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Do you own an expensive phone, gadget or camera and can’t find a case? That’s a common problem nowadays with the huge variety of gizmos on the market. Fortunately, you can craft your own protective gear from relatively inexpensive and simple materials.

I found four design styles for creating your own case using Sugru, a Flubber-like substance. The four styles: Adding a full bumper, bumper nubs, zebra stripes and an artistic design. Of the four, I went with using a full bumper – this turned out to be a mistake. And my craft skills suck.

The Materials

You don’t have to use Sugru. You can construct cases from almost any substance. Rubber, though, makes for a more shock absorbent material than, say, a 3D-printed case. When it comes to protecting your devices, there are three primary standouts:

  • Sugru: Sugru is an air-curing rubber substance, which can mold into any shape. It’s also shock-absorbing, making it perfect for treating delicate electronics. On the downside, it lasts only six months inside its packaging (if unrefrigerated) before becoming unusable. It’s also relatively expensive.

white sugru

  • Polycaprolactone: Polycaprolactone is produced by a variety of brand names, including Instamorph. It is a heat sensitive, remoldable plastic. While it takes a great deal more effort to prepare, polycaprolactone’s long shelf-life, cost and reusability make it a close competitor to Sugru.
  • Silicon rubber: It’s also possible to mold your own cases and protective gear using silicon rubber – however, this requires the use of molds and a great deal of skill.

The Full Bumper

This is the method that I used – inadequately I might add – to create a bumper for my father’s Blu Dash 4.5 Can The Cheap Blu Dash 4.5 Android Smartphone Compare With The Nexus 4? Can The Cheap Blu Dash 4.5 Android Smartphone Compare With The Nexus 4? Blu Products just released the Blu Dash 4.5, an unlocked quad core Android 4.2 smartphone for $139.99. For budget devices, it offers great value: The phone features all the components of a modern smartphone, and despite its... Read More . Blu Products produced the Dash in relatively small numbers, meaning no case is forthcoming. Rather than risking a fatal accident, I picked up a package of Sugru and got started.

I created my bumper taking the following steps from the Sugru website:

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  • First, after opening its package, knead the Sugru substance for a minute and a half. This will strengthen the substance. You will need about 20-30 grams, according to these instructions.
  • Second, cover the phone in plastic wrap (saran wrap), adhering it in place using tape.

saran wrapped phone

  • Third, measure the distance around the case.
  • Fourth, roll the Sugru into a thin cord, the same distance as the length around your case.
  • Fifth, wrap the cord around the phone, making sure to press it into the sides of the case. A close fit will help keep the bumper adhered to your phone.

sugru applied

The final product came out looking amateurish and poorly formed.

Another issue is that my phone’s power button, volume rocker, microphone and USB got covered up by the Sugru and there’s not enough room to cut holes. On the plus side, I can easily remove the bumper and access the phone’s battery and ports. Overall, it offers decent protection, but I would prefer a specialized case.

For reference, this is what the tutorial’s bumper looked like:

full bumper

And this is what mine looks like:

my ghetto bumper

The Artistic Case

Flickr user Pauric‘s iPhone case is easily among the most sophisticated and beautiful, makeshift or commercially produced. He wraps several different colors of Sugru around his smartphone, resulting in a flame-like pattern. Additionally, he adds a reinforced rubber case for drop protection.

While this particular style of case appealed to me because it enhanced the phone’s grip, it requires a great deal of skill to pull off. Also, in terms of the cost, it can cost a bit more than the alternatives. However, this is the sort of eye-catching case that make you the envy of your friends.

artistic case

The Sugru Nub Bumpers

This is the easiest to make out of all the available options. Just take four pieces of Sugru, make little bumpers out of them. The placement covers all four corners of a smartphone, protecting it from drops onto flat surfaces, such as concrete.

On the downside, it won’t protect from falls onto uneven surfaces. Also, the little nubs have a tendency to come off, under pressure – such as sliding the phone out of your pocket.

nub bumpers

Zebra Stripes

Sugru and polycaprolactone will stick to plastic if molded against it and air-cured. Some of the more handy designs are a striping pattern, which help protect the phone by giving it better grip and impact protection. On the other hand, coating your device in Sugru costs money.

zebra stripes

Conclusion

For smartphones without cases, it’s easy creating your own. While all of these examples use Sugru, you can substitute the cheaper polycaprolactone for most of these recipes. And if you can access molding, you can even use liquid silicone.

Does anyone else love building their own smartphone cases? Please share in the comments.

Image Credits: iPhone Spiral Case by Pauric via Flickr

  1. Ben Wade
    October 5, 2013 at 12:09 am
  2. Weyrleader
    September 10, 2013 at 3:17 am

    Why not substitute OoVoo (search for it on instructibles.com) for Sugru. It's ALOT cheaper, and you can make the whatever amount you'll need in the consistancy you need, in the color you want not what the Sugru company thinks is the right color.

  3. Randy
    September 3, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    One word: upgrade. You keep talking about how expensive the materials are, and you're using a phone too obscure to have cases available? Save the $ for the silly putty and buy a new phone--time to retire that Razr!

  4. Scott B
    August 30, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Why would you want to make your phone look ridiculous. You can buy a cheap case that looks great.

    • Kannon Yamada
      August 30, 2013 at 6:34 pm

      Good question - they don't sell cases for my phone. There's actually a lot of low production phones that don't have cases available. :-(

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