Laser Cut Phone Holder (Intro to Acrylic Bending)




Introduction: Laser Cut Phone Holder (Intro to Acrylic Bending)

About: I am currently attempting to maximize my productivity, so that my life is not wasted.

Have you ever been annoyed by the fact that in order to charge your (generally quite fancy) phone, you need to charge it near a table or, *gasp*, leave your $100+ device at the mercy of the floor?

Well, so had Bob, so he decided to make a phone holder that he could carry around with him.

While in reality, the phone holder is a bit chunky and fragile, it's a great project to practice acrylic bending with.

This instructable assumes that you already know Autocad, Corel Draw, or Illustrator, and have taken the laser cutting course.

Everything within this instructable was done at the SF Techshop, which is a membership based makerspace 3 blocks from BART. More information (and locations) available through

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Step 1: Background

We will be using the strip heater, which is located at the back of the second floor, between the stairwell and the Autodesk Counselling area (as of noon, 8/8/2012).
The strip heater is very good at applying a line of heat, so that you can control the bends of your acrylic. 
The great thing about the strip heater is that you can create sharp, angular bends. But sadly, it is difficult to do complex curves.

The strip heater has a metal grille to protect careless hands from the heating elements. In order to actually heat your part, you'll have to move it up.

This project uses mostly 90 degree bends, so you can set the brace plate to 90 degrees by loosening the knobs on both ends, repositioning it, and tightening the knobs.

Step 2: Layout + Planning

The first step is to laser out the template, which is the correct shape but needs to be bent. 

We use autocad to design pretty much everything, because it's really easy to control the size of your parts.

Here's the completed template, with red construction lines used to show where the bends will be.

From the top down:
The first bend is 90 degrees, and exists to add more rigidity to the top, without blocking the uppoer outlet.
The second bend is a slight bend, which allows the lower half to contact the wall.
The third bend is 90 degrees, and starts the cup which holds the phone
The fourth bend is 90 degrees, and finishes the cup.

A fifth bend pulls the middle segment out to create a hook to hold excess charging cord.

I have attempted to include the DWG ...

CorelDraw will accept DWG's if you drag them from a flashdrive onto the laser cutter template, just be sure to select English/Imperial when importing.

Step 3: Cut the Piece

We're going to assume that you already know how to use the laser cutter, because you aren't supposed to use them otherwise.

Cut the piece out. Use Coreldraw to import, because Epilog lasers dislike autocad.

Step 4: Preheat the Strip Heater

The control panel is rather self explanatory. Turn the knob to about 5 (or 6 if you're feeling daring) and flip the switch on. When the light turns off for 5-10 seconds, the strip heater is ready.

Now that you have nothing to do for a few minutes, Carefully peel the paper off of your acrylic, both sides.

Now that you're done with that, remember not to leave the machine turned on when you're not there.

Now that there's still nothing to do, let's talk about acrylic. Acrylic absorbs water, and therefore it is possible to heat it enough that the water vaporizes and expands faster than the acrylic, which causes unsightly bubbles. You generally want to heat the acrylic as slowly as possible, and keep a careful eye on it. 

Step 5: Start Heating

Place the acrylic on the strip heater, with the center of the heater underneath the bend-point. It's ok to just eyeball it, as this is not an exact science.

The acrylic is ready to bend when it droops slightly. The easiest way to tell whether or not it is drooping is by looking at the light across it from a shallow angle. when the reflections bend across the gap, the part is nearly ready to bend. Trial and error is your friend here; the acrylic will put up with being moved prematurely, tested for elasticity, and replaced for further heating.

The acrylic is ready when it bends easily, although it is possible to force it while it is still somewhat stiff. 

Step 6: Start Bending

All you really have to do once the acylic is heated is jam it into the angle braces until it cools down. If you move it away when it is still hot, it will usually try to regain its previous shape. Patience is your ally here, so just wait a little bit.

Step 7: Keep Bending

Keep making the sharp angle bends to form the cup. Not much to say, just repeat the heating and bending steps.

Step 8: Slight Bend

The one by eye bend is also the last bend to make. It juts the phone out and also allows the holder to contact the wall behind the outlet plate. It should be a gentle bend. 

Just hold it up against the wall so you can see the true angle, and wait for it to cool.

Annnnd that's it, you're done!

1 Person Made This Project!


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