How to 3D-print a phone case: the choice of 3D model and material


There are many accessories for smartphones, but how do you find something exclusive, something that no one else has? For example, an unusual case? A truly original thing will have to create itself. And additive technology and devices for creating three-dimensional objects will help.

Print cases for the phone on a 3D printer

The choice of material for printing depends on what will be a protective accessory for the phone. Then you need to consider whether the 3D-printer is able to work with the necessary filament. And already then you can deal with the design of the cover.


What model to give preference to?

To protect the body of the smartphone, there are three different accessories:

The case itself, which is a “shell” hiding the back cover and all four sides;
Cover, hiding the back area and two edges – left and right;
A bumper that only covers the edges and leaves the back cover open.
All three models are suitable for 3D printing, but there are a few nuances. The bumper is a kind of frame, and it is not easy to make it exclusive. And it is for the sake of obtaining a unique result and decided to create the product with their own hands.

This leaves the case and the bumper. For both of them you can think of an unusual design – the canvas for imagination will be the area covering the back of the phone.

photo cases

What material to choose?

Case fits snugly around the body of your smartphone, but at the same time, to insert and remove the phone from the case, you do not need to make any special effort. These requirements are met by flexible materials – thermoplastic polyurethane, copolyester and other copolymers. For printing flexible phone covers are suitable filaments such as TPU, TPE and TPC, as well as PVA and Flex.

Important. Before making the final choice of material, you should check the capabilities of the printing device. Working with elastic filament requires special modes: temperature, blowing, speed. You need to make sure that the printer can support them.

The overlay snaps onto the ends of the smartphone body, which means that its bending edges must be both resilient and strong. Undoubtedly, the leader in strength is Nylon, but the shrinkage of the material is enormous. In order to guess the size of the overlay, you will need to print several test pieces. The second disadvantage is high hygroscopicity, and the material must be dried before printing. And third, the extruder temperature should not be lower than 250 °C.

The optimal choice is PETG. It is a strong, resilient material with minimal shrinkage and average requirements for printer settings: printing temperature – 235 °C.

How do I print a phone case on a 3D printer?

You can find the ready-made 3D model in the community banks, uniting the users of the printers. But to become the owner of an exclusive case, you need to build your own digital prototype. The process of creating an accessory includes several stages:

  • Measuring the dimensions of the smartphone.

Attention! For a cover made of elastomers, the dimensions are taken without correction, hard plastic will require adjusting the scale to leave a small gap between the body and the protection.

  • Drawing a digital 3D prototype in the appropriate program. The most difficult stage, which requires modeling skills.
  • Modifying the 3D model according to the design you have thought up – making a shaped cut-out, applying patterns, inscriptions, monograms and other distinctive details.
  • Converting the object into an STL file and sending it to the slicer to prepare it for printing.

Recommendation. To check if the dimensions are the same, print a test product without any design tricks. If errors are noticed, they will be easier to correct in the prototype, which lacks drawings, cut-outs and other artistic details.

Printing mistakes and how to avoid them

The most common mistake is choosing the wrong material. For example, a PLA pad will lose its shape when the phone body gets very hot during active use. PETG cases have sides that can break if they are too thin. Thin-wall models should be printed from elastic materials, and resilient plastic should be chosen taking into account the maximum temperature of the smartphone.

The second mistake is incorrect modeling. When incorporating design details, the pairing of individual elements was not taken into account, dimensions were not maintained, no correction was made for the type of filament (whether there is shrinkage, what is its value). If you do not have the skills to create digital spatial objects, it is worth downloading a ready-made model of the cover.

And the third problem is incorrect slider settings. If you choose the wrong thickness of layers, temperature of extruder and table, or make a mistake in the settings of filling percentage and printing speed, the product may turn out to be brittle. If you don’t have enough experience in working with slicers, it helps to avoid such problems by printing several test pieces with different program settings.


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