Tag Archives: 3d printing

Manufacturing Astro Pi case replicas

via Raspberry Pi

Tim Rowledge produces and sells wonderful replicas of the cases which our Astro Pis live in aboard the International Space Station. Here is the story of how he came to do this. Over to you, Tim!

When the Astro Pi case was first revealed a couple of years ago, the collective outpouring of ‘Squee!’ it elicited may have been heard on board the ISS itself. People wanted to buy it or build it at home, and someone wanted to know whether it would blend. (There’s always one.)

The complete Astro Pi

The Sense HAT and its Pi tucked snugly in the original Astro Pi flight case — gorgeous, isn’t it?

Replicating the Astro Pi case

Some months later the STL files for printing your own Astro Pi case were released, and people jumped at the chance to use them. Soon reports appeared saying you had to make quite a few attempts before getting a good print — normal for any complex 3D-printing project. A fellow member of my local makerspace successfully made a couple of cases, but it took a lot of time, filament, and post-print finishing work. And of course, a plastic Astro Pi case simply doesn’t look or feel like the original made of machined aluminium — or ‘aluminum’, as they tend to say over here in North America.

Batch of tops of Astro Pi case replicas by Tim Rowledge

A batch of tops designed by Tim

I wanted to build an Astro Pi case which would more closely match the original. Fortunately, someone else at my makerspace happens to have some serious CNC machining equipment at his small manufacturing company. Therefore, I focused on creating a case design that could be produced with his three-axis device. This meant simplifying some parts to avoid expensive, slow, complex multi-fixture work. It took us a while, but we ended up with a design we can efficiently make using his machine.

Lasered Astro Pi case replica by Tim Rowledge

Tim’s first lasered case

And the resulting case looks really, really like the original — in fact, upon receiving one of the final prototypes, Eben commented:

“I have to say, at first glance they look spectacular: unless you hold them side by side with the originals, it’s hard to pinpoint what’s changed. I’m looking forward to seeing one built up and then seeing them in the wild.”

Inside the Astro Pi case

Making just the bare case is nice, but there are other parts required to recreate a complete Astro Pi unit. Thus I got my local electronics company to design a small HAT to provide much the same support the mezzanine board offers: an RTC and nice, clean connections to the six buttons. We also added well-labelled, grouped pads for all the other GPIO lines, along with space for an ADC. If you’re making your own Astro Pi replica, you might like the Switchboard.

The electronics supply industry just loves to offer *some* of what you need, so that one supplier never has everything: we had to obtain the required stand-offs, screws, spacers, and JST wires from assorted other sources. Jeff at my nearby Industrial Paint & Plastics took on the laser engraving of our cases, leaving out copyrighted logos etcetera.

Lasering the top of an Astro Pi case replica by Tim Rowledge

Lasering the top of a case

Get your own Astro Pi case

Should you like to buy one of our Astro Pi case kits, pop over to www.astropicase.com, and we’ll get it on its way to you pronto. If you’re an institutional or corporate customer, the fully built option might make more sense for you — ordering the Pi and other components, and having a staff member assemble it all, may well be more work than is sensible.

Astro Pi case replica Tim Rowledge

Tim’s first full Astro Pi case replica, complete with shiny APEM buttons

To put the kit together yourself, all you need to do is add a Pi, Sense HAT, Camera Module, and RTC battery, and choose your buttons. An illustrated manual explains the process step by step. Our version of the Astro Pi case uses the same APEM buttons as the units in orbit, and whilst they are expensive, just clicking them is a source of great joy. It comes in a nice travel case too.

Tim Rowledge holding up a PCB

This is Tim. Thanks, Tim!

Take part in Astro Pi

If having an Astro Pi replica is not enough for you, this is your chance: the 2017-18 Astro Pi challenge is open! Do you know a teenager who might be keen to design a experiment to run on the Astro Pis in space? Are you one yourself? You have until 29 October to send us your Mission Space Lab entry and become part of the next generation of space scientists? Head over to the Astro Pi website to find out more.

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An Arduino Mouse Wiggler!

via Arduino Blog

If, for whatever reason, you need your computer to stay awake without changing its settings, that’s easy—just remember to shake your mouse back and forth intermittently! If remembering to do that over and over seems like too much work, then here’s a simple solution: a device setup to optically wiggle your mouse using an Arduino Nano and a micro RC servo.

The 3D-printed unit sits underneath a mouse and rotates a printed grid left and right in order to trick it into thinking that you’re moving the mouse, and thus keeping the computer awake.

