Rescuing a foam box

Another quick project for today! How all started? A few hours ago I took a delivery box with few high resolution LCD’s on it. The box was made of foam material and was covered with dirty (from the delivery across two continents) yellowish tape.

To begin with, in order to open the box I had to remove half of this tape and by “playing” with the box I manage to remove everything without to damage it! Yes, the tape was strong enough to tear apart everything! The result is the one below

Usually I throw all of those delivery containers on one of trashcans that I use in my “lab”(separate ones because of recycling purposes). But this box was telling me that I have to use it for something. And somehow I totally agree with it!

I didn’t just keep it for a latter project somewhere on a self. If I was doing that probably the outcome will be to stay there forever. So, I decided to take a Raspberry Pi lying next to me together with a camera module and a WiFi to USB stick.

I was still not sure what the main project title would be. For example it will be just an indoor IP camera in a fancy foam box or an external wildlife-capturing device? Maybe a weather station that captures the atmospheric phenomena on top of raw data? Or just a way to spend my little free time crafting with an empty box? Despirte all my thoghts I carry on.

I test fit the RPi with the WiFi stick on it and then the camera module as well.

The RPi-WiFi combo was a perfect fit! I can mount it latter with a little bit of hot glue. The only problem for now is the microUSB power supply connector position. The solution to this one will be the use of the 2×13 pin header or to solder a cable underneath the Raspberry Pi. But again I will decide latter!

And now it’s time for the camera. This will go on the lid of the box. A few measurements here and there together with some small markings and the result was the following

I am using a small paper knife. Depending on the density of the foam you should do extremely small movements in order to keep the cutting surface as clean as possible. The denser the foam the cleaner the surface will be. The exact method of foam crafting is with hot wires but I don’t have anything like that around me and to make one will be a waste of time for just a few small cuttings.

I remove the small foam cube and place fit the camera. It fits great!

The problem now is the depth of the foam lid. This is around a centimeter of so and the camera is unable to have a clear view.

The solution is simple! A few more markings, then diagonal cuttings and you have a nice “lens” that I will paint black a few steps latter!

To properly mount the camera to my foam lens I am using black electrical tape. Even with the one on top the module is held perfectly without any movements or possibilities to fell down. I even pull gently from the flexible tape cable by paying attention not to destroy the SMD connector and still the piece of tape was holding well! But just in case a place another piece to 110% sure!

As I told before, the microUSB connector that gives power to the Raspberry Pi is in an odd place for my box. Underneath the Pi, close to the miroUSB connector, there is a zener diode. This protects the board from over voltage and it’s a good position to solder a previously used cable that I had.

Next, test fit the SensorStick. Actually in the below photo I didn’t use any adhesive to mount it like that. It is held in place by just the small pins of the pin header. The mounting position is there (below as possible) in order to reduce the effect of the heat produced from the RPi CPU. To be honest, this is the smallest think you can do about it. The best position for the SensorStick is outside the box or you can place a heat sink on the module and just this will go outside the box (measuring almost real weather data).

My hot glue gun (a really cheap one) is already on the mains socket to gain heat on the tip. A little bit of hot glue on the power cable to be held in place

And then I add the preconfigured Raspbian microSD card with SSH enabled. This SD converter is amazing!

Before the hot glue gun lost its power I add all the components to the foam box and put a little bit of still melting glue on the SensorStick module and below the Raspberry Pi.

The connection cable between the Pi and the sensors is next. I am using flying wires in this purple like colour and two remaining of used pin header connectors.

The single row one (the female) is a 90-degree angle type. I don’t have straight one now but you can gently straight the pins and then cut them in shape.

I’ve already soldered the other end of the cable with the double row connector. This end will go on the top of the Raspberry Pi header and will take I2C (SDA, SCL) signals and power (+3.3V, GND).

And now my small project thats saves a foam box from the trashcan looks like that!

I am plugging the flat tape cable from the camera module to the ZIF connector of the RPi. You have to use the ZIF connector close to the Ethernet port and not the other one!

In order to close the box, I used paper tape in the beginning. This tape was great so far but it seams that is not a good friend with the foam box. I can still use this one and put a lot of tape around but I have the electrical tape close to me!

And voila! The foam box is saved and the projects it actually looks really good! Of course, it can’t be compared with projects with professional enclosures and tailored made PCBs but this was not the point of this project!

The outcome is the learning that you will gain out of the creation process together with the fun on making stuffs! And all of those in something like an hour, including this post!

