Clear acrylic briefcase

Hello everyone!

I’ve got a quick question. I had somebody contact me asking if I could make them a custom clear acrylic briefcase for their laptop. They said they’ve got a 13inch MacBook air. My question is, has anybody tried making something like this before? What would you charge? The person wants their name engraved on the briefcase also. I used the box maker to create a starter template based off of the laptops dimension. But don’t know what to charge. I figure I’d ask since I’m still learning what can I create and how to price my creations in the glowforge. Thanks!

A custom Plexiglass briefcase, materials, hardware, time… I’d probably charge in the neighborhood of $450.00-$500.00.


I’m a glazier (glass guy) and have worked with acrylic, polycarbonate, etc. I hope you’re aware that acrylic will crack at finger joints or any other tightly assemble areas where there are “sharp” cuts. Also if there is a mechanical fastener used, like a screw. And if they drop this thing, it will shatter.


I wasn’t aware of that. It’s what he asked for. I will message him and let him know. Maybe I can use a different material to possibly make it?


Seconding @w.poplaski comments. Acrylic seems like a really bad material choice for a briefcase unless it’s purely for display. If I had a prop house manufacture such a thing it would be in the $1000-$2000 range at minimum.
If you decide to take on this project, I would recommend you explain very clearly to your client the material issues and if they wish to proceed have them sign a waiver that they understand what you’ve told them and you are not responsible for the item being fragile.


I would say polycarbonate, but that can’t be cut with a laser. Both polycarbonate and acrylic scratch very easily as well, unless it’s Marguard or some other scratch resistant equivalent.


Thanks for the suggestion. A waiver is definitely a good idea. My mother told me to tell them to buy the briefcase and then I can charge for just engraving. It’s probably much cheaper that way anyway. But I will definitely make a waiver in case.


Idk what other material I can use to create this briefcase if I do decide. I told him I’d come up with a design and work on just figuring out the price to give him a quote. But since I don’t know the name of some of the materials I’ll need, I figure I’d post the question here and ask.

I have an old Zero Haliburton briefcase. It’s Aluminum with an anodized (dark green in my case, but they made them in other colors) surface. Something like this would engrave on a Glowforge, and the finished product would be suitable to use for carrying a laptop. You could even line it with a foam pocket so the laptop doesn’t rattle around inside. And if the owner dropped it, it might dent, it’ll probably scratch, but it won’t break…


Is it clear? He wants a crystal clear briefcase to carry his laptop in. I’m assuming he probably takes it with him to work, possibly in a penitentiary facility? It’s my assumption though.

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Don’t worry about the naysaying. There are ways to make cool things like this out of acrylic. The two things you’ll want to do is make relief cuts in the corners of your tabs if you’re going with a tab & slot or fingerjoint design. They’re small circles in the corner and called “dog bones”. There are posts about using them here.

The other thing you’ll want to do is anneal the acrylic after cutting. Place it in a 170F oven for 1 hour per mm of thickness, turn the oven off and let it cool with the door closed. That relieves all of the stresses that are currently in the material and should eliminate cracking and shattering. Although dropping the briefcase still won’t be recommended, it is plastic after all.

Absent clear aluminum (nerdy Star Trek reference :slight_smile: ) acrylic is the ticket unless you’ve got a CNC router and then you can use polycarbonate.


If your client is hell-bent on see through, what about wooden edges, such as a wooden frame but with thick acrylic side panels. The frame would be where the strengths are and would take the majority of of the wear and abuse but still have the see through sides.


No, it’s not clear at all, unless Scotty has finally given someone the formula for Transparent Aluminum. :slight_smile:


I’ve thought of this, just not sure how would I make the wooden frame or what kind of wood to use.


Well …


I’m with @jamesdhatch: give it a try!

There are probably more things you could do to make it more resilient. Thicker acrylic maybe? Heat-shaping a single piece for the main body rather than all finger joints? Shaping to increase surface area of impact points (e.g., round off corners). Buffering the weight of the laptop inside for protection of both the laptop and the case. I would want to do some experimentation (drop tests!) and, would plan on throwing at least one prototype away, even after settling on a design.

Of course, that feeds into the budget part. It is going to be difficult for anyone here to tell you what your time and skill are worth.


Damn. I wonder how it compares to Scotty’s original formula? :slight_smile:

I also wonder how the heck you change the windows on the Space Station. If you screw up and the replacement doesn’t seal, you’ve got no airtight pressurized Space Station to crawl back in to when the air in your suit runs out. I’m betting they’re just going to live with the scratches on the existing windows…


I am with @jamesdhatch and @evermorian - Just do it! I doubt you are the first person to do this. Really - in this day and age all of these things have been done before. This is not to say you should not do it, because you should! In regards to it being breakable - yep it is - not much you can do about that so don’t fret. Thinker acrylic is a good idea. I would not even worry about classic laser box design with slot construction. I would make the box using butt (sp?) joints and careful use of CA glue. I would then use CA glue and, if I were brave, small, carefully drilled screws to place hinges and a handle. By using butt joints you relieve yourself of design complications. Maybe the slot construction would be stronger, but it this baby drops it is not going to be pretty whatever joint you use! Unless you want to try living hinge, which is worrisome and weak with acrylic at the best of times, the briefcase is going to be boxy with 90 degree angles. Butt joints, if done neatly, will serve you well. You can then worry more about adding some good good flair - an engraved pin stripe design, etc. IMO simple will serve you better here. You could even get teh measures of the computer and put in a clear acrylic stand/holder in the case. This is a great project. A project that is achievable and one that I would guess, given the material needs and cutting time could be in the 200-300 dollar range. Keep us posted!


Maybe charge an up-front test fee. You are going to get through some expensive materials before you have this sorted and it still might not be suitable in the end.

There’s no harm in saying this is a difficult project, there are issues with the materials etc. No point making an expensive and difficult piece that just gets rejected at the end.

Also, I definitely think this is a high-end item, I would be charging $500+ for this.

See if he still wants it after you suggest a price.


I just want to clarify why I’m in the naysayer camp as I think the major issue hasn’t been touched on yet. As a project, acrylic briefcase sounds super cool. What is most concerning to me would be if if client came back to OP and tried to blame them for damaging an expensive MacBook because the briefcase failed as it sounds like client actually wants to carry it around this way.

(This happened to an acquaintance who made a living hinge wood iPad case for a client, it got ugly)