Intro: How to Make a Carbon Fiber Cell Phone Case
This tutorial will guide you step by step to create your very own carbon fiber cell phone case. Carbon Fiber (CF) is an increasingly popular material to use for cell phone cases because it is strong and lightweight but most importantly because of its sleek look! The visible woven fibers give your cell phone case a versatile unique look that will keep you falling in love with your phone more and more.
Prior to starting your CF cell phone case, it's important to consider safety! Please consider using the following personal protective equipment:
- protective clothing that won't expose skin to avoid contact with Epoxy
- goggles to protect your eyes from coming into contact with any of the materials
- vinyl gloves when handling the epoxy and carbon fiber. Keep in mind that handling the carbon fiber bare handed may cause itchiness and irritations
Step 1: Run Down of Materials
Here's a comprehensive list of everything you will need to create the cell phone case and an explanation of why it is used!
- Existing Phone Case
- Plastic Wrap
- Carbon Fiber
- Epoxy Resin/Cure (Hard for structural purposes)
- Epoxy Resin/Hardner (Shiny for aesthetic purposes)
You will need plastic wrap for two purposes. First is to set down on your working area to prevent anything from getting dirty. This doesn't necessarily have to be a plastic wrap, but it has to be something that won't stick to the epoxy or else that will quickly become a disaster and not a cell phone case! The second plastic wrap is of importance as you will use to create the mold for the cell phone case. This plastic wrap should also be epoxy resistant, I used Glad Press and Seal. I particularly liked the Press and Seal because if you are ever unpleased with how you are laying out the plastic lining you can easily rip it off and still use the material.
The plaster I used was DAP- Plaster of Paris. This plaster will eventually become your phone mold!
Carbon Fiber selection is up to you. I used a woven carbon fiber- Fibre Glast 3k weave. It is up to you whether you want a woven or unidirectional carbon fiber, depending on how you want the phone case to look.
Hard Epoxy Resin/Cure:
The hard epoxy will be used to structure your carbon fiber into the desired shape of your mold. It strengthens your phone case and can be regarded as the "backbone" of the case. The epoxies I chose for this purpose is Fibre Glast 2000 Epoxy Resin and Fibre Glast 2120 Epoxy Cure.
Shiny Epoxy Resin/Hardner:
These epoxies will be added LAST and is not to be confused with the previous epoxy. This epoxy serves to give your cell phone case that final shiny glossy look. For this, I used TAP General Purpose One to One Epoxy Resin/Hardener.
- Plastic Wrap
- Popsicle Sticks
- Firm Card
- Foam Paint Brushes
- Flat Head Screwdriver
- Vacuum and Vacuum bag
Step 2: Plaster Up! Make Your Mold
Time for the fun!
- First obtain a cell phone case you already have to be the base for our mold. Choose a case that fits your phone nicely as your carbon fiber phone case will be shaped after this case.
- Lay down plastic wrap on your working area
- Grab the Glad Press and Seal plastic wrap and rip off a portion that is bigger than your cellphone case. Consider leaving about an excess inch of wrap on the perimeter of your phone case
- Start to "Press and Seal" your plastic wrap on the inside of your phone case
- Start from the middle of your case and press outward
- Pay close attention to corners, use the firm card to press around these edges
- Try to avoid any wrinkles
- Exaggerate indentations of your phone such as buttons and camera slots so that they are well defined on your case
- Follow the directions on the plaster container for mixing and mix your plaster to a "milkshake" consistency
- Pour the plaster inside your plastic covered phone case
- Use a popsicle stick to smoothen out the poured plaster
- Wait for your plaster to dry inside your mold!
Note: do not use plastic plaster, you want your plaster to maintain a ceramic feel so that it is brittle and easy to break later in the process when trying to remove the mold from your carbon fiber (don't break it now! that would just be silly now wouldn't it)
Once the plaster dries, carefully remove the mold and plastic lining from the case. Be very careful to not break your mold or else you'll have to start over or will get aggravated and quit at this point- nobody likes a quitter!
