggest a 7mil cast, higher quality, lasts longer)
    5. BE VERY CAREFUL
    -use a mild solution of soap and water to spray item lightly (this allows you to move and reposition decal when your placing it)
    -after you have it positioned properly use a plastic squeegee or a credit card starting at the middle of your decal and working out to remove the water from beneath your decal and to flatten out any bubbles.
    -If you have beveled edges on the item your wrapping, you can use a heat gun to shrink wrap the vinyl decal around the edges (BE VERY CAREFUL , do not hold the heat gun in one place for too long, especially with electronics)  use the lightest setting on the heat gun..  This works better with higher cast vinyls, than with cheap.

    DISCLAIMER:  I'm not responsible for damages to whatever your wrapping, BE VERY CAREFUL!

    you should be able to scan whatever device you want to make a skin for (using a regular ol' scanner) and set up a template from that; as far as getting it printed up -- find a sign shop and have them print it up for you.

    chances are they'd only have standard sign shop materials available for skins (read: strong adhesives on these materials) -- but if you're willing to clean off adhesive when you're sick of the skin, go for it -- just request that they print it on a vinyl with repositionable (not permanent) adhesive

    as far as i know, that'd be the easiest and likely cheapest way you can go about that

    I engraved my ipod with indy mogul and make logo. It was an epilog helix 45 at techshop durham settings, 95 speed, raster etch, 60 power, 600 dpi.

    Awesome! it would probably be easier for me though, my father is a jewelry : P and he can engrave lots -Alex

    45W is nice, but you really don't need quite that much power for this job. 20W should do it nicely.

    Oh forgot to mention, you didn't actually laser cut that while the cover was attached to the phone did you? If so I really need to kick you.