Designing And Printing A Custom Enclosure

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So you know how to design a circuit board, assemble the parts, and have a functional device at the end of a soldering session. Great, but if you want to use that device in the real world, you’re probably going to want an enclosure, and Tupperware hacked with an Exacto knife just won’t cut it. It’s actually not that hard to design a custom enclosure for you board, as [Glen] demonstrates with a custom 3D printed project box.

[Glen]‘s board, a quad RS-422 transmitter with a PMOD connector, was designed in Eagle. There are a vast array of scripts and plugins for this kind of mechanical design work, including the EagleUP plugins that turn an Eagle PCB into a 3D object that can be imported into SketchUp.

Taking measurements from Eagle, [Glen] designed a small project box that fits the PCB. A few standoffs were added, and the board itself was imported into SketchUp. From there, all he needed to do was to subtract the outline of the connectors from the walls of then enclosure for a custom-fit case. Much better than Tupperware, and much easier than designing a laser cut enclosure.

Once the enclosure was complete, [Glen] exported the design as an STL, ready for 3D printing or in his case, sending off to Shapeways. Either way, the result is a custom enclosure with a perfect fit.

 

3D Printering: Making A Thing With SketchUp

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Imagine for a second it’s the mid-1980s and you’re looking in to desktop publishing setups. Those new LaserJets and LaserWriters are pretty cool, but imagine the desktop publishing world if you couldn’t create your own documents. Yes, it seems absurd to have a printing press that won’t create unique documents.

Now flash forward 30 years to the world of desktop manufacturing and rapid prototyping. There are dozens of repositories for 3D printable objects, but making something of your own design is apparently a dark art and arcane knowledge to everyone buying 3D printers for plastic octopodes and bottle openers.

This week, by popular demand, we’re going to be making a ‘thing’ in SketchUp Make. It’s free, easy, and surprisingly versatile despite its limited tool set. Common sense and Google algorithms dictate I link to previous tutorials in this series below:

And now on with the show. You’re gonna want to click the ‘read more’ link.

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The Art of Box Making

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[Darcy] has a bit of a love affair with cardboard. What started out as a simple way to mail things cheaper by making custom sized boxes has turned into the full-blown art of box making.

He originally started by making the boxes by hand, but after he got suitably adept at it, he quickly refined his craft by adding in some technology. He now designs the boxes in SketchUp and then uses a home-made CNC router to cut and score the cardboard into even fancier styles. His blog has a whole slew of his cardboard box designs and it’s actually pretty cool to see what he’s come up with. He also has a bunch of tips for making your own, so if you’re one of those lucky hackers who can sell the things they make, it’s definitely worth a look! If you’re not selling anything perhaps a cardboard lamp shade is more for you?

To see a video example of one of his CNC cut boxes, stick around after the break. Now all he needs to do is design an automatic box folding machine!

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Stylish OLED Watch Uses Accelerometer Instead of Buttons

A few days ago [Andrew] contacted us to offer his help for the design of the mooltipass project case. While introducing himself, he casually mentioned his OLED watch that you can see above.

The watch is based on the low-power MSP430F microcontroller from Texas Instruments. It can consume as little as 1.5uA while maintaining a real-time clock and monitoring interrupts. It also uses ferroelectric RAM, which doesn’t need any power to retain its memory contents. That means there’s no need to set the time again if you remove the CR2016 battery that powers the watch.

[Andrew] chose an 0.96″ OLED display that only consumes up to 7mA. He also included an accelerometer that allows him to interact with the watch through its single and double tap detecting feature. He modeled his PCB using EagleCAD and the whole assembly using Sketchup. Most of the components were soldered in his reflow (toaster) oven. The final result is a mere 8.8mm thick and looks very professional in our opinion.

This is not real: lifelike renderings from Eagle files

Look at it. Just look at it! This board is a lie. It doesn’t exist (at least not what’s seen in the image here). Instead this is a lifelike rendering made from Eagle CAD files.

We’ve already seen that it is rather easy to pull Eagle CAD files into Google SketchUp thanks to the EagleUp package. You’ll get a 3D model that looks quite nice but it’s hardly photo-realistic. This process starts exactly the same way. But you’re going to want to process the SketchUp file one more time.

A program called Kerkythea does this for you. It’s an open source project aimed at producing realistic renderings. It has a plugin which will process any SketchUp model and apply the textures and shadings that look so wonderful in the image above. It’s not a one-click process, but reminds us of the mountain of options you’d find in a program like Blender3D. You’ll need to map out settings for each different material you’d like to map, but the guides found at the link above do a good job of showing how it’s done.

EagleUp pulls your PCBs into SketchUp

[Karl] wrote in to tell us about a software package called EagleUp that will import your Eagle CAD PCB designs into Google SketchUp. It bridges the gap between the two using the open source image processing software ImageMagick.

As you can see above, you’ll end up with a beautifully rendered 3D model of your hardware. This is a wonderful way to make sure that your enclosure designs are going to work without needing to wait for the PCBs to arrive from the fab house. It is available for Windows, OSX and Linux (although the last time we tried to run Sketchup under Wine nothing good came of it — perhaps it’s time to try again).

In [Karl's] case, he’s working on an Arduino compatible board based around the Xmega. He mentions that EagleUp is a great way to get an idea of how component placement will end up, and to see if the silk screen layer is going to turn out well or not. Here’s a link to one of his test designs.

Importing PCB layout into Google Sketchup

If you’ve been spending hours with the digital calipers while designing enclosures for your circuit boards there may be a better way. [Phil] tipped us off about a new software package that will let you import PCB layout files into Google Sketchup. This way you can start working on the enclosure in CAD before you’ve populated your first board. Of course this adds to the pain of realizing there’s an error in your layout, but what are you going to do?

The free software was developed by RS Components, a European component distributor. It takes IDF files, which can be exported from most PCB design software, and converts them to a format compatible with Sketchup, Google’s 3D design software. For those who enjoy a very dry demonstration video you won’t want to skip seeing what we’ve embedded after the jump.

We’re kind of surprised that this hasn’t already been done. If it has, leave a link in the comments.

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