Week 4: Enclosures

Overview

In this class we will scratch the surface of creating project enclosures.  We will go over common (and not so common) examples and techniques.

 

“Everybody needs boxes.” — John Locke

Plastic project enclosures

 

Show and Tell

We’ll review and discuss last week’s assignment.  What processes/techniques/tools did we use?  Any tips?  What would we change if we could do it all over again?

 

Tool of the Week

Nibbling Tool

The nibbling tool is great for cutting non-uniform holes in sheet material.

Nibbling Tool How To

 

Tip of the Week

“Find your standard.”

Whether it is the screw, motor, material, connector, enclosure, or tool you fall back on — be consistent.  It will make your current and future projects easier.

 

Project Enclosures

Project enclosures are such a broad topic, they could practically be anything.  But when creating one you typically want the following:

  • Easy to open
  • Easy to modify
  • Easy to make multiples
  • Cheap

 

Don’t Do This

Laser cut acrylic enclosure using finger joints

I know it seems like a great idea and getting the files are incredibly easy, but these boxes are difficult to get right.  Material thickness, tolerance, and glues have to be taken into consideration.  These types of enclosures are typically a headache, and I suggest you avoid them whenever possible.

 

Off the shelf Project Enclosures

Plastic project enclosures

Adafruit, TinkerSphereSparkFunMouser, and many more sell project enclosures.  There is no shame in using off the shelf.

Buttons Box project

Buttons Box

 

Red anodized project enclosure

Red Anodized Aluminum Enclosures

 

Standoffs and Panels

Button panels held together with standoffs

Aluminum threaded standoffs

Enclosure doesn’t always have to be fully enclosed.  Using standoffs (here as well) and laser cut panels is a very useful and quick technique.  These enclosures are easy to open and modify.

Two acrylic panels and standoffs project enclosure

Adding rubber feet on the bottom is always a nice touch.

Standoffs enclosure for Nixie tubes

Enclosure for Nixie Tubes

Nixie tube enclosure parts

 

Corner Brackets

Enclosure made with corner brackets

Using screw on corner braces (also called corner reinforcing brackets), screws, and panels is a n option for quickly changing out any surface of your enclosure.  A great choice if the walls of your enclosure are often modified or changed.

 

Attachment Blocks make it easy to join two flat panels at a 90 degree angle.

Panels held together with Attachment Blocks

 

Stacked Material

Stacked acrylic project enclosure

Pibow

Stacked acrylic project enclosure

Stacking layered material may not be the most conservative use of material, but it gives a lot of control on placement of components inside of an enclosure.

Stacked acrylic project enclosure

Side view of stacked acrylic project enclosure

Thinking Hz’s Solar Theremin

 

Construction Toy Enclosures

Lego project enclosure

Lego project enclosure with cover

Construction toys (Legos, Erector Sets,  etc.) make for quick, modifiable enclosures.

 

Cardboard and Paper Enclosure

Using cardboard or thick paper can be an affordable, re-producible, and easily modified enclosure.

Cardboard project enclosure

Cardboard cell phone

Cardboard project enclosure

Diagram of cardboard project enclosure

Cardboard computer tower

 

 

Ready Mades

Starting with a store bought enclosure can save a lot of time.

 

Electrical Conduit Boxes

Electrical conduit box

Off the shelf electrical boxes make for cheap, durable, and repeatable project enclosures.

Electrical conduit project enclosure

Electrical conduit project enclosure

 

Laser Cut Panel on Open Box

Project enclosure made with laser cut panel and cutlery organizer
Image by Luisa Pereira

A laser cut/etched control panel can fit nicely on a store bought box.  Luisa Pereira used a drawer organizer from the Container Store and laser cut/etched control panel.

 

Plastic case project enclosure

Plastic Case

 

Mason Jars

The public radio, radio in a jar

Public Radio disassembled

Public Radio

Mason jar project enclosure

 

Hand-crafted Wooden Enclosures

Wooden box project enclosure

The Counting Box

 

Laser cut wooden project enclosure

Laser-cut Nixie Tube Geiger Counter

 

Wooden block project enclosure

Disassembled wooden block project enclosure

Wooden carrying case and cutting board for knife

Cutting Board/Knife Enclosure

 

Two by four project enclosure

2×4 Enclosure

 

Sheet Metal Enclosures

Sheet metal project enclsoure

Off the shelf sheet metal enclosures can be found at Mouser, Allied Electronics, and many other electronic supply stores.

