Introduction: Robotic Claw Business Card

Picture of Robotic Claw Business Card
Business cards are for business people. And nothing shows you mean business like a robotic claw.

Here's how I made my latest business card, which doubles as a convenient gripping device for when you don't want to handle other people's dirty, less mechanical business cards.

It's standard business card size (3.5" by 2") and just over one sixteenth of an inch in thickness, making it slightly chunky but still easy to slip into a wallet. Its various components were laser-cut from two different thicknesses of card then glued together.

A good business card should be something that nobody wants to throw away. Hopefully these cards are amusing enough that people will hang onto them for years, occasionally digging them out of their desk drawers so that they can pretend to be killer robots when nobody's looking. Then, once they've subconsciously built a connection between me and killer robots, they'll offer me a job. Seems like a foolproof plan to me.

Step 1: Starting the Design

Picture of Starting the Design
The trickiest part of this project, as is often the case, was the design stage. I started with an idea in my mind of a business card that involved gears and that could move in an interesting way, but very little beyond that. I knew that it had to meet the following specifications:

  1. Must be able to fit on a 3.5" by 2" business card
  2. Must not be unreasonably thick
  3. Must have room on which to print an email address and a logo
  4. Must have one simple lever or slider by which to control the mechanism

At first, I expected Number 1 on this list to cause the biggest problems, as 7 square inches really didn't sound like much space for a set of working gears. After a bit of playing with the laser cutter and some scrap card, however, I found I was able to cut effective gears which were incredibly small. I'm fairly sure that it would be possible to make this card half its current size without any functional problems. To design the gears, I used a wonderful piece of software made by Matthias Wendel, called Gear Template Generator. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in cutting their own gears, whatever the size and material.

Another factor that helped with this size constraint was the realisation that, while the mechanism had to fit within a business card when inactive, there was nothing stopping it from overreaching the card's boundaries once the mechanism was deployed.

Number 2 on the list then became the most limiting, as I soon realised that all my gears and levers would have to fit onto a single plane to prevent the card becoming a brick. I played around with different types of card and decided that the best way to build this card would be to use three layers: a thin base layer, a thick, rigid inner layer containing the mechanism, and a thin surface layer.

One morning, while I was sketching ideas for this project, someone showed me a video of a 3D printed grabber mechanism and the rest of the idea just fell into place.

Step 2: Designing the Components

Picture of Designing the Components

When I had the basic layout of the card clear in mind mind, I started drawing it in Adobe Illustrator. I plotted the three layers individually, then repositioned them to see how well they would fit together when the mechanism was deployed.

Step 3: Cutting the Components

Picture of Cutting the Components

To cut the components out of card I sought the help of my old friend, the Epilog laser cutter.

For the base layer and the surface layer, I used thin white art card. For the inner layer, I used thicker white mounting board.

Step 4: Sorting the Components

Picture of Sorting the Components

I then carefully laid out the three layers to see that they all fit together.

Step 5: Checking the Mechanism

Picture of Checking the Mechanism

I double-checked that everything lined up neatly by posing the innards in various positions.

Step 6: Gluing the Innards

Picture of Gluing the Innards

Once I was sure everything was in order, I started gluing the inner layer to the base layer with superglue, taking care not to accidentally glue down any of the moving parts.

Step 7: Attaching the Surface

Picture of Attaching the Surface

With the superglue dry and all of the moving parts in position, I needed to attach the surface layer to hold it all together. Superglue has a tendency to leach through paper and make it wrinkle in an unsightly manner, so I used paper cement for this step.

Step 8: The Finished Card

Picture of The Finished Card

As soon as the glue was dry, I had myself a fun little business card!

Where next? I'm considering trying to make a set of five business cards that combine to form a Voltron-like robot... This one might take a while.


jjnm5 (author)2017-05-04


AlmudenaC (author)2016-03-08

Really interesting!!

Thank you!

delphine.puech (author)2015-03-19

Dear Sir,

Same message as Mac1997. Would you accept making 11 for me ???? I would pay you. How much would you want ? because I can't make these because of my computer.
Congratulations ! and Best Wishes


Mac1997 (author)2011-11-17

Could make me one for me? I would pay you . how much would you want Great idea. I can't make one of these my self cause my computer doesn't download PDF files and I don't have a local laser cutting place.
Greatest regards

MMSSS1 (author)Mac19972015-01-22

how are you?

i will make it for you

where are you from?

hectdiaf (author)2013-07-14

hi ! i really liked your design , i´m love make this kind of things and for that decided built the mine, I built which whit cards of SIM card (I dont know if i said well), is a few most small what the original and i modeled whit the drill an DREMEL, sanding and polishing took me a time until get of all pieces , thanks for share your ideas, i leave the pictures


Dapper Hippo (author)2012-09-15

This site offers a solution to many of your precision cutting needs for those who cannot afford a laser cutter.

A laser cutter, while enormously useful and cool, is not necessary for this project. I was able to cut the pieces both by hand and by using the machine above.

Matthajek (author)2011-09-01

my computer won't download the eps file, so I can't send it to a custom laser cutting company, so could you post the vector drawing file instead, and if so, is it compatable with inkscape?

thanks for your time and project, that wouldn't help a 13 year-old like me, that I respect so much!

I'm also 13 (high five!), but I was wondering what laser company you're sending that to. I had a hard time finding one. I saw one, but it was for bigger things and it charged like $100 an hour. I need to find one for all of these awesome projects that use laser cutters! Thanks, Thomasthetankengine

im not exactly sure of the prices or anything, but there's a website called where people with laser cutters and 3d printers and stuff can do other stuff for you. The website has a map with fabricators around the world.

