Acrylic RPi case you can make without a CNC machine

[Simon Inns] is showing off the Raspberry Pi case which he built out of acrylic. It provides a lot more protection than a flimsy film case, but it is also a little bit more involved to fabricate. No, this doesn’t need to be laser cut, but to get the nice edges [Simon] used a band saw which many don’t already have in their shop. Ask around, or poke your head in at the local Hackerspace. It only takes a few minutes to cut out the parts.

It sounds like either 8mm or 6mm acrylic will work for this project. Aluminum pipe serves as a spacer to keep the two main sheets in place. The RPi board itself is held in position by a few well-place acrylic chunks super glued in place. You can see the entire build process, including rounding cut edges with a torch, in his video embedded after the break.

Comments

  1. Ren says:

    RPi != RPI (Renssaelaer Polytechnic Institute)

  2. mohonri says:

    Since it’s acrylic, you likely don’t even need a band saw. Just pick up a cheap scoring tool and you can snap the pieces nice and clean.

    • charles says:

      What you say is true, but I am horrible at that. I have tried and tried and all I get is a bunch of jagged bits.

      Anyway to do nice rounded edges on plastic a belt sander makes very quick work. Using a file and some skill works just as well but slower. It’s a good little skill to have. I round off all metal edges on my shop tools. It saves on forearm scratches.

  3. Simon Inns says:

    The saw is actually a normal jigsaw which is mounted upside down using a add-on bracket. It’s cheap and you can release the jigsaw and use it normally too. As mohonri says, you can use thinner material and just score it too.

    • Dax says:

      Actually, the only tools you need for this are a saw and a sheet of 100 grit sandpaper, and some pieces of scrap wood.

      You cut an approximate square with one straight edge, slightly larger than you need, and you grind it down to size.

  4. azurusnova says:

    I made something exactly like this for my little Pocket AVR Programmer. http://www.sparkfun.com/products/9825

    Really turned out well, but I never thought to use a little torch to smooth the edges. Nice trick!

    • Tony says:

      The words you want are “hot” & “fast”.

      The point the acrylic smooth out and the point at which it bubble are close together.

      Not just for edges, you can remove scratches and crazing from the surface as well.

  5. Will says:

    “You can see the entire build process, including rounding cut edges with a torch, in his video embedded after the break”

    Ummmm no. You do not round acrylic edges with a torch. If you actually watched the video you’d see he rounded them with a file. The torch just flash-melts the surface where he cut to make it smoother and more shiny.

  6. Jay says:

    Not to disparage Simon’s fine work, but If anyone wants to make make a cool looking case, try aluminum. It’s amazing how how tight of tolerances you can get with a basic saw, hand files, and drills. You can finish it off with sand paper to give it a brushed look. Everyone’s jumping on the CNC bandwagon these days, myself included. But the reality is that if you’re making a one-off, its often quicker and cheaper to do it by hands. And if you’re like me, even cad is a time consuming distraction. Since most of us aren’t making tiny engine blocks, CNC can be of an overkill. I just wish wood was as easy to work with as metals.

    And remember: files only cut in the push direction.

    • charles says:

      Yeah aluminum is amazing sometimes. Invest in some brass brushes/dremel attachments and use them often to avoid aluminum loading/caking all over your abrasives.

  7. Reg says:

    Certainly the best Pi case I’ve seen to date.

    For something like this, a coping saw and a file will do just fine. You can build it almost as fast as you can draw it by hand. The spacer style construction is particularly good for one offs.
    CNC would actually take much longer.

    Wood would look very nice also.

  8. Nate says:

    Unless I was mistaken, I didn’t see any dimensions on the video… Certainly sexy to say the least, I would probably add side panels to completely lock out dust, probably caulk it shut, and just have the screws from the top.

  9. Jeremy says:

    Very cool looking case. If you ever plan on making more of these, there’s a quick way to replicate the panels en masse.

    You’ll need some Duck brand double-sided carpet tape, a jigsaw and router or trimmer with a flush trim bit handy. I recommend Whiteside brand bits. Trace out the original part’s outline on the new piece and use your jigsaw to cut the outside of the line you just drew. Then tape the two pieces together with the carpet tape. Make sure that everything is tight and can’t move. Then tape the two joined pieces to your workspace and set the depth of your flush trim bit on the router. Make sure the flush trim bit’s bearing touches only the original piece. Once everything is in place and secure, fire up the router and clone your panel. It’s astonishing how exact the replica part will be to the original, provided you did everything correctly. If you want to get really productive with future projects, make a special plexi template that is specifically designed to only cut out rounded corners. Maybe make a few of different sized to fit future projects. You’ll never have to make a corner by hand again once you’ve taken a few minutes to make a good template.

    I picked up this trick a few years ago when building my MAME cocktail cabinets and needed to ensure that all my rounded corners were exactly the same, though in my case, I created my corners by hand initially by carefully sanding down a few pieces of hardboard and checking roundness with a coffee can. Once I made my first copy, I never had to go through the sanding process again – just copied my original on all the corners of all the new wood parts, and was left with very professional looking control panels and end panel curves. I still use this method to this day on my woodworking projects. The result is a handy set of plexi templates stacked in a drawer in my workbench.

  10. Rob in Belfast says:

    Awesome! I have worked with Acrylic and plexiglass for about 15 years and I was lucky to have access to a laser cutter for a short while – that was very cool.

    But there is something fundamental and basic about hand tooling that really gives you great satisfaction.

    I agree, wood is a beautiful material to work with but you need nice hardwoods to work with and they can be tough. Except balsa wood…

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