Heya, I made a custom dock made out of plastic for the Desire Z that fits the Otterbox case. I know it's not manufacture quality, but it's something that is hand made with almost no real professional tools. I made a post about this on the XDA forums but would like to copy/paste it here for people to check out.
This project is done with:
Wax Carving set
Hot water (145 degrees)
Ikea metal handles
Left Angle Micro USB extender
Here's the full post. Be aware, it is very long and I tried to put as much detail in it as possible. Updates are Bolded. Scroll down to see it.
So looking around, it is obvious that there is no such thing as a dock that fits the G2/Desire Z equipped with an Otterbox. I have heard of a material called Friendly Plastic which is very malleable when prepped but when it hardens, it becomes a very strong plastic. I'm thinking of creating a custom cradle that will fit the Desire Z with the otterbox which will include a charger as well. So I'm going to be buying the material from Amazon and see if I can mold the plastic into a dock that custom fits my phone with the otterbox on.
I'll give updates as I work on this project. It might take a month or two since I am doing my Master's degree, an internship and also working on a film for school (we go into production this week [in fact equipment check out is tommorrow and we shoot thursday]). I'll try to get this thread updated as I work on it so stay tuned.
Ordered parts to create a custom dock. I looked around for Friendly Plastic which is extremely hard to find in California (specifically in the LA area). I found on amazon.com a similar item called Instamorph which I checked their website. It is extremely well planned and pretty much the same item but much cheaper.
Now if you delve into their site, they show you how to do it and towards the bottom of the page, there is also a "techniques" page where you can do some pretty cool stuff with the material at an advanced level:
They sell specifically via Amazon. If you spend over 25 bucks in on amazon, you might be able to get the super saver shipping, so if you plan any shopping, add this along for free shipping.
another item I bought is a Left Angle Micro USB Extender.
Now this guy is extremely rare and pretty expensive if you get it custom made.
I found a site called which sells various types of usb and firewire cables for an ok price. I'm saying that it is ok because it is a very unique type of cable that I am looking for therefor it seems to work best for me. This is the one I got:
2 things to note here: a custom made cable would cost $50, but the one I got cost me a little under 13 bucks.
Another note is that I got the 5inch length cable because I don't want to spend too much time trying to fit 3 feet of cable inside a dock of malleable plastic. I plan on utilizing as little space as humanly possible to give it the cleanest look.
Currently I have spent: $22.45 + $16.45 = $38.90
This seems like alot but it's because again, it is custom.
Once I get it, I will give more updates.
I just received the stuff, both of them. So I can say that they shipped really fast. I'm going to start making a test trial run of the Instamorph pellets and get used to it before I make the actual dock.
This is the Instamorph and what the pellets look like:
The 5 Inch Micro USB Extender:
2 hours later:
1) 150 degrees Fahrenheit is a very low heat level. On my electric stove, it was around a 3 or 3.5 out of 10.
2) Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT have any of the Instamorph beads touch ANYTHING PLASTIC (this includes the otterbox, plastic cutting sheets, saran wrap, anything that you even think might be plastic). Instamorph can and will stick itself to any plastic material especially when it's closer to the 140-150 degree temperature. It is much safer when it's much much cooler. (you can find this out by touch. if it starts to resist molding, then it is probably safe to attempt an imprint, but you should test it with the smooth side of your otterbox. It will take several tries)
This is what happens when you get impatient:
3) Find a surface that is smooth (glazed surface is good).
4) Use metal equipment. Instamorph will NOT stick to metals, so using any material such as a metal spatula or a metal ruler to get hard edges. if you have a good non plastic cutting surface, you can use a knife or blade to cut it for corners and use your fingers to give it an edge.
5) find a curved edge (again non plastic) that you can mold the initial part of the plastic to get a rough shape.
6) You will constantly place the plastic back into the pot to make it soft again if you're doing alot of changes and shaping. You get on average 2 minutes of molding until it gets too hard to mess with.
1 hour later (dinner):
Ok, now that I am back from dinner:
Today I focused on creating the rough shape of the dock. I'm starting from the part that cradles the phone.