I forget what it was called, but it never asked for any kind of payment, and it never showed up.It was cheap(cost based on size, I think it was between $10 and $20 for this) and did small pieces out of less-than-1/2-inch thick(your choice) sheets of a material(also your choice, and if they didn't have the material you wanted, they would ship it to their facility from another company)

Thanks, sounds awesome. Do you know of a way I could find it? I would love to find a place like that I can get laser jobs done. If not, that's ok. I think there's one in my neighborhood (?)

no, I don't.

I have the files and if you need them email me at: any way, cool project. :)

PenfoldPlant (author)Matthajek2011-09-06

I've uploaded PDF and SVG versions of the vector files to Step 2. Hopefully they're more useful to you!

Matthajek (author)PenfoldPlant2011-09-07

thanks so much!

FrankenPaper (author)2012-07-06

That is VERY cool!!!

Adambowker98 (author)2012-05-05

I would do this, but my dad sold his awesome laser cutter... It wouldn't do what he needed it to do so he sold it :(

Dapper Hippo (author)2012-05-01

This is so cool! What a great way for your business cards to stand out.

amjad831001 (author)2012-01-19

please upload DXF file, not able to covert the EPS format to DXF

download the PDF file and search on google for pdf to dxf online, and click on one of the links, upload the file, and download it.

jordan21892 (author)2012-01-24

just one question how much did you spend on this laser cutter? and great instructable by the way.

monney95 (author)2012-01-09

Great instructable what material was this cut out, and what thicknesses were used?

Thank You

beantek (author)2012-01-06

I laser cut them in acrylic but the assembly was an epic fail. Luckily I printed 4 sets but you should have set a marker or some sort of point where the little circle pieces go. Thanks for the great design!

MercuryCrest (author)2011-12-31

As a test of the laser cutter we just got in to the Milwaukee Makerspace, I decided to cut this business card out of clear acrylic.

I'll be honest, having not successfully cut anything so far, I decided to enlarge it a bit to ensure a quality cut.

So far, so good. Tomorrow, I'm going to affix everything and start tormenting people with games of "I'm crushing you!" (Kids in the Hall ref.)

Thank you, not just for this Instructable, but for coming up with ideas like this in the first place.

popewill (author)2011-12-04

Ugh! I'm jealous of you laser cutter. I enjoy making and coming up with ideas like that, but I can't cut neatly to save my life. I'm going to try to make one of those, but it'll be much thicker because I only have access to cardboard. I'll post the picture on here when I'm done.

playful-geometer (author)2011-11-09

This project is amazing.  I give you my vote !  My project entry for the Epilog Challenge uses cardstock too: Quasicrystal Star Lantern.  I hope I can do this with multiple passes on my Craft Robo Pro.

I hope you keep posting fun projects.  Consider phrasing in the tone of telling us how to build things, this reads more like a journal.  It would be nice if the first step contained all required materials and tools (including paper stock thickness).

Rick Wyatt (author)2011-10-05

Very Creative! Thanks for a great post.

pie R []ed (author)2011-09-10

How long does it take on the laser cutter?

explosivemaker (author)2011-09-07

+1 Vote to win

Too bad we can't rate'd be getting 5 stars.

andytt11 (author)2011-09-05

what about stainless steel version

PenfoldPlant (author)andytt112011-09-06

That would be great, but quite awkward to make and rather expensive to give away as a business card. Maybe when I'm successful enough, I'll start using stainless steel business cards...

spago (author)2011-09-03

two days ago I built the business card made ​​of wood (birch plywood 0.8mm). I used my homemade CNC milling machine:) Very nice project! I love it!

PenfoldPlant (author)spago2011-09-06

Fantastic! I can't tell you how I excited I get whenever someone actually makes something I've posted online. This is amazing! Great job, spago.

chicopluma (author)2011-09-01

haha take my card or my card will take you

PenfoldPlant (author)chicopluma2011-09-06

Haha, good slogan!

mwagner63 (author)2011-08-30

As my version of Adobe Illustrator won't update would be possible for you to send me the PDF files or better yet post them?

PenfoldPlant (author)mwagner632011-09-06

Sure thing, I've uploaded a PDF version to Step 2.

grey_starr (author)2011-08-29

I plan to try the middle layer with paper that already has adhesive on both sides. so it's just peel and stick. Just so I can quickly assembly a few.

PenfoldPlant (author)grey_starr2011-09-06

Very sensible!

techiebot (author)2011-08-29

Does anyone have a good (cheap) source for a laser cutting service that could cut some of these from the eps file?

By the way, a great instructable and a fantastically creative project!

PenfoldPlant (author)techiebot2011-09-06

I've not tried having these cut commercially yet, but let me know if you find a good service.

didgitalpunk (author)2011-08-29

this is huge! great way to wake a smal robotic hand.


icady (author)2011-08-28

This is so unbelievably awesome! Too bad it would be way too time consuming to mass produce.

PenfoldPlant (author)icady2011-08-28

I'm not so sure it would be that time-consuming once I had the process streamlined. If there's demand for it, I'll give it a go.

You can also get a cutting knife made by a die maker and then it would only take minutes to produce!

KwartzKitten (author)2011-08-28

This is by far the most creative way I've seen to make a good impression on a potential client or boss!

Thanks, I'll have to go and pinch Eric with it!

Not quite what I meant by "impression", but hey, whatever works.

About This Instructable




Bio: Artist in Residence at Pier 9, currently exploring a vast array of new tools with which to injure myself.
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