Librem5 silicone cover

I do not own any 3D-printer, but we have copy shops in Munich for this. They charge 10 Euro per printing hour. What do you think, how long your design as STL file will take for printing?

The only printing I have done is on consumer-grade printers with PLA, and I currently don’t have “hobbiest” access to one. I would conservatively estimate that it could be done in 2-3 hours? Anyone else have a guess, or can run it through some software to check? They might tell you if you send the file to the copy shop.


Stuff like this is never 3D printed.
This would be very expensive, but most of all you’re significantly limited in choice of material and quality.
3D printing silicone is very hard, the few printers that can do it are very expensive and barely available.
I find it highly unlikely to get a adequate quality silicone cover via 3D printing.

To do it right would be to have a specialized company produce it, via a molding process.
For that you’d just have to provide them with the specification and they will produce a mold (which is the expensive part) once, and can do several thousand hulls using that mold.
For a one-off, this would cost a lot of money, but if there would be an order of maybe 1000 pieces, the cost would go down to under 20 dollars per cover.
Also, ordering more would be cheaply possible.

If Purism doesn’t plan to do it, I think the most realistic way of producing covers would be to do another crowd funding, for example on Crowdsupply, and contract a company to do it.
For example:


You could 3d print in a cheap material (PLA) then make a mould from that to cast from. 3D printing makes the prototyping phase much more available and less expensive than it used to be. This allows each person the option to make their own mould and cast to the level of quality and precision they desire.

Sure, you could do that, but no hobbyist level printer does get a near acceptable quality to cast a mold.
The steps would be to model your cover, print it, finish it by hand, make a clay mold, and use that to cast a silicone cover.

But let’s just forget about the 3D printing hype for a moment: Instead of costly and slow printing, you could just use an aluminum block and use a hobbyist CNC router to directly make a much higher quality mold that could actually be used to form silicone.
It’s still no trivial task, silicone is hard to work with, not least because of the very high temperatures required.

In any case, there are a variety of methods that could be used to make covers (hard plastics are much easier than soft silicone), but it seems to me that 3D printing would be at the end of the list of useful tools to do that.
Just because everything you have is a hammer, it doesn’t mean that every problem is a nail.

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I totally agree about the silicone – I’m not suggesting printing in that, that was just the material assumed by the poster that started the thread. Thermoplastic elastomers (TPEs), and specifically thermoplastic urethane (TPU) however, are good materials for making phone covers/cases (my last 3 cases for two phones are TPU (and the oldest lasted 3-4 years before cracking). Online services such as do print in TPU, and a single printing of my design costs ~$77, so yes, it’s also quite expensive.
BUT! If 100 are ordered, the price drops to ~$15 per cover, which is still pricey, but (I would say) a manageable price. I would also agree that Purism has no interest in going into the phone cover printing business.
SO – I would say that if we want a (relatively) affordable cover, we’re going to have to do crowd funding, as tg_gpm suggests, to pay someone like 3Dhubs to print us some TPU covers. tg_gpm, would you be willing to do this? Please? I unfortunately don’t have the bandwidth for something like this now.


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Since this product has no pics , does it mean that we are to wait for them to make it after the specs - dimensions are confirmed by Purism?

I dunno … just saw it … Thought it was worth posting . someone should buy one and see what shows up


Also , kinda interesting that they have “availability dates” just a week from now. Do they know what we don’t or just a bold guessing? :slight_smile:
Though, would be more encouraging it was “shipped by Amazon”
But then, that would mean they already have it on stock… :slight_smile:

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IDK, but at this point I’m convinced that they will start shipping 1st of August.
Or let’s say , first deliveries, no later than end of August.

My dad is and has been a precision plastics mold maker for his entire career, and has been called out as one of the best in the nation many times. He’s worked on things ranging from Bic pens, to private and military aerospace components, medical equipment, and so on. I asked him about costs for making a phone case, and he told me a proper Made in America two-step process mold would cost ~60k to make. From there, costs to run it depend on where you run it and where the materials are purchased from. A two-step process is the type with a firm/ridged frame with a softer outer layer molded around it.

An investment in such a thing on Purism’s part would be a great thing for their customers, and likely cut down on need for replacement parts like screens and housings.


So, not considering the cost of workers, taxes, insurance, material, handling, shipping, testing, finishing, risk, storage, energy and floor space, the mold alone would require Purism to sell 6000 phones to have the mold cost down to 10 USD per piece?
Good luck.

(To put this into perspective, the Librem crowd funding of 1.5M USD would mean 3000 phones to be produced, if everyone funding got one for $ 500)


Properly planned, including a case could have been part of the cost of the device:

  • We already know there was wiggle room in the margins based on early-bird discounts. I ordered mine for $600, it is at $650 now. I think prices started at $500 during earliest stages.
  • Driving the price of the phone up by say $50, and including the case is a realistic thing. Where else are you going to get a quality case for this thing?
  • Doing that, you only need to move 1200 units to break even on the cost of the mold

The other things you mention:

  • workers, material, handling, shipping, testing, finishing, risk: all can be included in the cost of the mold, with a properly negotiated deal
  • once the mold is built: materials, shipping, workers, taxes, insurance, energy: all can be included in the cost of running the mold in a proper deal. Wrapping it all up in a price per unit, it could be done inside the US for around $4 per part. (which adds only an additional 100 units sold to break even on the investment)
  • once pieces are produced: if it were included as part of the phone package, it could be in the box with the L5, and take up an extremely minimal amount of additional floor space and weight during final shipping

All of this means happier customers, fewer broken phones, and less need to maintain inventory of and ship spare parts.


This is true, as long as you assume that the $500 early-bird pricing or the $600 pricetag covers purisms cost.
I’m not sure about the $600 tag, but I’m fairly certain the $500 doesn’t.

Perhaps, but! What I’m getting at holds true either way. if they advertise a proper case being included with the device, this justifies a slightly higher price for the package that ships. An increase of $50 on the price for such a thing is reasonable, as a case that is comparable to a $50 iPhone or Android case is what could be included at that price point.

Who knows, they may surprise us and include one!

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I do agree to an extent.

Though, I really don’t see why such a small company, struggling financially, should include this in the package w the phone purchase.
If all things were correct (ur estimates), Purism should only pay those initial 60k and additional cost of production and then charge per case $15-20. That way they can make some extra profit without breaking a sweat.

Just look at the pile of money Google is sitting on and never had a case for free on their website for Pixel purchases (at least upon release AFAIK)
No other small OEM (in terms of market share) was into that stuff.
Of course I’m not including Giant Samsung, which just throws hundreds of goodies in order to push it product.

Agreed. The difference here is that if they included the case with the phone, and charged an extra $50 for it with every order, this is a guaranteed case sale in every instance. So they are making profit at every unit beyond #1300.

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“surprise us and include one”

That’s way beyond wishful thinking for me :slight_smile:

To me, surprise would be delivering phone some time in August.
Another one would be stocking and selling spare batteries on their website by the end of the year. And sure, having protective cases available for purchase once they start shipping the phones or at least within a month.


All of these would be surprises to me, very welcome ones :slight_smile: