Designed at West Point. 3D Printed at BLUE1647.

Designed at West Point. 3D-printed at BLUE1647 in Chicago.

Experimenting with Parallella? Then you might need a way to protect it. The original acrylic cases are no longer available. Fortunately, 3D printing offers a solid alternative.

A highly-expandable 3D-printable case was designed by a team at the United States Military Academy at West Point: Professor Suzanne J. Matthews and Master Machinist William (“Frank”) Blackmon. Professor Matthews uses Parallella when teaching high-performance computing courses.

Simple, Expandable Design

The West Point case only has three parts! You combine the three parts at will to accommodate multiple Parallella cluster configurations.

Three parts of the West Point case.
Mix and match the parts. Stack at will.

Internal Honeycomb Structure

Engineering details make a big difference in project like this. While the flat portions of the case are printing, the internal honeycomb structure is visible. I suspect that the honeycomb gives the panels greater strength while reducing costs and shortening the print time. Product engineering considers factors that users never see at the surface.

Internal honeycomb structure.

3D Printing Process (w/gotchas)

I asked Patrick Harris, CEO of iMagine-it-Tech, to guide me through the process. iMagine-it-Tech is based at BLUE1647. Here are a few lessons (with gotchas to avoid):

Print multiple copies when space allows.
Spaghettification (the noodle effect) is not fun.

After Printing

The Dremel Tool has become one of the most valuable tools in my maker kit. For this project, it was helpful to use the Dremel for edge-smoothing and screw-shortening.

Trim rough edges with a Dremel and a razor blade.

Screws Required

You can secure the Parallella circuit board to the bottom side of the case with four sheet metal screws, size #4. The 3/8” screws extended beyond the bottom of the case, so I trimmed them a bit with a Dremel.

Sheet metal screws (#4). Left screw was shortened with a Dremel.


This is the best 3D-printed case for Parallella that I have found so far, mainly because it is stackable and expandable.

Professor Matthews continues to author instructional materials that focus on parallel processing, with Parallella as the learning tool of choice. I look forward to reading more of the materials.