Sheet metal enclosed cell phone

 

Guitar Pedal Cases

Aluminum guitar pedal project enclosure

Aluminum enclosures with a screw on cover.  Here and here.

Aluminum guitar pedal project enclosure

 

Metal pig project enclosure

 Programmable Musical Pig

 

2 Materials: Metal & Wood, Plastic & Wood

Metal control panel on wooden box

12AX7 Tube Preamplifier Kit

 

Metal control panels on wooden box

50 Watt Tube Amplifier

 

Acrylic control panels on wooden box

Nixie Tube Clock

 

Wooden and acrylic cow shaped project enclosure

Mini Cow Speaker

 

Candy Containers

Altoid's tin project enclosure

Altoid tins make great enclosures (cheap and repeatable).  Adafruit sells both the boards and the tins.

Altoid's tin project enclosure

Altoid's tin project enclosure

Altoid's tin project enclosure

 

Cast Enclosures

Concrete Desk Clock

Cast concrete project enclosure

 

Electronics Encased in Resin

Cast resin project enclosure

Cast resin project enclosure

 

Vacuum Formed Cases

Vacuum formed project enclosure

 

Modified Toys

Some toys can make great enclosures, hopefully yours will not be as creepy as these.

Modified electronic toys

Modified electronic toy

Modified electronic toys

Modified electronic toys

Speak and Spellbinder

 

Misc.

A post shared by Bryan J Cera (@cera.tops) on

 

Tubes/Pipes

Speakers made from PVC pipes and fittings

PVC Speakers

Using tubes or pipes for the housing gives an interesting shape.  The trick is capping off the ends.

PVC pipe project enclosurePVC pipe project enclosure

PVC Pipe and Plywood Cap

 

Tin Cans

Tin can robot toy enclosure

Robot Recipes

Tin can project enclosure

 

 Control Panels

Chances are you will need some sort of control panel for you project enclosure.  It is basically a flat plat that all of your components mount to.  Panels typically can be removed easily from the rest of the enclosure.  This allows for easy repair-ability and modifying.

Control panels

Control panels

Control panels

 

Panel Mount Components

Panel mount LEDPanel Mount Toggle SwithPanel Mount ConnectorPanel mount connector

Using panel mount components makes fabricating control panels much easier.  Use switches, LED holders, potentiometers, connectors, buttons, etc. that are made to mount to panels easily.  Take note whether these components mount from the the front or the back.

Panel mount buttons
Front Panel Mount on the left, Back Panel Mount on the right

Panel mount USB cables

Panel Mount USB Cables are great adding a USB connector to an enclosure surface.

B Male to B Female
Micro B Male to Micro B Female

 

Flexible Panel for Buttons

 

Speaker Grills

A useful trick is to use screen behind a panel for speakers or venting.

Interesting patterned grills can be purchased.

Metal screen used for speaker grill

Enclosure with speaker grill

Metal screen speaker grill

Headphones with metal screen

MH40 Over Ear Headphones

 

In Class Demo

We’ll go over all of the steps to make a simple 2 by 4 Project Enclosure.

 

Class Survey

Halfway through and time to let us know how we’re doing.  Please take the class survey.

 

Assignment

Build an enclosure for an electronics project using any tool(s) or technique(s) you like.  Make sure that you can get back inside to make repairs, change batteries, modify, etc.  The enclosure should have multiple components: buttons, switches, sliders, connectors, display lights, dials, etc.

 

Field Trip

Go to KMart or the Container Store (I know it sounds ridiculous) or even thrift stores to find containers/materials for possible enclosures.  You don’t have to use these materials in the assignment, but take note of what would be useful in the future.

 

What you Should Try

Try enclosing an existing PComp project.  It is a great way to make them more rugged and durable.

 

What You Should Buy

It’s a good idea to have project enclosures or materials on hand.  I highly recommend getting some containers and stand-offs.

 


 

Related Reading/Viewing

Mason Jar Speakers

The Well-Sequenced Synthesizer

Laser Cut Radio Enclosure

Laser Cut Arduino Holder

DIY Cellphone by David Mellis

Rasberry Pi Laser Cut Case

Making of Furby Gurdie

Die Cast Aluminum Enclosures (here too)

Sheet Metal Box – Layout & Planning

Sheet Metal Box – Cutting Out the Box

Sheet Metal Box – Bending the Box

Mason Jar Raspberry Pi Enclosure

15 Fantastic Project Enclosures

Tim Kaiser’s Instruments

Your Guide to Making Electronics Project Boxes

Raspberry Pi Micro Arcade Machine

Idiot Proof Interface Design

Control Panel Blog