First of all, I set my stove on low. I am at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. When you boil the pellets, this is when you pull it out:
Use tongs or something to take out the mass. If you think you're a badass and want to do it with your bare hands, you are most certainly welcome to do so. Here's another look of it when it's pulled out:
I then use the backing piece as a reference. I treated this mass like play-do. I rolled it and then spread it out on the counter surface. Here I force it into a larger mass that is about 3/4 cm thick.
I waited for the mass to cool down to a semiwhite color before I take a spatula to press down on the edges to get a flat boundary. This is what it looks like when it cools down completely:
Note that you see a notch on the bottom right. This is because when you open up the silicone port for the micro USB, it is a small flap. I use this as a reference piece so that I can create a gap for the flap to slide in so it goes straight into the slot without damaging anything.
The next part is to create the side guides to help you glide the phone in when you lock it down.The first part that I worked on is the right side of the cradle which is the bottom part of the phone. Here i created a long rectangle piece. I then use the edge of my kitchen counter (which is rounded, almost circular) to create a preliminary curve. I then measured the general area of it to how high it would guide the phone.
Originally I was planning to have it go all the way up to the end of the phone but I decided it was a bad idea and cut the side down to about halfway to allow me to grab it from the top half.
Now I worked on the left side (top of the phone). Here I noticed that there is a silicone cover for the headphones, so I decided to have the guide as tall as where the silicone port is at.
Now that I have done all that, This is all extremely rough work. Once I assemble the pieces that does not have the Micro USB port, I'll be sanding them down and smoothing it out so it looks better. Here's the general look of how it will be fitted in for now.
First of all this is only the part that the back of the phone will be sliding down. I am planning to create the bottom part that will house the Micro USB cable and the back piece that will hold the backing upright as the back base.
END OF DAY 1.
I will update on a later time. I am on set from 5:30am to 5:30pm so I might have time to work on the next step, but right now I might update this thread next week depending on how much time I have. I am currently juggling an internship, class, film production, post production, and moving to a new apartment (has to be done by the end of this month) so I might not update for a while. Hopefully I can work on it soon.
Small Update: 04/05/11:
After having an extremely hard time molding the material with a spatula and the kitchen counter, I finally caved in and bought a set of clay sculpting tool. (Link: Amazon.com: SE Pick Set, 12Pc: Office Products ). I'm waiting for it to come in the mail.
Another update to this is that I switched my method for creating the dock. I decided to start from the bottom first. I created the base for the dock by creating the first layer, this is where the general layout of where the microUSB cable will be laying on. Then I worked on creating smaller pieces that fit around the first base that sculpts itself around the cable. I'll be posting some pictures sometime later when I have more time.
April 26 2011:
I should've updated this a long time ago, but my internship has finally come to an end so I had enough time to give an update.
First thing I did was make use of the tool set that I received via Amazon from the above mentioned link:
Now with the use of these tools, I start to put the dock in parts and layers.
The first thing I did was create parts of the first layer, combined them into one piece, then finally heat them in the water pot just long enough to get a small amount of the whole surface moldable without damaging the core structure.
From that I create the next layer which is the top layer:
note here that the top piece (with the weird looking hole in it is made to accommodate the silicone flap that covers the port that comes with the otterbox case.
the last piece hasn't been change too much because I'm still trying to decide if I should have a backing piece for the phone or have a "well" that holds the phone just from the bottom.
the layers will be secured through 4 small metal bolts (the ones that you get from Ikea furniture that feature adjustable shelves [the small metal bolt thingies that you can remove and adjust.])
Another thing to note with this is that when using the pottery tools, you can easily dip the tips in the hot water for 5-10 seconds to heat it up and allow custom targeted molding at parts you specifically want.
Here are some more pics of the parts as I molded them.
So for the past few days I've been tweaking with the design and finding methods to give it a more defined look. While I was at Ikea, I came across these handle pieces that were meant for a particular furniture. They had 90degree angles, metal, straight. So I bought that and use it as a partial mold when I shaped the edges. After working about 6 hours over the course of 2 days, I have come pretty close to what I want before I finish it with sanding and a way to put it together.
