Making a case for Gyro’clock

I officially finished all my school work since last week and finally had some time to think about my projects. There are two projects I started a while ago that I would like to finish off first. They are the Smart Turn project and the Gyro’clock project.

The only big thing left to do for the Gyro’clock is to make a case for it.  This means that I am finally getting around to the 3D print scene. This is exciting because I am going to be learning a new trick that has lots of potential. But first I have to learn about making 3D models.

There are many software programs out there for making 3D designs. After some search I decided to go with FreeCAD mainly because it is fairly sophisticated. After spending some time playing around with it and watching some tutorials I am able to find my way around it.

My approach for designing a case was to import the board layout that I have already created in KiCad and then build a simple case around it. Importing a 3D model of a PCB designed in KiCad to FreeCAD is quite simple. But the problem is I didn’t have 3D models for all the components in my Gyro’clock PCB. Importing 3D models from FreeCAD to KiCad is not that straight forward since KiCad only accepts a certain kind of .wrl files only.

After doing a bit of search online I found a nice tutorial that explains step by step how to create 3D models for PCB components. The steps I followed to make 3D models for components in KiCad are

  1. Design the 3D model in FreeCAD
  2. Export the 3D model as a .stl (stereolithography) file
  3. Import the .stl file to Wings3D
  4. Add colour to the model
  5. Export the model as WRML 2.0 (.wrl) file
  6. Import the .wrl file to KiCad
  7. Scale and position as necessary

Here’s the complete 3D model of the Gyro’clock board:

3D model of Gyro’clock board

After completing the 3D model of the board I imported it to FreeCAD. The case has two pieces. The bottom piece wraps around the board and holds the rechargeable Li-poly battery. The top piece is just a cover and snaps on to the bottom piece.

Bottom piece of the Gyro’clock case holding the PCB and the Li-poly battery
The top piece snaps on to the bottom piece

Designing the case in FreeCAD is just a matter of knowing the proper dimensions. Since I had a life size model of a fully assembled Gyro’clock PCB it was really easy. Of course I don’t know how well it will come out of the 3D printer yet. Since this is going to be my first 3D experiment I am not going to go super fancy.

Speaking of 3D printers I have already ordered one and waiting for it to arrive. It is a Reprap Prusa I3 3D printer kit and I found it on for $420 (CAD). It is a DIY kit so it comes with more fun.

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