Project case advice (my Achilles heel)

I layout my front (or rear) panel on a drawing program. Then I print it on a normal printer (any). You may have to play with the program to get a true 1:1 from your printer.

Tape it onto the front panel and use a small pin punch to mark the hole centers and corners of any not round holes.

Then for the non round holes I scribe a line on the panel between the dots. I use a sharp exacto (backwards) as a scribe.

Likely for the USB and Power in you show, I would drill a hole then I would only have to file the corners.

Any step drill will work. They are wonderful! I usually color the steps with different color markers so I know where to stop drilling. They are not cheap but for only plastic you could start with a less expensive one.

I personally don't use a nibbler often. They leave marks on the panel, especially on a softer plastic (abs).

Dremel's can be useful but they are hard to control by hand.

Greenlee has different punches for odd shaped holes, RS232 Sub D etc but they are costly.

Good luck.

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what JohnRob said, but:

get a PC board drill set. twist them by hand to mark the hole centers. a second use: when you have to replace a header, don't waste time and risk damage with heat, solder suckers and solder wick. just use a PC board drill, twisted by hand, to extract the solder from the hole.

control a Dremel: it is not a scalpel, don't hold it like one. dominant hand on the body of the dremel holding the tool vertically. forearm resting on the table. non dominant hand on the work piece, at a right angle. non dominant hand acts like an X-Y controller, dominant hand is the Z axis control. if you move more than your fingertips you're holding it wrong.

when I make templates for modules I put a + in the mounting holes as a center marker. You should be able to drop the module on the page and see 4 +'es and a thin dotted line inside the hole. I use Libre Office Draw, open source, free, pre installed on Linux.

my preferred technique:

  • template.
  • mark, drill, tap.
  • put a 4-40 or metric screw in the tapped hole as required.
  • put a nylon nut on that for spacing the solder pads away from the plastic.
  • module.
  • nylon couplers, also known as standoffs, to hold the module. these are much easier to install than scrawny little nuts, if you have kielbasa fingers.

you need nerves to make a large project box from clear plexiglass. mistakes glare like neon.

If I had a 3D printer I would try this: flat panels, thinned at hinge points. One edge of each panel round, the opposite edge C shaped. Mount and wire modules and controller laid flat, bend it into box shape, snap round edges into the C shapes, and voila: a compact box that a guy with hands by Hormel can work in.

it would be a fine and wonderful thing if some Arduino forum would set up a place where fussy perfectionists could post module templates in .odg format. one guy who does it well does the work, the whole community benefits.

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Great info - thanks.

Bit disappointing that no-one is making boxes that make it at lest a little easier (eg pre-made cutouts) - because all these suggestions still mean I will spend much longer on the box than on the circuit and code, while my INTEREST is 100% in code/circuit and 0% in box... :slight_smile: - wonder if there's a market opportunity there...

No :frowning:

Think not? I am sure there are tens of thousands like me who want to do electronics and code and who have zero desire to get into making hardware...

BTW, any wood working skills ?



the thing is: one of my projects has one each DB9, DB 15 VGA, and DB44 connectors, a 4 pin power connector, and

I have 3 megas with USB type B connectors, countless UNOs and Nanos with mini B connectors and a handful of mini megas with Type C connectors.

do you:

  • put one of every kind of connector ever made on the box
  • put one particular set of connectors on the box, or
  • just make a blank box that can be put to any use and let the user solve his own problem

I would love to have a small CNC capable of milling plastic and perhaps thin aluminum. I have zero interest and zero time to design other's hardware.
So if I had such a device and decided to offer a milling service, I would need to receive the box to be milled and whatever code (G-code?) would talk to my CNC. My sole responsibility would be to properly secure the box, load the customer's code and press a button.

I could see this would be a disaster. With no opportunity to verify the code, customer complaining when their code didn't match what they wanted........

Maybe a company like Sparkfun could come out with a system where premade connector inserts (each a couple of centimeters square) that would snap into a frame, might be a usable product.

Until I closed my business in 2019, the business next door was a custom plastic manufacturer. Still in business. Lots of plastic CNC. The MAJOR expense was the vacuum table to hold the plastic sheets. His vacuum pump startup sometimes cause our equipment to fault.
His name is also Paul. His milling is all done from CAD drawings. I can post a link to his web site, if anyone is interested. He doesn't do much one-off work, except for sample for customer acceptance.
Also, Rob, thin aluminum is not milled. IT is punched. Again, the holding problem.

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Geek: sure thing. But its is not a stretch to imagine a box with:

  • mounting for the Arduino Uno
  • holes for USB and power
  • perhaps a hole for power LED and switch
  • perhaps prepared, but unfinished, holes for more LEDs/switches and a display

Anyway, reading all this, I think it's going to be a 3D printer for me....


Keep in mind, a CNC can cut holes and engrave panels with lettering.

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Using a CNC.

A power supply with front and back plastic panels.

Note the different hole shapes and the lettering that can be accommodated.

Another example:



Took your advice - reluctantly, I bought a 3D printer. Now we'll see how many weeks it takes me to even figure out what CAD software to use (free, preferably: this is a hobby!) and the to learn to use it.. :slight_smile:

Larry: That's exactly the kind of thing I was thinking about.. beautiful.

“I bought a 3D printer.“

You do know a 3D printer is not a CNC machine ?

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Yes, I do. It was a choice between the two ways of tackling this. 3D won out because I can use a 3D printer for more things than just making front panels and cases.

(The 3D comment was in reply to a previous poster who said 'buy a 3D printer')

Some day I’ll get a 3D printer too.

Just haven’t had a reason to get one yet, besides, would have to get a new wardrobe for the wife if I got a 3D printer :wink: .

..or. in many cases, a new wife... :slight_smile:

They're not that expensive anymore - around $200US. But now the hard part: selecting which CAD software to use - and learning that.

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consider octoprint, a dedicated OS for Raspberry Pis

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Don't see a use for little figurines ...

Wives? you are joking! :crazy_face: