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Raspberry Pi users can now 3D print a replica of Tim Peake’s £3000 Astro Pi flight case – 3ders.org (blog)

by • February 7, 2016 • No Comments

Feb 8, 2016 | By Benedict
The Raspberry Pi Foundation has released the 3D printing files for its Astro Pi enclosure, as utilized by British astronaut Tim Peake aboard the International Space Station. The cases sent to space cost £3,000 ($4,300) to create, but makers can print their own replicas for a fraction of which price.

Back in December, astronaut Tim Peake became the sixth UK-born astronaut to visit the International Space Station. As part of his six-month undertaking, the astronaut brought two specially augmented Raspberry Pis, called “Astro Pis”, every running experimental Python programs. These programs were written by school-age students, and can have their results sent back to planet Earth to be published online.
Understandably, the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA uphold incredibly stringent safety requirements for tiny payloads aboard the ISS. These high standards required the Astro Pi flight unit—a highly reinforced aluminum case for the miniature computer—to be put through a complex qualification system, evaluated by a panel of experts at ESA ESTEC in the Netherlands.
When details of this super-strong case were released in May 2015, most Pi users wanted to get their hands on one. But, just eight of the £3,000 units were created. Each was milled of a solid block of aerospace-grade aluminum via a five-axis CNC mill, heat-blasted, anodized with a special coating, and touched up preceding having the standard Raspberry Pi hardware placed within. Once the markings and logos had been laser-etched onto the case, the devices were eager for space.

Due to the costliness and extreme precision required to create every Astro Pi, the Raspberry Pi Foundation created it abundantly clear which the cases may not be created on the market for the general consumer to buy. But, true to its word, the foundation has instead released the object files of the component so which schools with 3D printing devices can print their own iterations of the cosmic case.
The Raspberry Pi team initially tried to print the original CAD files on a regular 3D printing device, but ran into difficulties, with the create requiring an unrealistic amount of scaffolding and rafting. Seeing this problem, the createers adjusted the CAD version into a easier and additional budget-printing device-friendly create. “The initially alter we agreed on was to slice off the heat sink on the base, so which it may be printed in the opposite orientation,” explained David Honess, Education Resource Engineer at the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

“That way it may have nothing overhanging to cause assist structure to be created between the pins,” he continued. “We and so sliced off the top of the lid so which it may be printed with the clean side facing upwards, meaning the stringy side may face down. That was a lot nicer looking. So with the lid and heat sink sliced off, it intended the two original middle bits were left as discrete parts.
“We in addition removed the pillars between the USB and Ethernet ports for the reason these snapped off easily. Finally, for convenience, we alterd the corner bolt enclosures of a sunken captive screw to a straight-through M4 nut-and-bolt create. You can use epoxy adhesive (or similar) to join the heat sink to the base and the lid to the middle.”
The Astro Pi enclosure has been divided into four STL files to minimize scaffolding and rafting, and to minimize printing time. The files have been released under the Creative Commons license, so tinkerers are free to modify the create as they see fit. An educational resource written by the Pi team explains how to fit the hardware within the case. Planet planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing Pi can’t do!

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