NCASE M1: a crowdfunded Mini-ITX case (updates in first post)

Discussion in 'Small Form Factor Systems' started by wahaha360, Sep 15, 2012.

  1. wahaha360

    wahaha360 Gawd

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    NCASE M1: a crowdfunded Mini-ITX case (was: "Aluminum SG05 evolution by Lian Li")

    ----------------

    This thread documents the origin and development of the NCASE M1, from the original concept of an "aluminum SG05 by Lian Li," through multiple design iterations incorporating community feedback, prototype testing and design finalization, and finally crowdfunding of the finished product.

    The NCASE M1 started right here in this thread, which now serves as a general discussion for new and existing owners of the M1. Please note that per forum rules, we cannot tell you how or where to acquire an M1.


    -----------------


    M1-related resources
    • Have a question? Check PlayfulPhoenix's FAQ for a quick answer.
    • Check out the user build gallery for ideas, reference and inspiration.
    • A user-contributed Google docs spreadsheet, covering parts and compatibility ( edits are public and affect everyone - be careful!)
    • M1 carry bag, made to order (organized by another [H] member - not affiliated with NCASE)
    • For those experience a wobbling issue, please see this video (mostly affects early M1s).
    • For those with panel alignment issues, please see this and this video (mostly affects early M1s)



    M1 Specifications

    Dimensions (H x W x D): 240 x 160 x 328mm, 12.6L (250 x 160 x 338mm overall including feet and rear protrusions)

    Motherboard support: Mini-ITX, Mini-DTX

    Liquid cooling support: Single 120mm or 240mm slim radiator

    Power Supply support: SFX, ATX (limited, only with short GPUs)

    Drives:
    • 3 x 3.5" Mounts:
      • 1 on case floor
      • 2 in removable side bracket (cannot be used with dual radiator or ATX PSU)
    • 3 x 2.5" Mounts:
      • 1 inside chassis front
      • 1 behind front panel (in place of optical drive)
      • 1 on case bottom (in place of 3.5" drive)
      • Included double-stacking bracket allows 2 x 2.5" drives on one mount (depending on drive thickness)
    • Optical Disc Drive: Slim slot-load optical drive bay (vertically mounted with slot on top panel), supports 12.7mm thick drives

    Fans:
    • 4 120mm fan mounts
    • 2 on side bracket
    • 2 on case bottom (in place of 3.5" drive)
    • 1 x 80/92mm fan mount (bottom)
    • 1 x 80/92mm fan mount (rear)

    Dust filtration:
    • 120mm plastic frame mesh filters (screwed into fans), 2 for the side intakes (V3 and earlier only), and 2 for the bottom.
    • Magnetic dust filter for side intakes (included with V4 and later).

    Front ports: 2 x USB 3.0, HD Audio

    Power button: Blue/red (purple combined) power/drive activity LED

    Material: 1.5mm aluminum construction, brushed and anodized exterior, matte black painted interior. Steel fan bracket (V4 and later).

    Package Dimensions Estimate: 228.6x304.8x406.4mm / 9x12x16"
    Package Weight Estimate: 2.72kg / 6lbs

    Team: NCASE
    Designer: Necere
    Operations: Wahaha360
    OEM manufacturer: Lian Li


    Thermal & Noise Testing
    Part 1 - http://hardforum.com/showpost.php?p=1039852611&postcount=2579
    Part 2 - http://hardforum.com/showpost.php?p=1039866874&postcount=2686
    Part 3 - http://hardforum.com/showpost.php?p=1039908672&postcount=2968

    -----

    The story:
    - Wahaha360 likes SilverStone SG05, but wants something 100% aluminum - couldn't find anything, left wanting
    - Wahaha360 finds [H]ardForum and meets Necere, the designer
    - Necere & Wahaha360 use CAD to show design ideas on the forum, forum members contribute, critique, make fun of...etc
    - Necere comes up with a viable design - M1
    - Lian Li and SilverStone become potential OEM manufacturers, then Streacom, Jonsbo and Realan
    - A big discussion about company name - NCASE, in the end, still NCASE
    - Necere adds ATX PSU and Slim Optical Disc Drive support to M1
    - A successful Indiegogo prototype campaign :D
    - Prototype from Lian Li arrives and testing began
    - A big discussion about possibly making the case bigger, in the end, no need
    - Prototype testing complete (see links below for testing results)
    - A successful Indiegogo M1 production campaign :D
    - Lian Li started production and for the most part, things went smoothly
    - All M1s shipped to backers :D

    ------

    Miscellaneous renders
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Prototype and test build pics (click for larger versions)
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2015
    Nanook, Frank Burns and faoliveira like this.
  2. adjas

    adjas Limp Gawd

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    Best of luck with that.

