Case and user interface panel for a system

Hello guys,

So, it has been a while since I started messing around with microelectronics and I feel I finally reached a point, in terms of knowledge and ongoing projects, in which I can start producing more permanent solutions to the systems I make with Arduino.

Recently I ordered some PCBs to produce a final version of a system I prototyped with Arduino Uno. Now it comes my doubt: how can I produce/get a good, reliable and "maintenable" case and, specially, user interface panel (with buttons, LEDs, cable connectors and a 16x2 LCD screen) for an electronic system?

Coming from a non-electronics background, I find it hard to know which components I should be looking to make my life easier when trying to mount such a case and panel. In my first attempt, I ordered an acrylic laser cut panel, attached it to a wooden laser cut case, and simply glued buttons, LEDs, and cable connectors in it. The aesthetics was not so bad, but it was definetly a not practical solution to mount and will definetly be a nightmare if some connector, LED or button damages and needs to be changed, since everything is glued. Also, the wooden laser cut case was not ideal, since I would prefer plastic, metal or some sort of more reliable material not prone to things like humidity damage.

Does anyone can refer me to some topic here on the Forum, website, YouTube channel, or anything that talks about this subject? From time to time I make a reasearch about this but only manages to find little pieces of information and components that may help with this, but never a tutorial or long post talking about this and the different options that exist nowadays.

Kind regards, in advance.

If you have access to a 3D printer, you can always print exactly what you want/need.

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Nice! And in terms of components to aid in the fixation of buttons, LEDs, connectors and LCD screens to the case, have you got any tips?
The LCD and LEDs are the components that I have the most doubts. How to fixate a LED into a panel in a way that is easy to replace it if it damages? And LCD screens, have you found any LCD screens that comes with some sort of finnish frame of some sort, for a better appearance?

Post a link to a picture showing the current layout.

Are you wanting something that will survive in a home, office or industrial setting?

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I can relate to this!

For a couple of my recent projects I've resorted to using these:

I drill holes to mount switches - bigger holes with grommets to pass cables through. I was able to mount a 16 x 2 LCD by drilling holes through the clear plastic and using some M3 bolts and associated nuts (I even have nylon versions now).

The result is robust - weather-proof - easy enough to maintain, but it still looks very substandard (more like a prototype). I can see ways to improve it, but it's still far from an ideal solution.

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Search for "panel mount" items. There are LEDs that have a housing around them that will snap into a 1/4" hole. The same is true for LED panels. These items can be "clicked" into place but are removable if necessary.

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I still didn't draw a layout for the specific project I am working on but my intention in this post was for general guidance on how to mount pannels and cases, and how to properly find these components. I still did not manage to find the correct keywords that allowed me to browse this itens, but the contributions here shedded some light to the case for me

Nice! I did find this cases in local shops in my city, I also experimented with them. I had some success using then with circular components (connectors, LEDs, buttons), but when I tried to use components with rectangular shapes (LCDs, DC jack connectors) the result was pretty ugly because I could not make a clear cut in the plastic to create a hole to fit these components. How do you make such cuts?

I currently use a 3D printer, but before I got it I used a hand nibbler and a file.
The main work material of this tool is thin metal, but it can also process plastic.

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I'm glad my suggestion at least helped a little. To be honest, I generally try to avoid the need for non-circular cuts - but it I have to then I really just have to take each case on it's merits and use "whatever means necessary" (fret saw, hack saw, Dremel, file etc). I think it's fair to say that it's possible to get a good result - but if one doesn't have the ideal tools then that "ideal result" is still achievable, but it just takes a totally disproportionate amount of time ... thus is probably more an exercise in patience than anything else.

A 3D printer is on my dream list for my projects; would love to work more with custom printed circuits also.

Hope this helps you a bit more.

Guys, thank you all for your suggestions. This exchange of experiences was really great and it is good to know the techniques you have been using! I don't know if I should mark just one answer as solution because all contributed a little to the problem. Best wishes to all

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