Home Brew Enclosures for Board Cameras
Jan 4 2016






Enclosures like the one pictured left and used for TOP201 cameras are OK for where the light source is always the same, but something a bit larger that will accommodate an IRC filter is needed where the light source changes between sunlight and other types of lighting, like IR LEDs. A larger enclosure is also required if one wishes to add a PoE board which is something I add to any camera that doesn't come with one. Some may also need additional space for an IR LED light source, but I prefer to use IR light sources installed at least a few inches away as this saves having to constantly clear spider webs from in front of the lenses of cameras with a built-in IR light source. Anyway, no one appears to sell small camera enclosures, at least none that come anywhere close to what I want and especially for what I would be willing to pay, so I began looking for something that was readily available and would make it fairly easy to home-brew enclosures for all the camera boards I've acquired the past few months and want to be able to use outside.

What I found was 1.75" square aluminum tubing with a wall thickness of 0.085" which is almost perfect for 38mm camera boards. A slightly thinner wall thickness would have been perfect as the inside dimension is 1.58" and with 38mm being almost 1.5" there isn't enough space to run the wiring from a PoE to a camera board past the edge of the PoE board, but there's an easy way to solve that problem that's shown a bit further down.

Besides tubing, 1/8" sheet aluminum was used for the front and rear enclosure pieces.

Aluminum can be cut using the same tools as used for wood and the aluminum pieces were cut slightly larger than needed using my table saw and the same 80 tooth carbide blade I use for wood and then sanded down to the exact size needed as well as to remove the cut marks made by the saw blade teeth.

Above - Some of the first enclosures that were made from a 2 ft. length of regular unfinished tubing that I purchased from a metal supplier before discovering a much longer 9 ft. length of nicely finished anodized tubing in the garage that I had purchased from a scrap metal dealer some years ago for a fraction of what the unfinished tubing cost. Note: The small hole in the side of the enclosure seen in the first image is the hole that was provided in the first batch of enclosures that provided access to the lens adjustment screw.

Left - Some of the 2nd batch of enclosures which were made from the nicely finished anodized tubing discovered in the garage.

The front pieces were made for a tight fit and then simply pressed into place using my drill press. I considered drilling a small hole through the tubing into the front piece half way along each side and pinning the front in place using short lengths of music wire as pins, but I doubt the fronts will ever move and to ensure they don't thin CA glue was run along the 4 inside front edges. Thin, rather than medium or thick, CA glue was used as it will seep into and fill whatever small cracks may exist along the edges the best and filling whatever cracks exist is something that must be done to hide the joints when the enclosures are painted and the main reason for using the glue.

After filling any tiny cracks around the edges of the front panels the enclosure fronts were sanded flat and the 4 mounting holes for a mounting plate were drilled and tapped before painting the enclosures.

Left - One of the 2nd batch of enclosures after it was painted. Note the lens locking ring that eliminated having to provide the lens adjustment screw access hole seen above. This enclosure has a mounting plate with a 1/2" long 1/4" threaded stand-off to allow mounting the camera on a tripod.

Right - The enclosure tubing, like the front and rear panels, was cut a little larger than needed and then sanded down to remove the saw blade cut marks, but rather than continue to sand until the exact length needed for the rear panel to fit flush with the sides I stopped once the cut marks were removed. This leaves the rear panel indented a bit like the image shows and I actually prefer it this way and have been even cutting the tubing a bit longer than I normally would.

Adhesive-Lined Heat Shrink Tubing was used at the camera end of the network cable to enlarge the cable diameter and prevent it from being pulled out of the enclosure.

Refer to this HomeBrew_Enclosures.PDF for detailed enclosure drawings, dimensions, hole sizes and other details.

Note: The HomeBrew_Enclosures.PDF is a copy of the CAD file used to design and keep track of the different enclosures I've made (with a few notes tossed in to help those that may use it to help make their own enclosures). However some pages, like those showing the enclosures I've built, are mainly for me and can be basically ignored. The main page to see is page 4 with the latest designs. The enclosures themselves are all basically the same except for the length and what's actually different from one design to the next is the configuration of the camera each enclosure is for and by camera configuration I mean the different brass spacer length combinations used and board spacing's.

