Making Laser-Cut Acrylic Boxes/Enclosures

We often find ourselves needing to make a custom box or enclosure of some type. For example, if we create an electronics gadget, we might need to put it in a housing.  A laser cutter is a great tool to produce these boxes, but you still have to deal with laying out a vector drawing with the right dimensions, figuring out how it’s going to be joined together and all that jazz.

So, I found this awesome online tool that allows you to quickly and automatically produce a vector drawing of a box. The box designs it produces have notched edge,making them really easy to assemble after they’re cut.

You put in your dimensions, configure a few settings, click create, and within seconds it hands you back a PDF with all six sides of your box laid out.  You can then import the PDF into your favorite vector drawing program (we like Inkscape), and customize it further.  For example, you might want to have a cut-out on one side to allow for the USB port to stick through.  Or you might want to have holes drilled (cut) in the bottom to line up with the mounting holes of a PCB board. Check out the picture above to see one I made for an Arduino-based music project I was working on.

You can access the tool here. I’ve also put a permanent link to it in the sidebar of this site. Just put in the height, width and depth of your box and the material thickness (e.g. 1/8 inch acrylic would be 0.125).  For most projects, you can just hit “Design It” at this point and you’ll be fine.  As you get more advanced, you might want to play around with the other options.  The setting for notch width comes in handy when you start producing much smaller boxes.  For example, I did some dice that were only 1 inch cubed and I had to make the notch-width smaller.  Also, if you find that your box fits together too tightly or too loosely after cutting it, you might have to adjust the setting for cut width. For our laser cutter, .007 seems to work well for 1/8 inch acrylic.

To close up your box permanently, what I’ve found that works well is to use a syringe with acetone in it.  You lay down a very tiny bead with the needle of the syringe along the inside seams of the box, and it basically “welds” it together by dissolving a little of the acrylic.

That’s about it.  Happy box-making.


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