best way to produce/adapt a casing for an arduino project

hello,

i'm thinking of putting a nice casing for one of my arduino projects. i'd like it to

  • resist to outdoor conditions (mostly humidity and light, possibly frost)
  • if possible to be somehow good looking

i do not have a lot of units to produce and i'd like to try several designs.
i've heard of 3D printers. i've seen this incredibly supercheap model : 5000 USD (omg!)
i've read Print in Plastic
==> Printing in Plastic | SpringerLink
but despite being a very attractive project, the machine they offer you to build feels way of out reach given my experience/tools/motivation

i'm willing to design the thing in a 3D software suite. i remember the nice days with 3d studio max, switching to an industrial 3D software wouldn't hurt that much i guess. i've even used autocad to design the 2D internal layout of various offices in previous jobs. it was fun.

when i see the huge amount of crap stuff in plastic china floods the world with, i a pretty sure they must have a way to produce any kind of casing in a quick and affordable way, but maybe not very environmentally friendly.

do you guys have any idea on how to nicely "dress" my arduino prototypes/projects in a quick and affordable way ?

thanks

RepRap is much cheaper than $5k USD... I'm not sure where your number is coming from (maybe for a commercial rapid-fab printer? Though I thought those were still at around 10k at the low-end).

As far as a "quick and affordable" way - there are few of these style of boxes that are fairly inexpensive (and fit the Arduino well):

You could always go "low-tech" and use a sheet-metal bending brake, and some thin-gauge sheet metal to create the cases, holding them together via soldering or brazing. You could also do something similar with acrylic and other plastics. Some people make enclosures from wood (some of them make very beautiful enclosures in this manner, but you have to be a good woodworker to turn it out properly).

Honestly, I don't consider standard enclosures to be that expensive; if you're at the point of making your project professional looking, taking that extra step and spending a few extra dollars should be worth it. If it is still an issue, one way to get inexpensive enclosures is to go to a few local thrift stores (like Goodwill) and find a $5.00 piece-o-junk electronics for the enclosure (I do this quite often, especially if I see such an enclosure that looks really unique).

Aren't there cheap fab shops now where you can upload a design and have them print it?

I'm thinking something like that place liudr linked to, for laser-cut faceplates, but I think they might do more. Sounds like 'pololu' but that's not it. I thought I bookmarked it -- drat!

justjed:
Aren’t there cheap fab shops now where you can upload a design and have them print it?

I’m thinking something like that place liudr linked to, for laser-cut faceplates, but I think they might do more. Sounds like ‘pololu’ but that’s not it. I thought I bookmarked it – drat!

Found it: http://www.ponoko.com/make-and-sell/design-it-yourself

the 5K usd price came from a so-called low-cost commercial 3D printer

i wasn’t aware of the RepRap, i just love the self-replicating concept. however, i will have to find someone close to my hometown in france who already has one to print my required parts first. and it also looks like even though the price might not be in thousands, at first glance it seems i’d be in for hundred $ and days/weeks of hard work. i’m not sure my spouse would let that happen :’(
i guess i should leave a message in the french forums for that

i like the “sheet-metal bending brake” idea. it never came to my mind that such an approach was indeed feasible for a hobbyist. would you have some good resource to get started for that ?

i still have to get my hands on reallyusefull boxes because they seem to have so much articles that it’s hard to go forward. i’ll dig into this as well

the ponoko site looks great. however i still have to draw the model first. their price range is about 2 USD/min for a 2D lasercut and about 0.80 USD / cm3 of printed material. the site does not say if 0.80 cm3 accounts for air too (total volume) of just material actually printed (plastic volume). supposedly you can upload the sketch file to get a quote. @justjed : have you tried their services ? what was your experience with them then ?

also for the googler ending here, http://hackaday.com/2011/08/05/need-cheap-and-plentiful-project-boxes-hit-up-your-local-hardware-store/ might be of interest as well. i’ll have a look at the nearest hardware store today i think :wink:

anyone has another idea maybe ?

Here is one http://www.boxenclosures.com/index.html

fouchette:
the ponoko site looks great. however i still have to draw the model first. their price range is about 2 USD/min for a 2D lasercut and about 0.80 USD / cm3 of printed material. the site does not say if 0.80 cm3 accounts for air too (total volume) of just material actually printed (plastic volume). supposedly you can upload the sketch file to get a quote. @justjed : have you tried their services ? what was your experience with them then ?

I haven't. I know of them only because liudr has mentioned them. I'm assuming, since it appears he's used them more than once, that he likes them.

Shapeways is cheaper and higher quality than ponoko.

Are you looking for boxes for your hobby projects or are you looking for enclosures for a small run of commercial products?

If the former, just buy any enclosure.

If the later, there are a few options, none of them particularly good.

First, if you need a lot of them, you go to an injection mold firm and have them design a mold and make the parts. The mold is very expensive, but the parts are then cheap per unit.

For small runs you can go to a no-mold shop. There are several of these in the US, I have not looked for them in the EU but I am sure they are there. They will charge you a few thousand to design your enclosure then charge you per unit to build them. Each unit is much more expensive than those made on the mold, but if you need a few hundred a year its cheaper than having a mold made.

I don't know much about 3D printing but my guess is that its probably not much cheaper than the no-mold people and its probably less versatile.

Another option is to find a company that sells pre-made enclosures and find one thats close to what you need. Then make your project fit into it. This is a good option because the enclosures are molded and so look good and they are affordable and readily available. But they may not be exactly what you want. If you can find one that's close though, this is your best option.

thanks for the feedback

skyjumper, that's a pretty decent summary. my goal for now is to dress my hobby project. but i do not exclude to actually sell some small series of them after all. it could be fun. i think if a quality device really provides a genuine help and does not make any marketing effort, people notice that and are willing to pay. unfortunately none of my project match this criteria for now, but maybe in the future :slight_smile:

fouchette:
thanks for the feedback

skyjumper, that’s a pretty decent summary. my goal for now is to dress my hobby project. but i do not exclude to actually sell some small series of them after all. it could be fun. i think if a quality device really provides a genuine help and does not make any marketing effort, people notice that and are willing to pay. unfortunately none of my project match this criteria for now, but maybe in the future :slight_smile:

If you get to that point, well, you have to do some marketing. Or you need to sell it through established places that are related. If its a hobby electronics thing the SparkFun and the like. Consider setting its list price at 2.5 times your cost, and be sure to include all your costs, including shipping stuff around. Those little costs add up very quickly.