Instructables

Lego + Sugru Panel Mount Connectors (with RetroPie case as example)

FeaturedContest Winner
Picture of Lego + Sugru Panel Mount Connectors (with RetroPie case as example)
IMG_4251.JPG
IMG_4508.JPG
Update 3/16/2014: thanks to everyone who voted for this project in the Game.Life 4 contest!

The motivation for this project came when I combined my Raspberry Pi voice-controlled electrical outlets with a RetroPie. Due to the number of peripherals and cables involved (a powered USB hub, microphone, two USB controllers, breadboard, wireless remote, plus the normal HDMI and power cables for the Pi), this led to a pretty tangled mess of wires that didn't exactly look great sitting in the TV cabinet. So, I wanted to build a nice case to hold everything that looked something like a regular game console - ideally with external connections for the USB devices, an HDMI port, a power switch, and a single power cord (shared by the Pi and the USB hub).

The normal way to do this would be with a custom project box and regular panel mount connectors, like these HDMI and USB ones from Adafruit. To do that, you need to either machine or laser-cut a custom panel to fit all the connectors, and I don't have the means to do so (yet....cough, cough, Full Spectrum Laser contest). I've seen a bunch of cool Raspberry Pi LEGO cases out there - but most of them just enclose the Raspberry Pi itself, without all the extra space for a USB hub and breadboard, or sturdy external panel mount connectors.

Enter Sugru, a self-setting rubber that you can mold by hand, kind of like Play-Doh or modeling clay*. Let it sit for 24 hours and it hardens into a tough, slightly flexible rubber. I'd recently used it for the first time to waterproof a small DC motor for a different project, and realized it would be great for this: build a case out of LEGOs, and use Sugru to firmly seal in the panel mount connections - no machining or lasering required. Rather than using regular panel mount connectors (which have screw terminals that I wouldn't need for this approach), I could use either very short extension cables or female-female couplers to create the panel mounts. The result is a very fun and kid-friendly approach to building a stylish case, without requiring any tools.

So, you could use this idea for ANY project that requires panel mount connections - it doesn't have to be Raspberry Pi-related. I'll just be using my RetroPie "console" as an example since it contains a variety of different connectors (HDMI, USB, barrel jack). I'll also include a power switch (a nice addition since the Pi doesn't have one built in), but that part requires a bit of soldering. It should be pretty easy to adapt the process for any other connections you need for your project (VGA, RCA, pushbuttons, slide switches, etc etc).

*Sugru has an Instructables account where they post their own projects that use Sugru. I am in no way affiliated with the company, nor is this an endorsement of the product. I first found out about Sugru when I won a couple packets as a prize in a different contest, and decided this would be a cool use for it. If you know of a different, cheaper, or better material to use, please mention it in the comments below (for example, I'm curious if plain old modeling clay would work, but my hunch is that it would be too brittle once dried).
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up
AARENAARON4 months ago

Congrats on ur Win

mfrontuto5 months ago

sweet build! Im going to try to see if my take on this will fit into my old school Nintendo

fatpat2686 months ago

As far as cable management goes, you can save a ton of space by decasing that USB hub, and directly soldering all the usb connections to it. Consider chopping off the male end of the USB extension cables and solder each individual wire to the USB hub board. There will be four wires to solder for each port. It's a bit more labor intensive, but you don't seem to be averse to soldering. If you do this, also consider desoldering the actual USB plugs on the hub itself as well.

As far as the HDMI cable goes, you can always buy a thinner hdmi cable. Look for ones with a higher AWG. If you want to go super thin and flexible, look up redmere hdmi cables. I'm not sure if they'll work in your application, as there's some active circuitry in the source plug of the redmere hdmi, but it's worth checking out.

Ben Finio (author)  fatpat2686 months ago

Hmm - I'd definitely considered cutting the USB cables and re-soldering with more flexible wires. It hadn't occurred to me to solder directly to the ports though, or crack open the case of the USB hub itself. Ultimately it would be nice if I could fit the whole thing onto a 1/2 sized Lego baseplate instead of a full one (I might take out the voice command stuff and move that to a different room, and just have a dedicated gaming box), so I'll give it a shot if I get to that point. Thanks!

I think this ROCKS! I'm thinking about making a PC with lego....I was wondering how to do the I/O ports. Problem solved! ;)

Ben Finio (author)  your_dragon1136 months ago

Glad to hear it - post pics of the build when you're done (or better yet, document the whole thing and write your own Instructable)!

BurgersBytes6 months ago

Try silicone calking. I use clear calking and it sets within a couple of hours. It insulates and behaves very similar to rubber. It can also be removed pretty easily with less effort than glue. $5 for a tube that holds way more than 8 packages of Sugru.

Ben Finio (author)  BurgersBytes6 months ago

You mean like this stuff?

www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000KE4PBQ

I can see how that would be more cost-effective if you need to do a lot of these - although I wonder if you can get it in different colors, or paint it? Otherwise I think it just sort of cures in a grayish off-white. Wouldn't go very nicely with my primary-colors LEGO theme, but may be fine for some situations.

Marno16 months ago

sudo halt and sudo shutdown -h now does exactly the same thing.

ve2zgm6 months ago

Well... didn't think about that XD

Nice work! It's bean a while since I want to make my own retro game console. Thank you for this idea!

hogey746 months ago

No, it just looks so awesome! Nice work mate. I've got a Raspberry Pi sitting on my desk all lonely ... pi + lego = winning at life :-)

drdrdrrr6 months ago
It just looks so complicated
Teisha6 months ago

Creative Lego application.

drdrdrrr6 months ago
It looks so complicated
Ben Finio (author)  drdrdrrr6 months ago
Is there something specific you think is not explained well enough?