How-To: Dye computer parts

Computers & Mobile Science
How-To: Dye computer parts
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If you even remotely care about the aesthetics of your computer, you’ve probably wished at some point that one or more of your components were a different color. For instance, I prefer my computers to be basic black all over, but more than once have been driven to install a beige part because it was what I needed at the right price.

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Up until this weekend, I didn’t think there was really anything to be done, short of making a mold of the offending part and recasting it in a different color plastic or resin, which is way too much work for such a small annoyance. There’s spraypaint, of course, but it’s tacky, IMHO; I can almost always identify a spray-painted surface, and although there are good spray paints for plastics on the market today, any kind of finish that leaves a coating on the surface can affect critical dimensional tolerances and impede fit or performance. And it may eventually wear off.

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Turns out, however, that there are dyes for plastics, which is counter-intuitive for me because I think of a dye as requiring a porous substrate, and I don’t generally think of plastics as porous. To find these products, the googlon is “vinyl dye,” and the conventional market is folks restoring automobile interiors. These dyes, although they come in spray cans, are not paints. Their colorants actually adsorb onto absorb into the polymer itself and do not leave any kind of coating behind. To do so, they must soften the plastic surface with a solvent, so they can negatively affect its glossiness, but most of the plastic I’d want to dye isn’t high-sheen, anyway. Here’s a nice tutorial from

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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