Make an enclosure or face plate for your arduino projects

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So now you have completed a project. It is sitting inside an ulgy cardboard box with some holes poked by your screw driver but it’s still beautiful, maybe like this one I did sometime ago:

My project in a cardboard box

Not so good inside view with messy jumper wires

Since I didn’t know anything about printed circuit boards or PCB, I knew I had to solder wires together to make it more permanent, which scared me. I did have good soldering skills. I don’t ever have an iron yet. So I took a computer hard drive cable as means of connection to the LCD and taped on a tiny bread board on the front side of the box with buttons and wires, like a Frankenstein. Everything worked fine, just be careful not to pull out the wires.

I still have this box, to remind me how rudimentary my projects looked. Later I was learned how to design PCB, through several tutorials on sparkfun.com and other places, with the layout software EAGLE. With sweaty palms I submitted my design on batchPCB.com, an online PCB prototyping service that takes your design and make it, then ship the board back to you. It  charges $2.5 per square inch of the board plus shipping and handling. So it’s not very cheap but it did a decent job. After waiting about 3 weeks, I received my board that looks like this (I ordered one but received two for everything :):

Bare boards made at batchPCB.com

The PCB made soldering and assembly much better and worry free (no lose wires). An $8 basic soldering kit from radioshack will do just fine. So here is my assembled project:

Assembled project on PCB, powered up

Still this project looked naked. I wanted some cloths for it! I have spent many hours looking for a box that my project will fit in, with cutouts that will allow wires to come through and window for the LCD but with no avail.

Later I found out about 3-D printing. Amazing things happen if you mount a hot nozzle on a few motors and squzze molten plastic through it. You can simple print anything that you can design. I then spent hours to make a good design in 3-D, only to find out later that 3-D printing is simply too slow and expensive. I don’t even know anyone that has such a printer. I scraped it. But here it is, just never stepped out of my computer screen:

3-D model I made for my project

Even later, while asking for suggestions on the arduino forum, I was told that I could make top and bottom acrylic plates to partially enclose my project. Aha! So I quickly installed a very old edition of CorelDraw and designed a couple of plates for my project. I also found an online service, ponoko.com, which does custom designs with various materials from wood, plastic, to metals. I sent in my design and in about 3 weeks I received this:

Parts for my project box and more

Well after some assembly with standoffs, screws and nuts, here it is, a nicely wrapped project in its beautiful and transparent (yeah!) case:

“Complete” project with PCB and acrylic plates

Everything looked very nice and I showed it off quite a few times online and offline. But this is not the end of it, as I have eventually bored myself looking at a half-naked project. I don’t want water spills or other mishaps so I have to move up my packaging once more. If you want to know what happened to this project, or what it does, come back later and I will post some more. It only looks much better now:)

Alright, here it is:

The case was purchased from Allied Electronics.

Read the next post for more information including links to the case and other parts:

https://liudr.wordpress.com/2011/12/10/enclosing-your-project-the-pursuit-continues/

12 Responses to Make an enclosure or face plate for your arduino projects

  1. Web Tasarım says:

    Those are wonderful post! Thanks for posting!

  2. liudr says:

    Thansk. I thought if I could share with others my experience building a project, it would save them some time and frustration that I wasted. I will post more updates to that project when I have some time. My new semester already started a week ago although it doesn’t feel like so.

  3. Pingback: Track Hacker

    • liudr says:

      Sure. You have an awesome blog. I’ll read your posts and see what more we can share. I’ve not worked on motors so definitely can learn from you 🙂

  4. math games says:

    post not working in firefox

  5. Michael says:

    How did you do the buttons?

  6. pierreb7 says:

    Great post. What tool did you use to cut the acrylic plates?

    • liudr says:

      I used ponoko.com for laser cutting service. Super nice cuts. For the plastic boxes I used dremel. It was painful to cut with dremel.

  7. Bruce says:

    I was hoping you might be able to provide a link to the product for the final blue enclosure. I can’t seem to find it on the Allied Electronics website.

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