View Full Version : Best place for a custom designed, plastic, handheld enclosure?

09-19-2011, 03:48 AM
I was wondering if anyone has worked with a design group to design and build a small, plastic, handheld sized, enclosure? Or if anyone has heard of a good group to work with? Any suggestions or ideas would be great!


09-19-2011, 04:24 AM
Rapid prototyping


Phil Pilgrim (PhiPi)
09-19-2011, 05:15 AM

What kind of volumes are you considering? Is there a reason that standard enclosures cannot be employed? The reason I ask is that, for low-to-medium volumes, it's much easier to design the electronics around a standard enclosure than vice-versa. And there are some really nice standard enclosures out there.


Duane Degn
09-19-2011, 06:51 AM

I'm working on a project that uses one of Rayman's 4.3" touchscreens (http://forums.parallax.com/showthread.php?115518-New-4.3-quot-touchscreen-LCD-for-Propeller-quot-used-quot-screens-free-w-purchase.). I'm hoping to keep the device as small as possible.

I'm going to try and make my own enclosure with a couple of sheets of acrylic (or some other plastic) cut to size for the front and back. I'm hoping I can use Sugru (http://www.sparkfun.com/products/10787) to make the sides.

I purchased a pack of Sugru a few weeks ago but I haven't tried it yet. I'm hoping it can hold the two sheets of plastic the correct distance apart. I'm very unsure about how this will work. It would be really cool to be able to easily make a custom enclosure. I'm hoping Sugru sides will make the enclosure feel better and look cooler than using acrylic for all six sides.

I've tried using Kydex (a plastic sheet that can be shaped when hot) to make a custom enclosure. It didn't turn out very well (it looked hideous).

I usually try to follow Phil's advice about buying the enclosure first and then building the board to fit the enclosure. Sometimes the devices being used in a project dictate the minimum size an enclosure can be. I've often found it difficult to find an enclosure that will contain all the devices used without the enclosure being larger than I'd like it to be. It's hard to find an enclosure that will just barely contain the project.

I suppose one could "print" an enclosure with one of those cool plastic printers like Phil just made. Of course one would need such a printer to go this route.


WBA Consulting
09-19-2011, 07:13 AM
If you can design your product into a standard case as Phil mentions, Polycase (http://www.polycase.com/) does machining and silk-screening at really good rates for quantities as low as 50 pieces. We have several products built at work with their standard enclosures modified for specific products.

@duane: Have you seen the assembly process of wjsteele's Wingman (http://forums.parallax.com/showthread.php?123531) product?

Duane Degn
09-19-2011, 07:42 AM

I had seen Bill's thread but I hadn't downloaded the pictures. That's a really nice solution. I think I've seen Ben Heck use a similar method to build his enclosures. I'll have to re-think how I'm going to make my own enclosure.

Thanks for pointing out Bill's work.


09-19-2011, 04:41 PM
Hello Dave;

Among other things, my company does exactly what you ask for. We design and fabricate molds which we then use in-house to injection mold plastic parts. Be aware though that the cost of molds can be significant if they are complicated. Small simple ones perhaps as low as $5000, and for more common complexities $20,000 whereas for exotic stuff $100,000 or more. Many years ago we made one for over $500,000.

So, as Phil indicated, you really need to have the volume to make this viable. Once you have the mold however, the per-piece costs can often be less than $1, again depending on the amount of material consumed.

Hope this helps, and if you have a drawing, send it along to us at www.flexcim.ca then we could give you a very rough idea as to the cost before proceding too far.


Peter (pjv)

09-19-2011, 06:20 PM
Hey everyone, thanks for the info! I should have post my question here rather than spend the last two week looking around, but then I wouldn't have know how much help this has been. :)

I'm working on a project that I'm hoping to put on "Kickstarter" in about 1-2 months. It's a propeller based audio player that senses the environment and it's meant for general consumers. That's why I'm looking for a custom design (500-1,000 or hopefully more)! The great thing about Kickstarter is that it's basically a preorder where the funding is all or nothing so I'm planning on demonstrating the device with a normal, stock enclosure, but I'd like to at least have a CG image (or Shapeway?) of what the final enclosure would look like for the Kickstarter profile and have an idea how much 500-1,000 cases would be for pricing (including design and mold cost).

Thanks for the offer to take a look! I'll Email you this week with some hand drawings of what I'm thinking about and you can let me know what you think.

Thanks again everyone!