The Raspberry Pi has been around for a few years now. This credit card sized computer has changed the world with its small size, and equally small price tag. With the countless possible ways it can be used, it is always a good idea to protect your Pi using a case. You might have got a case with your Raspberry Pi starter kit. If not, you can easily make your own for next to no cost.
Today I’ll cover the various DIY cases you can make for the Pi and the Pi Zero. You will find many of these designs can be easily modified to fit almost any small development board. Before you get started, it’s worth taking into consideration what kind of case would be most appropriate for you, as this can vary depending on your usage.
First, lets look at a few handy tools out there to help with designing a case. Each version of the Raspberry Pi since the original Model B v1 has mounting holes, which allow you to secure the board to a surface. These vary depending on which board you own, though this handy cheat sheet by Raspberry Pi Spy covers mounting hole positions for them all, along with sizings for the official Raspberry Pi camera module.
For a more in depth run down of the dimensions, there are detailed mechanical drawings for each board available on the official Raspberry Pi site. These drawings show the size and position of every major component and port on the board.
Alternatively, if you would rather not worry about spacing, you can buy a bare bones kit which fits around all of the ports, and add your own design to the rest of the housing.
Once you have worked out the correct spacing for your board, it’s time to get making!
For a simple but effective way to keep your Pi safe from many of life’s ills, a case made from cardboard could be enough for you. The designs in this section have worth even if you decide to make something more substantial, as each design can be printed and used as a template to ensure proper spacing for the ports and GPIO pins.
Shortly after the release of the original Pi, a member of the official forum named ‘E’ released a design for a paper case called ‘The Punnet’.
This design has been brought up to date by Jerry McManus of the Rural Design Collective to fit modern revisions of the Pi. The pdf instructions allow you to make a simple enclosure for your Pi at no cost!
The Pi Zero does not have quite a simple a print out and go case design, though using the dimensions of the board along with an online template making service should allow you to create something perfect for your project.
One route to take in creating your case would be to recycle another old piece of equipment. Almost all of us have old pieces of kit lying around that are defective or simply too out of date to be of any use now. Why not create the perfect retro enclosure?
This NES cartridge case has quickly become a classic in the Maker community, with many people choosing to house boards destined to emulate retro games inside the perfect housing. This video from John Riggs of RIGG’d Games takes you through how he housed his Pi3 Model B+ before showing off his retro gaming setup.
This approach works well for the Pi Zero too, and as it is so much smaller, it leaves a lot more space inside should you need to add any other modules to your setup. In this video by Trevor Saul, A USB hub is included inside an old Duck Hunt cartridge alongside the Pi Zero.
Continuing with the idea of reusing old technology, this case from Instructables user nunopcardoso uses an old CD drive to house a Raspberry Pi along with a power supply and hard drive. The case also makes space for a fan controlled with PWM to keep the whole kit cool.
While this design is for running a Pi headlessly, incorporating an extra hole for the HDMI port would allow you to attach a screen. Extra points if you use an monitor from the same period as the CD drive!
Instructables user gardines used an old rotary phone as a housing for a Raspberry Pi powered MP3 player for his daughter.
What if you don’t have an old phone or CD bay at your disposal? Well it turns out you can make a case out of almost anything. Mingyu Zheng looked to the kitchen for inspiration for his case, and created the surprisingly professional looking sardine tin Pi!
Builds like this are ideal as they fully embrace the concept of reusing things where possible, and don’t require many tools in order to make.
Your options for an on the fly case get even broader when using the Pi Zero, as Instructables user Crysknife007 shows us. It turns out a Tic-Tac box is the perfect size to house the board. This has to be one of the simplest and cheapest ways to make a protective housing.
There are endless possibilities for cases of this type, and depending on how you plan to use your Pi, you can cut extra openings into your chosen case to allow access to the GPIO pins, fit a heat sink, or any other accessories you are using in your project.
Built by You
We cannot write an article about DIY cases without covering a classic. The Lego Pi case. Building your case brick by brick allows for a huge amount of customization, and by using the Lego Digital Designer you can preview your case before building it. This means you can make the most practical case for your own needs. Or you could, of course, build a ‘Pi Fighter’ instead.
To really make the most of using Lego, you can use Bricklink to order the exact bricks required for your build. Instructables user darrennie used this approach in designing and making a case for a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B.
Many old computer keyboards have enough space in the housing to fit a Pi inside. Ben Heck took it one step further and created a retro keyboard housing for his Pi. The build is reminiscent of the old BBC Micro computers remembered fondly. This build is not only pretty robust and functional, but it looks lovely and nostalgic too.
Wood is another great medium to work in. Reddit user Rbotguy created a large case with a handle to accommodate his Pi. The case features a cooling fan and large battery, and is used for running Artificial Life simulations. It not only looks great, but incorporates a charge through circuit meaning it can always stay on whether running from the mains or the battery.
This design leaves a lot of spare room to add components later, or could be easily scaled down to accommodate a smaller project.
For something a little simpler, a top and bottom cover case will suffice for many people. Instructables user sandshock created a stylish Oak cover for their Pi, all for under $10.
This design translates well to metal too. Instructables user natetetete used copper to design a fantastic looking top and bottom cover for their Raspberry Pi 3 Model B.
A benefit of using copper like this is a small tweak in the design allows you to use the case itself as a heatsink, not only protecting your Pi from harm, but overheating too!
3d Print Your Own
With the rise of 3d printing, more and more people are manufacturing their own designs at home. If you are curious about 3d printing, or you are a beginner and want to learn more, check out our guide to getting started!
There are many ways a 3d printer can enhance your experience as a Raspberry Pi user. One of the benefits of having access to a printer is that there are many already existing designs to choose from. Websites like Thingiverse have large communities of DIY builders making almost anything you can imagine.
For a no-nonsense case which fits snugly and allows access to all the ports, look no further than thatdude333’s design.
For something that covers a little more of the board, and looks fantastic to boot, check out this case design by walter, also on Thingiverse.
If you are looking for something much more ambitious, daftmike has a series of YouTube videos outlining how he designed and 3d printed an NES clone case, along with cartridges, to house a Raspberry Pi retro game machine.
Alongside the detailed videos — which go into the hardware and software development process, the designs are all available on his Thingiverse profile.
If you are still using an older model of the Pi you’ll find there are lots of options too. This beautiful design by mechadrafter is designed for use with the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B.
There are also designs catering to the Pi Zero, such as this minimalist design incorporating a USB power regulator from user Marks.
If you are looking for something a little more stylistic, unic8 has designed a case which allows full access to all of the pins of the board, and features a futuristic diamond design.
There are countless ways you can make your own case for your Pi, from highly practical and stylish, to incredibly budget and functional. 3D printing has certainly changed the game in recent years, though whatever tools you have at your disposal you can create something unique to keep your little Raspberry friends safe.
Have you designed or built your own case for your Pi? Is there a whole other approach to this we simply haven’t thought of? Show us your ideas in the comment section below!