What techniques, tools or resources do you use for modifying enclosures in electronic projects?
November 23, 2008 9:35 PM   Subscribe

What techniques, tools or resources do you use for modifying enclosures in electronic projects?

I'm a beginner to electronics; I recently completed a project that necessitated an enclosure. What I found was a lack of resources
available on how to prepare an enclosure: how I'd secure my PCBs and wires inside, and how I'd get a professional look with external wires and buttons. Any advice?
posted by st0rey to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
A nibbler is useful for making odd-shaped holes in sheet metal or plastic.
posted by contraption at 9:42 PM on November 23, 2008


A Dremel or equivalent is in common use among casemodders. You might check out the casemodding community for techniques that might be useful.
posted by Harald74 at 10:45 PM on November 23, 2008


Dremel tool, nibbler, and hand files for making holes. Also patience and practice. Woodworkers talk a lot about learning how wood behaves; various plastics also have a fair amount of personality which you'll discover if you work them with hand tools.

Laser-printed transparencies, or paper under acrylic, for faceplates.

On the inside of the case, the easiest thing is to buy a case that already has mounting posts or card guides molded into it.

Most electronics component suppliers sell a selection of boxes and cases as well; you won't get something that looks like a sleek modern mass-produced object, but you can get a reasonably professional look without too much trouble.

(If you do want a slightly more sleek look, you can DIY membrane and dome buttons and things, but these days I might also try a through-the-case capacitive touch sensor.)
posted by hattifattener at 1:44 AM on November 24, 2008


A typical way to affix the circuit board to the inside of the enclosure is to use stand-offs. The circuit board is screwed to one end, and the enclosed is screwed to the other end. Use 2-4 per circuit board. You can get them in a range of heights and materials.

To get a professional look to external components, you use switches, lights, etc with bezels, so that a rough-drilled hole is not visible, just the nice exterior half of the switch. eg:
for LEDs
Here is a switch without a bezel/lip/whatever, these are tricky to get looking professional. Here is a switch that does have a lip, much easier to get looking nice.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:13 AM on November 24, 2008


A tapered hand reamer is extremely useful for enlarging round holes; a file is probably best kept for tidying up any roughness left by the reamer. The procedure for making a circular hole is to drill a pilot hole with your dremel, then gradually work the hole up to the correct size using the reamer, then remove any plastic or metal burrs with a file.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:30 AM on November 24, 2008


...various plastics also have a fair amount of personality which you'll discover if you work them with hand tools.

Get a decent breathing filter, please. The combination of various toxic dusts and fumes from working with plastics can be deadly.
posted by rokusan at 4:09 AM on November 24, 2008


A tapered hand reamer is extremely useful for enlarging round holes

And can make a mess in a hurry. Not that I don't love mine, but you will be surprised at how much material a tapered reamer can remove quickly. They're also less useful in gummy plastics, like ABS, where they tend to tear off chunks, rather than cut clean.

For thin metal cases and soft plastic-- and for shapes like the D-Hole used to mount rotating elements, the right answer is chassis punch dies, see this (catalog PDF). You drill a pilot hole, put the die on one side (cutting side in) and thread the puller in through the pilot hole from the other side, and turn. The cutter pulls through and cuts the hole. The puller bears against the surface that'll be cut out, so you get a very clear hole, and since the cutter doesn't rotate, you can do non-circular holes.
posted by eriko at 6:22 AM on November 24, 2008


Note on punches: You want a chassis punch, not a condiut punch. Same things, but sized differently - a 3/4" conduit punch punches a hole for 3/4" conduit flange, which is 1 1/16" inches in diameter.
posted by eriko at 6:26 AM on November 24, 2008


Wow, those punches are cheap! Of course they can't even handle 0.100" aluminum, but still.. And, I have a new saved search on ebay :P
posted by Chuckles at 10:01 PM on November 24, 2008


« Older Are the Mario Brothers named after characters from...   |   What is the best career-change book you have read? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.