Fabrication Week 4: Enclosures

For this week’s assignment, I decided to build a prototype for a PCOMP project I’m hoping to build. I call it the Emotion Box. My basic idea was to have a pair of “happy” and “sad” buttons, different colors, that you can press, and receive a different message on the LCD screen, like “Happy for you!” or “Sorry you’re feeling blue!” accompanied by a different color on the jumbo LED. Due to the emotional nature of the project, I liked the idea of making my enclosure look like a face— eyes, nose and mouth.

Criteria for this week:

  • Can get inside to modify

  • Multiple components


  • Open top plastic box (Muji)

  • Arcade buttons (x2) (Tinkersphere)

  • LCD screen (Tinkersphere)

  • RGB LED (Tinkersphere)

  • Scrap cardboard

  • Scrap acrylic

  • Rubber bands

  • Various components from PCOMP: Arduino, breadboard, wires, alligator clips, etch (not key to the enclosure building, but used as a guide for sizing, holes, etc.)


The first thing I did after getting my plastic base container was trace it in cardboard and figure out the relative positions of the components. Then I photographed it, uploaded it to Illustrator, and re-created the shape in Illustrator, which I then printed in cardboard using the laser cutter (see first iteration in second row, furthest photo to the left.)

I then drilled holes in the plastic container using the drill press and several pieces of sacrificial wood. The holes were still pretty messy, though, so I ended up laser cutting an acrylic panel from some scrap acrylic the shop staff and I found, to give it a more polished look. I used a hot glue gun to seal it over the holes (see final pictures below).

While the buttons, jumbo LED, and LCD screen fit perfectly into the cardboard cover, I struggled a lot with getting the cover to stay on. I tried etching an divot into the back of the cardboard that the plastic container could grip on to, and making it just the right size to squeeze into the top opening…no dice. I ended up securing it with rubber bands, which actually made it a pretty sturdy fit.


Final Product + Lessons Learned

PRO- TIP: DO NOT TRY TO CREATE YOUR OWN HINGES. Buying something with a built-in lid/cover, or building the whole box out of cardboard, would have made this project a lot easier. Not that the rubber bands aren’t fashionable, but I’m definitely eager to try working with some ready-mades and/or Altoid tins for my next enclosure.

Although I couldn’t get the Emotion Box working as I had imagined in time for this week’s class, I think the enclosure turned out pretty cute and sturdy (also, the buttons are perfectly click-y.) I look forward to making the whole thing work once I learn more PCOMP!