Project Enclosures - CNC Router

So I thought I’d share my approach to project enclosures. This is kind of a continuation from an earlier post but thought I’d start a new thread: 3D Printed Adapter Plates For Project Boxes - #8 by jgskarda as that was a little off topic. Maybe it’ll give someone else some inspiration or help on their project. Or even better if others have ideas on ways I can improve my setup or other ideas to share as well.

So I’m making a Particle Powered IoT Product that is outdoors. I wanted to use a robust weatherproof enclosure. I’ve been very happy with PolyCase.com for a few reasons:

  1. High quality enclosure that is robust and USA made
  2. Decent prices, not cheap but sometimes you get what you pay for. $10-$20 depending on size and volume.
  3. Downloadable .STEP files of their enclosure and all components (This was VERY handy and worth it alone given my use case).
  4. Scalable to the point where they can print and even cut holes in the enclosure. Not there yet but hopefully someday.

However, to date, I’ve been smaller quantity so it was a bit cost prohibitive to have them cut the holes for me. I am also in some regards prototyping so not 100% locked in on final location of each component/sensor. In the meantime, I’ve been learning more in the 3D printing world and CNC routing world and now have several Prusa 3D printers and recently a CNC router.

What’s great is I can 3D print various polycase enclosures and also prototype various positions for the on/off pushbutton and other sensor connections. Then once I am ready, I can order the real thing from Polycase.
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Even better is with having the .STEP file, I can fully model the enclosure, backplate, battery mount, buttons, PCB, etc. within Fusion 360. In this case, I 3D print the backplate/enclosure mount for the PCB and battery holder.

Since I have the entire enclosure designed in Fusion 360 it was pretty quick to make a “mold” of the enclosure to securely hold it within my CNC. I was then able to 3D print the holder to securely hold it in position within my CNC router. Just bolted the 3D printed piece to the extruded aluminum frame.

And now I’m able to precisely locate any range of mounting hole sizes and shapes within the enclosures I use for the Particle Powered projects. It’s less than a minute to cut the holes. Here’s a very brief video of how this is done:

For branding of the enclosure instead of printing on it, I’ve been using weatherproof labels from LabelLab.com.

The combination of my own CNC router and custom weatherproof labels seemed to be a good compromise between cost/setup fees, customization/prototyping and looking like a professional product.

What are others in the Particle community doing in this space? Any other tips/tricks/suggestions? How are others with lower volume products accomplishing these things? I’ve seen posts on 3D printing enclosures which depending on the use case might work well. Any other ideas or methods to consider?

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That’s awesome! Thank you for sharing.

That is so cool! What CNC router do you have? I’m looking into getting one myself.

Thanks. It works pretty slick. Took me a bit to learn Fusion 360 CAM to generate the GCode but was well worth the fun learning process and now have lots of capability to do all sorts of projects.

The CNC I went with is referred to as the WorkBee. It’s an open source design but I ended up purchasing from Bulkman 3D via Aliexpress.

The original version is ooznest I believe.

There are less expensive and smaller table type CNC, however my main reason for purchasing it was for this exact purpose so I went with a gantry style CNC like the work bee as it has a “open frame”. This allowed me to mount the enclosures low/within the table so the vertical location to have a very rigid hold. In other words, the piece is held right where the cutting happens vs holding it at it’s base and cutting it 4-5" high would not be very precise. With a traditional CNC, I would have to be more creative with my method to secure the box in position. Seemed to me like a good use for a Gantry style CNC. Still need to learn more about feeds & speeds and bits to clean up the rough edge a bit but it’s really just aesthetic and cleans up easy with a de-burring tool so hasn’t been top priority.

If you order from Bulkman I’d go with the extra freight for UPS/FEDEx DHL, I think I waited 4 months due to the congestion in the ship yards these days. It was a long painful wait but well worth it in the end. Just wish I paid the few hundred more to have it earlier.

That is so cool! I have an excel sheet comparing different CNCs I’m looking at and I just added it. The open frame seems very useful- thanks for the tip about faster shipping. I do not have the patience for a four month wait.

Have you made anything else cool with it yet?

Haha. nice! The decision was pretty easy for me. 2 friends of mine already had the Workbee design. I went with a different controller and VFD then what they had but otherwise I kind of knew what I was getting myself into already. If you have any questions I can at least give you my newbie perspective. Overall, very happy with what I have for what I need it to do.

I didn’t make anything else cool with it yet. Just got it about 1 month ago. Only other project was just making my 3 kids names out of MDF board and giving them something to paint/decorate arts and crafts project for the day. It just gave me an excuse to go explore Fusion 360 CAM with some scrap pieces of wood and a minimal project and get them involved in Fusion, 3D printing, CNC router, etc. From there I moved on to these enclosures.

Seems like everyone makes signs, cribbage boards and other flat things out of wood using their CNC. I may eventually get into that but for now my plate is full with Particle projects. This CNC router just being one piece of the larger puzzle of my overall particle powered project.

For reference, here is my first piece of my kids name from scrap pieces of wood.

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Wow, that turned out really well! Your kids must love those! Thanks, I might end up reaching out with questions when I’m ready to pull the trigger on one. Right now I just have to figure out if I actually have the space for a CNC.

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That’s actually super easy and very basic compared to what can be done with a CNC router. This is just a 2D cut. I hope to eventually have more time to explore full capabilities further but it’ll be awhile.

haha. Find the space… although fair warning… they can be a bit loud. I went with a 750mm x 1000mm so I can fit it in a corner of my basement however, it’s loud that I annoying the wife when cutting. Definitely can’t use it at night when I do most of my project work. That was even with a VFD spindle instead of a Dewalt Router. It’s the cutting and dust collection system that gets a bit much. It’s nice in the basement but I might of had a happier wife if I set it up in the Garage. :rofl:

haha I live in a one-bedroom apartment and I already have a 3D printer in the living room. I probably don’t have the room for a CNC but also having a CNC in the living room would be a conversation starter, at the very least.