Intro: How to Create a Carbon Fiber Phone Case
To those who mistakenly drop their phones, or those who would like more protection for their phones, the wait is finally over.
No more spending money for an expensive case after buying an expensive phone. No more apprehension after dropping your phone and hesitantly picking it up to check the damage. With today's technology, your phone should be protected from any impact, fall, or accident and not bear the scars of heavy use.
Using carbon fiber as a case is the solution. Carbon fiber is a composite material, which is a combination of multiple materials (carbon and fibers) for superior properties than the original materials. Advancements in composite material make it easy and simple to create a carbon fiber phone case.
My partner and I came up with this idea while in our Materials Lab, where all the necessary materials and tools were available.
Step 1: Materials, Tools, Precautions, and Setup
Before making a carbon fiber phone case you will need to gather several materials and tools to help you along the way:
-Glad Press n' Seal
-DAP: Plaster of Paris (20-30min dry time)
-3K, 2x2 Twill Weave Carbon Fiber Fabric
-Vacuum sealed bag
-Vacuum sealing tape
-Dremel tool with different heads
-2000 Epoxy Resin
-2120 2 Hr Epoxy Cure
-General Purpose Epoxy Resin
-General Purpose Epoxy Hardener
PRECAUTIONS: Carbon fiber is made up of microscopic fibers. These fibers can irritate hands, face, and any skin. Wear protective vinyl gloves anytime you are handling the carbon fiber and epoxy, and do not touch your hair or face.
Cover your work space by taping down plastic wrap for easy clean up.
Step 2: Prepare a Mold
In order to get the carbon fiber into the correct shape of your phone, a mold must be constructed from the phone case.
To make this mold, first cover the inside of your phone case with Glad Press n' Seal. Make sure no bubbles, wrinkles, and inconsistencies exist in the plastic, or else these will appear in the mold, and eventually in the case.
**It's helpful to push out or "bubble" the Press n' Seal where the phone case opens for example the camera hole. When you pour the plaster it will form a noticeable bump that will show up on the carbon fiber making it easier to dremel out the hole later on.**
Once you have a good seal between the inside of the case and the plastic wrap, it is time to make the plaster.
Use about 1 cup worth of the Plaster of Paris dry powder. Add water and stir until the mixture reaches consistency that can be poured into the phone case (i.e. Pancake batter). Make sure there are no clumps or bubbles in the plaster mixture before filling up the phone case. If your specific phone case is flimsy, use tape to cover the outside edges of the case so that the plaster can fully fill it (see picture).
Once the case is adequately filled with plaster, let the mold sit on a flat surface to dry. You may wait anytime from 2 hours to possibly 24 hours depending on how much water was added to your dry powder.
After making sure your phone case mold is dry, carefully begin to remove the plaster from the case. Take your time and try to remove one corner of the case first. Your finished mold should be smooth on one side and around the sides, so use sandpaper to take rough edges and bumps out.
Step 3: Applying Carbon Fiber
Now that you have a working mold, it is time to apply the carbon fiber on the smooth side of the case.
Cut a sheet of carbon fiber that will completely cover one side of the mold and allow a little excess to fold up on the other side. Mix 1:1 ratio of 2000 Epoxy Resin and 2120 2Hr Epoxy Cure in a plastic cup for 2 minutes using the paint brush. Apply this epoxy to the smooth side of the mold and push the woven carbon fiber so it is flush against it. It should stick to the mold. Using your fingers, push any extra epoxy out from between the fiber and the mold.
As you shape and push the carbon fiber around the mold, make sure no bumps or folds exist in the fiber. When wrapping the corners of the mold, it may be useful to cut two slits in the carbon fiber so the it lays flat on the rounded edge.
If you applied enough epoxy on the mold in the beginning, then the carbon fiber should stick well to the mold.
Lastly wrap the phone case with wax paper so that it will not stick to the vacuum bag. For better results and less wrinkles, try to use as little wax paper as possible with little overlay.
Step 4: Vacuum Bag
In order for the carbon fiber to take the correct shape of the mold, it must be placed in a vacuum bag and be completely sealed.
Use a pump to suck all the air out of the bag, and use the vacuum sealing tape to pinch the edges and seal the holes. Listen for whistling air when your pump is running, and if you hear it then try to plug up the hole with tape.
Leave the pump running for about 30min past the time it takes the epoxy to cure. Take the carbon fiber mold out of the vacuum bag and unwrap the wax paper. Your carbon fiber mold should look like the image.
Step 5: Remove Plaster Mold and Epoxy
The next step is to remove the plaster mold from inside the carbon fiber case. Take care not to damage the case when trying to remove the plaster.
Using a hammer and flathead screwdriver, chisel out chunks of plaster from the inside, making sure you do not cut through the carbon fiber underneath. Keep removing pieces of plaster until there is no more left inside the carbon fiber.
Now you must cut holes in the sides of your phone case for volume and on/off buttons, headphone jacks, chargers, etc. With the fine dremel head, round these holes so they are smooth and neat. Also cut off the excess carbon fiber that was wrapped on the rough side of the mold so that you can place your phone into the case.
Rinse the phone case with soap and water to remove all plaster dust and stray fibers.
Mix the General Purpose Epoxy Resin and General Purpose Epoxy Hardener with a 1:2 ratio of resin to hardener and brush this on the carbon fiber case, inside and out. This is the glossy finish that will make your case shine. Set on a drying rack and leave the epoxy to harden for 24 hours.
Once the epoxy has finished drying you will have a rigid and safe phone case to protect against impacts and falls, so just pop your phone in and go!