For the camera module I am using the Motion-MMAL software that creates an IP camera effect with the Raspberry Pi. And in order to get the weather data on the Internet I am using the data platform Exosite with their API and a few lines of code in Python.

13 thoughts on “Rescuing a foam box

  1. […] When [Ioannis] received some high resolution LCD’s in a tattered foam box, he posed to himself a most interesting question – Should he throw the foam box away, or use it as a container for a project? Fortunately for us, he decided on the latter and threw together a very capable weather station! […]

  2. […] When [Ioannis] received some high resolution LCD’s in a tattered foam box, he posed to himself a most interesting question – Should he throw the foam box away, or use it as a container for a project? Fortunately for us, he decided on the latter and threw together a very capable weather station! […]

  3. […] When [Ioannis] received some high resolution LCD’s in a tattered foam box, he posed to himself a most interesting question – Should he throw the foam box away, or use it as a container for a project? Fortunately for us, he decided on the latter and threw together a very capable weather station! […]

  4. […] When [Ioannis] received some high resolution LCD’s in a tattered foam box, he posed to himself a most interesting question – Should he throw the foam box away, or use it as a container for a project? Fortunately for us, he decided on the latter and threw together a very capable weather station! […]

  5. […] When [Ioannis] received some high resolution LCD’s in a tattered foam box, he posed to himself a most interesting question – Should he throw the foam box away, or use it as a container for a project? Fortunately for us, he decided on the latter and threw together a very capable weather station! […]

  6. […] When [Ioannis] received some high resolution LCD’s in a tattered foam box, he posed to himself a most interesting question – Should he throw the foam box away, or use it as a container for a project? Fortunately for us, he decided on the latter and threw together a very capable weather station! […]

  7. […] full instructions on how to create your very own Raspberry Pi weather station jump over to the Embedded Day website for full instructions and all the components you will […]

  8. […] Rescuing a foam box – [Link] […]

  9. Mike says:

    I don’ t know much about ESD, but apple said something about it:

    thoughts?

    • embeddedday says:

      Hehe!!! I’ve got more than 30 mails about that, couple of comments in other blogs, even an SMS for someone I know! Yes, Apple said it better! ESD is a huge problem in electronics! It’s not actually a “black magic” and you can control it with basic manufacture/production techniques and design architectures.

      But for the “project” I am posting here the main point was not to make the best electronic device that is protected from everything or the best weather station! Yes, I know that foam materials are a terrible idea for ESD, flying wires too, exposed pins without protection too, not earthed enclosures too… etc.

      The main idea for this project was to make something quick out from this box that was going to be in the trashcan in few seconds! I am not using this anymore nor I was going to!

      For example the problem here is not the ESD only! It’s also the measuring capabilities of the SensorStick as well! The foam box will contain the heat produced from the RPi and the result will not be the outside temperature! A terrible idea for a “weather station”! But again, I wasn’t trying to make neither an ESD safe device nor the best weather station out there! I was just having fun with the little bit of free time on my lab!

  10. […] For more detail: Rescuing a foam box […]

  11. Anonymous says:

    I am afraid this will not work. By putting the sensor stick inside the foam box you do not allow humidity to enter the box and therefore to be read by the sensor. The temperature will also not pass the foam box in time. Moreover, the temperatures will not be correct as the sensor will take the heat produced by the Raspberry pi chips and the heat by your wireless adapter.
    Sorry, but, although it looks like a good concept, it’s not going to work.
    Just open the box for better results.

    • embeddedday says:

      Hehe!!! If i had a nickel for every time I am hearing that…

      As I said in previous blogs and forums (all the links are posted above), in the main body of this article and exactly on top of the post you just made… I am 1000% aware of the things you are saying! But this project was not made to be the best weather station, not even a good one! It’s just an under an hour “craft” of how you can somehow save a foam box that just landed on my hands from a delivery company!

      Nothing more… nothing less! If you read the article and the previous answer that I gave you will understand!

      I’ve already said that “yes, we will read the temperature of the RPi and not the external one”, “no, it’s not good for ESD”, “we can use better/cheaper sensors but those are the ones I am having now”, “a ventilated enclosure is better instead of this foam one”, “no, I am not going to use that as my main weather station” etc etc etc etc…

      So, I am really glad that you post here and I will be really happy if you do it again. But if you read the full article you will see of what I am talking about!

      Many thanks once more,
      Ioannis

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