The Art of Box Making


[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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Autodesk enters the hobby market

Autodesk aims to enter the hobby market with its offering of Autodesk 123d. If you’ve ever been spoiled by a nice CAD suite like Solidworks, Pro-E, or Inventor it becomes readily apparent that the free offerings don’t come anywhere close. At first Autodesk 123d seems to be entirely a Google Sketchup clone, and in some ways it is. Though, after a bit more exploring, the software offers some pretty advanced features, such as assemblies and constraints . All worries about it being windows only and closed source aside, it’s pretty cool that a big name in the CAD industry is taking a look at the hobby market, and overall it is worth testing out to see if it fits into your toolbox.
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Cocktail cabinet to be proud of

At a glance you might think it’s the real thing, but if you look closer you’ll see that The Distraction Contraption is an extremely well-executed cocktail cabinet recreation that hosts a MAME setup. [Sam Freeman] took pictures of the entire build process and has posted them, along with captions, as a Flickr collection.

The project started after some inspiration from this diminutive cocktail cabinet. He wanted his own version that was closer in scale to the coin-op versions that would have been found in bars a few decades ago. He designed the case to fit a 17″ LCD screen using Google Sketchup. From there, he cut out the parts and routed the edges. The controls feature buttons and joysticks, as you’d expect, but that red cap on the end works as a spinner. He tried out a few different ideas for this auxiliary control. He found that using LEGO gears to map the spinner’s motion to the axle of a mouse worked best. To give the plastic knob a better feel he loaded it with pennies to increase the mass, bringing momentum into play. The final look was achieved using wood-grain contact paper, and custom printed skins.