Simple Jig Gives Plastic Homes to Orphaned Projects

Look around your bench and chances are pretty good that there’s a PCB or scrap of perfboard or even a breadboard sitting there, wires and LEDs sprouting off it, doing something useful and interesting. Taking it to the next level with a snazzy enclosure just seems too hard sometimes, especially if you don’t have access to a 3D printer or laser cutter. But whipping up plastic enclosures can be quick and easy with this simple acrylic bending outfit.

At its heart [Derek]’s bending rig is not much different from any of the many hot-wire foam cutters we’ve featured. A nichrome wire with a tensioning spring is stretched across a slot in a flat work surface. The slot contains an aluminum channel to reflect the heat from the wire upward and to protect the MDF bed; we wonder if perhaps an angle section set in a V-groove might not be more effective, and whether more vertical adjustment range would provide the wider heating area needed for wider radius bends. It works great as is, though, and [Derek] took the time to build a simple timer to control the heating element, for which of course he promptly built a nice looking enclosure.

We can imagine the possibilities here are endless, especially if you use colored acrylic or Lexan and add in some solvent welding. We’ve covered acrylic enclosure techniques before; here’s a post that covers the basics.

33 thoughts on “Simple Jig Gives Plastic Homes to Orphaned Projects

    1. Can do that with the Dollo 3D printer. All its parts are small enough to be printed on a Monoprice Select Mini, Malyan M200 or other with a 120mm cubed build volume.

      Instead of belts or screws it uses 3D printed herringbone racks and gears. To fit small printers, STLs of the racks in sections short enough to fit the bed at a 45 degree angle are available. If you want one piece racks, print new ones on the Dollo’s larger bed.

    1. Some people use more than one system. I measure the medicine for my animals in ml grams or mg, the height of my horses in hands, and the length of my fields in Roman paces. A hand is four inches, or nearly 10 cm, and a Roman pace is roughly five feet. My hands and my legs I always have with me; not so the meter bar or the 50 meter tape.

        1. New here? Yes and no. Been hacking since I learned to solder at the age of eight, before there was Hackaday, or even computers with transistors in them. I am constitutionally incapable of making a cold solder joint.

          Made a carbon arc furnace. Made explosives. All from stuff found around Grandad’s house.

          Now Hackaday is inspiring me to get going on more of that stuff again. Right now I want RPi control for my electric fences. Switching 10kv wiring remotely, without blowing up the electronics, is not going to be easy. Or is it?

          1. If you use 63/47 it is impossible to make a cold solder joint :-)

            I think a Roman pace is exactly 5 Roman feet so that one mile (1000), is 5000 feet. Or 4860 English feet.

          2. 63/47? That’s 110% solder! Truly advanced metallurgy. Actually if you disturb 63/37 (eutectic), or any solder, as it cools, or if you do not heat properly, you can get a bad joint.

            The Roman mile is mille passus, 1000 Roman paces, roughly 5000 feet. The pace is counted on the same foot (left, left, left) so we would call it two steps. It is not an exact distance. Real hackers aren’t ashamed to know the Classics, and possibly even Latin and Greek.

    2. I’m sure that Derek chose 1/2″ channel because that’s what was available locally. If the homeless despot carried 12 mm stock, I’d bet that would have worked almost as well.

    1. genius! .. The fuser rollers are often coated aluminum tubes with heaters inside, so you can probably bend a predictable radius. Since they are designed to “not stick” to the toner, I suspect they will “not stick” to heat-softened acrylic, polycarbonate, styrene etc. I’m guessing that the coating is usually some kind of fluorosilicone, but who cares, really .. if it’s easily liberated from the donor machine, and does the job, then it’s going in the parts bin.

      I love parting out old laser-printers and their kin (copies, faxes). There are standard modules in these things that are generally useful, and easy to salvage. The rotating mirrors and crazy acrylic lenses are some of my favorite parts. Now I am adding the fuser rollers to that list …

      1. Usually the fuser’s rollers are covered with rubber, the roller’s diameter is too big for stiff angles, and the space between them is too small to push a plastic sheet in between, so the whole printer’s oven will probably not be the right tool at all, but the heating element alone can be really nice for the job.

      1. I have some of those glass tube ready to play with one day, Reflectors can concentrate the infrared heat into a strip, anyone tried lenses, probably would just make the lens hot ??????

  1. Acrylic is such a great material. And acrylic cement is super easy to work with, too. It’s like turpentine, and capillaries itself all over the place.

    And you can laser cut/engrave it, plus apparently bend it with a thin heating element? Sweet.

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