Place your mouse on top of the Mouse Wiggler and make sure the optical sensor on top of the wheel. Power the device up use a USB power adapter and you’re good to go.

There’s no software to install, which makes it easy to enable and disable as needed! You can find more details on the build on its Instructables page.

Add voice control to your 3D-printed desk lamp

via Arduino Blog

Nikodem Bartnik had a small problem. When soldering, he had to move his light around in order to properly see what he was working on. In order to avoid this constant interruption, he built a 3D-printed lamp capable of manuevering like a small robot arm under voice command.

An Arduino Uno controls the light’s movement directly via three servos, and a relay flips the switch on and off. Instead of adding voice recognition hardware to his robotic light, he cleverly linked it with an Android app over Bluetooth, using his phone to translate spoken words into serial commands.

Although great for soldering, this device can certainly come in handy when reading books or even finding your way to bed at night. Want to create your own? You can find more details on Bartnik’s Instructables page here.

3D print your own Rubik’s Cube Solver

via Raspberry Pi

Why use logic and your hands to solve a Rubik’s Cube, when you could 3D print your own Rubik’s Cube Solver and thus avoid overexerting your fingers and brain cells? Here to help you with this is Otvinta‘s new robotic make:

Fully 3D-Printed Rubik’s Cube Solving Robot

This 3D-printed Raspberry PI-powered Rubik’s Cube solving robot has everything any serious robot does — arms, servos, gears, vision, artificial intelligence and a task to complete. If you want to introduce robotics to your kids or your students, this is the perfect machine for it. This robot is fully 3D-printable.

Rubik’s Cubes

As Liz has said before, we have a lot of Rubik’s cubes here at Pi Towers. In fact, let me just…hold on…I’ll be right back.

Okay, these are all the ones I found on Gordon’s desk, and I’m 99% sure there are more in his drawers.

Raspberry Pi Rubik's Cube Solver

And that’s just Gordon. Given that there’s a multitude of other Pi Towers staff members who are also obsessed with the little twisty cube of wonder, you could use what you find in our office to restock an entire toy shop for the pre-Christmas rush!

So yeah, we like Rubik’s Cubes.

The 3D-Printable Rubik’s Cube Solver

Aside from the obvious electronic elements, Otvinta’s Rubik’s Cube Solving Robot is completely 3D-printable. While it may take a whopping 70 hours of print time and a whole spool of filament to make your solving robot a reality, we’ve seen far more time-consuming prints with a lot less purpose than this.

(If you’ve clicked the link above, I’d just like to point out that, while that build might be 3D printing overkill, I want one anyway.)

Rubik's Cube Solver

After 3D printing all the necessary parts of your Rubik’s Cube Solving Robot, you’ll need to run the Windows 10 IoT Core on your Raspberry Pi. Once connected to your network, you can select the Pi from the IoT Dashboard on your main PC and install the RubiksCubeRobot app.

Raspberry Pi Rubik's Cube Solver

Then simply configure the robot via the app, and you’re good to go!

You might not necessarily need a Raspberry Pi to create this build, since you could simply run the app on your main PC. However, using a Pi will make your project more manageable and less bulky.

You can find all the details of how to make your own Rubik’s Cube Solving Robot on Otvinta’s website, so do make sure to head over there if you want to learn more.

All the robots!

This isn’t the first Raspberry Pi-powered Rubik’s Cube out there, and it surely won’t be the last. There’s this one by Francesco Georg using LEGO Mindstorms; this one was originally shared on Reddit; Liz wrote about this one; and there’s one more which I can’t seem to find but I swear exists, and it looks like the Eye of Sauron! Ten House Points to whoever shares it with me in the comments below.

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Project Aslan is a 3D-printed robotic sign language translator

via Arduino Blog

With the lack of people capable of turning written or spoken words into sign language in Belgium, University of Antwerp masters students Guy Fierens, Stijn Huys, and Jasper Slaets have decided to do something about it. They built a robot known as Aslan, or Antwerp’s Sign Language Actuating Node, that can translate text into finger-spelled letters and numbers.

Project Aslan–now in the form of a single robotic arm and hand–is made from 25 3D-printed parts and uses an Arduino Due, 16 servos, and three motor controllers. Because of its 3D-printed nature and the availability of other components used, the low-cost design will be able to be produced locally.

The robot works by receiving information from a local network, and checking for updated sign languages from all over the world. Users connected to the network can send messages, which then activate the hand, elbow, and finger joints to process the messages.