Here are the pics of what I have ended up with so far. I still need to sand it, and also figure out a way to combine the pieces without encasing the cable permanently.
Here are the two pieces separated:
This is the bottom piece on where the connector pointed upwards
This is the bottom with the cable in it
This is what the pieces will look when put together (assuming that I can find out a way to combine them together [non permanently])
This is the dock with my phone in it (notice the rubber bands. It's only a temporary measure to keep it together). And It's charging! that means the connection is secure!
This is the side view from the right side
This is the side view from the left side
top view of the dock
From this point, I'd like to ask your help and suggestions as to how I can put the two pieces together to so that if anything happens, I can open it up and replace the cable again. I'm also considering the opportunity if in the far future when I happen to replace my Desire Z I can always remold the piece without doing extensive damage to the cable if it happens to survive.
My next steps are as follows:
Add a piece in the back to support the weight of the phone.
Sand and prep the surface to make it smooth.
Create a method to hold the 2 pieces together
potentially spray paint it to a specific color
Any suggestions would be great since this is my first ever project that is building a custom material.
5/29/11 - 99.90% completed!!!!!
After spending roughly 6 hours on it, I have managed to finish the dock!!!
The first thing I did was to drill 5 holes into the dock to place the metal pin. I started by drilling with a 1/16 drill bit as a guide. and finally followed up with a 3/16 drill bit. I drilled from the bottom piece with the 2 pieces together but stopped part of the way through the top piece because it was unnecessary to drill all the way through. This is for the metal pins to place in between the pieces.
After that I worked on just the top piece and drilled just deep enough for the pin to fit in flush.
Went back to the bottom piece to cover up the holes by using the plastic pieces that got pulled up as I drill to fill in the bottom hole and using the rounded end of one of the clay sculpting tools to jam pack it back down to the bottom to ensure a strong fit.
I then combine the 2 pieces together to see the fit. I noticed that I failed to account for the notch between the pin so I went back to the hot pot and heated up the inside surface of the bottom piece and placed the metal pins in and pushed it in so the notch sinks below the surface (with the help of a hammer [and no, don't go "HULK SMASH" on it, just tap it lightly]).
From that point, I tweaked the fit with the cable inside of it and by looking through the gap, I either added or removed plastic parts so that it finally closes completely.
After that is all done, I started with a 60 grit sand paper (with a hand sanding tool) and worked on ALL the surfaces and sanded until I got 99% of the surfaces rough
I then go back and refit the metal pins to make sure that the pieces still fit and see if I need to make tweaks (which I did since at 60grit, it takes away quite abit of plastic).
I did a little more tweaking with the plastic. Adding and removing as necessary to make it fit flush.
After all that is done, I go back and worked on all the surfaces again with a 150grit sandpaper to give it a smoother finish. and finally finished it off with a 220 grit sand paper.
A good hour and a half later of hand sanding it and sore back and arms the surface is as smooth as a 220grit sand paper can offer.
The last thing I did was reheated the hot pot to around 145 degrees Fahrenheit. I took apart the dock again and this time placed it in the hotpot for around 10 seconds. Just enough for the malleable plastic to "shrink" back into the plastic and give it a smooth finish.
After it's done, I ran the pieces through cold water to set the plastic and put the whole thing together.
Below are the pics of what I have done (again, these are thumbnails. Click on it for full size):
All the pieces completely disassembled. 5 metal pins. 2 plastic parts. Left Angle micro usb extender
Metal pins inserted into the bottom piece
Dock completely assembled
My phone on it
Landscape mode! (and notice that it's charging! So the cables work!)
Finally, I have one thing to ask of you guys. Should I leave the dock to look as it is or should I do something about it?
I am thinking about either spray painting it or buy a "skin" (think DecalGirl skins) and cut out the pieces to fit around it.
Tell me what you guys think and what you can think of to make it better! Thanks!
oh yeah, and I finally did something about the back piece of my otterbox when it got screwed up. I did the sandpaper treatment on it and here's what it looks like now: