While building my BITX40 radio transceiver (a great kit by Ashhar Farhan), I needed to make my own enclosure case. I opted to go with the Excellway EF01 plastic project box sold by Banggood, which has been successfully used by other radio amateurs building this particular kit. It’s a low-cost plastic 200x175x70mm project box with flat, removable front and rear panels, well suited to hobbyist projects. In the process of making my BITX40 case I produced this customisable printable cutting template for the EF01 panels. If you are thinking of using an Excellway EF01 plastic case for your project, you might be interested in using this template to prototype your own repeatable design.
My approach was to take a high-resolution scan of an EF01 panel next to two measuring rulers. This scan was then loaded in to a multi-layer image file where I created an assortment of scale drilling/cutting outlines which could be duplicated and repositioned over the scanned image. The image is then printed at 100% to produce a scale template which is taped on to the plastic panel to aid cutting and drilling the various holes needed for switches, dials, screens and so on.
There’s no denying this approach is more than a little ‘improvised’, but it worked really well for my BITX40 radio project and crucially let me create cardboard mock-ups of my front and rear panel designs. This let me catch and fix some layout problems before committing to drilling the actual plastic panels.
I mounted my initial BITX40 panel templates on some cardboard the Excellway case was shipped in to get a feel for how my layout worked in practice. The grey hatched areas used in the template are ‘keep out’ spaces which represent reserved space around the cutting outlines (e.g. a round jack hole which has a larger square shaped casing behind it).
The EF01 panel template has been created using an image editing tool called Paint.NET, which is similar to Adobe Photoshop. It’s free and can be downloaded from the Paint.NET website. You will need to install this application in order to use the EF01 template.
Once Paint.NET is installed, a copy of the template file needs to be downloaded from the GitHub repository, here. There is a small amount of supporting information within the repository including example templates.
The basic concept is quite simple - find an outline you want on your panel (e.g. an 8mm drill hole), copy that layer and reposition it over the panel scan as desired. Repeat this process for the various components to be fitted on the panel and print it. If the required outline is not available, just draw shapes manually referencing the rulers in the image for scale. The only other thing to know is the light grey border around the edges of the panel is a ‘keep out’ area and should be avoided (these edges go in to slots in the case).
If you’re still unsure on how to proceed, here is a step by step example:
- Rename the downloaded
excellway-ef01-panel-template.pdnfile to something specific to your project (e.g.
- Open the template file in Paint.NET.
- In the
Layerswindow, scroll through the list until the desired outline is found (e.g.,
15mm hole) and left click it to select it.
- Click the Duplicate Layer button at the bottom of the
Layerswindow to copy the outline layer.
- Click the Properties button at the bottom of the
Layerswindow and rename the new layer to something meaningful (e.g.,
DC jack connector hole). Also tick the
Visiblecheckbox before clicking OK.
- Click the Move Layer Up button repeatedly to move the new layer to the top of the layer stack. This makes things easier to manage later when there are a number of outlines in the image.
- Press the
Mkey to activate the Move tool. The new drill outline can now be dragged around the panel template to the desired position.
Steps 3 through 7 can be repeated to add a variety of drilling and cutting outlines to the panel template. When your design is finished it can be printed for checking and/or use.
Ensure that the template is printed at 100% scale and not stretched or enlarged whatsoever by your printer software - this can be checked by measuring the rulers in the image are at 1:1. Cut out the template, then carefully align and tape it to the plastic panel.
Above is an EF01 enclosure after being drilled for my BITX40 project using the example layout available in the GitHub repository.
For my radio project I painted my EF01 case black using a ‘vinyl dye’ product sold for use on car interiors which I always find gives a great finish on plastic surfaces.
If you develop your own panel designs using this template, especially for any amateur radio projects, please feel free to contribute them as examples to the GitHub repository via pull request (or email them to me if you prefer).
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