Picture of Robotic claw business card
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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.

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


Mac19973 years ago
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 Mac19977 months ago
how are you?

i will make it for you

where are you from?
hectdiaf2 years ago
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

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.

Matthajek4 years ago
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 100kgarages.com 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: aidan.jarosgrilli@education.nsw.gov.au any way, cool project. :)
PenfoldPlant (author)  Matthajek3 years ago
I've uploaded PDF and SVG versions of the vector files to Step 2. Hopefully they're more useful to you!
thanks so much!
That is VERY cool!!!
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 :(
This is so cool! What a great way for your business cards to stand out.
amjad8310013 years ago
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.
jordan218923 years ago
just one question how much did you spend on this laser cutter? and great instructable by the way.
monney953 years ago
Great instructable what material was this cut out, and what thicknesses were used?

Thank You
beantek3 years ago
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!
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.
popewill3 years ago
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.
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 Wyatt3 years ago
Very Creative! Thanks for a great post.
pie R []ed3 years ago
How long does it take on the laser cutter?
+1 Vote to win

Too bad we can't rate anymore...you'd be getting 5 stars.
andytt113 years ago
what about stainless steel version
PenfoldPlant (author)  andytt113 years ago
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...
spago3 years ago
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)  spago3 years ago
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.
chicopluma4 years ago
haha take my card or my card will take you
PenfoldPlant (author)  chicopluma3 years ago
Haha, good slogan!
mwagner634 years ago
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)  mwagner633 years ago
Sure thing, I've uploaded a PDF version to Step 2.
grey_starr4 years ago
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_starr3 years ago
Very sensible!
techiebot4 years ago
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)  techiebot3 years ago
I've not tried having these cut commercially yet, but let me know if you find a good service.
this is huge! great way to wake a smal robotic hand.
PenfoldPlant (author)  didgitalpunk3 years ago
icady4 years ago
This is so unbelievably awesome! Too bad it would be way too time consuming to mass produce.
PenfoldPlant (author)  icady4 years ago
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!
This is by far the most creative way I've seen to make a good impression on a potential client or boss!
PenfoldPlant (author)  KwartzKitten4 years ago
Thanks, I'll have to go and pinch Eric with it!
Not quite what I meant by "impression", but hey, whatever works.
It was a glitch, they commented the same thing to someone that was saying that they should sell this, it is down below this comment somewhere, and when they try to comment again to another person what ever they write will become what they wrote to the first comment. I guess it might be from a cookie being stored with the comment's data, but I dont know.
wobbler4 years ago
Brilliant in a slightly mad way!
Edgar4 years ago
That's a great concept, and it works great, too! :D
PenfoldPlant (author)  Edgar4 years ago
Thanks, I'm thinking of replacing all of my extremities with business cards.
A Clockwork Head, too?
We already have enough Politicians, TV "journalists", and Pop stars... LOL
dombeef4 years ago
I actually did my own take on this, I used the movement from my Paper Claw 2.0 instructable and made it fit on a business card.

Here are a few pictures of it.

Hmm, I cant get the flickr import to work, here is the link to the set: Link
PenfoldPlant (author)  dombeef4 years ago
Wow, nice job! I'd love to see a video of it in action.

I've added the vector files to Step 2 now, so you can have a play with them if you like. Thanks for the tip about cardnetics, too.
I will try to upload soon, I was having a problem with my camera not working right.
And do you mind if I do an instructable on my version? It is like the after results from my claw instructable, and I will credit you for the inspiration to do it.

And no problem, I really do think that they would like this kind of stuff, I think I remember hearing that they use a press for their cards, this wouldn't be too complicated. Oh, and the user named clide below this comment is the owner of cardnetics, if you didnt know.
robot7974 years ago
are you selling those?
alcurb4 years ago
Brilliant! I want one.
kiwimac4 years ago
Crumbs, DM!
PenfoldPlant (author)  kiwimac4 years ago
Good grief!
Ooo errr!
PenfoldPlant (author)  kiwimac4 years ago
Fred826644 years ago
Neat project but I know not every one has a laser cutter perhaps you could sell the parts as a kit for say $5.00 so those like that do not have the cuter can build this with the same results
PenfoldPlant (author)  Fred826644 years ago
Thanks, I'll have to go and pinch Eric with it!
Yendeg4 years ago
Can this be cut out by hand? And is there a full size template available?
PenfoldPlant (author)  Yendeg4 years ago
Yep, I've added the template as a vector file in Step 2. In theory it could be cut out by hand, but it would be goshdarned fiddly. The larger you made it, however, the easier it would be. There's nothing to stop someone making a giant version out of plywood with a jigsaw. Now that would be entertaining...
U should put up a doc for people to cut out...I would follow you and tell heaps of people who I know about this instructable...so put it up pls
PenfoldPlant (author)  seanthesheep1014 years ago
Sorry, I meant to do that when I published it. I've corrected this oversight and you can now find the document as an EPS file in Step 2, as well as the JPGs that were already there. Good luck!
shobley4 years ago
As someone that does deal with killer robots (from outer space) I can say that this is rather splendid...

