I got bored from the standard cases for Raspberry Pi, which are mostly enthusiasts-oriented. And decided to create a device which would be suitable for everyone.
The case I’ve created would perfectly fit as a TV console which you can leave on the table and show to your friends. This console works perfectly fine in the corporate branch, too. You can use it to present dashboards and charts on the TVs in the office.
Everything started from 15-minutes sketch and simple render that I posted on Twitter and people liked it:
After that I searched Amazon and bought few adapters and simple fan used in laptops. One of the “features” of this console was hidden and unique cooling.
I forgot about the SD card on the render, it should be placed on the back panel of the console. Thankfully, you can easily find required adapters for it.
In 3 days test case was printed:
The first prototype was almost finished at this point, however it didn’t have any cooling and I had to work out few things a little bit. As well I understood that I had to move few ports from the back panel closer so that it looks more clean in case you connect HDMI and power supply only. Next prototype was finished in a few days:
This is how it looked like from the inside:
At this point I’ve connected console to the TV and run some CPU-heavy tasks for testing. No wonder – it got throttled and overheated. It was the time to create appropriate cooling system.
From the very beginning I didn’t want to make any unnecessary holes on the side and frontal panels. I decided to use standard PoE shield with 5V fan. This approach had few advantages: you can power the device from the network, connect and control fans using vanilla firmware for Raspberry Pi.
Before I’ve decided on the final fan model (spoiler: it appeared to be the one on the picture above), I had to go through different options, the first one was Noctua 5V 40mm. I draw and printed the following adapter (the upper side firmly connects to the case). It worked, however the fan was running on high speeds in order to cool down the device:
In the end I came back to the laptop fans and tried the MacBook fan. It was quite problematic to connect it and I had to find contacts intuitively:
The fan itself is quite expensive and you cannot connect it easily. As well, you can find it only as a spare part on eBay. So I left this option in the end and returned to the cheaper and standard model.
Now I had to connect it inside of the case:
the following model was developed:
I didn’t like the look of it, even though it works perfectly fine and effective.
Therefore I came back to the idea with cooling, that I had in my mind from the very beginning:
You can see more on the video:
Next part was quite easy – I had to develop the bottom part:
This wasn’t the end of the project though. It got transformed into a more complex state. I had to create a case that could be cast as a complete object and use printed circuit boards instead of adapters bought on Amazon.
I found a company that was ready to develop the documentation for mass production. For my project, the cost was $2070.
I was about to go on vacation and left the decision for a few weeks. Strangely enough during this period at least 2 cases with HDMI ports were announced by other companies on the internet. Coincidence?
So the plans got changed.
I suppose now I’ll focus on MARK II and request the required documentation for mass production, make a prototype and try to push it on Kickstarter. If everything works out fine – I’ll let you know in a separate post.
November 2022 update
I published a short thread on the project, which had an unexpected response. So I’ll put a point here as well.
Long story short, I ended up agreeing to that company’s offer, and we did 3 cases (it lasted about 10 months until the first and only iteration). It ended up being more expensive, about $2,500 for three prototypes.
When we started, I knew very little about PCB design and CNC work. When we were done, I already designed an UpBerry where everything was done by me, and there had been about 4 iterations. Myself, I finally came to the conclusion that it is very long and expensive to run a project with an outside company from scratch. It is much easier and much faster to make a prototype by myself, and then work with someone else. Even taking into account the time to figure out obscure points and learn some details.
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I’m a systems engineer in JetBrains company. Uptime Lab founder. I’m glad to see you on my website! I hope you find my content useful. Please subscribe to my Instagram and Twitter. I post the newest updates there.