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I am designing an electronics circuit (gps-tracker/recorder) that I would like to cast in a material for durability and aesthetics, as pictured. I may decide to sell it at some point.

enter image description here

It would be marketed to the more techie/geeky type of user, and I am trying to figure out if a clear (resin) casting would be better than an aluminum/metal casting. Weight is not really an issue because I can use a minimal amount of metal for the metal casting.

I suppose the appeal of a clear casting is that it is, well, clear. This imports the look of "hey, electronics" into the design, and it may be more pleasing because the product will be marketed towards the sort of people who may be familiar with electronics.

However, the product itself is just going to have an SD card slot and a power switch, so I suppose that the overall involvement of the user in the electronics will be minimal. A metal casting may be a good way to abstract the complicated electronic innards from the simple output within the user-friendly SD card and the simple input from the power switch.

Which kind of casting do you think would work better?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Your example of transparent desktop audio switch is nice but it has some specific.

  • It lives on a desktop, so it's always visible and aesthetics could be crucial for such context.
  • The discrete electronic components have charm and some nostalgy feelings (like warm lamp sound).

GPS-tracker has other specific, it should be considered.

  • It lives somewhere not in view (turn-on-and-forget mode).
  • It should be perceived as reliable and solid (solid as a rock, metal strong, military-style) device, not fragile as glass (transparent).
  • The PCB with just a couple of chips could be perceived as a cheap device, not worthing its retail price.
  • Watching electronic components and layout, there could be some critique on using outdated or cheap components, non-optimal PCB layout, heat exchange issues and so on.
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The transparent resin body looks awesome, but has several drawbacks:

  1. The electrical assembly must be performed better than if the circuit board in inside an opaque box. Not every circuit board maker can provide such aesthetic assembly.

  2. The reliability of the device can decrease - for example, on the demonstrated picture, there are two electrolyte capacitors that has limited live and will degrade after several years, while the whole other electronic will be able to function further. So, instead of replacing only two capacitors, the owner has to change the whole device.

  3. The geeky people (as a target group) like to disassemble devices they own. If they can't, they will feel some discomfort. And will disassemble it anyway (using a saw). And will not buy the same device again.

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I think you need to figure out what would best enhance pride of ownership. The Raspberry Pi crowd tends to like the transparent cases so you can see the individual chips, led's etc. The Jony Ive fans would probably prefer something clean and simple with all bells and whistles hidden from view.

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I think clear resin based is better based on the audiance you defined. The picture you show however needs more polish of the internals. It looks techy, but does not feel "advanced" or cool.

For example this watch shows the internals, but a lot of though has gone on how to present them: http://www.oldwatches.co/wp-content/uploads/2009/old-watches-gears-in-motion.jpg

You might want to

  • Clean up the internal like the connections - soldering, wires etc
  • If possible the colors/style of the components - like capacitor is very visbily plain
  • May be add a bit of led light to spice it up a bit and sort of blur some additional detail
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