Arduino Prototyping Physical Framework


Recently I've returned to working with arduino and similiar modules, and got quickly fed-up with cable mess on the table, having everything connected with cables, lying loosely.

Being unhappy with ready-to-print things I've found out on the internet, because most of them required either aluminium spacers, were too simple-minded forcing me to use certain layout and nothing else, or beign straight up 25x25cm flat printed board, I've decided to delegate some of my time to make my own "system" of customisable frame for arduino prototyping, so everything could stay in one place, at the expense of few hours of printing.

Main requirements/goals I've set up for the system:

  • Only printed parts, no aluminium spacers, no metal rods, no hotglue. Screws / zipties are compromise if needed.
  • Easily stackable
  • Easily expandable (at first by stacking vertically, then by extending horisontally as well if required)
  • High customisability to the point I could swap sub-modules easily without need of re-printing half of the frame.
  • Some degree of mechanical interlocking everything so it doesnt fell apart at the slightest move. 
  • Minimum postprocessing, ideally none - no supports, no smoothing, no filing, no drilling.

So, after some though process, I had first iteration of elements in 3ds max:

first iteration of frame
This is actually screenshot of third iteration, but first that was printed.


Result of printing, quite good for 3 revisions inside software without physicalprototype first:

frame prototype, first print, first success
Frame prototype, first print, first success

Now that I knew I have working frame, I should make some inserts into it for components. I've started with two arduinos i had at hand: uno and mega.

No that I know inserts fit nicely into frame, and arduino is secured, time to make some inserts for components I'll use in near future. While im aware that from this point i can make basically any insert i want as long component fit inside the frame, I'll limit myself to things i'll use in near future in my project that started this project, namely:

  • two step down converters LM2596
  • small protoboard
  • prototype pcb

Step down converters and small prototype board are so small, I'll put them on separate halves of insert plate, so it adds even more customisation freedom. I've made one universal print for 3 sizes of pcbs I've found around, as well one very universal that can be used with zipties for cables / weird components:

PCB, halves of inserts for protoboard and step downs, universal one

And the result is here:

Things to work on in near future:

  • work on screw mounting points, so they dont get too loose after few usages
  • add version for arduino micro/nano, nano with shield and 18650 adapter
  • add some lcd panel for front/top
  • add some larger/taller frame so it could work as a storage for unused inserts

You can get the files on my github (will be uploaded bit later). Thats all components i need for now, I have idea about LCD / dot matrix modules, as well side-panels for sticking controls/fans there and horisontal-joiner, but since this is rather iterative project, so i'll make new modules as I need them.

edit: github repo created: