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I have my PCB ready and now am looking at the various options that exist for getting a nice PCB enclosure made. I was wondering if there are any good tools out there specifically suited for PCB which will help me create a cad model for the design I have in mind. What are the free open source alternatives for me to design a 3d enclosure and are there any samples which I can use as a base to get started, like if I google for eagle schematics I can find tons of them and modify it to suit my own needs and use it as a starting step.

Also once I have the CAD model , whats the best way to get it manufactured. Its going to be in small quantites so I was thinking along the lines of sending it to a 3d printing

Also in case it works out to bee too expensive to manufacture my own case what are the best sites I can look at which have off the shelf solutions?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It's not open source but some time ago I used emachineshop.com to get small runs of enclosures made, they have free software you can download. Unlike 3D printing you can also use aluminium, steel etc. \$\endgroup\$ – PeterJ Oct 6 '13 at 6:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ It is possible to 3D-print with metals, if you're willing to outsource. \$\endgroup\$ – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Oct 6 '13 at 6:44
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No, your PCB is not "ready" if you haven't got the mechanical constraints yet!

Since PCBs can be made in almost any shape, you figure out how much board area you need, then start with the mechanical design. Having the PCB done and then looking for a box is comletely backwards. Unless this is a very high volume product, you are much better off using some off the shelf case.

For very low volumes, you buy the standard box and mill and drill the cutouts yourself or have a local machine shop do it. For higher volumes (usually a few 100), the box companies will usually customize their standard products with holes and cutouts according to your specs. They do this with a modified mold, so in volume this is cheaper than machining the custom stuff afterwards.

There are many box companies out there. We keep a few of different sized boxes around for one-off projects. We have Eagle board outline templates for boxes we use regularly, like the Unibox #128.

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Once you have the CAD model, you can request quotes from various low volume manufacturers or request a free design-for-manufacturing consultation before issuing RFQs. For example, http://www.aprototype.tech/ offers consultations and can help by looking at your designs and working with you to price out different materials, discuss tooling, and expenses.

Off the shelf solutions is a possibility and will be cheaper but you won't be able to create a custom look and finish to your product. You can compare custom versus off-the-shelf once you get a couple of vendors to provide rates for comparison.

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