Parts People founder creates chunky Raspberry Pi-to-Go portable with 3D-printed case
By Paul Ridden
January 7, 2013
Since being delivered into the eager hands of hackers, enthusiasts and dabblers, the credit-card-sized Raspberry Pi personal computer has found itself an integral part of a growing list of novel devices and applications. The inexpensive single-board system has been used to power the base station of the Personal Appointment Ticketing service for the homeless that we covered back in November, provided the processing backbone for the intriguing BeetBox instrument, it's been married to the power of Apple's Siri for a voice-controlled garage door, and a bunch of them have been connected together to create a 64-node supercomputer. For his addition to the list, founder and CEO of Parts-People, Nathan Morgan, has built a feature-packed portable PC that brings another Gizmag favorite to the table ... 3D printing.
For his open source Pi-to-Go mobile computer build, Morgan used a revision 1 Model B Pi with 256 MB of RAM – the currently available revision 2 now has 512 MB of RAM, two USB ports and an Ethernet port – which cost just US$35 (Model A, with 256 MB of RAM, one USB port and no Ethernet, will be $10 cheaper when it goes on sale in the near future). A 4 GB SD card is home to the Raspbian flavor of the Linux operating system, and a desire for more system memory and increased storage capacity led him to connect a 64 GB solid state drive to the main board and set up a 1 GB Linux swap partition.
To prove the concept, he chose to install a cheap and cheerful, low resolution (640 x 480 pixels), 3.5-inch color LCD display for use in automobiles. Power from a 6-cell Li-ion battery pack purloined from a Dell Latitude D600 laptop is routed to the main board and a modified 7-port USB hub via the monitor's 9 - 13-volt input. This ensures clean regulated power for an 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi dongle, a Bluetooth 3.0 dongle, the SSD, a keyboard/mouse transmitter for the QWERTY wireless keyboard and touchpad mouse combo, and the Pi board itself.
All of the components, including HDMI and powered USB ports, are encased in a custom-created, 3D-printed outer housing that's been designed to snap together and was printed out on Morgan's PP3DP UP! portable printer. The STL files are available for download from Thingiverse, should you wish to build your own Pi-to-Go.
The final touch is a cut-out Raspberry Pi logo on the back panel, through which shines LED backlighting kindly donated from a backlit laptop keyboard. This panel is the only piece that's secured using screws.
The Pi-to-Go mobile computer weighs in at a nicely portable 1.65 pounds (0.74 kg) but its angled display and base are not hinged, so packing away for travel may take some considered planning.