Introduction: Laser Cut Acrylic Box
Knowing how to build a circuit is half of the journey. The circuit has to be enclosed properly in a minimal or stylish box that keeps the circuit safe from the natural elements. By this I mean, it can survive a week in a schoolbag: being rattled, tossed around, and placed under the weight of multiple textbooks.
Therefore in this project, you will build a relatively sturdy and aesthetic box made out of laser-cut acrylic pieces. The great thing about acrylic is that it is self finishing and already looks pretty sharp, clean, and aesthetic.
For a lot of other projects that I have built (you can check out my Instructables account for them), I use the same box as it is easy to build and looks good.
1) Laser cutter and acrylic. If you don't have a laser cutter of your own, like me, you can find a laser cutting service by searching online. They are relatively cheap and get done pretty quickly.
2) Superglue or Acrylic glue (Acetone)
3) 4 x 3mm nuts
4) 4 x 3mm bolts
5) Craft knife to peel off the cover
6) Sandpaper or a file to sand if necessary.
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Step 1: Designing the Box on 2D Modelling Software
For this, I used Fusion 360 to create a 2D sketch. And then I exported the file in the form of a Dxf attachment. I have linked the file in the step. You can also use adobe illustrator and save the file as a .ai file.
Additionally, if you don't have adobe illustrator and it is too expensive to purchase, you can also use Affinity designer, which offers you a free trial of about 1 week.
Finally, a lot of the laser cutting services allow you to even send a pdf document that they can turn into an appropriate image for the laser cutter. So maybe you could work on pages for apple and MS paint for windows and then export it to a pdf document.
I have already made the document and you can send it directly to your respective laser cutting service. If required, you can open the dxf file on Inkscape to make any changes. Here is the link to the google drive folder with the dxf file: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1s56NuT9DdQnu7TLD8ZSbYeZye12RqKpW
The holes in the top cover are for a 16x2 LCD screen, potentiometer, LED, and a PTM button. However, if you don't want all the holes than you can just delete them from the design.
Step 2: Laser Cutting and Peeling
After you finish making the relevant adjustments to the design, you can send it off to the laser cutting service. And in a couple of days you will, hopefully, be receiving the various parts of the box.
The first thing to do is to organize the pieces so you know how they are being put together. Next, using a craft knife/Exacto knife/box cutters carefully peel off the protective film from ONE side of each piece. Make sure that the side's film you remove is the side that is going to be difficult to access after the box is glued. This will help prevent needing to worry about peeling off the sticker from e.g. an inside side of the box. Additionally, one side is kept on to help prevent any scratches or marks when gluing.
Step 3: Glueing the Box Together
You can use any type of super glue or acrylic glue. The difference is acrylic glue chemically welds the pieces together, essentially creating a single large piece. Superglue just creates a strong bond between the surfaces.
Acrylic glue is more expensive and difficult to find compared to super glue. However acrylic glue offers a more sealed joint. Additionally, it doesn't dry instantly so it is possible to adjust your piece if it is placed incorrectly while gluing.
I used super glue as I couldn't find any Acrylic glue. After gluing the bottom of the bottom should look similar to the image.
Step 4: Screwing on the Cover + Modifications
To make it easy to open the box for repairs as well as be able to secure it tightly I decided that nuts and bolts would be the best option.
As you can see in the very first image, there are a couple of holes near the corners of the top pieces. This is to make it easier to insert a 3mm bolt. The silver of the screw will contrast well with the white of the box.
The bottom piece of the top section will be glued to the main frame using superglue. The top piece of the top section will be secured to the piece below it using nuts and bolts. This is shown in the image.
Finally, now is the time for any necessary slight modifications such as sanding or marking the box.