Step 3: Carbon Fiber Layup
okay... NOW the fun actually starts, making a mold wasn't the most exciting part but I needed you to stick with me
- Get your roll of Carbon Fiber ready
- Place your cellphone mold on the carbon fiber sheet
- Tap a rectangle around you phone case so that you cut on top of the tape and the tape holds together the woven fibers
- Leave about an inch excess on the perimeter
- Cut your sheet along the tap
Preparing your Hard Epoxy:
Remember that this hard epoxy is the "backbone" of your cell phone case so it is important that you follow the directions on the bottle and mix it well! The ratio is 3x 2000 Epoxy Resin to 1x 2120 Epoxy Hardener. Mix the epoxies together slowly to not create too much agitation and bubbles. This epoxy is a 2 hour epoxy meaning that from the second you poured the epoxy out, it will dry past usable standards within 2 hours.
In my opinion this is the hardest part of the entire process!
- Gently paint both sides of you carbon fiber with epoxy and put a light layer of epoxy on the backside of your cell phone case
- Wrap you carbon fiber around your mold and again press from the middle around your edges
- Make sure corners aren't overlapping and that you are pulling the carbon fiber tightly onto the mold
- Paint your carbon fiber lay up with a generous amount of epoxy, but not to the point where your mold and soon to be case is dripping with epoxy
- If you get one side of the cell phone case to fit nicely around the case but keeps slipping off when you go put on the other side, feel free to utilize the plastic wrap to hold part of it in place- remember the epoxy won't stick to the plastic.
- Keep gently working your carbon fiber around the mold while making sure your woven fibers are aligned the way you want
- Wrap excess carbon fiber on the flip side of your mold; this can all be trimmed later
- Once you get your carbon fiber laid up the way you would want your cell phone case to look, wrap it in plastic wrap
- Tape any stubborn CF or plastic wrap to your mold
- Breathe sigh of relief, the hardest part is over and you now have something that looks like the final product!
Step 4: The Vacuum
It doesn't matter when the last time you vacuumed your living room was, you can't skip this vacuuming step
The vacuum serves to dry and settle your epoxy as well as tightening your carbon fiber around the mold to finalize its shape
- Make sure your carbon fiber case is fully enclosed in the plastic wrap
- Place you CF case with mold inside a vacuum bag
- Ensure that the vacuum bag is free of any holes
- Seal the bag
- Push any visibly air bubbles in you bag towards the nozzle
- Turn on your vacuum and make sure that it is removing as much air as possible
- Once your CF is tightly on your mold with and your bag is free of air, keep the vacuum running for 2-3 hours for the epoxy to settle
Step 5: Removing CF Cell Phone Case From Mold
- Remove your CF cell phone case from vacuum bag
- Unwrap the layer of plastic wrap and get rid of any tape
- Remove excess CF from the side where the mold is visible with a dremel so that you can begin to take out the mold
- Grab your flat head screw driver and dig in into your mold
- Use a hammer to hit the flat head screw driver like a chisel
- Break the mold completely and gently remove your phone case
- Use the dremel to cut straight lines around the edges of your cell phone case
- Carefully use the dremel to cut any holes that your case will need (charging ports, camera, etc.)
- Use a razor to cut excess fibers and perfect your phone case
- Clean your case with soap and water to remove all excess dust
- Dry thoroughly, I used pressurized air
Step 6: Make It Shine!
- Grab your General Purpose Epoxy Resin and Cure
- Get a cup and mix at a 1:1 ratio
- Use the popsicle stick to mix slowly to avoid too many bubbles, you should be a pro at this by now
- Use the foam paint brush to evenly apply the epoxy to your cell phone
- Apply epoxy quickly to avoid having it dry prematurely on you
- Leave the cell phone case out in a well ventilated area to let it dry
Step 7: Enjoy Your Case!
Once your shiny epoxy has dried, you are finished!
Use a razor and some sandpaper to smoothen out the edges or get rid of excess dried epoxy.
Enjoy your case!