The Super Pi Case is done

 

Today I finished my RaspBuild. The first thing I did was add a few components to the PI itself. Storage is at a premium of course, so I went ahead and added to USB drives to the ports. To keep them small and unobtrusive I pulled the plastic covers off of the two PNY drives, and just left them sticking out. Since the plast circuit boards were a little loose in the metal sleeves, I dabbed a slight bit of hot glue on the ends. Hot glue played a major part in the finishing of the SuperPi case.

So after getting the Pi positioned, the next thing was to mount the power supplies. I replaced the cords I had cut with yellow and black for the 120v inputs. The Pi voltage goes through the yellow and white wire by the power supply with the big 5V on top. The fan supply on the left used its own cable, which I left on.

After getting the wires in place, I used globs of hot glue as strain relief on the newly soldered areas, and then flipped the supplies over and glued little plastic standoff feet under them. When everything was good and cool, I positioned the 5 volt supply, made a little mark on the base of the case, and quickly squirted hot glue on the bottoms of the little feet, flipped the board over and stuck it down. I did the same with the fan board, and then soldered the yellow and black wires to the 120 volt side.


This is a closeup of the switch detail. The red switch is the fan on/off switch, and the 0/1 switch was from the original power supply. Once the Pi has shut down, this switch cuts off both power supplies and the fan.

A closeup of the business end of the Pi inside the case. Even with two USB drives and a Keyboard transmitter, I have a free slot.

Finally complete and testing. The pi is powered by the internal supply, although the external supply works just fine. I added the blue and black wire in the middle of the picture to the blue light on the rear of the case. In line with the ground side is a 330ohm resistor to keep the light from drawing too much current, and I encapsulated the whole thing in… hot glue. You can also the a dab of it on the power leads to the pi, holding them out of the way on the bottom of the case. In the bottom right corner of the photo you can see a white plug with two prongs, which in the fan cord jack. It lets me pull the top completely off and get it out of the way.

Below I have the rear panel blue light running. I’m not sure what I might do with the other lights, but blue seemed appropriate sense the fan on top runs blue. One thing I noticed that was interesting – in a normal Pi case, the red onboard power light and the green Activity light don’t show up. They are quite hard to see unless you look just right. In the SuperPi case, they really show up well with all the reflections, and there is a side port right next to them where you can look inside and see them shining.

The finished SuperPi. Sure, its like putting 30inch rims, a spoiler, and undercar lighting on a Yugo, but its all in good fun. The BEST thing about all this was it cost me NOTHING.

I had the power supplies in a box from old projects, the metal case was free because it was a PC pull, the wires all came from old PC cables or the RasPi experimenter’s kit leftover parts, and we already had the hot glue gun. The plastic standoff feet were left over as part of a kit I bought for building the LightshowPi system. The only thing it cost me was a few hours work over two days.

BadAss Raspberry Pi Case

In keeping with the “It’s too damn hot to hike but I need to type something” theme:

I started thinking of some new raspberry pi projects, since my lightshow is about done. One of the things I kept seeing online was people making their own custom cases. For the most part, they were variations of the standard black or clear mini case, the ones just big enough to fit the Pi inside. Someone had constructed a really cool wooden one, but again it was just a variation on a theme – a very small case for a very small computer. I was thinking about that, but then started going in the opposite direction. What about something over-the-top crazy? Like something big and beefy and over-engineered… Extra lights, a big fan (since I already installed a little 40mm fan in one of my Pi cases), and maybe some weird options that didn’t make sense.

But what could I put it in?

Then I ran across this:


“This” was an old 650watt power supply case from before I did some computer upgrades. It had all the standard cords sticking out, and was crammed with internal guts. I was taking the cool lighted fan out to save it, but decided to keep the box and just chuck the guts in the trash. The box is actually quite nice looking, the photo doesn’t do it justice. Its a nicely smooth polished metal, probably stainless steel, definitely not aluminum. It cleaned up nicely; I carefully scraped off stickers and used Goo Gone on the glue, and the box looks pristine and unblemished.

