3D Printed Pi Project Case

 

With the Pi Home Automation Controller (HAC) in actual production use in my home, it seemed a good time to do something about the mess hanging from my ceiling in the utility room. Up until now, I have been much more concerned with function over form. However, the frustration of dealing with the slap-dash setup combined with the recent acquisition of a MakerBot replicator it made an ideal time to do something about the mess.

Old messy setup. Raspberry Pi and various wires soldered to project boards in a mint tin.

Slap-dash  Pi Home Automation Bridge that was literally hanging from my ceiling.

One of the many problems with this arrangement (other than the mess) is that when I wanted to make a change, I had to cut wires and re-figure my wiring scheme. Obviously, if I wanted to use this in a production capacity in our home, I was going to have to do something about it.

Enter the MakerBot Replicator. 

As part of a technology push for our learning resource department, my school recently purchased a 5th generation MakerBot Replicator for the use of the faculty and staff. It would appear that this new purchase has mostly functioned as a very expensive knick-knack generator up to this point. I wanted to set an example and create something useful rather than statues of Yoda. I just happened to have a practical need.

A project was born.

In order to create the case properly, I needed to know that parts I was going to use. I selected the following parts from one of my favorite sites http://www.adafruit.com:

In addition, I purchased ten terminal connectors from Jamco.com:

Having picked the parts, I designed the case using FreeCad. This is a great free program for anyone just starting out with this stuff. If you are interested, you can find the parts on thingiverse.com at http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:409064

Empty Pi Home Automation Controller Bridge Case

Empty Pi Home Automation Controller Bridge Case

As seen in the picture, it has mount points for both the Pi and the Perma-Proto Board as well as cut outs for air flow, the DC Barrel Jack, Terminal Blocks and the Panel Mount Ethernet Extension Cable.

What didn’t work.

The mount points seem to vary in size a bit too much. Some are nice and snug and others are too loose for the screws to get a good bite. The Pi mount points didn’t work at all, they ended up being too fragile for use. As a remedy, I printed one of these:

Pi Holder I modified from an existing thingiverse design.

Pi Holder I modified from an existing thingiverse design.

And I super-glued it to the spot that I needed to mount the Pi. The Perma-Proto mounts worked well enough to hold it in place satisfactorily. I will incorporate the Pi Holder into the case in future reiterations. I might make a version of the holder for the Perma-Proto board as well.

The terminal blocks leave a bit to be desired as they are too stiff to use without fearing I will break the case. I will look for a better solution in the future.

I also was not happy with the Panel Mount Ethernet Extension Cable. It was too bulky to fit in the case neatly. I blame the case designer.  I ended up leaving the Ethernet out and just pushing the cat 6 cable through the exposed hole.

Completed Case - Open

Completed case with the top off.

The lid to the case has screw holes to secure it into place but I ended up leaving those off. I didn’t like the way they looked and all 4 of them did not tighten well.

Despite the issues, I am pretty happy with the project. The case looks nice and it has cleaned up my utility room. Here are a couple of pictures of the completed project.

 

Future versions of the case are going to include the following changes:

      1. Better way to secure the lid.
      2. Removable back plate for easy cut-out customization.
      3. Clip-in style Raspberry Pi holder
      4. Clip-in style Perma-Proto holder

For those that are interested, here are the FreeCad files. Feel free to use them and modify as you see fit. I would only ask you to consider linking back to this site if you publish it somewhere and send me copy if you think the changes would be useful.

Files:

 

Completed case - Top On

Completed case with the top

That’s it. That’s what I’ve made so far. I hope you find it useful. I will make revisions to this in the near future. If you’re interested, be sure to follow me on Google+Close

About

I’m just your everyday average home automation hobbyist. I’ve been into technology since I was a little guy and I am currently an IT director at a small community college in rural Oklahoma. While working and playing I’ve had a great deal of fun getting to play with a very wide variety of technology, and I love to play with technology!

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