I've been messing around with arduinos and other microcontrollers for around a year now and I've always struggled to find ways to encase my projects. I've seen some people use custom PCBs and then 3D print a case for that. How would one go about that? I am only a computer science student so I know nothing about electrical circuitry. For example, lets say I have a UltraSonic Sensor that uses a Arduino nano to light an LED. How would I transfer that to a single PCB? And are there websites where I can order custom 3D printed cases for my projects? Please let me know if you need me to make my question clearer. Thank you!


Your question has multiple layers:

  1. The custom PCB: Breadboards are good for experimenting, but not for a finalized circuit. Depending on some factors you can decide between multiple options. One, that I myself often use, is soldering the parts onto a perfboard. That are cheap PCBs, where - depending on the type - you have a grid of single through-hole solder pads or connected groups of through-hole solder pads. I like to use these:

    perfboard with conveniently connected pads

    The pads are connected nearly like a breadboard, so it is easy to use with Arduinos and such. You can build your circuit on there by soldering the parts to it, and make the PCB the right size by cutting it into the needed size.

    A more professional option is to buy real custom PCBs. You need to create the PCB layout on your PC (common programs are Eagle or Kicad, though there are many others). Then you can choose the PCB manufacturer of your trust and give them your layout files. They will manufacture the PCBs and send them to you. This options costs a bit money (though not a lot) and you will have to wait for the PCBs to arrive.

  2. The casing: There are many options to choose from:

    • You can buy a generic case somewhere (hardware store, or the internet shop of your trust). Then you can work on it to fit your purpose (drilling holes for the LEDs, using screws or glue to fix your PCB, ...)
    • There are some standard cases to buy, though most of them most likely don't fit you good, since they are made for special industrial purposes.
    • You can create a custom 3D printed case. For this you first need to design the case on your PC (a common program is Fusion360, though I'm using FreeCAD). For the actual printing you can either use your own 3D printer, or you can again find a good 3D printing service, that you can give your design file (commonly in the stl format). They will print it for you for a bit of money. You will have to choose between different manufacturing methods, mainly FDM (putting lines of molten plastic onto each other layer after layer) or Resin printing (curing layers of fluid resin one after another). FDM is still cheaper. And you need to decide on the material (PLA is common, others are ABS or even metal (though the last is expensive). Also you need to design your case in a way, that it is good printable with the chosen method. You need to read more about 3D printing elsewhere (there are tons of material about it on the web).

One rule of this site is to not give product recommendations. That's not, what the site is for, and they are pretty fast outdated. Instead you need to do the research yourself.

  • You might want to look into JLCPCB, who have a good prototype offer. Though because of corona don't expect much currently – chrisl Mar 23 '20 at 20:17

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