I’ve been thinking about a portable prototyping box for a while when I saw this pencil box in the after school markdown bin at my local Staples, I think it was $4. It is the right size and I thought it might make a decent box to transport and protect my projects. The box is made of pressed fiber panels, it is very easy to drill, but I am concerned about its durability. The metal frame is thin aluminum, but should be OK for my use and it is lined with a polyester like fabric that was not very well attached and tended to come loose, but glued back down with Gorilla Glue.

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The support panel inside is made of scrap PCB material I salvaged from the trash. I tried several different methods of cutting the material with the following results.

  • Tin Snips worked best, but tended to warp the boards a little if the cut was more than 3-4” (75-100mm)
  • A coarse hacksaw blade was next best, and possibly better for longer cuts
  • A coping saw was slow, tended to wander and, I learned, got hot enough to burn skin (ouch)
  • Scoring the boards as in this instructable didn’t work very well, probably because these are 8 layer boards with ground fill on all the layers, so there’s a lot of copper to cut through.

Drilling holes in the scrap PCBs worked fine, but I really like my hand punch for punching clean holes.

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The scrap PCB is held in the box by ½” (12.7mm) standoffs. The bottom screws hold rubber feet and the top of the standoffs have male threads that go through the PCB panel with a nylock nut so it won't come loose when I am traveling.

 

The power supply puts out 5V at 2A and came from an old WiFi router. I will add an adjustable regulator and binder posts in the future. The breadboard is stuck down using 2 sided tape.

 

I drilled holes for a 4x20 character LCD and a small graphical LCD in the lid of the box, but for this project I’ll be using e-Paper displays, which I have not mounted yet.

 

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I fired it up and made a simple project in PSoC Creator to blink an LED and send a serial message just to prove it works. I think this will protect the board while I am traveling and allow me to continue working on the road a lot of bulk. I received the e-Paper displays and sensors yesterday, so now I need to get working.

 

P.S. I apologize for the poor quality of the pictures. I just snapped a few as I went along not really thinking about it much and not taking the time to set up good pictures. Most of them were blurry or weird angles and went in the trash folder. I have a lot of respect for people who publish blogs with great informative pictures. It's more work than it appears.