I have been using those thin plastic cases for housing my ID card and have not been having much luck. Since I was going through about one per month, I decided a solution was needed. I wanted to use a sturdy material that I could possibly find for free. The scrap metal bin at Techshop seemed to be a good solution.
Once I had the material, I just had to gather the necessary tools.
Step 1: Tools and Supplies
Rotary Tool (Dremel)
Various grit sandpaper - I used 120, 220, and 320
Sheet Steel ( I used 16 gauge, but much thinner will work)
Step 2: Measuring and Cutting the Basic Shape
To get the basic shape and size of the case, I traced my id card onto the steel, then added 3/8 " onto left, right, top and bottom. And of course, you will need to cut out two of this shape for a back and a front.
After some quick work with a straight shear, the rectangles come out no problem.
Step 3: Cutting Out the Viewing Window
I sandblasted (sand paper also works) both pieces at this point to get a clean surface for when I eventually get to spot welding them.
I then traced my card again on one of the rectangles I cut out. I made sure to trace it centered left to right, but about an 1/8 " low top to bottom. This is to leave some space for the lanyard or clip to attach to.
Now you can start cutting out the traced pattern with your dremel and a cutting wheel. I just played it by eye, since I was not too concerned with exact placement, But I cut about 1/10" inside the square. The card will need a small lip of material to hold it in place.
I put it in the sandblaster one more time just to quickly remove the marker ink.
Step 4: Rounding the Corners
Next I used a Beverly Shear to round off all the corners. This design is completely up to you, but I did one wide arc on the top and individually rounded corners on the bottom.
In order to make sure both sides had the same curves, I cut the front first to a pleasing shape, then traced this onto the back plate.
After the shear, I quickly went over these with a bench grinder just to smooth them out.
Step 5: Cutting Spacers and Spot Welding
In order for the card to be able to slide in and out with ease, you need to have some spacers to spot welded on. I cut some spacers out of 16 gauge steel, and they worked well for me. Be sure to check the thickness of your card compared to the spacers before weld them together.
I welded a spacer onto the left, right, and bottom of one side ( the front in my case, but it does not matter which side you choose).
Now you just need to sandwich the spacers between the two pieces of metal and spot weld again. The weld may not be quite as strong since you are going through three pieces of metal, but it should not matter on such a low stress application like this.
Step 6: Cutting Out the Clip/Lanyard Hole
To do this part you will need your nice rotary tool again. You can just use the cutting wheel and cut out a slot wide/tall enough for your lanyard.
The vertical cuts will be much shorter than the horizontal cuts. This means the cutting wheel may not cut deep enough (through the material) before it cuts to tall of a slot. I ended up drilling holes on the right and left side, then cut out the metal between to avoid this problem.
Step 7: Making a Smooth Finish
This step is optional and not completely necessary, but I wanted to give the metal a little bit smoother feel. I went ahead and used an orbital sander to sand it with 120 grit, 220 grit, and 320 grit. This gives it the shine and smoothness I was looking for.
Step 8: Last Notes
My badge does have an RFID chip in it. One thing that I noticed is that the RFID can not be scanned through the metal back plate. You could drill a series of holes, or cut out a large viewing hole like you did on the front side if you would like to avoid this. It still reads through the front, so it was not a big deal for my application.
If you would like something other than the raw metal look, or simply a little more protection, powder coating is a great option for something like this.