Robotic Claw Business Card




About: Artist in Residence at Pier 9, currently exploring a vast array of new tools with which to injure myself.
Business cards are for business people. And nothing shows you mean business like a robotic claw.

Here's how I made my latest business card, which doubles as a convenient gripping device for when you don't want to handle other people's dirty, less mechanical business cards.

It's standard business card size (3.5" by 2") and just over one sixteenth of an inch in thickness, making it slightly chunky but still easy to slip into a wallet. Its various components were laser-cut from two different thicknesses of card then glued together.

A good business card should be something that nobody wants to throw away. Hopefully these cards are amusing enough that people will hang onto them for years, occasionally digging them out of their desk drawers so that they can pretend to be killer robots when nobody's looking. Then, once they've subconsciously built a connection between me and killer robots, they'll offer me a job. Seems like a foolproof plan to me.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Starting the Design

The trickiest part of this project, as is often the case, was the design stage. I started with an idea in my mind of a business card that involved gears and that could move in an interesting way, but very little beyond that. I knew that it had to meet the following specifications:

  1. Must be able to fit on a 3.5" by 2" business card
  2. Must not be unreasonably thick
  3. Must have room on which to print an email address and a logo
  4. Must have one simple lever or slider by which to control the mechanism

At first, I expected Number 1 on this list to cause the biggest problems, as 7 square inches really didn't sound like much space for a set of working gears. After a bit of playing with the laser cutter and some scrap card, however, I found I was able to cut effective gears which were incredibly small. I'm fairly sure that it would be possible to make this card half its current size without any functional problems. To design the gears, I used a wonderful piece of software made by Matthias Wendel, called Gear Template Generator. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in cutting their own gears, whatever the size and material.

Another factor that helped with this size constraint was the realisation that, while the mechanism had to fit within a business card when inactive, there was nothing stopping it from overreaching the card's boundaries once the mechanism was deployed.

Number 2 on the list then became the most limiting, as I soon realised that all my gears and levers would have to fit onto a single plane to prevent the card becoming a brick. I played around with different types of card and decided that the best way to build this card would be to use three layers: a thin base layer, a thick, rigid inner layer containing the mechanism, and a thin surface layer.

One morning, while I was sketching ideas for this project, someone showed me a video of a 3D printed grabber mechanism and the rest of the idea just fell into place.

Step 2: Designing the Components

When I had the basic layout of the card clear in mind mind, I started drawing it in Adobe Illustrator. I plotted the three layers individually, then repositioned them to see how well they would fit together when the mechanism was deployed.

Step 3: Cutting the Components

To cut the components out of card I sought the help of my old friend, the Epilog laser cutter.

For the base layer and the surface layer, I used thin white art card. For the inner layer, I used thicker white mounting board.

Step 4: Sorting the Components

I then carefully laid out the three layers to see that they all fit together.

Step 5: Checking the Mechanism

I double-checked that everything lined up neatly by posing the innards in various positions.

Step 6: Gluing the Innards

Once I was sure everything was in order, I started gluing the inner layer to the base layer with superglue, taking care not to accidentally glue down any of the moving parts.

Step 7: Attaching the Surface

With the superglue dry and all of the moving parts in position, I needed to attach the surface layer to hold it all together. Superglue has a tendency to leach through paper and make it wrinkle in an unsightly manner, so I used paper cement for this step.

Step 8: The Finished Card

As soon as the glue was dry, I had myself a fun little business card!

Where next? I'm considering trying to make a set of five business cards that combine to form a Voltron-like robot... This one might take a while.

4th Epilog Challenge

Participated in the
4th Epilog Challenge

1 Person Made This Project!


  • Made with Math Contest

    Made with Math Contest
  • Cardboard Speed Challenge

    Cardboard Speed Challenge
  • Multi-Discipline Contest

    Multi-Discipline Contest

113 Discussions


2 years ago



3 years ago

Really interesting!!

Thank you!

Dear Sir,

Same message as Mac1997. Would you accept making 11 for me ???? I would pay you. How much would you want ? because I can't make these because of my computer.
Congratulations ! and Best Wishes



7 years ago on Introduction

Could make me one for me? I would pay you . how much would you want Great idea. I can't make one of these my self cause my computer doesn't download PDF files and I don't have a local laser cutting place.
Greatest regards

1 reply

Reply 4 years ago

how are you?

i will make it for you

where are you from?


6 years ago on Introduction

hi ! i really liked your design , i´m love make this kind of things and for that decided built the mine, I built which whit cards of SIM card (I dont know if i said well), is a few most small what the original and i modeled whit the drill an DREMEL, sanding and polishing took me a time until get of all pieces , thanks for share your ideas, i leave the pictures


Dapper Hippo

7 years ago on Introduction

This site offers a solution to many of your precision cutting needs for those who cannot afford a laser cutter.

A laser cutter, while enormously useful and cool, is not necessary for this project. I was able to cut the pieces both by hand and by using the machine above.


8 years ago on Introduction

my computer won't download the eps file, so I can't send it to a custom laser cutting company, so could you post the vector drawing file instead, and if so, is it compatable with inkscape?

thanks for your time and project, that wouldn't help a 13 year-old like me, that I respect so much!

8 replies

I'm also 13 (high five!), but I was wondering what laser company you're sending that to. I had a hard time finding one. I saw one, but it was for bigger things and it charged like $100 an hour. I need to find one for all of these awesome projects that use laser cutters! Thanks, Thomasthetankengine

im not exactly sure of the prices or anything, but there's a website called where people with laser cutters and 3d printers and stuff can do other stuff for you. The website has a map with fabricators around the world.

I forget what it was called, but it never asked for any kind of payment, and it never showed up.It was cheap(cost based on size, I think it was between $10 and $20 for this) and did small pieces out of less-than-1/2-inch thick(your choice) sheets of a material(also your choice, and if they didn't have the material you wanted, they would ship it to their facility from another company)

Thanks, sounds awesome. Do you know of a way I could find it? I would love to find a place like that I can get laser jobs done. If not, that's ok. I think there's one in my neighborhood (?)

I have the files and if you need them email me at: any way, cool project. :)


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

I've uploaded PDF and SVG versions of the vector files to Step 2. Hopefully they're more useful to you!


7 years ago on Introduction

I would do this, but my dad sold his awesome laser cutter... It wouldn't do what he needed it to do so he sold it :(

Dapper Hippo

7 years ago on Introduction

This is so cool! What a great way for your business cards to stand out.