My name is Rob and as anyone that knows me well will tell you, I have a problem with Raspberry Pi’s. They are my uncontrollable addiction and I cannot get enough. I currently have six of them with plans for more in the near future, if I see a used one for sale I have to have it. I use them for a variety of things such as, media centers, game emulators, home security systems, and various servers.
One of my latest projects was using an Arduino to control the temperature and water level in one of my saltwater fish tanks. The Arduino measures the water temperature and checks the water level via some external sensors. It then displays information about the tank to an LCD display, and sends serial data to a Raspberry Pi that stores the information in a database which can be queried and plotted through a web interface. Everything works flawlessly, but I didn’t have anywhere to put all of the components which would keep everything together and neatly organized. This is where SOLIDWORKS comes in.
I knew I wanted a simple enclosure to contain all of the components, but I didn’t know exactly what the enclosure would look like or how the components would be oriented. At this point I went to the internet and found some CAD models for a Raspberry Pi, an Arduino, a breadboard, and an LCD display. With these 3D models now in a SOLIDWORKS assembly, I was able to align them how I wanted them to sit and use top down design methods to create an enclosure to house them.
Using the “Insert New Part” function I was able to start creating a new part that would become the lower portion of the enclosure. This was done very simply by extruding the four sides and bottom, a small ledge for the Arduino to rest on, and then using cuts where things would get plugged into the Pi and Arduino. I threw in a few fillets, and the lower part of my enclosure was now exactly what I needed.
This ability to design around existing components is part of what makes top down design so powerful. I didn’t know exactly what the enclosure was going to look like and where holes would be located, but by putting the lower level parts into the assembly and then designing around them I was able to get exactly what I needed.
Now that I had the lower portion of the enclosure completed I needed to make a top to keep any water from getting splashed on the electronics. Again using top down methods I was able to insert a new part and create some very simple extrusions from a convert entity that was performed on the top edge of the lower enclosure. After this was extruded I capped off the top, inserted some fillets, and cut out the area where the display would be located.
Now that I had a model that looked like it would work with my components, I decided to head on over to the 3D Printer and create the enclosure. I came in the next morning to my printed components which neatly accommodated my electronics with the use of some double sided tape.
This small project really encompasses everything I love about SOLIDWORKS. I was able to download some files online and import them into SOLIDWORKS, then design around those parts, export STL files to use on the 3D printer, and then create those parts in a matter of hours. SOLIDWORKS provides the ability to solve extremely complex problems, but it can also be used for simple everyday issues that each of us may encounter even at home.