DIY Raspberry Pi Desktop Case With Stats Display

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Introduction: DIY Raspberry Pi Desktop Case With Stats Display

In this Instructable, I'm going to be showing you how to make your own Desktop Case for a Raspberry Pi 4, which looks like a mini desktop PC.

The body of the case is 3D printed and the sides are made from clear acrylic so that you can see into it. An Ice Tower provides the cooling to the CPU and an I2C OLED display on the front of the case displays the Pi's IP address and information on the CPU usage and temperature as well as the memory and storage usage.

If you like this Instructable, please vote for it in The 1000th Contest!

Supplies

To Build Your Own Case, You'll Need:

In addition to the above, you’ll also need to have access to a 3D printer to print the plastic portion of the case.

I use the Creality Ender 3 Pro which I’ve found to produce great quality prints and is quite affordable.

3D Printer - Creality Ender 3 Pro – Buy Here

You don’t need a laser cutter for this build, although it does help significantly with making the sides. You can also use an online laser cutting service or simply cut your own sides using hand tools. I’ve used a Desktop K40 laser cutter/engraver.

Note: The above parts are affiliate links. By purchasing products through the above links, you’ll be supporting my projects, with no additional cost to you.

Step 1: Design the Case Body

I started out by designing the body of the case to be 3D printed using Tinkercad.

I drew a rough outline and then began positioning the Raspberry Pi and other components within the case so that the OLED display was visible on the front and the ports on the Pi were all accessible on the front or side of the case.

The OLED display is held in place with two small clips on the body along the top edge and a small 3D printed clamp with a screw to hold the bottom edge.

The Raspberry Pi and Ice Tower are both installed and mounted using the mounting hardware and standoffs which are supplied with the Ice Tower, so you don't need to buy any extras.

I don't really remove the SD card from the back of my Raspberry Pi very often, so I didn't make provision to do so through the case. If you'd like to be able to remove it while the Pi is in the case, then you'll need to add a cutout in the back of the case to allow you to do so.

Step 2: 3D Print the Case Body

I 3D printed the body of the case on my 3D Printer using black PLA with a 0.2mm layer height and a 15% infill. I also added some supports for the ports and display cutouts on the front using the slicing software's.

Once the two parts are printed, you'll need to remove the supports and clean up the edges with a craft knife.

You can download the 3D print files here.

Step 3: Install the Pi & Ice Tower

Once the main body is printed, you can start installing the components. Start off by installing the brass standoffs into the base and then position the Pi onto them and use the second set of standoffs to secure it. This is done the opposite way round to the Ice Tower instructions if you happen to look at them first.

You'll also need to remove the fan from the Ice Tower as we're going to be mounting it onto the acrylic side panel so that it draws cool air in from outside the case and exhausts it through the holes in the opposite side.

Add the support brackets onto the Ice Tower and then mount the Ice Tower onto the Pi, remembering to add the heat sink contact pad first.

Step 4: Install the OLED Display

Next, we can install the OLED display.

If your display came without the pins soldered into place, you'll need to solder them to the back side of the display first.

Slide the top edge of the display underneath the clips in the body of the case and then secure it with the 3D printed clamp and a small screw. You might need to use a flexible shaft or 90-degree screwdriver to do this.

Make up a 4 wire ribbon cable assembly of the correct length using the female header pins and the ribbon cable. I used a crimper and some DuPont connectors, you could also just use female breadboard jumpers if you like.

Plug the display cable into the back of the display and then onto the Pi's GPIO pins as follows:

  • VCC to Pin1 3.3V Power
  • GND to Pin14 Ground
  • SCL to Pin3 SCL
  • SDA to Pin2 SDA

Step 5: Design the Acrylic Sides

Now that the internals are all in place, we can close up the sides with the acrylic panels.

I started by exporting the side profile of the case with the Ice Tower roughly positioned so that I could open it up in Inkscape to design the pieces for laser cutting.

There are two sides needed, one with the fan cutout and mounting holes and one on the opposite side for the exhaust air. I designed a hexagon pattern onto this side, if you're going to be using hand tools to make your sides then you'll just need to drill circular holes.

Download the laser cutting files here.

Step 6: Cut the Acrylic Sides

I laser cut the side panels from 2mm clear acrylic. You can also use a colour tinted acrylic or an opaque acrylic if you'd like.

If you can't find the coloured acrylic in 2mm sheets, you can also use 3mm acrylic, you'll just have slightly thicker sides.

Step 7: Install the Acrylic Sides

Start out by installing the fan side panel.

You'll need to press some M3 nuts into the pockets on the fan to mount it. These are quite tight, so it's easiest to place the nuts on a flat surface and then press the fan pocket down onto them so that the seat squarely in the pocket.

Screw the fan onto the side panel using the screws which you removed from the Ice Tower assembly. These are too short to go through the acrylic and the fan, so you'll need to press the nuts into the front side of the fan. They are tight enough that they hold the fan securely in place.

Lastly, use four M3 x 8mm button-head machine screws to attach the side panel to the case body.

Wrap the fan's power cable around the back of the Ice Tower and then plug it into the 5V and Ground pins on the Pi's GPIO pins.

Once your fan is connected, you can close up the other side with another four M3 x 8mm screws.

Step 8: Program the OLED Display

Now we just need to get the display working using a Python script, you'll need to boot your Pi up to do this.

The Pi communicates with the display using the I2C interface, so you'll need to make sure that this is enabled in the preferences.

