USB infrared receiver looks good sitting in your livingroom

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The problem with building your own electronics for the living room is that the final product may not fit your decorating style. This was true with [Itay's] prototype of a universal USB IR receiver. So after testing it out for a few weeks he decided to build a final version that started by selecting an enclosure he could be proud of.

He came across an LED flash light at the dollar store which has an aluminum body. When we read about this we envisioned a cheap version of a Mag Light from which he removed the cylinder that holds the batteries. But actually, the pod seen above is the entire flashlight (with an added base). It forced him to design a tiny surface mount PCB to fit everything inside.

It’s not too much of a stretch since IR receivers tend to be small anyway. [Itay's] design put a PIC 18F2553 on one side of the board. The other side hosted the through hole components: an IR receiver, LED for feedback, and the connections for the USB cable that exit through the rubber button cover that used to switch the flashlight on. He had a problem with one of the resistor values which took a while to figure out. But eventually he got it working. It’s been in use now for six months.

Acrylic enclosures use integrated clips to do away with fasteners

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Here’s a design that lets you make acrylic enclosures without using fasteners. The red outline in the diagram above is a bit hard to make out. But look closely and you’ll realize that there is very little material which has been removed to form the clip. This uses the rigidity/flexibility of the material to form a spring that will hold a couple of pieces tightly together.

In a links post last year we looked at [Patrick Fenner's] fantastic analysis of the strength of using kerf-bending to form several sides of a case out of one piece of material. He’s used that same analytic expertise to take a look into this design. He even suggests that making the cut on the hook-side a bit deeper will help improve the resilience of the part. If you have a laser cutter on hand and want to give this a try he’s posted the plans on Thingiverse.

Framing up your electronics projects

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[Victor] may be onto something when it comes to project enclosures. He’s using a picture frame to house his electronics projects. This is made especially easy by the variety of sizes you can find at Ikea. Possibly the most important dimension is to have enough frame thickness to sandwich your components between the glass and the back plate of the frame.

The project seen here is a temperature data logger. The frosted diffuser covering everything but the LCD screen and gives you a glimpse of what’s mounted to the back panel. He connected the four different protoboard components, along with a battery pack, to each other use right angle pin headers. They were then strapped to the back plate of the frame by drilling some holes through which a bit of wire was threaded. He even cut a hole to get at the socket for the temperature sensor and to attach the power input. So that he doesn’t need to open the frame to get at the data, the SD card slot is also accessible. His depth adjustment was made by adding standoffs at each corner of the frame, and replacing the metal wedges that hold the back in place.

You don’t need to limit yourself with just one. This UV exposure rig uses three Ikea frames.

Script lets you import Eagle boards for use in FreeCAD

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[Christian Aurich] wanted to use his Eagle CAD circuit board design in a proper CAD program in order to design enclosures. There are already a few options along these lines, but they didn’t quite fit his needs so he developed a script to import Eagle boards into FreeCAD. The script is packaged as a python macro for FreeCAD.

In describing the shortcomings of what’s already out there [Christian] does mention the use of EagleUp to model boards in Google SketchUp. But he feels the way the data is produced by SketchUp makes these models work well with 3D printing, but says they’re not easy to use with mechanical design CAD software. He also feels that the photo-realistic renderings are useless when developing enclosures.

It’s worth mentioning that this approach is only possible because CadSoft’s migration to XML makes it dead simple to get at the data.

Raspberry Pi is right at home inside of a Game Boy

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[Matt] still has his original Game Boy from when he was a kid. He wanted to pull it out and play some of the classics but alas, the screen was broken and he couldn’t find a source for a drop-in replacement. In the end he ordered a used unit and pulled the screen from that one. This left him with a pile of leftover Game Boy parts which turned into a Raspberry Pi case project.

Since the RPi doesn’t have a power switch he thought it would be pretty neat to incorporate the Game Boy power switch. He was able to cut out one section of the original PCB that included the switch and one mounting hole. This kept the switch aligned with the case and gave him some pads to solder the incoming USB cable and the jumper wires to the RPi board. In the image above the power LED is on. He mentions that there was an issue with that circuit; the voltage drop across the LED was messing up the feed to the Pi so it’s disabled for now.

We’ve embedded a couple of images of everything inside the case after the break. If you’re a fan of this hack you should also take a look at the Game Boy hard drive enclosure which uses the same pixel art printed on paper effect for the screen window.

[Read more...]

Heating, bending, and gluing to make acrylic enclosures

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You can do a lot with acrylic and few tools. If you’re just starting out we’d suggest taking a look at [Michael Colombo's] guide to heating, bending, and gluing to create custom acrylic enclosures. Chances are you already have most of what you need. The one tool you might be lacking is a heat gun.

The process starts with math. Before cutting the acrylic down to size you need to calculate how much you need. Next [Michael] demonstrates his cutting technique using a Dremel and a cut-off wheel. We prefer to clamp along the cut line, score many times with a razor knife, and snap the stuff. But you can also send it through a table saw if you have the right blade.

The bending technique he uses starts by clamping boards on either side of the bend. The acrylic left sticking out is pushed with a scrap board while the bend is heated with the heat gun. Once all of the corners were made in one piece the sides were glued in place. This last step can be tricky. The acrylic glue is made to work with perfect seams, so make sure your cuts are clean and the bent pieces line up.

The process was documented in the clip found after the jump. If you’re looking for a more targeted heat source check out this dedicated acrylic bender.

[Read more...]

One method of fabricating translucent faceplates

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Enclosures are the bane of electronics engineers (or so says [Dave Jones] of the EEVblog and The Amp Hour). But fabricating a case that looks great has been getting easier lately. [Eric Forkosh] produced this professional-looking translucent face plate with a minimum of effort. He found a way to use a laser cutter to etch icons in acrylic.

Admittedly, this is not very involved. But just look at the quality he achieved. The secret to his success (aside from having a quality laser cutter on hand) is to use high-temperature spray paint. The acrylic is coated in paint and allowed to dry before heading to the laser cutter. By using the rasterize setting under low power he kills two birds with one stone; the paint is etched away while the acrylic is left a little bit rough to act as a diffuser for LEDs behind the panel. [Eric] cautions against using regular spray paint. In his write up he shows off the unsightly results of doing so.

This makes a great addition to some of the case options out there. One that we have been keeping our eye on is the Sick of Beige initiative being spearheaded by [Ian Lesnet].