Customizing Sick of Beige cases for laser cutting
Laser cut acrylic cases are super popular because they look cool, they're easy to customize, and cheap to make. Not everyone has a laser cutter, but there's cheap online services and your local hackerspace might have one.
Before you start
You'll need to have Google SketchUp installed. See our introduction to SketchUp.
Download and install the SVG export plugin
We'll use Seeed Studio's laser cutting service, they take SVG formatted files. Grab the SVG plugin for SketchUp to save in this format. Put it in the SketchUp plugins directory.
Download the case template
Download the SketchUp files that fit the standard size board you used.
You didn't use a standard PCB template? It's gonna be a little more work, but you can still follow along.
Position the PCB footprint at Eagle coordinate center
Open the PCB file in Eagle, and the case template in SketchUp .
The origin marker of the standard size PCB footprint in Eagle should be positioned at the Eagle coordinate center. Origin markers are something every Eagle footprint has, it is identifiable as a white + marker.
We positioned our SketchUp Template so the coordinate centers in Eagle and SketchUp match. Any location on the board relative to the Eagle coordinate center is mirrored to a location on the case template in SkectchUp relative to it's coordinate center (the intersection of Red, Green, and Blue guidelines)
Adding hole shapes for extruding parts
Find the part's origin point location relative to the coordinate center
In this step we will find the location of the origins of various parts you want to cut holes in the case for. Keep in mind that the part's origin coordinates in Eagle are relative to Eagle's coordinate center.
First change the grid in Eagle to millimeters, found in the 'View/Grid' menu.
- Right click on the component and select 'properties'
- The 'Position' attribute is the origin's location
- We will use these values to design the holes in SketchUp
- The left panel is the X-axis, while the right is the Y-axis.
Using guide lines in SketchUp
Once you have the location of the component draw guide lines in SketchUp.
- For X-axis click on the 'Tape Measure tool'
- Click on any point on the 'Green' coordinate line
- Drag the guideline to any point on the template and left click on that point
Right after you click on that point, type in the numbers of the X coordinate. For example, if the location is 51.5mm from the coordinate center in the X axis, just type in '51.5' and hit 'Enter'. The guideline will be positioned at exactly 51.5mm.
Repeat the above for the Y-axis only now using a point on the 'RED' axis line as the starting point. Now you have guidelines pinpointing the exact location of the components center on the template.
Draw the hole shape for the part
Once you have the coordinate center point location on your template, simply draw the outline of the hole you want to cut out, using the component's datasheet, and additional guidelines. Leave 0.5-1m of clearance for manufacturing defects.
Repeat for all extruding parts
Repeat the above for all the holes you'd like to cut out on your case. Keep in mind that the Guidelines are your friend, and pretty much any shape can be made with their help. They are really easy to use, and after a couple of minutes you'll get the hang of them. Here is a manual to the 'Tape Measure tool'.
Export the shape to the SVG file
Simply double click on the template. All the lines on the template, and the face surface should be highlighted. Now right click on any highlighted area, and select 'Export to SVG file'.
The Export Plugin menu will open up. Fill it in as shown above, with the exception of the Output file pane, where you should enter the filename you want it to export to.
Once you've set all the options up, simply click 'Ok'. The plugin will let you know the file has been exported and you are finished.
Send for Laser Cutting at Seeed
There's several online laser cutting services. Some have an online interface for ordering, others need time to prepare a quote.
We send our designs to Seeed's cheap Laser cutting service. You can find further instructions at Seeed's laser cutting service page, but this is roughly what's involved:
Select the quantity, material, and the dimension options that suit your project.
For job difficulty, you need to estimate the overall length of the laser cutting lines. These include the template lines, as well as the hole lines. You can get specific parameters from SketchUp:
- Double click on the model
- Hold shift and click once over the highlighted area to deselect it, while keeping all the lines selected
- Right-click on any highlighted line and select 'Entity info'
Under 'Length' is the over all laser cutting length. If it's below 600mm your job difficulty is Easy, if it's between 600mm and 1800mm it's Normal, and anything over 1800mm is Hard.
Once you buy the cuts you will receive a order number. Compress your SVG file into an archive called L<order number>.rar (e.g. L123456.rar) and email it to Seeed.
Feel free to ask for help
Stuck on something? Ask us in the forum.
Case templates are open source and licensed under Creative Commons 0. They are free to use in any way you like, including commercial projects.
If you make something new please share your designs with us in the forum.