PenfoldPlant (author)  shobley4 years ago
Thanks, Steve. I've just been reading your blog; you've got some amazing projects up there.
askjerry4 years ago
This is outstanding design... I will absolutely be making these for friends.

PenfoldPlant (author)  askjerry4 years ago
Great, I look forward to seeing pictures up here soon!
Exocetid4 years ago
You may want to add locating symbols to the base piece so that you can glue the pivot pins in place without worrying about alignment. Since this is laser-cut and there is a significant amount of tolerance in the pivoting members, with locators you can assemble very quickly. In fact, you could also squeak the tolerance in for a tighter operating mechanism.
PenfoldPlant (author)  Exocetid4 years ago
Thanks, I've actually started doing just this for my second, larger batch of cards. It should speed things up considerably. As for tolerances, I've tried tightening everything up and it just makes the mechanism much stiffer to handle, so I'm fairly happy to leave the margins as they are.

Great advice!
foobear4 years ago
zomg... pure awesome!
PenfoldPlant (author)  foobear4 years ago
Thanks, glad you enjoyed it!
mwagner634 years ago
To make it a true instructable can you post dimensions or a template or at least the laser cutter file? It would help out a lot of people that would like to make this, including me.
PenfoldPlant (author)  mwagner634 years ago
Oops, I knew I'd forgotten something! The EPS file is now included in Step 2. Enjoy!
clide4 years ago
Very cool and well done. Always nice to see more mechanical cards.
dombeef4 years ago
Wow, this is on my long to-do list, or if I ever get a laser cutter. This is honestly the best business card mechanism that I have ever seen.

I was actually making something like this, but it involved my paper claw 2.0 mechanism, I am not finished yet and I still have many other projects to do.

And you should contact http://cardnetics.com/, this would be an awesome addition to their shop!
dombeef dombeef4 years ago
And can you attach the file that you used to make this? I am thinking about making something like this!
~Z~4 years ago
AWESOME! How much would it cost me for you to make one for me?
PenfoldPlant (author)  ~Z~4 years ago
Thanks, Astropoke! I'm not yet selling these, but at some point I might stick them on my Etsy store.
Cool. I would definitely buy it for a good price.

if you have cutter.. make 100..
sell on ebay..

post link here
drknotter4 years ago
Totally AWESOME! If you want a collaborator on the Voltron project, I'm all over it. [I'm being serious.] :)
PenfoldPlant (author)  drknotter4 years ago
Thanks! I was half joking with the Voltron comment, but now I'm serious considering it. I'll let you know if I get round to pursuing it further!
Please do it! Multiple business cards coming together to form ANYTHING would be cool. But a robot? That's just beyond words!
Brilliant. I must try this myself, sans laser cutter....
PenfoldPlant (author)  MercuryCrest4 years ago
Cool! In theory, this should all be possible with a sharp knife and a steady hand. I look forward to seeing how it goes!
That is exactly what I plan on doing....When I have time betwixt classes. :)
thealeks4 years ago
"...which doubles as a convenient gripping device for when you don't want to handle other people's dirty, less mechanical business cards." hahahaha

awesome business card! i may have to make some
topher904 years ago
so cool i want to build one but i dont have the time.
Lorddrake4 years ago
gee brain, what are we going to do with a laser cutter?

the same thing we do every night pinky, TRY TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD!!


man, I really have to get access to a laser cutter :)
PenfoldPlant (author)  Lorddrake4 years ago
What I didn't include in the Instructable was the remote control mechanism that will bring all of these things to life once I've distributed them around the globe...
I for one welcome our new robotic claw overlords.. :)
I've really got to figure out how to use a laser cutter. :P

Excellent as always!
PenfoldPlant (author)  jessyratfink4 years ago
It's easy. You think of things, then they become real!
Eh? When did Epilog add mind-control as an option?
PenfoldPlant (author)  Kiteman4 years ago
I think of my computer as a prosthetic mind extension. I find the lines between its thoughts and my own increasingly blurry.
Kiteman4 years ago
Goodness me, that's incredible!

PenfoldPlant (author)  Kiteman4 years ago
Cheers! The downside is that I'm increasingly reluctant to actually give these away to people...
Give them away?

No, you sell them! You could easily get $10-$15 apiece on Etsy, more if you offer a personalised image!

(You just can't include the Robot on the ones you sell - the image is only licensed for non-commercial purposes.)
Kaelessin4 years ago
This absolutely amazing!
Execellent idea! This is one of the best business card "ibles" I've seen. Keep up the good work!
PenfoldPlant (author)  Matrix-technician4 years ago
Thanks, M-t!
cortexcmdr4 years ago
Absolutely brilliant! I'm starting to think of other possible configurations for an array of mechanical business cards! Very cool. Thanks for sharing.
PenfoldPlant (author)  cortexcmdr4 years ago
It's made me realize just how much potential there is for these things! Let me know if you come up with any fun designs :-)
E_MAN4 years ago
That is pretty sweet.
Nachimir4 years ago
Excellent! :)

Maybe with rigid enough laser cut plastic, you could push-fit components to make them more quickly?