The Raspberry Pi is a small, credit-card sized ARM computer that costs a measly $25. For the money you’ll get a full system-on-chip computer capable of running a variety of ARM-optimised operating systems, USB and Ethernet connectivity but no case.
Future versions of the unit will come with a case, but for now you’ll need to be creative and resourceful in building a housing to protect your small-but-mighty RasPi. If you’re short on ideas or interested in what others have come up with then we’ve assembled a list of ideas that will make the perfect weekend project.
Better yet, if you’ve come up with your own case and would like to show it off then be sure to add it to the comments at the bottom of this post.
Before you start building a case it helps to know exactly what you’re dealing with in terms of internals. Each of the four sides have at least one port that you will probably want access to as you can see in the image below, so be sure to take this into account when designing.
The dimensions of the unit are 85.60mm x 53.98mm x 17mm with a slight overlap for the protrusion of the SD card. When designing a case be sure not to use conductive materials such as duct tape for mounting, instead something like the Raspberry Sandwich is recommended to reduce the likelihood of short circuiting.
It’s been done to death, and for good reason. Lego is one of the most robust and flexible solutions for housing your Rasperry Pi in that it’s cheap, fun and entirely customisable. You could build a simple lego box with space for ports and ventilation, or incorporate your Pi into an elaborate scene from your favourite film, game or Lego set.
If you’re itching to have a go and seeing what you can come up with then why not use the Lego Digital Designer which allows you to easily share your blueprints with other blockheads. The company has previously offered custom kits, though the service was closed in January this year as they felt it didn’t live up to the especially high standards they had set. Look out for the evolution, coming soon.
Punnet Cardboard Case
The Punnet case is a free, print-and-build cardboard case for your Raspberry Pi. Simply download the PDF, print it out, follow the instructions and insert the unit.
It’s free to download and adapt, which has led to similar designs being made available. It really doesn’t get much simpler than this!
Integrating the Raspberry Pi into a keyboard has both its advantages and disadvantages. If you’re brave, you might want to use a classic piece of computing history like an Amiga or Commodore home computer from the 80s, though any old keyboard will do provided it has a USB interface (which is what the RasPi uses).
You’ll instantly kill the “pocketability” of your $25 ARM computer, but you’ll never need to dig out a keyboard again. Ideally if you’re going to go this route then I’d say make it easy to snap the unit in and out in case your keyboard gives up the ghost or you decide that your Pi is better used elsewhere.
Game Cartridge: “RPi64
One Imgur user has uploaded images of their implementation of a Raspberry Pi into an N64 game cartridge, and as you can see from the results below – it’s a pretty cool concept. The unit fits snugly, though you might want to make the holes for the ports a little tidier in your own version.
While cartridges are hardier than optical media, it’s not hard to come across a dud. Alternatively you could use a really bad game if you feel bad about destroying a working piece of 64 bit history.
Old Home Console or Computer Case
One Raspberry Pi owner has published detailed instructions on how to integrate your Raspberry Pi into an old Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) housing, complete with 4-port USB hub for keyboard, mouse, Wi-Fi and external storage. If you’ve got a retro console that no longer works then this Instructable might help you put the housing to good use.
Of course the Mega Drive is just the start of it, and any old housing could be used, like the Atari Flashback case below. You can pick up old consoles that no longer work dirt cheap on eBay, which brings us nicely onto the next idea…
Handheld Console: “RaspiBoy”
Another user has created what he calls the RaspiBoy, a Raspberry Pi unit build into a Game Boy. What’s really special about this unit is that he replaced the original LCD screen with a cheap TFT panel that functions with the Raspberry Pi, and while the resolution is a bit small it does indeed work.
It’s more of a novelty than a practical handheld computer, but the Game Boy (or even a Sega Game Gear) makes a great home for the unit.
Walkman: “RetroPi” & Other Obsolete Casing
By far one of the best DIY MP3 player cases ever devised used the housing from an old 1980s Sony Walkman, and was known as the Retropod. The Retropod project was shut down by Sony but has gone down in history as excellent re-use of what is an iconic machine, and that’s why I’m proposing the RetroPi.
Of course you could use any chunky 80s cassette player, just bore yourself some holes for ports, add an LED or two if you’re brave and sit back and admire your wonderful creation. Award yourself points for using the Walkman’s original buttons and controls for power on/off purposes.
Models: “Imperial Pi Fighter”
Probably one of the least practical but most decorative housings ever devised is the Imperial Pi Fighter by RasPi forum member “deepee”. Clever puns aside the Pi Fighter has everything you’d expect from a case and really looks the part on any desk.
Why stop at Star Wars models though? I’m sure your selection of Airfix Panzers and B-52s would make excellent Pi enclosures…
These are just the cases you can build for yourself. A quick search will yield plenty of cases for sale, some of which cost more than the Raspberry Pi unit itself. And where’s the fun in that?
Thanks to all the people involved in making these cases and sharing their creations online, most of which can be found on the Raspberry Pi forums. As ever, your thoughts, creations and own favourites are encouraged in the comments. We would also love to think what you think of the unit in general, and what you’ve been using yours for over the last few months.
Image credits: RasPi Diagram, Lego Case (bbmaj), Punnet Case, Punnet Case 2, Old Keyboard (blakespot), RPi64 (Imgur), Mega Drive (osholt), Atari Flashback case, Retropod (Captain Obvious), Imperial Pi Fighter (deepee)