Intro: Making a Carbon Fiber Cell Phone Case
The purpose of this tutorial is to teach you how to make a carbon fiber cell phone case. Nothing looks worse than a cracked phone. With a light weight phone case that's five times stronger than steel, you won't have to worry about that anymore. The sophisticated woven appearance of the phone will have all your friends asking you how to make one - and by the end of this tutorial you'll be able to teach them how!
Safety: The most important step in this tutorial is to note the proper safety measures for all the materials that you use. When dealing with carbon fiber, and the other associated materials used in this tutorial, please keep in mind:
- Skin exposure to both epoxy and carbon fiber can cause irritation/allergic reactions
- Always wear vinyl gloves when dealing with epoxy resin and the curing agent
- Always wear gloves with handling your carbon fiber sheet.
- Goggles should be worn at all times throughout this tutorial
- Some people are more sensitive to carbon fiber than others, it's a safe measure to wear a long sleeved shirt during this procedure
- Epoxy can permanently damage clothing. Make sure to be wearing an old outfit to avoid stains on your nice clothes!
Proper Disposal of Hazardous Materials:
There are two different cases of disposing the epoxy/cure:
1. In the case that the epoxy/cure has already hardened - you can throw away in the normal trash and no extra cautions need to be taken
2. If the epoxy/cure has been mixed but was not entirely used - make sure to throw away according to solid waste codes and you must consult charts for the proper disposal of solid hazardous waste
Keep in mind that any gloves that have touched the epoxy/resin mixture are also solid hazardous waste and must be disposed of as so!
Step 1: Gathering Your Materials
- Phone case that fits your phone
- Plastic wrap
- Saran wrap
- Glad Press and Seal
- Plaster (we use plaster of paris -- but any brand works)
- Carbon Fiber Sheet (Fibre Glast brand)
- 2 hour Epoxy resin and cure
- Wooden craft stick
- Dixie cups for mixing
- Solo cups for mixing
- Making tape
- Dremel Saw (with buffer and sawing heads)
- Vacuum pump
- Air tight vacuum bag
- Foam paint Brush
Here is a brief run down of a few key materials used throughout this tutorial:
1. Phone Case
You can use the phone case you already have! The molding process works best if you are using a hard/plastic case, but there are easy modifications you can make if the inside of your phone has a layer of softer material.
2. Plastic Wrap
On your work space you should set down a layer of plastic saran wrap to keep your surface clean. Plastic wrap works best because it cleans up quickly and won’t stick to your mold or epoxy while you’re working with it. In the molding process, you will be creating a layer between the case and the plaster so it’s easier to take the mold out. This layer is best made by using Glad Press’n Seal, as it will tightly grip and seal around the case!
Virtually any type of plaster can be used to create the mold. During this tutorial I will show you the mold that I made out of _______ plaster.
4. Carbon Fiber
A square of fiber a few inches bigger than each dimension of your phone is all that you need! Fibre glast brand carbon fiber is used throughout this tutorial.
5. Epoxy Resin/Cure
The epoxy used in this tutorial was a 2-hour epoxy, which means that it will harden in two hours upon mixing the epoxy resin and cure.
6. Foam Paint Brush
It’s important to use a foam paint brush rather than a brush with bristles. If you use a foam brush, you don’t have to worry the bristles falling out and becoming embedded in your epoxy.
The dremel saw is necessary to trim the edges of the carbon fiber after the epoxy has dried the final case into place. You’ll want a few different heads for the saw, one to cut and one to buff/smooth the edges.
Step 2: Setting Up the Mold
Before beginning anything, tape a layer of saran wrap to your work station to protect it from any of the materials you will be using in the upcoming steps.
- Line the inside of your current phone case with Glad Press’n Seal
- Leave a little extra lining wrapped over the sides to hold it in place
- As you are pressing down, don’t make any creases or leave air bubbles
- Remember, any imperfections that you see in your plastic wrap you will also be able to see on your mold!
- Corners may be difficult, so try your best to avoid wrinkles
- Gently push the plastic wrap through holes that may be on the phone case to exaggerate the hole (important for dremeling the case in later steps!)
Remember, although you have tried your best to create a case with no wrinkles, it is inevitable that there will be a few areas that aren’t smooth. You will have the chance to file down the mold after it hardens, so don’t worry too much about these areas!
