Casing up your projects

My initial thought when starting to get into building my own devices was that I have to start by creating the schematics and use them to design the corresponding PCB. After that, use some kind of 3D modelling software to design the case based on the PCB layout.

As a result I procastinated the last step for a long time – I already tried several times and never really could get the hang of modelling software.

Designing a case based on your PCB is a dumb way to get your project cased up though.

Sure, you can do it like this. But building a case around your PCB is a lot of unnecessary work. Instead, just order some generic cases and design the PCB in a way it fits perfectly into the case.

So that’s what I did – I ordered a bunch of generic cases from Pollin and thought about how I could fit my projects in there. That’s the most fun part about a project: moving around the LEDs and switches and knobs and fantasizing about how awesome everything will look when done.

Finished ESP8266 numpad

The easiest way to add parts like switches and buttons to a case is by using panel-mount parts. Once you decided on a layout, you cut in holes for the parts with a drill (e.g. the LEDs for the numpad needed holes with a 8mm diameter) and plug the parts in there. It’s easy as that.

The cases I ordered had rills in them that perfectly fit around a PCB of specific lengths. I just have to plug them in and the boards stay in their cases without rattling around. Once the panel-mount parts are plugged in, you solder them to the board via wires and plug the board in. That’s it.

There’s been one “problem” about this though: My PCBs had to be redesigned in order to have the fitting length. That wasn’t that big of an issue though, as the schematic obviously didn’t change and I only had to resize the board and reposition a few parts.

PCBs in their cases