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Pi enclosures

December 29, 2012

D – With the kits we got we got two different enclosures, the Pi Box from BUD and the Adafruit enclosure. Here is my opinion on each of the enclosures.

BUD Pi Box


The Pi Box consists of two identical parts that stick together. Either one of the parts has four holders that the Pi board can be snapped into. Two stops on each side make it so that the Pi board stays in place. Each side of the Pi Box has a large opening so that the connectors are accessible.


I find the name funny (as all the other references to fruit and pie) and in online images the Pi Box looked really nice with its translucent red color and the pi letter symbol on top. Once put together the two halves do not easily separate. The plastic is thick and makes this a sturdy enclosure. The fact that it is translucent makes looking at the status LEDs of the Pi easy as pie. The Pi Box is noticeably larger than the Pi board so that the board as well as connectors are protected. Nice to see that a company made an enclosure especially for the Raspberry Pi and kept with the theme. The box is likely large enough to also house one the Arduino boards that plug straight onto the Pi. When snapping off or shortening one of the unneeded retaining clips from the top piece it is probably possible to attach and detach connectors to the I/O pins through the wide opening.


After opening the Pi Box twice I already snapped off one of the pins that hold the box pieces together. The big wide openings on each side allow for easy access of more than just the plugs. I can see that while working on some projects a screwdriver finds its way inside the enclosure with potentially bad consequences. The two pins that are supposed to hold the Pi board in place are not centered and not located where a lot of plugging action will occur. This causes the board to slip out of the somewhat weak clips that hold the board. When not using the RCA video output or the I/O pins the box could stand on the side, but I wonder how well the retaining clips hold the board in place.


This is a nice looking enclosure for little money that is designed for the Pi. I see it more as a solution for someone who wants some protection for the Pi board, but once hooking everything up just leaves the Pi in its box and both sitting on the desk. I still like the Pi Box and it is definitely better than leaving the bare board flopping around on my desk. If there ever is a redesign of the Pi Box it should hold on to the Pi board better and have the sides closed with cutouts for the connectors.

Adafruit Enclosure


The Adafruit enclosure comes in parts and needs to be assembled around the Pi board. Unlike the Bud Pi Box I did not see the Adafruit enclosure for sale individually, but only included in the kits. Wrong, I just didn’t look in the right spot. The enclosure is available here.


After figuring out that the plexiglass pieces have the protection film still on them the pieces are easily assembled around the Pi board. The cutouts are all in the right places and they are all labeled. The enclosure looks really nice and resembles a crystal case for something very precious (which in case of the Pi applies). The enclosure has enough weight to keep itself and the Pi from tipping over even when a twisted cable is plugged in. The pieces are also nicely thick so that every connector and plug gets some additional physical support. The enclosure is just slightly bigger than the Pi board and will fit in even the smallest amount of space. As engineer I am impressed by the straight forward, simple design of the enclosure. The labeling of the connectors isn’t really necessary as it is quite obvious which connector is used for what, but it is still a nice touch that makes the enclosure look classy.


At first the pieces look rather ugly with the brown protection film on it. Peeling that film off requires a lot of patience and quite some fingernail action. In some places where the labels were etched in some more scrubbing is needed to get the tiny pieces of film off. The shorter side pieces hook in on one end and snap on on the other end which requires holding the partially assembled and then still wobbly enclosure together with one hand. For someone with small hands this is a challenge. The correct order of assembly is key because the Pi board needs to be dropped in after putting the base, one long side, and one short side together. Then the second long side piece needs to be added followed by the top piece. While holding all that together the last side piece goes on. Once assembled the enclosure parts have some give to them making the whole thing feel ‘rattly’. If there is a need to attach or detach connectors to the I/O pins the entire enclosure needs to be disassembled and then reassembled in the same tricky procedure described above. The cutout for the I/O pins is designed to let a ribbon cable through, any other cable won’t fit. So if a project is done using a round cable an additional hole needs to be drilled. Also, the enclosure is not that large so that having anything plugged onto the I/O pins will cause the top piece to be in the way. Leaving the top off is an option, but defeats the purpose of having an enclosure.


This is a really nice enclosure that fully protects the Pi board while still giving easy access to all connectors. The I/O pins are accessible with the Adafruit breakout ribbon cable without requiring a big hole on the side. The enclosure looks really nice and shiny once it sheds its ugly protective film. The rattling can be fixed by using some clear silicone to glue the pieces together, but that means that opening the enclosure will take some time. All pieces are flat and using the pieces as template will make it easy to build replacement parts if needed, but I highly suggest supporting the small company Adafruit Industries and buy from them. Here they designed such a nice enclosure and the reward should be that we don’t just copy their work.

Pi Box versus Adafruit Enclosure

I think both enclosures are nicely done. If I had to pick one for my purposes I’d go with the one from Adafruit. It looks a bit snazzier and the really simple design without specially molded parts strikes a tune with the engineer in me. I also think that rewarding fellow New Yorkers is the way to go. That said, I can see where the BUD Pi Box is the better fit, especially when adding an extra board on top of the Pi. The Pi Box is just bigger and allows for packaging Pi and another board or self-made project into one box that does not restrict where cables and connectors need to go.

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