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April 24, 2014 AT 3:00 am

3D Modeling Enclosures for DIY Projects #3DThursday #3DPrinting

3D Printed Enclosure Parts

Getting your DIY electronics projects off the bread board and into a neat little package is probably one of the best uses for 3d printing.

Designing your own project box may seem a little daunting, but knowing the design process can help you get started.

A good data sheet will include layout dimensions, but sometimes they don’t. Luckily, a good set of calipers can assist you in measuring the dimensions of an object. You’ll be happy to know our custom products here at Adafruit include schematics and layout dimensions.

Mitutoyo Calipers for Measuring Things

Autodesk’s 123D Design [for desktop] is a great piece of free software that has an easy to use UI. Don’t let the simple interface intimate you, it can be a pretty power modeling tool. To get a breakdown of navigating around an object and an overview on features and tools, check out the autodesk 123d design youtube playlist.

Autodesk 123D Design - 3D Modeling  enclosures for DIY Projects

Let’s start off by creating a simple box from the primitives menu. When you select the box icon and move the mouse cursor over the canvas grid, enter a value for length, width, and the height of your desired project enclosure.

Autodesk 123D Design - Adding Fillet

Add a fillet to the edges to round them out by highlighting each side of the object. Hover over the floating gearing icon and select the Fillet feature. Enter a value to make the edges all round and nice like.

Autodesk 123D Design - Shelling Objects for 3D Printing

Highlight the top face of the box and choose the Shell feature. Enter 1.5 in the input box to make our project box 1.5mm thick.

123D Design - Duplicate Covers

Create a 1mm thick box with the same dimensions of the first box and make two duplicates of the object. This will make up our cover or lid that will snap onto the project box. Move the second copy above the first one so they’re separated.

123D Design - Shell Duplicate Cover
Highlight the top and bottom faces of the copy and shell it out by 1.5 mm. By selecting the top and bottom faces, it creates a frame.

123D Design - Subtract From New Duplicate

Create a new copy of the cover and move it up exactly in place with the framed out cover. Use the combine feature to subtract the frame from the new duplicate making a 1.5mm thinner cover copy.

123D Designer - Trimmed Cover Copy

Select the top and bottom faces of the trimmer cover copy and create a new shell with a 1mm thickness.

123D Design - Shell Subtracted Cover

Move the shelled frame down towards the original cover where the two intersect.

123D Design - Combine Frame to Cover

Use the combine join feature to merge the frame with the cover.

123D Design - Positioned Parts

Position the cover next to the box and ensure they’re both equally level to the grid. When you export these out as an STL, you’ll need to set the reset position of each axis so it prints in the middle of your build platform.

Pleasant3D Quickly Center Object

You can use a free app like Pleasant3D to quickly make this modification. Open it up and select the Center Object button, save and thats it! You can now slice it in Makerware, Replicator G, Slicer or any other slicing app.

And there you have it! Some basic steps to get your first 3D modeled DIY electronics project started. So the next time you’re thinking about packaging your cool project, why not try 3d pinting. Having the capability to design and make just about anything for your projects is the best reason to own a 3d printer.

What kind of 3D printed projects would you make if you had a 3D printer? Let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading! Until next time, learn, make, share, repeat.


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Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!

Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!

The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!


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1 Comment

  1. I do have a 3d printer on order (a Robox! from Kickstarter).

    Aside from a few practical applications (a foldable trash can for traveling and a way to make emptying ileostomies less messy) I plan to make a large robot with a steampunk theme. And then I plan to try my hand at creating ray guns; maybe they aren’t in the Louvre, but they are a large part of early 20th century SF art.

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