This is a typical camera assembly that's ready to be placed in an enclosure once the front and rear temporary panels are removed.

The temporary panels are spare front and rear enclosure panels that are used while assembling the cameras to help ensure the spacers will line up properly with the screw holes in the enclosure front and rear panels when the camera assembly is placed in an enclosure as the mounting holes in the camera and PoE boards are over-sized and too large to ensure the spacing is correct.

I first assemble everything loosely, then tighten the 4 front panel spacers to the front panel, then tighten the next 4 that keep the camera board in place and finally the 4 that hold the PoE board in place.

A 2.5" long cable assembly (like seen left) is used between the PoE board connector that was relocated from the top to the bottom side of the PoE board and the 2 camera board connectors.

The camera image also shows how the alarm and audio input wiring from the camera board (white, black & orange wires) is fed through a hole in the PoE PCB since there's too little space past the edge of the board.

The HomeBrew_Enclosures.PDF shows using a weather seal and the 1st image (starting from the left) is the material used which is sold in rolls and as non-slip material and for lining tool box drawers. The roll I bought was .08" thick and was only a few dollars at the local dollar store. To make the weather seals, a strip of 2" wide carpet tape was attached along the end of the roll and then the strip with the tape was cut off (2nd image). There are a number of different types of carpet tape and the type used/needed is the type that leaves just a very thin sticky layer of adhesive behind when the paper is removed (although the one I used, as the 5th image shows, had some fine red threads embedded in the adhesive). The strip with the carpet tape was then cut down to the same width as a front panel and then cut up into a number of square pieces the same size as an enclosure panel. The square pieces were then joined together in pairs by removing the carpet tape paper backing from one square and attaching it to the other one and then a 1/4" square piece was removed from each corner of the double thick rubber seal before removing the remaining carpet tape paper backing and placing the seal inside an enclosure and sticking it to the back of the enclosures front panel. The center hole was then cut out using the front panel hole as a cutting guide and an exacto knife with a #11 blade.

Use Caution when installing a camera module and tightening the 4 front panel screws as the camera board could be damaged. The screws are not connected directly to the IRC filter and once the filter contacts the rubber seal the screws will be applying pressure to the camera board that, in turn, will apply pressure to the IRC filter as it compresses the foam so tighten the screws slowly and each, in turn, a little bit at a time to even out the pressure and give the foam rubber time to compress. When wanting to replace the camera in one of my enclosures with a different one I was concerned that the foam would remain compressed and not provide as good a seal for the new camera whose IRC filter would most likely not end up in the same location and match the first cameras depression exactly, but 24 hours after the first camera was removed its depression had disappeared without a trace of where it had been.

The rubber seals don't make an enclosure totally dust and weather proof of course, but cameras installed under an eave or similar area protected from the rain don't need to have anything close to an IP66 rating and I've had no problem with even inexpensive indoor pan-tilt cameras installed outdoors that were only protected by an eave or something similar above them.

Two weak areas that remain are the lens threads and rear panel. The lens locking rings I'm now using may be enough to keep moisture from working it's way along the lens threads into the camera, but I don't want to risk this happening as the moisture would be inside the IRC filter along with the image sensor (which is much worse than simply inside the enclosure) and I plan to use either some Teflon tape or silicon grease to seal the threads. As for the small gap between the 4 edges of a rear panel and an enclosure, they will usually end up facing a wall which will prevent water from being blown inside an enclosure, but if concerned one can always use silicon grease, Vaseline or something similar to seal the back panel that's flexible and easy to remove and clean off.

Above - After making a number of enclosures (and only painting one of the 2nd batch for the image seen earlier) it was time to paint the rest.

Anyway, I hope this page helps others home brew some enclosures for their board cameras.