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How to fix the Bud Pi Case

January 12, 2014

D – One thing upfront, not posting here for about a year did not mean we did not use the Pis. It is simply a matter of time that posts did not make it in here. We are a busy bunch.

As you can see from the photos I posted a while back I use the Bud Pi case. No offense to the designer of this case, but it only works marginally well if one puts everything together and then never touches the setup. Forget about plugging something in or pulling a cable out, the Pi board will slip out of the insufficiently grabbing retainers and flop all around. In order to put it back into place you need to take the top off the case and doing that a few times will break off one if not all of the pegs that hold the case together.

After enduring this misdesign for months I had enough and was toying with the idea of buying a new case (I really like the Adafruit case that my son has, it works well and it looks awesome), but since I am frugal…ok, cheap….I looked for alternatives.

The retaining clips in the Bud case are effective in keeping the Pi board from turning. The only problem is that they really do not protect against any upward movement. If I could keep the board from pushing up when plugging things in then the case would work.

I did read on the Pi forum that several people complained that the ‘mounting holes’ are too small for standard screws and I also learned from there that the holes are used during manufacturing and were not intended to be mounting holes. Nevertheless, they look like mounting holes. So why not use them as that?

Step 1

I measured the distance between board and case bottom and it is between an inch and an inch and a half. I have an old shelf in the basement where I keep any scrap pieces of wood and I quickly found a block that fit into the case and had the right height. Next up finding two wood screws that are long enough to go deep into the block without poking out on the other side.

I help the block in place by hand and used a Sharpie marker to mark the points where I had to drill holes into the case. After that I made another test fit and marked through the drilled holes the spots on the wood block where I had to drill some pilot holes. For those who do not know, pilot holes are smaller than the screw that needs to go in them, but the pilot holes reduce the amount of wood that the screw has to push to the side, that way the wood will not crack apart. Further, the screw will go in at the same direction as the pilot hole. This little extra step makes it much easier to put the screws in. Here is the result seen through the bottom of the case.

Image

Step 2

Next up placing the Pi board into the retainers and marking the spot where to drill a pilot hole for the one screw that will go through the Pi board into the wood block. Only one screw is needed here because all that I want to prevent is upward motion. If there were no retaining clips (for example, they all broke off, although you have two sets, one in each half of the Bud case) I would need two screws to prevent rotation. I also do not need a screw that fits snug into the hole. I opted for a smaller screw with a head big enough so that the head does not go through the mounting hole on the Pi board. The screw head also has to be small enough to not touch any of the traces or parts on the board. Luckily, my coffee can filled to the rim with old screws always has plenty of candidates.

After drilling the pilot hole I put the board in and then the one screw. I picked a wood block that left some space between wood and board. That doesn’t matter as long as the screw is long enough to hold in the wood block. One thing to watch out for is NOT to tighten the screw too much! This could bend the board and cause the traces or connections of the board to break if not even crack the entire board in half. Also, with some air left below the board the little bit of air for cooling will still be available. Here is the result with the top of the case taken off.

Image

And there we go! No more floppy Pi board in my Bud case. Inserting or removing plugs is much easier now and if there is a need to take the board out it will still be possible.

My recommendation for the folks at Bud is to add two standoffs that are right under the holes in the board, drill a hole into the standoffs, cut a thread, and package a few plastic screws. That will require retooling the mold, a few extra steps in production, and add some cost to the case (more material and the screws), but it would make this case usable. The current design just does not work and is more a source of frustration than anything else. I was at the point a few times where I wanted to hurl that thing out of the window, but since no window was available the case got spared. Interesting that I could use junk to fix junk into something that works quite well.

Some further ideas

– if you have the tools you could machine the wood block so that it adds some extra support for the SD card slot and protrudes under the USB connector block as well as the network port. Drilling holes through the protruding pieces will allow then for a small zip tie or a piece of wire to be used to keep the plugs in place and add tension relief. Same applies for any of the other connectors.

– again, if tools are available machine the wood block so that it fills out the entire base of the case and drill a hole all the way through the wood block. That way a long zip tie can be used to strap the board to the wood block…although using a small screw is way easier.

– cut the wood block so that it protrudes far out of the case. That way you can mount the wood block, case, and Pi on a board and have it stand upright saving some space. Easiest would be to have the stand be on the side where the HDMI cable goes because it is easier to find 90° HDMI plugs or adapters than for any of the other connectors. If you install an adapter you can even glue the parts together and strap down the HDMI cable on the base plate. That way the entire Pi can also be mounted anywhere while making it still easy enough to remove the Pi board.

– just spend the 15 bucks for the Adafruit case. See here: http://www.adafruit.com/products/859

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