dip trip

Debranded, personalized USB key made using dip-trip process.

This idea began when I saw an article in Popular Science a couple months ago about de-branding and personalizing a generic USB key by breaking off the manufacturer's case and dipping the exposed circuity in Plasti-Dip. I had a cheap 128 MB Dell memory key, as pictured below, and I was excited to try it, but as in all things that I do, I wanted to bring my own creative twist to it.

128 MB Dell USB flash memory drive reconfigured in this project.

The factory case was pried open and removed with a small flat-blade screwdriver. The exposed circuitry was dipped in yellow Plasti-Dip, and allowed to dry. It was then dipped again, in blue Plasti-Dip, and slightly (~1mm) less deeply than before. This cycle was repeated, with about one dipping per day, until the entire length of the drive had been "striped," as shown in the photos.

Plasti-Dip product used in this process.

About halfway through it was realized that each layer of dip was adding ~1mm to the end of the key, and thus that the process could potentially go on forever. Thereafter, care was taken to wipe off any material accumulating at the bottom of the key in order to maintain a constant length. The key was covered after 30 layers.

Front and back of USB key after case removal and 30 layers alternating blue and yellow Plasti-Dip.

The resulting key was bulbous, awkward, and somewhat ugly. An initial attempt was made to carve the key down to size using a new hobby knife blade, with little success. Dried Plasti-Dip is tough yet pliable and is surprisingly resistant to cold-cutting. Only when a hot knife was employed did carving become practical.

Carving the layered Plasti-Dip using my homemade hot knife.

Using the hot knife, the key was whittled down to a more manageable shape and size, thereby fortuitously exposing the strata of multi-layered Plasti-Dip in a striated pattern suggestive of wood grain, as shown.

Front and back views of USB key after hot-carving, showing striated 'grain' pattern.

In the future I hope to use this technique to create a custom handle on a knife blade blank. I will post more details on this project as it proceeds.