I have had an old laptop lying around the house for several years now. It works ok, but very slowly and it was time to scrap it for parts. This is the perfect opportunity to build my own Raspberry Pi computer. All you need are a few parts and some time to make it work.
Step 1: Supplies
- Laptop Screen- should be in good working order
- LCD Screen controller kit and matching power supply
- Raspberry Pi with Raspian
- HDMI Cable
- 5mm plywood
- 1" hinges
- Small magnets
- Paint or stain for finishing wood
- Wood glue
- Various tools
Note: to operate your Raspberry Pi, you will also need a Bluetooth or USB keyboard and mouse, as well as a micro USB power supply.
Edit: Several people have requested that I post a link to the controller I bought, so it is here. However, just know that this one may not work for your screen.
Step 2: Disassemble the Laptop
Every laptop will need to be disassembled differently. If you have trouble, there are lots of resources online to help. In many cases, you will be able to remove the screen without totally taking apart the laptop, but it will just depend on the model you have. Be careful to not harm the screen or circuitry in the process.
Step 3: Controller
To get the right controller for your screen, find the model number on the back of the screen. I found one that worked for my screen on Amazon for around $20. You can find the one I bought here. Again, this one may not work for you. I just typed the model number and "controller kit" into Amazon to find this. Make it easy on yourself and get a controller that has an HDMI port, since not all of them do.
The kit should come with everything you need to wire it properly and many will come already assembled. You will connect the inverter to the LCD backlight cable that will probably come out the bottom of the screen. Connect the LDVS Cable to the screen on the upper back. These cables should be pretty easy to get right.
Be sure to also get an appropriate power supply for the controller. Mine (and I believe most of these) required a 12v 2a power supply. You can find the one I bought here.
Once you have the right parts, assemble the different pieces and you should be ready to go.
Step 4: Test Screen
Plug in the power supply to the controller and the connect the controller to the Raspberry Pi with an HDMI cable. Connect your keyboard and mouse, and then the power for the Pi. If everything is working properly, it should turn on fine.
If it's your first time booting up a Pi, make sure you have Raspian installed on the micro SD card. you can buy this preloaded or do it yourself at https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/noobs/ . The Raspberry Pi website has a wide variety of tutorials including instructions on how to download and install the OS.
If everything works, it's time to get started on the case for your screen.
Step 5: Make a Plan
I've included pictures of my plan, but dimensions will vary based on the size of your screen.
Start by measuring the screen (both the entire enclosure and the actual display size). You want the hole for the screen to be the same dimensions as the actual display.
Next, you need to know the depth. Measure the thickest piece you have. For me, this was the inverter, which was just under 2cm. So my side pieces are 2cm deep.
Since I wanted my finished product to be a small as possible, I decided to make the border along the top and sides of the screen 2 cm thick.
Next, decide where the circuitry will fit in the finished case. I wanted to be able to access the HDMI and power ports later on, so I arranged the controller below the case, where they will stick out on the left. (You could also easily put it behind the screen for a thicker and shorter end product.) I measured from the bottom of the screen to the bottom of the controller to make sure there would be room to fit everything.
You also need some way to hold the screen in place and keep it from moving. I didn't want to attach anything permanent to the screen itself, so I designed 4 small triangle brackets. These should be the full depth of the inside of the case and the screen should be set back just enough so that it is held against the front panel of the case. The last page shows how I where the brackets would be positioned in the final product.
Finally, I made the back panel with a hinge so that I could get into the circuitry if I need to in the future. Just be aware of where the brackets will go if you chose to include this feature and make sure you have room.
Side Note: You will see that I designed a small pocket for the remote that came with my controller. However, I decided to leave this out of my final design because I didn't think I would use it. Also, you might notice later, that my end product didn't quite match my plan. Be sure your measurements are right!!!
Step 6: Step 5: Cut and Sand Pieces
Using your plans, cut the pieces out of a 5mm thick piece of plywood. I used a table saw for most of the cuts.
For the side with the plugs, I used a piece of paper to draw and test out the size of holes I would need to cut, then traced that piece of paper onto the wood and cut it out.
I also traced the buttons from the controller onto paper and used that to drill holes into the front panel.
Step 7: Begin Assembling the Case
Since this wood is so thin, for the majority of this case I just used wood glue to connect pieces. Glue the front panel pieces together, and the side panel pieces. You will need to glue one connection at a time and let it dry before moving on to the rest. Glue the brackets together.
While things are drying, attach the hinges for the back panel. The shortest screws I had were a little too long, so I added a small piece of wood behind them.
You can also work on the stand while things are drying. I made mine out of the hinges from the laptop. This metal pieces help the laptop in place and also allowed it to open and close, so they are quite strong. You could just leave them as they are, but I but a small piece of wood and attached them with screws. I assumed these would be hard to paint later, so I just went ahead and spray painted them black before screwing them in.
Once the front and sides are done drying, attach the two pieces together. The edges should fit flush if everything was measured and cut properly. Let dry.
Step 8: Attach Magnet Closure
I used two strong magnets that are about 4mm cubes and two small nuts. One the bottom side piece I drilled small holes and used a flat head screwdriver to chisel out just enough to fit it in. On the spot that will match up on the back panel, I drilled a small indentation and then used wood glue to hold the parts in place.
Step 9: Paint
Before fully assembling everything, you will want to paint. This will keep you from accidentally painting on the screen itself.
I painted the whole thing blue and used painter's tape to paint some stripes. Decorate to your heart's content! I also really liked the unfinished wood, so I left the back unpainted.
Step 10: Add the Extra Bits
I used a small piece of acrylic to make the buttons. I just cut these with scissors and sanded and painted the ends silver. The holes I drilled fit tight enough that I didn't feel the need to permanently attach them to the electronics, but you could.
I also attached the hinges I made to the back panel with screws and some wood glue.
Step 11: Attach the Insides
To find the correct location of the brackets, I put everything in place and got the screen lined up exactly where I wanted it. I drew pencil lines around the brackets and then glued them in place.
Next, I used some scrap wood to hold the controller and buttons in place. I knew that I would need to push against these parts when plugging the screen in and using the buttons, so I tried to make sure that they wouldn't move around.
Step 12: Finishing Up
Once everything is in place, you can go ahead and glue the case shut. If you left a hinged portion, make sure you don't glue that part.
And that's all! My wood glue recommends curing for 24 hours, so let it dry properly before you move it around too much. When the glue is dry, plug it in and you're ready to use it!