While the case design for the mobile terminal version 1 is set in stone and will not change, I have been thinking of all the messing about I’ve gone through to get to the stage of having a half decent enclosure and is there a better way.
I used sketch up a little but got bogged down on some of the finer details so gave up on it. Since even this last year 3D printers have been coming down in price and performance and reliability of them has been improving significantly but the problem has always been how to design a 3D case that looks professional (with all the curves and slots for USB ports and barcode windows etc.
Yesterday I tried tinkercad. The interface is so basic I at first just assumed I would not get a professional result out of it, all you are doing is combining shapes together to either add or subtract from the model. After only a day I managed to produce this.
Even better, unlike sketchup, the design exports directly to the standard STL 3D printer format file and I also have a friend Eddy with a makerbot so this will be my first test.
I am seriously going to be looking at getting a 3D printer this year.
I am waiting for 5 boards to be assembled from smart-prototyping, I have decided that since it is taking me several hours to make each PCB I need to be a bit smarted, so for $40 each I am having them assembled (cost is PCB + Parts + assembly) if the quality is good and there are no issues with my very small last minute tweeks to the design I will get the software working and have another 25 made for the trials.
I have also sourced some filter glass of the correct size for the window to the barcode reader. Bottom line is that in 2-3 weeks I will have 5 assembled units.
I have also been looking at putting on a bootloader, several versions of the AVR dude exist out in the wild suitable for this task, my only issue is that they compile with all the MPLAB XC32 optimisations on and the free version does not optimise, time for a little rant here.
<RANT> Microchip probably makes 99.9% + of its revenue from silicon sales and 0.1% or less from compiler licences. The fact they do not provide an un-cripled compiler for their chips has probably already cost them billions due the the fact that a whole generation of potential customers in the last 10 years using the arduino are familiar with and are using AVR chips. (And the AVR ATMega series 8 bit chips have a pretty awesome architecture as those kids have been finding out)
Even today Microchip still only give you a crippled compiler. For the PIC32 this is even more ridiculous as it is based on the open source GCC MIPS compiler.
While I still love the Microchip PIC hardware, and most of the time the optimisations are not an issue, this point is getting more and more annoying to me. if I was a Microchip stockholder I would seriously be considering making this free and paying for it by sacking the arsehole MBA’s who decided it was a good idea. </RANT>
Ah well, just received another support request email, better get back to work.