Low Profile Cell Phone Shell Case




I dislike scratched up phones and bulky cases equally, so I created my own shell case that is thin, form fitting, and protects from scratches. This instructable will show you how to use a vacuum former to create a fitted shell case to protect your phone. 

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Step 1: Tools and Materials

For this instructable you will need a vacuum former plus a matching frame, binder clips, a vacuum cleaner, and some source of heat. this can be your kitchen oven, but I use a hot plate. The only materials you need is a small piece of .030" high impact styrene sheet to form the shell from. I purchased mine from USPlastics, but it is also available at hobby stores, etc... 

Step 2: Set Up the Vacuum Former

place the cell phone on the vacuum surface placing something about .5" to .75" tall underneath so that the plastic will surround the phone. clip the plastic sheet to the frame using 12 or so binder clips. turn on the hot plate and the vacuum. 

Step 3: Vacuum Plastic

heat the plastic sheet over the hot plate for 30 seconds to a minute until it is pliable and rubbery. I watch for the plastic to warp and then shrink slightly. once th plastic is uniformly taught over the frame but not smoking, quickly place it on the vacuum surface over the phone. the plastic will be drawn tight around the phone and harden very quickly. I found that using .030" styrene a release agent was not necessary, probably due to the short length of time the hot plastic was in contact with the phone before it cooled. your mileage may vary if you use a different thickness or type of plastic. I tried this on many other plastic and rubber objects I had lying around before I was satisfied it would not stick to my phone.

Step 4: Cut Out Your New Shell Case

very carefully cut out the plastic shell encasing your phone with a sharp scalpel or exacto blade. once the overhang is gone carefully pop the cell phone free of the shell, and clean up the edges with the knife. note any holes that are needed for buttons, cameras, charger ports, speakers, microphones, etc and carefully cut them out as well using drill bits for the round holes. making even cuts and holes is the hardest part of the process. I found the the volume power and camera buttons did not need a hole as they are easily pressable through the shell. enjoy your new case!

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    8 Discussions


    6 years ago on Step 3

    I was thinking of building a "vaccuum form table" but this is more practical for the space i have to work with sometimes. especially considering the small size of most of the projects I try to get done. Kudos!


    8 years ago on Step 4

    i may have missed something, but how does this stay on to the phone?

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    The case is form fitting to the phone. It's similar to the way a really tight pair of pants can get stuck on a person's legs I guess.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I am thinking of doing something like this with my laptop to form a top and bottom piece and then layup carbon fiber over the plastic mold, however, would the heat from the hot plastic possibly damage the laptop?

    2 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I formed the plastic right onto my phone with no signs of any sort of damage since it seems to cool almost instantly once it touches the surface of the part. Your mileage may vary however, with different thicknesses of plastic and temperatures. If you lay up carbon fiber onto the outside of the plastic mold the cured carbon fiber shell will be larger than the laptop all around by the thickness of the plastic. might be better to use the plastic mold of the laptop to cast a plaster positive then lay carbon onto the surface of that? The shell would be exactly matched to the laptop that way.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I was thinking of using rather thin plastic and maybe keeping it in there after adding the fiberglass. Like a 1/16" piece of styrene or something. That wouldn't add alot of weight and it would make it alot easier to make. I would use velcro to attach it.


    Not a bad idea at all. If my new phone hadn't come with a great case for free (having friends in all sorts of retail pays off...), I'd be tempted to try this. I'd suppose a sheet of clear plastic could be used to cover the front of a non-touch screen phone easily too...might be interesting to try with one of my older cells.