Laser Cut Enclosures from Eagle Files

Once a project is finished, it might still need a decent enclosure. While it’s possible to throw a freshly soldered PCB in a standard enclosure, or piece of Tupperware, or cardboard box, these options don’t have the fit and finish of something custom-made. If you have a laser cutter sitting around, it’s a simple matter to cut your own enclosure, but now that process is much easier thanks to [Ray]’s latest project.

Since [Ray] was already using Eagle to design his PCBs, it seemed like a short step to using the Eagle files to design the enclosure as well. The script runs from those files and creates everything necessary to send to the laser cutter for manufacturing. Right now, [Ray] points out that the assembly time for each enclosure can be high, and this method might not be suited for large numbers of enclosures. Additionally, some of the calculations still need to be done by hand, but there are plans to automate everything in the future.

For single projects, though, this script could cut a lot of time off of designing an enclosure and building it from scratch, and could also help improve aesthetics over other options like 3D printed enclosures. Of course, if you have a quality 3D printer around but no laser cutter, there are options for custom enclosures as well.

16 thoughts on “Laser Cut Enclosures from Eagle Files

  1. There are still masochist out there using Eagle? Why inflict such torture upon yourselves when there are so many free or dirt cheep EDM tools out there with features leave Eagle in the dust? Hell, just the fact that other programs use standard hot-keys is reason enough to switch.

    1. Well what alternative to eagle do you recommend?

      I tried kicad 6 months ago and it kept crashing on my Mac, sometimes just by touching the mouse wheel… At least eagle is predictable and has lots of part libraries available. And it works with most PCB manufacturers I use.

      1. I bailed on Eagle when it went subscription. Tried Kicad and didn’t have the patience to learn yet another seemingly arbitrary set of UI conventions and keyboard bindings (it gave me Blender flashbacks)
        I switched to Diptrace a few months ago and quite enjoy it. It quite intuitive; works just like we all agreed software should work 25+ years ago. Free for some number of pins, reasonable non-commercial cost above that. Works fine through OSX (through Wine, believe it or not).

    2. Eagle is still *kinda* free, ya know. As free as it was a few years ago. I’ll agree that changing the perpetual license to a yearly one was a slightly dick move, but I really doubt many of the people complaining about the license change actually had a perpetual license, and instead were rolling with the free/2layer/small board area version.

      In any event, Eagle is a tool equal in caliber to KiCad. Morso now, but you’ll read about that in an hour or so.

      1. I agree — while Eagle is not perfect, it’s still somewhat popular in the open-source community. There are many open-source PCB designs and part libraries still available in Eagle, making it easy to replicate and use for your own project.

    1. Quick, dirty and ugly , a junction box is.
      I still don’t get why rectangular boxes get 3D printed or lasered when you have a huge collection of amazing standard prototype boxes available like Takashi or such.
      For my one time project, I do the opposite: find the box fitting my needs (IP/design/ergonomy/etc) then design the board to make it fit, then with a dremel and file, I have a perfect consumer grade like custom product.

      1. There are several reasons: one, it’s not always possible to find the perfect off-the-shelf box for the project, considering all of length, width, and height; then, even if you can find a box that fits great, the cutouts are expensive to make cleanly — for a one-off project you can spend as much time as you need making the perfect cutouts, but for volume production with a quantity of at least a few hundred or thousand, you will have to use a company to do custom machining, and that’s not cheap; also, with laser cutting, text engravings come at very little additional cost.

    2. I second the junction box solution – been using it for years. There are lots of form-factors, including waterproof, see-through, metal or plastic, etc., plus there are a lot of cable-mounting.attaching options.

  2. Not sure how other lasers use data to cut that would make this script useful, but I guess an advantage of an Epilog laser is that it works like a printer driver so you can draw your enclosure in anything you want. I have cut and engraved from GCPrevue, AutoCAD, Visio, Word, Excel, Notepad, Firefox, Chrome, and next week I try BarTender to make serialized/barcoded ID tags

    1. Should be possible — I have only used KiCad a few times, and admittedly I have not checked how to write script in KiCad. But the EagleCAD script I wrote is just a bunch of drawLine instructions so should be easy to adapt to other software.

  3. Very nice Ray! I usually use Illustrator, lightwave and a 3D printer. I’ve made a few dozen enclusures thatvway but none are consumer grade. I’ve recently built a cnc router, so hopefully it’ll give me better options for larger enclosures, even ones made from aluminium.
    I’m now in the process of learning solidworks but the cam plugin camworks is so archaic and crash prone it’s neigh unworkable.

    I don’t really like eagle but after setting up my own shortcuts, with very similar mapping as Lightwave, I can work efficiently enough. It at least doesn’t crash as much as camworks. I can imagine the pcb design module can be great for designing enclosures and plate work for engraving. If you use some post scaling, you can get around the 100x150mm free version limitation.

    1. Hey, hey! Another Lightwave user! Me too! We’re a rare breed in anything but the 3D animation world, but not because it isn’t the right tool for CNC and 3D printing. I use either RhinoCAM or ArtCAM for the conversions. Easy-peasy. Solidworks is a great package, but has quite a steep but necessary learning curve.

      Dave

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