Step 3: Plastering the Mold
- Place the phone you just wrapped on your work station
- Make sure to lay the phone on a level surface so the plaster dries evenly in the case
- Keep in mind that the plaster will begin drying quickly
- Begin pouring the plaster into the lined phone case
- Pause occasionally to level the plaster you're pouring in
- To level, pick the case straight up and shake lightly to even out the plaster
- Fill the case to the brim
- Leave mold to dry overnight to ensure that the plaster has completed hardened
Step 4: Removing the Mold
You don't want to break your mold after spending all that time plastering! So make sure you are careful during this step.
- Gently remove the plastered mold from your phone case
- Be careful, you don't want to crack either!
- Remove the layer of press and seal
You're now ready to lay your carbon fiber!
Step 5: Making the Carbon Fiber Case
Here comes the part you've been waiting for -- making your case!
Wrapping the carbon fiber onto your mold:
- Take a layer of wax paper and wrap it around your phone
- Tape the edges of the wax paper to the inside of your phone (the side where the screen would be)
- Cut a sheet of carbon fiber with dimensions about 1 inch longer and wider than your mold
- Carbon fiber threads unravel very easily, make sure that you tape down the corners of the piece you cut so that you don't unravel all your carbon fiber!
- Place the phone mold wrapped in wax paper onto the carbon fiber sheet
- Carefully wrap the carbon fiber tightly around the mold
- It is important to pay attention to the edges of your phone
- Tape down onto the screen, but make sure not to have any tape going over the edges of your phone!
- Any tape on the edges of your phone will be hardened into your case with the epoxy
Applying the epoxy:
- Make sure you are wearing nitrile gloves for the following steps!!!
- First you must make the epoxy -- follow the individual instructions on your bottles of epoxy/resin
- Apply the epoxy onto the phone case with a foam brush
- It is best to have a brush with no bristles as explained previously
- Smoothly apply the epoxy
- The next steps of this tutorial will be easier if you avoid putting epoxy on your tape
- Make sure there are no dry spots
- Make sure that you do not have epoxy dripping off
Step 6: Vacuuming the Mold
Now that you have your carbon fiber case that is covered in epoxy, follow the next steps:
- Take a vacuum bag that is open on only one side
- Open this side, and place your phone within the bag
- Place your phone as close to a corner or edge as possible, as this will help the vacuuming process
- Attach a vacuum hose to the middle of the bag as shown in the pictures
- Attach the hose to the vacuum and power on the vacuum
- Press down any air bubbles that occur on the phone surface
- Take a double sided vacuum bag adhesive and seal the open edge
- Remove the hose
- Leave the bag overnight to ensure the hardening of the epoxy
Step 7: Removing the Plaster Mold
Now that you have retrieved your case from the vacuum bag, follow the next steps to remove the plaster mold from your new carbon fiber case:
- Remove the tape
- Take a hammer or a heavy object and crack the plaster inside the carbon fiber casing
- Be careful not to crack your case
- Remove the plaster from the inside of your phone case
- There will be a layer of wax inside the carbon fiber
- Use the edge of a flathead screwdriver, or any other surface that you may have, to scrape off this wax paper
Step 8: Dremeling
In this step, please take all considerations to the safety procedures of operating a dremel and working with carbon fiber:
- Pull all hair back
- Wear gloves
- Wear a face mask (to avoid breathing in any carbon fiber
- Wear long sleeves
- Wear a lab jacket if you have one
- Attach the saw head of the dremel
- Cut out the shape of your phone case, removing any extra carbon fiber casing that may have been over the screen area
- Use a buffing head to smooth the edges and corners of the phone case
- You don't want any rough edges, so make sure that you buff well
- Take a drill head and drill in holes for your back camera, flash, volume control, and any other areas you may want access to
Step 9: Epoxy Finishing
This final step is adding a layer of epoxy to create a smooth finish on your phone!
- Again, create the epoxy with the instructions on your individual epoxy
- Apply a thin layer to your phone with a foam brush
- You want this to appear smooth and shiny, so do not add too much and do not leave any dry spaces
- Leave the epoxy to harden for the amount of time specified on your individual bottle of epoxy
Step 10: Congrats! You Have Made Your Phone Case
You now have a phone case that you can put on your phone!