The first thing I did after cleaning it, was to open it up and gut the insides. I left two parts:

The first was the aforementioned fan. Its about 6 inches wide, or 140mm. It is clear blue plastic, with four corner blue LED lights that glow while it’s running.

The second thing I kept was the cluster of wire bits directly soldered to the outlet where you plug in the wall cord. There is a switch attached to it, and what looks like an inductor and a few other bits. But, whatever its function, you put 120v in, and you get 120v out. There are two brown wires in the top of the picture, part of a separate switch. Normally it is part of the selector for switching the power supply from 120 to 240 volts for European use. This switch will eventually be the fan controller instead. There might be times when I don’t want a hurricane force wind blowing across the desktop, and I can switch it off.


After gutting, I started trying to decide how to lay stuff out. Initially my goal was to have the ports sticking out the back, just like they are on every other RasPi case, everywhere, and the HDMI and headphone plug on the side. That’s when I realized it would take a heck of a lot of complex metal cutting, and with the tools I have and my skills, I knew I just just screw it up big time. Plus, the damn HDMI monitor cables are a pain in the ass to deal with, and either I would have to cut more matching holes in the side of the case, Or have a cable sticking out all the time.

Also, I needed room for two small power supplies. The first provides 12 volts to run the fan, since most computer fans run off the 12 volt rail. The second provides 5 volts for the RasPi, since it runs off 5 volts.

It was soon evident I would have to take a new approach. Instead of having to open the case every time I wanted to plug or unplug the RasPi from a monitor or headphones, I would put the HDMI and Audio port on the back, and leave the others inside the case. The RasPi has WiFi capabilities, so although it has an ethernet port, I don’t use it that often. It also has 4 USB ports, one which I plug the remote keyboard/mouse thing into, and the others largely go unused. I did add a flash drive to it, but that’s about it. So after gouging at it like a drunken caveman with a stick, I was able to cut to small port holes and drill out the headphone jack area.

Wait, you say. The Raspberry Pi needs power, and I have the power jack sticking out the back of the box next to the HDMI port. How is that going to help? Two things: In the event I just want to run the pi without all the excess stuff, I can just plug in a USB battery pack. The second thing is, the RasPi comes with a lot of “test pads” and solder points on the bottom of the board. Two of them let you power the board without plugging anything into it. So the white and yellow wires under the board below will connect to the power supply next to the Pi.

WAIT! you say. Everything’s going to short out and blow up! Okay, right now the Raspberry Pi is on little plastic standoff feet. Although it looks like it’s on the metal, its not. Tow of the feet even go all the way through the bottom of the case, and lock it into place. Thanks to the headphone jack, you can’t lift the other side of the Pi up, so it is pretty solid. Unfortunately, those are all the mounting holes I have.

The power supplies, which are the insides of those oversized wall plugs, have no mounting points. Since they were just slotted into plastic housings, they had no need for mounting holes. BUT – I can glue the standoff feet to the bottom of them, and then hot glue the plastic feet to the case. They are close to their final positions now, but I have to do some rewiring first.

If you look really carefully you can see where I cut off the brown wires in the top right, and replaced it with the fan’s jack. This jack will let me completely remove the top of the box to work on the insides.

 

One thing I’m not sure what to do with yet. The power supply had a pushbutton switch on the back with 3 LEDs in a column, and its purpose was to let you select three fan speeds. Blue was auto-controlled, the power supply decided if it needed the fan at all, and would shut it off if it was cool enough. Green was a low speed continuous running, unless it decided it needed more. Red was a bypass mode, the fan ran on high all the time.

So I have a pushbutton switch, which is just a momentary contact switch (much like the “pulse” mode on a blender or coffee grinder), and three LED lights. I’m not sure what to do with them, but I’m thinking about wiring up one of the LEDs as a on/off power indicator.