Resin USB Drive

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Introduction: Resin USB Drive

About: Hi. I'm Ellen, PhD student by day and sewer/crafter/maker by night. I believe anyone can be a maker, so I post videos on YouTube about what I make and how I make it to offer some help. I believe that if you...

I had a couple of old USB drives lying around and decided to free them from their cases and give them a new life. Seeing the circuit boards made me think it was a shame to cover them up, so I decided to cast the USB drives in resin. This protects the circuit board without hiding it, giving a very cool look.

I had never cast epoxy before, so it was a bit of trial and error, but I figured it out in the end. I really like how they turned out. The epoxy is super clear and I love how they light up when they're in use!

What you'll need:

- old USB drives with the casing removed

- something to use as a mould

- epoxy resin

- digital scales

- gloves

- sandpaper up to 800 grit

- spray lacquer

- super glue (to fill any gaps)

- exacto knife (to trim the edges)

Step 1: Make a Mould

I dug around the house for something I could use as a mould and ended up with this plastic case for spare knife blades. I cut it up and glued two pieces together to close the bottom.

Step 2: Prepare the Mould for Casting

Most articles I read about casting resin in plastic moulds recommend using a special mould release spray, but I also came across a few other options. For my first try, I used pure petroleum jelly and a top coat of hairspray inside the mould.

Step 3: Mix and Pour the Resin

I'm using a clear epoxy resin, which needs to be mixed in a 2 to 1 ratio. After a good stir, I poured it into the mould and placed the USB drive inside. I used some clay to keep it from touching the bottom.

Step 4: Wait...

The drying time is supposed to be 24 hours, but it was still liquid the next day. Epoxy relies on the heat it generates to help it cure, so maybe the amount I'm using is simply too small. I set the mould on top of our room heater to see if that helped and the next day the resin had cured.

Step 5: Take It Out of the Mould

Popping the piece out of the mould was surprisingly easy. After removing the bottom I pushed a thin exacto blade between the mould and resin to allow some air in and then I could simply pull it out.

It looked really nice, but there were quite a few small air bubbles on the outside that had clung to the mould. There's also one side that didn't fill up completely. So for my second attempt I made the mould upside down, so the opening would be bigger. I used polymer clay to close it up around the USB drive.

I mixed up a new batch of resin and poured it in. I also added a bit more resin to the first one, to try and fill that hole.

This time I also used a small torch to get the air bubbles out. This was a bit tricky, since I didn't want to melt the mould. I also burned the clay a bit. But there were some big bubbles coming out, so it seemed to work.

I didn't use anything as a mould release this time. It was harder to remove from the mould, but still came out fine. No real difference in air bubbles though. The upside down mould may have worked against me there, trapping air below the USB drive.

Step 6: Superglue to the Rescue

There was a significant dip in the second casting where the resin was pulled towards the mould walls. A taller mould could have prevented that. Anyway, I can't really mix such a tiny bit of resin, so I tried filling the gap with superglue. That worked very well. You can see the transition line, but it's not very noticeable.

Step 7: Finishing: Sanding and Lacquer

To remove those air bubbles on the surface I worked my way through the sandpaper grits.

I went up to 800 grit, which made the surface feel very smooth. Once I dried them off though, they're not as clear anymore. So to finish them, I added a coat of spray lacquer.

And that's it. I love how these came out and had a lot of fun using resin to upcycle my old USB drives.

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    22 Discussions

    Hey, try using slower-setting resin. I'm no expert but word on the block has it that using a vacuum chamber and slowly allowing the bubbles to escape (then letting the air back in when the bubbles start reaching the edge of the container) has worked. I've watched a lot of TKOR so I suggest checking out the vacuum chamber and seeing how a slower-setting vs. faster setting resin works in the video "Hardest way to steal music". If your resin starts to boil at low temperatures, I suggest you lay off the blowtorch and do a little shaking and adding. Make sure to swirl your resin mix slowly and don't fold it over itself to minimize bubbles. Again, no on being a resin expert, but yes on watching lots of DIY videos and gathering advice.

    1 reply

    Thanks for the tips Andrei! I'm already looking forward to my next resin project :)

    Very cool project and I compliment you on your inventiveness. It is good to see a women who is doing this kind of projects. My vote is for you

    1 reply

    So how did u prevent the Epoxy from getting into the USB? Every time I try the resin wicks into the USB and blocks the pins. I’ve been using clay but cleaning out the usb after words is a real time consuming pain. Also try using vent holes where ur dip was. I push resin through until it fills the air hole and leaks out. Little post work needs done but no dips. Aka slicing off the extra

    1 reply

    I had no problem with the epoxy getting into the USB, the clay provided a good enough seal for me. I did have to clean some clay out afterwards but found that it wasn't too difficult with an exacto knife.

    Thanks for the tip regarding vent holes :)

    I used to work for scientific instruments company, and we would seal sodium iodide scintillators in open ended metal housings using epoxy resins. Air bubbles were a problem, but we would get rid of them by first putting the pourable resin in a vacuum. The bubbles would come right out.

    3 replies

    Also put the mold in a pressure chamber during curing works. Epoxy and urethane don’t really vacuum degas. That works best with silicon

    Thanks to both of you for the great tips! I don't have a vacuum or pressure chamber so I just went for it to see what the result would be. But those would really help with the bubbles :)


    Here you go. I mentioned this in a post earlier but here's the video regarding cheap vacuum chambers. Just don't let it overflow from your container.

    Hello, Is it possible to repair the device ? How to remove the resin in case of breakdown ?

    3 replies

    The resin is pretty permanent, no way to remove it except maybe cutting it off bit by bit, but that would be a lot of work and you'd risk damaging the components. But then, even if you could remove the case of a normal USB drive, I don't know if there would be anything you could fix if it broke? I'm not an electronics expert...

    Thank you. :-) More and more people want to repair and with some knowledge and the support of internet’s forums, it is possible to repair USB drive likelot of electronics think. Maybe you could try to find a formula which allows to repair in spite of your project?

    USB drives are rather small, lots of things can break, and they're hard to fix (if at all). I had a USB with my first ever Minecraft mod on it. The USB itself had a little LED so I decided I wanted a bigger one. I didn't realize the repercussions of power draw at the time, and my computer yelled at me that I overdrew current. I've dug up a lot of stuff on NAND and Flash storage but I never had a machine-gun bow from my mod again. Moral of story: Lots of things can break in a USB. I suggest you have a sort of "RAID" for your USBs. A few duplicates of your information should be enough.

    Nicely done! You got my votes for this one!

    1 reply

    Great idea! I love seeing the insides of electronic stuff.

    I've used Envirotex, a casting resin often used in crafts. With it, you can use an electric heat tool (also used in crafts) or a small butane torch to carefully heat and pop the bubbles.

    Great idea, protects the components and it looks cool.
    I voted for this one.

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    abomin

    4 months ago

    Looks pretty even with the bubbles!