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Enclosure Profiles

by EricHunting, published

Enclosure Profiles by EricHunting Apr 29, 2010

Description

This project is an entry for the MakerBot Giveaway competition announced on April 14th.

Enclosure Profiles are a simple way to design and make attractive custom enclosures for electronic and mechanical projects using today's modest resolution fabbers. The concept was inspired by classic pre-blobject radio and electronics enclosure designs like the Tivoli Model One and was originally intended to be used with aluminum extrusions in standard forms that could be cut to length like lumber. It was one of the proposed example design projects of the TMP2 Open Source Everything Project intended to illustrate the possibilities of globally refined open designs. However, the recent advent of personal fabbers like the MakerBot and RebRap offer the possibility of producing these enclosure profiles on-demand, printing them to length.

Enclosure Profiles are 2D profile shapes that form the shape of a tubular enclosure finished by front and back faceplates. The profiles feature inner-surface slots or channels for the simple slide-in mounting of circuit boards or mechanical chassis plates and standoffs thus allowing a project assembly to be held together with just the faceplate screws and/or threaded rods. Faceplates are made from any useful flat stock material with openings cut to accommodate any desired controls, switches and buttons, displays, or interface ports. They can surface-mount to the enclosure profile ends or be mounted flush or recessed by routing the profile ends to make the necessary recess.

Different perimeter profile shapes add additional features to the enclosure profiles, such as heat sink fins, stand-off legs, bases, or flanges for bolt attachment, and so on. By using stacked combinations of variant profile segments with the same inside profile and base dimensions and held together with threaded rods, it is possible to create more elaborate enclosures with different features. For instance, by combining a plain profile segment with two short segments with leg stand-off ridges one can make a case with four free-standing legs. Conversely, combining a large segment with stand-off ridges with two short plain segments makes a case with overhanging front and back bezels.

An infinite variety of enclosures is possible by varying these simple 2D profile outlines with different dimensions, different combinations of interior slots/grooves, and different perimeter features and using them in different stacked combinations. The purpose of this design is to introduce viewers to this simple concept and encourage their own experimentation with different profiles of their own design.

This concept will also work with laser/CNC cut flat sheet materials with multiple profile flats cut, stacked, and held together with threaded rods and surface-mount face plates. This approach will not produce a waterproof enclosure but does allow for the use of novel or recycled materials such as cardboard.

The profile designs shown are several variants designed around the dimensions of the standard 170mm square Mini-ITX motherboard. This is intended for a fanless low-power PC enclosure with external power supply. Included are faceplate templates for surface-mount and flush/recessed faceplates.

This author apologizes for the lack of a 3D view illustrating the profiles in extruded depth but, unfortunately, it was not possible to import these precision Illustrator drawings to SmartSketch for a quick rendering.

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Instructions

Note that this is an experimental design. Expect adjustments to suit differing hardware. It is recommended that thin test profiles or cardboard templates be made and compared to the intended insert boards and added components.

This demonstration Enclosure Profile is designed as a fanless enclosure for a 170mm square Mini-ITX motherboard using external power supply. The profiles illustrated are for plain box, legged box, stacking box, and vertical standing base profiles. To use these profiles import them to the appropriate software for your fabber or other tools and print to the desired depth -in this case at least 200mm deep.

Use the faceplate templates to cut front and back faceplates. Most any material you wish can be used. The larger outer template is for surface mount faceplates. The smaller inner template is for flush/recessed faceplates and is also used as the routing template for these faceplates. The faceplates shown are blanks. Add template outlines for interface ports and vent grills as appropriate for your particular brand of motherboard. Note that these template screw holes and the screw/rod channels on the profiles are sized for M3 screws. The screw mount channels feature open channels for flexing and should accommodate self-threading screws of short length. Adjust these features as necessary for your choice of screws or threaded rods.

To make profile combinations stacking profiles with different perimeter features, use the inner faceplate template as a routing guide for male and female profile edges. Fine adjustment is likely for this depending on your hardware and its precision. Likely combinations with this profile set would be adding short segments of the standing base or standoff ridge segments with a larger plain box segment.

Following this Enclosure Profile example, one should be able to grasp the simple scheme behind this design concept and be able to invent custom enclosure profile designs in any desired size or shape. Simply modify the 2D outlines to devise your own custom enclosure shapes and print to depth. Comments and suggested improvements are welcome. Feel free to experiment and please share your new Enclosure Profile designs with others here on Thingverse.

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