This script is mostly based on one of the example scripts in the Adafruit Python Library for OLED display modules, with a few minor changes to add the CPU temperature and change the format of the display. You can test run the script to check that your display is working correctly and you don’t get any errors before setting it to run automatically using crontab.

To download the script and see step by step instructions for getting the code to work, have a look at my blog post.

Reboot it and you should see your Raspberry Pi's stats and IP address shown on the display.

Step 9: The Case Is Complete

That's the case complete, let me know if you like the design and what you'd do differently in the comments section.

Please also remember to vote for this Instructable in The 1000th Contest if you enjoyed it!

Good luck making your own Raspberry Pi desktop computer case!

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    20 Comments

    0
    Wolfinlied
    Wolfinlied

    5 months ago

    Any chance of 3d printed sides instead of acrylic?

    0
    boiman123
    boiman123

    Tip 6 months ago

    Bro, use pishop.us for the official raspberry pi products, the amazon pi cost more that the pic and powersupply on pishop

    0
    joostvanpoppel
    joostvanpoppel

    10 months ago

    Have to say that this is the "coolest" build that I have seen so far! Nicely documented as well!

    0
    thediylife
    thediylife

    Reply 10 months ago

    Thank you!

    0
    Dwargh
    Dwargh

    11 months ago

    That's a reaaaally nice design!
    But it's also reaaaally hard to get to the microSD card.

    A punched hole in the PLA case at that microSD card position would be great but I guess that also means one more door to let the dust inside, though, huh?

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    0
    KI5DWL
    KI5DWL

    Question 11 months ago

    Wow! Awesome! I want to make one, but I don't have a laser cutter. Can you recommend any services for this? I do have a 3D printer.

    0
    KI5DWL
    KI5DWL

    Reply 11 months ago

    That could work, but the whole point of the project is the see-through acrylic. Maybe once my dad and I finish building our CNC (long time from now!) I could cut them that way.

    0
    abqjohn
    abqjohn

    Reply 11 months ago

    Ah, but you didn't say "...and I want clear sides" in your comment. AND the 3d printed files I linked to ARE from the author of the 'ible. However, I COMPLETELY agree, and when I build mine, I also want clear sides!
    If you're not ready to buy a laser cutter, see if there is a Makerspace nearby. Or inquire at local schools & libraries, as many are creating mini makerspace-type labs...

    0
    KI5DWL
    KI5DWL

    Reply 11 months ago

    That sounds like the best option. Thank you for your sugestions!

    0
    thediylife
    thediylife

    Answer 11 months ago

    I'm not sure where you live, but for these small items, it's probably best to look for a local company to avoid paying too much in delivery fees. There are loads of small laser cutting shops around that'll do this for you and these are really simple to cut, you can't mess them up too much.

    0
    BerenV
    BerenV

    11 months ago

    Hey, nice build!

    One thing I might add is that for cooling fan operation, it’s often best to have them “pull” air through the case/heat sink rather than “push” it as you have done. It seems like it would be a good idea to push in cold outside air to cool the heat sink, but if all that air doesn’t get directly channeled out the other side, it can swirl around in weird vortexes that aren’t the best for heat transfer. If on the other hand you suck air through and exhaust the warm air, it will often work better. Think of it as lowering the pressure in the case versus raising it. I think that another advantage of the pull configuration is having a less turbulent intake which would cause less dust buildup on the fan.

    I could be wrong about these fluid dynamics, but this is what I’ve seen on a lot of smaller devices (not necessarily big desktops). There are all sorts of flow simulations you can do in Solidworks to figure out how best to design cooling systems, but it’s probably not necessary for a project like this!

    0
    thediylife
    thediylife

    Reply 11 months ago

    Hi BerenV,

    Thanks for the tips! I think for the relatively low heat dissipation requirement for the Pi, either would work fine. The Ice Tower is already a bit of an overkill on the Pi, so you just need a bit of airflow within the case to provide a few air changes every minute, the fan doesn't need to be actively blowing on the heat sink. For more compact designs with less internal volume it might be more important to get the airflow directed properly as well.

    0
    BerenV
    BerenV

    Reply 11 months ago

    Yeah, I thought that Ice Tower looked a little overkill ;) Still a cool design and it would be interesting to run a benchmark test with both fan configurations.

    0
    Eating Pears
    Eating Pears

    11 months ago

    What love particularly about this instructable is how everything I links right to Amazon and everything is available with the exception ribbon cable and the laser cutter. Even right down to the printer that you can purchase.
    The form and design of the case is simple and discrete. With a display for utilization for ram and power.

    Take away personal. Would be make the acrylic slide into place instead of using screws. Or tapper the acrylic edges. To reduce the cut factor on fingers or other parts of your body.

    That’s the only thing I would change.

    0
    thediylife
    thediylife

    Reply 11 months ago

    Thanks for the great feedback Eating Pears.

    I like the idea of having slide-in side panels. It would be a bit tricky to get the 3D print to come out well as there would be a lot of overhanging areas, but I like the idea. Also, a laser cutter produces a pretty dull edge on the acrylic because it burns through the acrylic (and melts the edges) rather than cutting it. The finish is almost as if it were polished. But you'd have to be careful and maybe sand the edges if cutting by hand.

    0
    diogommr
    diogommr

    11 months ago

    This is the cutest case I've ever seen! Awesome job!

    0
    MartinH253
    MartinH253

    11 months ago

    Niceeeee...but I would have definitely put the screen on the other end though...

    0
    Rehaan33
    Rehaan33

    11 months ago

    Wow! Very nicely done, I would never have thought of such an idea...