I recently got a new phone. It has a matte black anodiSed aluminum back. So, of course, the first thing that came to my mind was to laser etch it! I couldn't find any instructable on the topic so I decided to share my experience.
* Warning!! *
You are playing with a laser on an electronic device with a lithium battery! This should not be taken lightly.
You are modifying your phone hardware, which may void the warranty.
Please oh please do not do this if you don't know what you're doing.
That said, engraving your phone can be the perfect claim to nerd cred or add a touch of personalization to a gift.
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Step 1: Identify the Material
The first step of this process is to identify what material your phone is made of. The front is most likely glass. But unless you want to risk damaging the screen and/or the front-facing sensors, it's best to only engrave the back.
You'll want to consult your phone manufacturer's website to confirm what type of back your phone has.
Do not try this on a plastic/ rubberized back phone. Not only can you damage your phone(eg laser penetrates through and burns the battery), lasering plastics can produce toxic gases.
Step 2: Design the Engraving: Model Your Phone
The first step to designing the engraving is to get your phone dimensions. Again, this can be found on the phone manufacturer website or by googling "phone model dimensions". If you can't find the dimensions you can just as easily measure it yourself.
Then make a model of your phone like shown in the photos.
Step 3: Design the Engraving: Laser Cut the Model
Now, laser cut the model out of paper or cardboard and fit on your phone to check.
Adjust the model until you get a close match with your phone.
Step 4: Design the Engraving
Now that you know where the sensors and other visuals are on your phone, add your graphics where you'd like them.
For most laser cutters, a black and white image will be etched/engraved. But you can also use vector lines in this step. I added my logo and handle for the design.
Step 5: Test Engrave
Use the cardboard from the previous test and etch on to it until you are satisfied with your design.
Step 6: The Final Step!
Okay! This is it!!
Place your phone in the cardboard cutout to ensure it's in the right location. The power and speed of the engraving will depend on your laser cutter. The manufacturer should have the settings for anodized aluminum and glass.
Step 7: Revel in the Beauty!
Congrats! You personalized your phone! Go out and show it off!!
I followed the same steps to engrave my aluminum backed phone as well(the matte black one in the photos above). I think the aluminum looks a lot better than the glass because of the high contrast ration. But it's a matter of personal taste and most likely you don't have a choice in the matter. I use a transparent silicone cover to protect the back from scratches.