Raspberry Pi Case Project:
The Raspberry Pi Case project is my biggest project to date. Originally, it was intended to be a simple one-time production for a friend of mine.
I found myself spending numerous hours each weekend redesigning the case. You can see each iteration in the gallery below. Every weekend, I emerged with a new and improved design, and prototyped it via 3D printing so I could test and evaluate the fit and function in real space. I found the rapid prototyping to be very rewarding, even if at times I was nervous about my design being a success or not.
Connecting With Users:
One of my favorite parts of putting this all together was the interaction I had with my fellow students. Many of my friends in Computer Engineering became interested in the rapid prototyping processes I was learning about, and I became much more interested in what they were using the Raspberry Pi for. In addition to getting my friend's opinions on the design and the Raspberry Pi, my friend Conor and I reached out to the Raspberry Pi community on the internet to get their opinion about what the best case must have. The interviews conducted and feedback we got is what gave rise to the power light indicators, the GPIO slot (look at the top half, right side next to the audio and video port holes), and the feet for stacking (as some people "daisy chain" their Raspberry Pi's to do higher level computing or run servers and want to stack them efficiently). It became very apparent that doing research about how people will be using your product is crucial because many of the features that make my case stand out were born from interaction with people who are using the Raspberry Pi on a daily basis.
What I Learned:
My 3D modeling skills really improved during this project, as I was using functions I never knew existed in SolidWorks. While considering how I was going to sell these cases, I learned a lot about marketing, and also by considering how to manufacture the cases on a large enough scale I was able to probe the wonderful world of design for assembly.
Design For Assembly:
Originally, my intent was to fasten together the case with screws. This was because the original material was going to be aluminum. When I decided to look into the option of injection molding massive amounts of these cases (as the 60 person operating systems class here at BU that uses the Raspberry Pi expressed a desire for a good case), I began to consider plastics. I had held onto the idea of a screw fit but a snap fit (think the battery cover on your remote, etc.) has fewer parts and the implementation of a snap fit is pretty standard for the assembly of this type of part.
Importance of Documentation:
The design has come a long way since the first sketch, and has benefitted from a very rapid and quick prototyping process. I know I learned a lot about the importance of prototyping while doing the project, and the importance of documenting my work became very apparent as I worked on the design.
In the gallery below, click on the images to enlarge them and use the mouse to read the mouseover text included with the pictures.