This is my open source Pocket Operator case. A Pocket Operator is a wonderful little device that is in most cases a beat sequencer with preset sound samples. In short, its a little music maker made by a company called Teenage Engineering. They can be purchased here. My understanding is that Teenage Engineering wanted these little guys to be as cheap as possible while also promoting a DIY aesthetic, so the completely abandoned the idea of an enclosure. This means that any PO is pretty exposed, and while still functional, they don't do great when thrown into bags, given to young children or even placed in a pocket! :O
I wasn't thrilled with the existing cases that were available to purchase either. They were either expensive or were too slick and made the insides inaccessible. This case was my attempt to create something that was cheap and cool-looking but not too cool. It also has a bit of a machinists vibe due to the use of metal hardware. It definitely isn't the lightest, but it doesn't weigh too much. The biggest caveat is that it requires access to a laser cutter. All of the files are available for you to download, customize and do whatever you want with! If you think of ways to improve it, please mention it in the comments below!
So the case has been designed with 4-40 screws in mind because those are the ones I had on hand. I'm sure it could be done with different screws or metric equivalents as well, but a 4-40 lock nut is just slightly thicker than a 1/8"(3mm) thick piece of acrylic, so keep that in mind when going shopping. Here is what you need to do this project:
- 1/16"(1.5mm) or 1/8"(3mm) thick clear acrylic, enough to cover the entire PO face, about 2.4"(6cm) x 4.7"(11.9cm). Note: the hardware recommendations were based on 1/8" acrylic, so if you go with the thinner acrylic, make sure you get shorter screws. This will form the top plate.
- 1/8" thick translucent white acrylic, enough to cover the entire PO face. This will form the middle plate. Translucency is important if you want to be able to see the lights glowing through but want to cover the existing text. I have included an alternate design if you can't get translucent, but I haven't tried it yet.
- 1/8" thick acrylic, your choice of color, finish etc. enough to cover the entire PO face. This will form the bottom plate.
- (A) 23 x 4-40 Thread Size, 7/16" Long Button Head Hex Drive Screws
- (B) 8 x 4-40 Thread Size, 5/16" Long Button Head Hex Drive Screws
- (C) 23 x 4-40 Thread Size, Nylon-Insert Locknut
- (D) 4 x 3/16" Hex, 1/4" Long, 4-40 Thread Female Threaded Hex Standoffs
(E) 8 x #4 Screw Size Washers
For all of the hardware, I used 18-8 stainless steel and aluminum for the standoffs.
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Step 1: Lasercut the Pieces
First download the files included in this step. There's an illustrator version and an svg version. Find a good power and speed for etching to get the text legible. Etch first then cut. Note that the etchings are mirrored. After etching the design, if the acrylic is clear, you can flip it over and maintain a smooth finish while still having the etched elements visible.
Step 2: Snap Off the Hangy Bit From the Pocket Operator
This design only works without the little hang tag bit. Feel free to modify it if you want to keep yours, but I recommend getting rid of it. Also toss the metal stand. It doesn't fit in this design either.
Step 3: Color in the Etched Parts
I used a sharpie to color in the etched parts to add some color. This is really simple to do, but not necessary. Once they're colored in, you can use a wet paper towel to clean up the edges. More information on this process can be found here.
Step 4: Assembly
- Begin by screwing the top and middle panels together with the (B) 5/16" screws the (D) standoffs acting as nuts.
- Place the (C) locknuts in the hexagonal holes in the middle panel. Begin screwing in the (A) 7/16" screws into the (C) locknuts from the other side of the top panel until the end of the screw just passes through the bottom of the locknut. The assembly will be loose and that is intentional. This will allow the screws to move freely and operate as buttons.
- Place the pocket operator into the top/middle panel sandwich with the two potentiometer nobs passing through to two large wholes in the panels. The locknut button assemblies should line up with the buttons on the pocket operator.
- Place the 4 remaining (B) 5/16" screws in the screw holes in the back panel.
- Place two of the (E) washers on each of the screws. The washers will support the pocket operator and offset it from the back panel.
- Place the back panel on the back of the pocket operator and screw it shut into the standoffs.
Step 5: Tightening the Buttons
Once the panels are secure, tighten each of the button assemblies until the locknut is touching the top panel and the screw is touching the button simultaneously without actually pressing it. This step is the most time consuming and requires a bit of finesse.
Step 6: Finished!
Hopefully, you were able to make it through. It may not actually be cheaper than any of the ones that are out there for sale once the hardware is purchased, but it at least will give you the satisfaction of having made it yourself. If you make it, please share your pictures of your completed version. Feel free to improve upon it, and if you make your own instructional add a link at the bottom so we can see the improvements! Thanks for following along.