Introduction: Arduino Project Box
I am constantly playing around in Arduino land working with new breakouts, displays, and sensors. Recently, I had call to build a temperature data-logger to record temperatures from 16 different locations inside of an large electrical assembly cabinet so I could identify if there were any hot spots/cooling problems that needed attention. I selected 18B20 digital temperature sensors and connected them to a Arduino MEGA so that I could monitor the operation of the electrical box over a number of days of run time. The unit recorded the temperatures from all 16 sensors, once per minute, into an SD card which I later downloaded into Excel for review and analysis.
There are LOTS of projects like this 'out on the web' so I won't go into the specific details of my specific version other than to say it used a 4X20 LCD display, Clock/Calendar module, and an SD RAM board. I then made a project specific breakout board to connect the 16 three-wire temp sensors to the processor. Nothing particularly special in the design, but lots of wires and modules to contend with.
Since this project had to be 'ruggedized' for actual use out in the electronics shop, I couldn't leave it in the typical rat's nest of wiring with modules with boards laying all over the top of my desk.
THE ARDUINO PROJECT BOX
I ended up buying a plastic parts box for about $8.00 and mounted things inside the box as a way to stabilize the project and get it ready for actual shop use. It worked pretty well and I thought that I'd share this packaging approach with you folks as 'food for thought'. Here's a few of the neat features that this approach has.
1.) All of the wiring is still very easy to get at so one can easily remove and rewire things for the next project
2) A plastic box won't short anything out.
3) The plastic box and it's dividers, are easily drilled, filed, and cut to make any openings you might need.
3) The compartment dividers are readily removed to make variable sized compartments. Furthermore, the dividers make for excellent mounting surfaces for modules that are best mounted vertically (like the SD CARD module I used in my project).
4) The wiring between modules is easily snaked beneath the compartment dividers or right over the top of the dividers. I found the TOP of the box still snaps shut and locks tightly down into position firmly holding the top-runing interconnect wires.
5) I chose a box with a translucent top, and was pleased to find that I could easily read the LCD display when the box lid is closed.
6) Low Cost. Boxes like this are readily available starting at less than $5 at any hardware or home improvement store. I'm sure you can find them 'on the net' as well.
This is a pretty simple idea, and a few pictures should tell the whole story.
CAUTION - BEWARE OF STATIC BUILD-UP...
ONE WORD OF CAUTION - - - While the plastic project box won't short out your circuitry, when working in very dry, low humidity conditions, plastic surfaces can act as insulators that can accumulate and store electrical charges on their surface. This can lead to damage of static sensitive parts and components.
Most assembled circuit boards (such as an Arduino CPU board) are fairly rugged, but some parts, such as BLUE or WHITE LED's, loose CMOS parts, loose processors, and some FETs, are sensitive to static discharge damage. Use CAUTION when handling these parts near plastic surfaces that could become a charge holding surface!
I haven't had any problems in any of my projects, but I suggest that you read further about static buildup, static damage, and use appropriate methods when handling static sensitive parts and components near plastic, ungrounded surfaces.
Step 1: Here's a Typical Project BOX...
I found a suitable box on sale at a local home improvement store that worked well for me. The box I chose was about 14" x 11" x 2 1/2 " (H x W x D). I picked this one as it had compartments that were large enough to fit an Arduino CPU and the other assemblies like my LCD Display module. It was also deep enough to mount the SD Card module. Also, it had dividers that could moved or removed to make larger compartments as needed.
Step 2: Layout and Mount the Main Parts.
In this photo, you can see how I mounted the major parts for my project. I made simple metal or plastic brackets as needed to hold the CPU and display toward the top of the compartments. For some items, I just mounted them to the bottom of the case with small screws (typically 4-40 hardware). FOAM_STYLE double sided tape is another way to secure parts to the surface or side of a compartment.
Step 3: Add Cut-outs As Needed for Power and Programming Ports.
As shown here, I drilled and filed some holes in the side of the project box to provide access to the Arduino power and USB programming port. This photo also shows how I mounted an SD module so I could easily insert/remove the SD card as needed.
Step 4: You See Displays Thorugh the Top of the Case!
Although this photo is pretty poor, it is truly easy to read the LCD display through the translucent top of the case. Just mount your LCD display as close to the lid as possible for best results.
Step 5: One Last Shot of My Project...
In the lower right hand corner of the photo, you can see some of the 18B20 sensors on the bench top. These guys work really well, come pre-calibrated, provide direct digital readout (1-wire protocol), are durable, are available pre-wired to a 3 ft cable, are water-proof, and inexpensive ($3-$10 each depending on source).
Thanks for reading and I hope you find this idea useful.
Good luck with your next project!