Bulk made enclosures are useful when you just want basic underwear on your Pi but what if you need to put something else in there and it won’t fit? I’ve built a Pi enclosure for my home automation gateway before but it was just 3 layers of acrylic to hold everything together, turned out nice. In this post I will show another example enclosure for a Pi gateway.
I am finishing up a separate project where I needed to put a Pi gateway in an elegant enclosure along with an ATXRaspi+power button, and a Moteino. This guide can be used as a guide to build a RaspberryPi+ATXRaspi+Moteino setup that can all live together in a nice box to serve as an internet gateway to your Moteino or other wireless Internet Of Things network.
I will show you how I made the case and the steps I took to avoid wasting material while adjusting the cutouts. I will include the corel and DXF files that I used to lasercut the case. I have a 60W laser cutter imported from china, and that makes for a very nice prototyping tool to cut and engrave the boxes, but they are becoming widely available at hacker spaces and workshops all around.
First let’s see what components go in the box: The ATXRaspi provides power management through an illuminated power button – really nice to have when you want to physically turn the unit ON/OFF without a need to log in, both these along with the short uUSB cable can be sourced at the LowPowerLab webshop. The Moteino acts as a wireless gateway and connects to the Pi through jumper wires. Power is provided via a 2.1mm jack from an external 5V-0.7A old phone charger.
The size of the box was predetermined after fitting the outlines of the components in CorelDraw. I then use makercase to design the basic shape of the box with slotted fingers based on the predetermined dimensions. I then import that SVG rendering into CorelDraw X5 and add the cutouts while doing my measurements. I used a DXF drawing of the Pi to find my mounting holes positions and create the cutouts for the ethernet/USB/HDMI/power button and power jack. I use digital calipers to measure everything and determine size of new cutouts. The design files of the end result are uploaded to this github repository. Here’s what the final drawing looks like:
I then cut the outlines in thin cardboard that mimics the thickness of the acrylic and do a fitting test. Most often the sides with cutouts need some fine adjustment and I end up having to cut them 2-3 times before they come out perfect:
When everything fits perfectly I move on to cutting real acrylic which is not really expensive at 12x24sheet@$12+S/H but I’d rather make the mistakes in cardboard which I have unlimited supply, this works well and actually the cardboard is sturdy and allows me to hold the Pi with screws and fit everything with tape as if this was the real case. You will notice in the above blueprint I have several color layers, some of which don’t get sent to the laser cutter. For the acrylic I used black opaque for all sides and the bottom, and grey translucent for the top to allow seeing the LEDs.
I first make the cuts in acrylic that has the protective lining, that gives nice clean cuts. The cuts are made with a 0.075mm laser kerf adjustment (via makercase website) which will result in a tight fit case once completed, that doesn’t require screws or tape. Of course you can always reinforce it with some transparent tape or weld some of the sides with WeldON #3 acrylic cement. I then fit the electronics using plastic screws and nuts, but any metal ones should work as well. I did not use any standoffs under the PCBs. I then take off the lining and perform any engraving, in this case a nice Pi logo and some text. Engraving takes a much longer time than cutting so this is another reason to leave that for a second round. I etched the logo and text at 500mm/s speed and 30% power, that gives a nice uniform and shallow engraving. The outline of the raspberry in the logo is too thin to etch so I made it cut that outline at 50mm/s speed and 15% power so it would be a very thin shallow cut, comes out as a nice discrete outline. I added some rubber standoffs on the bottom of the unit:
So there you have it, a simple guide to make your own case. Photos don’t do it justice, I think it actually looks better in reality. You can adjust the CAD/DXF to fit your own electronics along with the Pi, or use the given version to fit an ATXRaspi and illuminated power button. Enjoy.