Although it is one arm now, work will continue with future masters students, focusing on expanding to a two-arm design, implementing a face, and even integrating a webcam into the system. For more info, you can visit the project’s website here as well as its write-up on 3D Hubs.

Awesome Raspberry Pi cases to 3D print at home

via Raspberry Pi

Unless you’re planning to fit your Raspberry Pi inside a build, you may find yourself in need of a case to protect it from dust, damage and/or the occasional pet attack. Here are some of our favourite 3D-printed cases, for which files are available online so you can recreate them at home.


TARDIS Raspberry PI 3 case – 3D Printing Time lapse

Every Tuesday we’ll 3D print designs from the community and showcase slicer settings, use cases and of course, Time-lapses! This week: TARDIS Raspberry PI 3 case By: https://www.thingiverse.com/Jason3030 https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2430122/ BCN3D Sigma Blue PLA 3hrs 20min X:73 Y:73 Z:165mm .4mm layer / .6mm nozzle 0% Infill / 4mm retract 230C / 0C 114G 60mm/s —————————————– Shop for parts for your own DIY projects http://adafru.it/3dprinting Download Autodesk Fusion 360 – 1 Year Free License (renew it after that for more free use!)

Since I am an avid Whovian, it’s not surprising that this case made its way onto the list. Its outside is aesthetically pleasing to the aspiring Time Lord, and it snugly fits your treasured Pi.

Pop this case on your desk and chuckle with glee every time someone asks what’s inside it:

Person: What’s that?
You: My Raspberry Pi.
Person: What’s a Raspberry Pi?
You: It’s a computer!
Person: There’s a whole computer in that tiny case?

I’ll get my coat.

Pi crust

Yes, we all wish we’d thought of it first. What better case for a Raspberry Pi than a pie crust?

3D-printed Raspberry Pi cases

While the case is designed to fit the Raspberry Pi Model B, you will be able to upgrade the build to accommodate newer models with a few tweaks.

Just make sure that if you do, you credit Marco Valenzuela, its original baker.


Since many people use the Raspberry Pi to run RetroPie, there is a growing trend of 3D-printed console-style Pi cases.

3D-printed Raspberry Pi cases

So why not pop your Raspberry Pi into a case made to look like your favourite vintage console, such as the Nintendo NES or N64?

You could also use an adapter to fit a Raspberry Pi Zero within an actual Atari cartridge, or go modern and print a PlayStation 4 case!


Maybe you’re looking to use your Raspberry Pi as a component of a larger project, such as a home automation system, learning suite, or makerspace. In that case you may need to attach it to a wall, under a desk, or behind a monitor.

3D-printed Raspberry Pi cases

Coo! Coo!

The Pidgeon, shown above, allows you to turn your Zero W into a surveillance camera, while the piPad lets you keep a breadboard attached for easy access to your Pi’s GPIO pins.

Functional cases with added brackets are great for incorporating your Pi on the sly. The VESA mount case will allow you to attach your Pi to any VESA-compatible monitor, and the Fallout 4 Terminal is just really cool.


You might want your case to just look cute, especially if it’s going to sit in full view on your desk or shelf.

3D-printed Raspberry Pi cases

The tired cube above is the only one of our featured 3D prints for which you have to buy the files ($1.30), but its adorable face begged to be shared anyway.

If you’d rather save your money for another day, you may want to check out this adorable monster from Adafruit. Be aware that this case will also need some altering to fit newer versions of the Pi.

Our cases

Finally, there are great options for you if you don’t have access to a 3D printer, or if you would like to help the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s mission. You can buy one of the official Raspberry Pi cases for the Raspberry Pi 3 and Raspberry Pi Zero (and Zero W)!

3D-printed Raspberry Pi cases

As with all official Raspberry Pi accessories (and with the Pi itself), your money goes toward helping the Foundation to put the power of digital making into the hands of people all over the world.

3D-printed Raspberry Pi cases

You could also print a replica of the official Astro Pi cases, in which two Pis are currently orbiting the earth on the International Space Station.

Design your own Raspberry Pi case!

If you’ve built a case for your Raspberry Pi, be it with a 3D printer, laser-cutter, or your bare hands, make sure to share it with us in the comments below, or via our social media channels.

And if you’d like to give 3D printing a go, there are plenty of free online learning resources, and sites that offer tutorials and software to get you started, such as TinkerCAD, Instructables, and Adafruit.

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