Posts Tagged ‘Eagle’

SketchUp project cases

After completing a kit or small project I have a terrible habit of not finding a suitable box to put the thing in. This is partly due to the really unappealing array of cases on offer. Sverre, LA3ZA recently posted something regarding the ultimate qrss kit v3 that I gave a quick response to and this is supposed to be the long winded response.

Sometimes these cases are blow moulded polypropylene or extruded aluminium that needs better tools than I possess to make holes, especially square ones for things like USB connectors and LCD’s. So what’s the answer? well I prefer to use simple acrylic cases like those made by Dangerous Prototypes in a range called Sick of Beige (or SoB). these are simple flat sheets of acrylic that are laser cut and have 4 holes for fasteners. A really nice idea but its only half way there.


This company also like to encourage you to complete a project that looks nice. Not just with the case but also the PCB. They offer a few tools to help you do this. There are a few routes to take and I have found that with a bit of extra time you can make a really well finished project.

 1. PCB sizes

CADSoft Eagle is a piece of software that allows you to draw out schematics and then layout a PCB. There are loads of alternatives (Fritzing, KiCAD, DIP Trace etc.) but in order to make use of the tools. Eagle is the way to go.

DP offer a library of PCB sizes that fit their cases. Easy, just use one that fits the project you are doing. Just install the library and pick the right size of case. Take a look here for some more info. You’ll find links to the libraries there too.

2. Case design

Now it gets a bit more complex, but not too hard. You’ll need to look at some mechanical design tools. In simple terms we need to draw something that a laser cutter can cut out. In general the ones I’ve come across use .svg or scale vector graphics files to do the cutting. Not everything produces these files in an easy way. There are loads ways to do this, it just depends on your preference. I prefer to use SketchUp as it has a handy feature I’ll come onto in a moment.

The simplest way to modify one of these cases is to use the guide by Dangerous Protoypes themselves. This is available here

I’m not going to explain how to use SketchUp, there are loads of really good tutorials about and you can build up your skills using those. I tend to go for YouTube ones as they give you the basics you need quickly and easily, without too much jargon.

I’d suggest picking a standard size case first off and then using the other tools when you get the hang of things. Use tools like offset in SketchUp to get things lines and don’t forget about tolerancing to make sure there is a clearance where you need it. It sounds simple and it really is, just put the extra holes in where you need them and hey presto, nearly done.

Export to SVG using the tool and check with something like Inkscape to make sure your case looks right.

3. Case manufacture

As I said earlier, many of the machines I’ve come across just need the data. Seeedstudio is one manufacturer but there are plenty of others. Follow their instructions and upload your files. Pay the man (or woman) and you’ll get your sheets of laser cut material back in no time. You’ll need to get fasteners and your favourite supplier may be able to help. I have a really good industrial supplier a couple of miles down the road who gets excellent quality fasteners, otherwise Farnell, Rapid or RS will give you options. Failing that try eBay if you must.

4. Going a bit further

There is an Eagle Plugin that will give you the chance to export your (empty) board to SketchUp and almost certainly you will find the parts or near equivalents in the 3D warehouse to place on the board. Just remember that whilst SketchUp is good, you need solids to be able to line up properly and whilst a free (or £500 pro version) CAD package is going to give you most of what you need. It isn’t AutoCAD Inventor or Solidworks (at almost 10 times the price). I would suggest getting a handle on the software first before getting too embedded as you may find it frustrating if you can align holes for example.

If you do go for it then you can create some really good looking CAD drawing that can be rendered into photo realistic parts. Here’s one from the website.


The range of free tools available to the hobby user is now amazing and no doubt will only get better over time.

Eagle add ons

These may not be a surprise to you but the popular electrical CAD package, Eagle, has add ons plugins, scripts or whatever they are technically called. Most of these would probably be really useful if I ever knew what I was doing but one stands out. Its called Eagle-up.

Eagle-up takes the PCB as you’ve laid it out and puts it into the equally popular 3D CAD programme Google Sketch up. The plugin allows you to see the PCB in 3 dimensions and allows you to add components from the extensive library or draw out your own. The end result is a potential a photo realistic rendering of what you have just designed. I’m using it to place the various parts on so I can design a case to fit the MSFduino. I want to laser cut an acrylic case and Sketchup let’s you export to an svg  file by, you’ve guessed it, a plugin.

A bit of useful information to share if that’s your kind of thing.

The Eagle hasn’t quite landed

Excuse me whilst I explode

For the past few weeks I have been designing a simple circuit for my Arduino clock. Its the first PCB I have designed and I’ve needed a bit of help from a few sources to get it right. All that help has been really welcome.

One thing just isn’t happening for me though. Exporting the Eagle files for manufacturing. Namely the drill file part of it. The design has been done in Eagle, because it has a number of libraries of commonly used parts to help numpties like me design stuff. It also has a function to produce the gerber files so your PCB can be manufactured. But the drill file bit just isn’t happening for me. Countless hours googling the answer have come up empty so I’m going to have to think of a way round it.

This should be the easiest bit, maybe it is in other packages but its just not doing it in Eagle. I think I will have to take a break from it for a while as it is starting to wind me up.

Progress with the shack clock

I’ve spent a bit of time over the last day or so putting together a schematic for my Arduino / MSF60Khz shack clock. The previous iteration has been sat on my desk in breadboard form doing exactly what it should but a bit ugly.

I’ve designed the schematic on Eagle and made a bit of progress with support from the Arduino forums and think I’m nearly there. The eventual aim is for the club to have another option for those looking for a bit of soldering for the next step in their licence, or just as a simple thing for the shack.

I hadn’t appreciated how long it would take to get the spaghetti on the paper and I’m sure there’ll be more efficient ways to do it but here’s my first attempt after considerable help from the forums.

If you’re interested there are more details on the project pages which will be updated in due course.

I’m sure there are those who could do this in a few minutes, but, for the more challenged like myself it has been quite a steep curve to climb but a worthwhile one. It’ll be lovely to get something finished before the end of the month but we’ll see how well it goes. I’m struggling a bit with the PCB with little things like mounting holes and getting the correct drill size / grid.

If anyone fancies being a checker for this and the board then I’m always happy to accept guidance.

Whoever spots all the errors first wins a prize!



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