Intro: Create a Custom USB Drive / Figurine Out of Polymer Clay
This Instructable shows how you can customize most USB drives and make them look like a figurine, statue, toy or whatever you can come up with. But most importantly, you get to bake your USB circuit board!
I had this ugly 2GB USB drive that I found laying around, and decided to do some experiments with it, like wrapping it in oven bake clay, which looks and feels like plastic when baked.
The yellow square head guy I created is kinda lame, I had this idea in my mind of some complicated Maya sculpture with different colors and layers etc. but the thrill to see if the circuit board survived the oven made me rush it. But the important thing here is to show that you can do the same and do something that you like with your USB drive and clay.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Proceed at your own risk. This could be problematic because you will be baking a USB circuit board at a relatively high temperature (125°C) and short time in your oven and this could be dangerous for reasons unknown to me (maybe fumes from some components or blowing parts, someone correct me if I am wrong).
Step 1: The Ingredients
You only need two main ingredients:
- Oven bake clay ( I used Sculpey, but there's also Fimo and others that should work the same)
You should be able to find this at most craft and art stores around you.
- A USB drive you can take apart. ( I will not go over how to take it apart because that is part of the fun and there are so many different enclosures that it would be pointless). You just need the internal circuit board.
You can use some tools to shape your little sculpture, or just your fingers. There are some nice techniques out there on youtube that allow you to create patterns, stripes and other cool things using multiple colors. This could be neat to try.
I used my fingers and a couple of very simple tools that can be replaced with about anything.
You also need an oven, of course! NOT A MICROWAVE!!! but a regular one, where cookies are made for example :)
Step 2: Preparing the Clay
This is a quick video I created in case somebody is new to this type of clay, sorry for the off camera action.
Basically you need to soften the clay a little bit with your hands until it is flexible, and then create a square plane of about 2/8th of an inch thick, or whatever you think is best, and wrap it around the circuit board leaving space for the connector, remember it needs to be plugged in to a computer :).
Then you can shape it any way you like, create a lid, add more colors, etc. Be creative. I did not create a lid because I lose them all anyway.
Something to keep in mind: connect your bare circuit board to a computer and check what side faces up, because my square face seems to face down all the time when I plug it in, looks like that USB orientation is a standard.
Step 3: Burn!
Once you are done with the modeling, you are ready to bake, I hope.
All you do is follow the instructions of the clay. Mine said bake at 130°C (275°F) for 15 minutes per 6mm (1/4" ) thickness.
Put your masterpiece is a plate, something metallic, or directly o top of the grill thing all ovens have (like I did), don't worry this clay does not stick to anything, as far as I have experienced.
I would not go over 125°C (~265°F) degrees to be safe, and do not leave it more that 15 minutes in there unless the clay is very thick. I decided to do all this because I read somewhere that circuit boards are exposed to 125°C for long periods of time to rid them of humidity (I guess they do that when someone drops a device in water?)
Also I created a temporary lid to prevent the usb connector from getting too hot and perhaps melt a little plastic part that it has inside, although I think it probably would not have made a difference if I had not created it. The idea was to keep the hot air away from the circuit board, so try to seal it a bit if you are going to do it. you can remove it once you are done. You can see the lid in the previous video, I show it for like 2 seconds.
WAIT UNTIL IT COOLS DOWN before you plug it in to your computer, just to play safe. If everything goes well, your USB drive/ artwork will work just like before, only with different looks, if everything goes wrong, everything goes wrong. It must be very similar to plastic surgery.
Hope this is useful, and please let me know If this instructable is horribly wrong and dangerous or something or if you have any comments in general.