ESP32 Cam Laser Cut Acrylic Enclosure

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Introduction: ESP32 Cam Laser Cut Acrylic Enclosure

About: Trying to make a maker out of every student in The Netherlands. One at a time. And a maker myself for a few years now.

I recently fell in love with the ESP32-cam board. It really is a wonder machine! A camera, WiFi, Bluetooth, sd-card holder, a bright LED (for flash) and Arduino programmable. The price varies between $5 and $10. Check https://randomnerdtutorials.com/projects-esp32-cam/ for projects you can use this camera for. I was drawn to this incredible piece of electronics by the lovely work of Bitluni.

I use them mainly for my plotter art. When I do a long plot, I leave the plotter in my room and go downstairs to do some work or watch a Netflix series with my wife. Once in a while I check upon the process by looking at the stream of my ESP32 that keeps an eye on my plotting work. If the room is dark I can light the LED.

I wanted to make it more permanent so I started looking for a case. I tried out some 3D printed cases but none of them fitted my needs. Those are:

  • It has to be as small as possible
  • It has to have a power supply plug
  • It should house the cam very steady
  • It should have the possibility to be mounted on a 1/4" tripod
  • It should be reprogrammable without taking the case apart

On our monthly make night, I consulted Jelle, a former student and a brilliant maker and together we thought up a layer acrylic laser cut case like the ones for the Raspberry Pi. Under his wings I drew the layers. The first attempt was great right away but I decided to make some amendments e few days later and now it is is ready to publish here.

Supplies

Materials

  • (ESP32-cam, I bought five boards on aliexpres).
  • Clear plexiglas, 3mm and 4 mm thick. I used left over material.
  • Female power plug (aliexpres).
  • 1/4 " nut (not very common in the Netherlands, I bought them at the best hardware store in The Hague, Zwager)
  • 4 M3 nuts and bolts, 20 mm.
  • Short female header (six heads)
  • Small heatsink, I use heat sinks designed for the Raspberry Pi
  • (FTDI-programmer for programming the ESP32. I use the $12 programmer made by the brilliant Bitluni: https://www.tindie.com/products/bitluni/cam-prog/)

Total costs (without the ESP32 cam and programmer) are less than $3 if you use left over acrylic glass, a bit more if you have to buy new.

Tools

  • Laser cutter
  • Soldering Iron
  • Pliers

Step 1: Prepare

  1. Desolder the headers from the board. You can choose to keep the six male headers you need to program the board (GND, U0R, U0T, VCC, GND and IO0). I desoldered everything.
  2. Then solder six female headers (in one piece) to the programming pins GND, U0R, U0T, VCC, GND and IO0. You won't need VCC but for a strong structure it is better to use one straight six holes header.
  3. Solder two wires to 5V and ground. Make them about 1" long.
  4. Cut down the female header plug as far as possible and solder the 5V and GND wires to the connections of that plug.
  5. Use a laser cutter to cut the perspex. You can use my files (see below, CorelDraw, Illustrator, AutoCad and SVG).

Important! Layer 1 and layer 5 are cut out of 3 mm perspex, the other layers (2, 3, 4) are cut out of 4 mm perspex.

If you want to change them, be my guest. If you make an improvement, please let me know; I love to see people using our design. The files were originally made in CorelDraw.

Step 2: Build

When you have prepared everything, the build is very easy.

  1. Put the bolts in the back of layer 1.
  2. Install layer 2 and 3 on top of layer 1.
  3. Put the board in. Press the camera in the hole. In our design this is a loose fit. If you want you can make the hole a bit smaller to make it fit snuggly.
  4. Install layer 4.
  5. Put the 1/4" nut in the "vertical hole".
  6. Carefully lead the plug through the hole in layer 5 and secure it with the nut.
  7. Install layer 5 and secure the nuts of the M3 bolts.
  8. Glue the heat sink to the back of the board. Press.

If you press the camera, the board will sink in a bit. You can reverse this by pressing the heatsink. There is about 1 mm space between the board and a piece of the acrylic that hols it in place (in layer 4). I think it is not a problem (when it is installed you will not push it, I think, but maybe in a new version we will tackle that problem too. If you find a better solutions, let me know!

Step 3: Use

I use my camera's just for keeping an eye on my plots. I know many people use the ESP32-CAM for checking out 3D prints. I like to photograph and film my plots so I have all kinds of tripod material at my desk. That is why I made room for the 1/4" nut. Of course you can make it fit your needs. Maybe by making room for a ring to attach it to your 3D printer?

Check the site https://randomnerdtutorials.com/projects-esp32-cam/ for information how to program your ESP32. That is beyond the scope of this Instructable.

If you like this Instructable:

  • spread the word
  • maybe vote for this project in the Remix Contest
  • check my other Instructables
  • connect through my social media (Twitter, Instagram)

One ethical remark. Please don't make recordings of people who aren't aware of that and have not given permission to do so. We already have too many surveillance cameras in our western world.

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