It’s a good nine or ten months now since I published my design for a reflow oven controller that uses an Android app for display and control.
I knew at the time that I would need an enclosure for this controller and not just because of the obvious hazards of having exposed mains voltages but also because I want the board to be protected from gathering an accumulation of dust and crud over time.
The most obvious option is to buy a pre-formed ABS or aluminium project box on ebay and modify it with cut-outs to accomodate the fixtures and fittings that I’d need. This was the approach that I took with the first reflow controller that I built.
The photograph above flatters my workmanship perhaps more than it ought to. Some people are absolute wizards with power tools and can create the most beautiful designs starting from just a black plastic box. I’m not one of them and so my drill holes never seem to be where I mark them out to be and my cut-outs look like they’ve been hacked with a blunt knife after an evening down the dog and ferret. So a pre-formed case was out of the picture.
The next option, and the one I went for, was a laser-cut enclosure made for me by an online service to my specifications. All I needed to do was to provide a CAD design, upload it via the web, pay the fee and sit back and wait. Seems like a great idea to me and the rest of this article and the accompanying video will relate my experience as a total newbie to the whole maker scene.
Before choosing a software package you’ll need to check with your chosen online service to see which file formats they support. I chose Razorlab in the UK who claim to be powered by Ponoko which is an American company that I believe has operations in other parts of the world as well. Razorlab support the standard svg vector graphics format that can be produced by any vector drawing package.
I chose the free and open source Inkscape package to do the design. Inkscape has more than enough features to support this type of CAD project and has a standard Windows user interface that means everything behaves like you expect it so the learning curve is very short.