Sunday, 13 March 2016

I changed my mind, Erase and rewind

My recent rack design turned out to simply not be practical. It did not hold all the SBC I needed it to and most troubling accessing connectors was impractical. I was forced to remove the enclosure from the rack and go back to piles of SBC on a shelf.

View of the acrylic being laser cut through the heavily tinted window
This sent me back to the beginning of the design process. The requirement for easy access to connectors had been compromised on in my first solution because I wanted a compact 1U size. This time I returned to my initial toast rack layout but retaining the SBC inside their clip cases.

By facing the connectors downwards and providing basic cable management the design should be much more practical.

My design process is to use the QCAD package to create layered 2D outlines which are then converted from DXF into toolpaths with Lasercut CAM software. The toolpaths are then uploaded to the laser cutter directly from the PC running Lasercut.

Assembled sub rack enclosureDespite the laser cutters being professional grade systems the Lasercut software is a continuous cause of issues for many users, it is the only closed source piece of software in the production process and it has a pretty poor user interface. On this occasion my main issue with it was my design was quite large at 700mm by 400mm which caused the software to crash repeatedly. I broke the design down into two halves and this allowed me to continue.

Once I defeated the software the design was laser cut from 3mm clear extruded acrylic. The assembled is secured with 72 off M3 nuts and bolts. The resulting construction is very strong and probably contains much more material than necessary.

One interesting thing I discovered is that in going from a 1U enclosure holding 5 units to a 2U design holding 11 units I had increased the final weight from 320g to 980g and when all 11 SBC are installed that goes up to a whopping 2300g. Fortunately this is within the mechanical capabilities of the material but it is the heaviest thing I have ever constructed from 3mm acrylic.

bolted into the rack and operatingOnce installed in the rack with all SBC inserted and connected this finally actually works and provides a practical solution. The self is finally clear of SBC and has enough space for all the other systems I need to accommodate for various projects.

As usual the design files are all freely available though I really cannot see anyone else needing to replicate this.


  1. Very interesting. I have a similar problem with Pi boards - my rig is not quite as tidy, but once I build a CNC mill, I'll look at more construction.

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