    I bet Silverstone won't be too happy.
     
    ledcriss likes this.
  3. ekuest

    ekuest [H]ardness Supreme

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    yeah thats just waiting for a lawsuit. what correspondence do you have with lian li about this? lian li makes numerous new cases every year, whats to stop them from just designing their own case with a similar layout but in their style?
     
  4. vipz

    vipz Gawd

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    This doesn't even pass the smell test.
     
  5. WiSK

    WiSK 2[H]4U

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    Silverstone themselves will do custom builds if you order some hundreds. If you look at the quality of the FT03-mini panels, you'd know that not only Lian Li can do quality builds with anodised aluminium.
     
  6. CMadki4

    CMadki4 [H]ardness Supreme

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    What makes you think Silverstone would make a tiny lot of several hundred? Retooling costs would far exceed the profit they would make on just a few hundred cases. You'll have to go with a small manufacturer. Which gives you more flexibility.

    And as far as lawsuits, as far as design patents and copyrights, case layouts are pretty hard to pin down. Either way, if Lian Li or Silverstone did choose to take you to court, they are going to outlast you. Even a legit patent holder doesn't always win against the bigger players. At some point its going to come down to who has more money to keep up with the proceedings. Sucks, but it's true.
     
  7. WiSK

    WiSK 2[H]4U

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    [Edit] I have read that
    Silverstone have in the past, and are currently building small run custom versions of various of their cases. I have no direct contact with them, so I can't quote exact numbers.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2012
  8. CMadki4

    CMadki4 [H]ardness Supreme

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    Roger that. SIlverstone making variations of SIlverstone cases is one thing. Lian Li making a variation of a Silverstone case, that's a totally different beast. If Silverstone is willing do short runs, that'd be sweet.

    But the OP's original wish for a CAD model of the SG05 to give to Lian Li is a big no no and should be hastily abandoned. That being said, the SG05 wouldn't be too hard to remodel with enough variation to make it original. And don't put the Silverstone logo on it, haha :D
     
  9. lvyelion

    lvyelion Limp Gawd

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    IMHO, Lian Li uses good material, high quality, but their internal design just horrible
     
  10. Necere

    Necere 2[H]4U

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    Why not get them to do a modified version of one of their current cases? If you made the PC-Q16 a bit wider to accommodate a pair of expansion slots and maybe opened up the front ventilation a bit more you'd basically have the SG05 (sans optical drive).

    edit: in fact, if you're really going forward with this and can get the capital together, talk to me. I have some ideas for the design (check out my SG09 redesign, if you haven't).
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2012
  11. wahaha360

    wahaha360 Gawd

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    I have no intention of making a clone, that's why I used the term "INSPIRED".

    The SG05 design is outdated, it's only logical to design something improved. I intend to do everything legally and have been working with a USPTO certified Patent Agent / lawyer.

    There should be an aluminum SG05 alternative on the market and I want one myself. Either SilverStone reads this thread and decides to save me the time and money by making such product, or I will do it myself via Kickstarter.

    Necere, do you have a design as compact as the SG05?
     
  12. Necere

    Necere 2[H]4U

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    I have many; SFF is kinda my thing. I'll send you a PM.
     
  13. CMadki4

    CMadki4 [H]ardness Supreme

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    NDA.
     
  14. Necere

    Necere 2[H]4U

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    I'm not worried about it. I come up with new stuff all the time, and I've shown some of my better work on other forums already.
     
  15. wahaha360

    wahaha360 Gawd

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    Disclaimer:

    I didn't set out to profit from this. Collaboration with a Patent Agent is NOT intended to profit from intellectual property, but to prevent troubles for myself and others helping me.

    In fact, it's very unlikely I will make any profit - it's a small order and I have to keep the unit cost low for others to commit to such order.

    That being said, I'm happy to sign NDAs and take all the help / advice I can get.
     
  16. wahaha360

    wahaha360 Gawd

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  17. Machupo

    Machupo Gravity Tester

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    Necere, sounds like we could collaborate on something -- check out my n(A) thread... I'm modeling v2 right now to include 2x 15mm 2.5" hdds (read 4TB) in under 7.5L.
     
  18. Necere

    Necere 2[H]4U

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    Yeah, that's the basic SG05 layout, condensed a bit. The external GPU is, frankly, a poor idea though on something that's not supposed to be a test bench. I'd be wary about some of the publicly available sketchup models - many aren't all that accurate. I'm guessing you're working in inches there, because some of the parts are off by a few mm.

    Heh... well, one thing at a time. The thing about scratch builds though - you kind of need to do a lot of trial and error with different materials/techniques to come up with things that work and look good (key point; I haven't seen very many scratch builds that accomplish the latter), whereas if you're working with a manufacturer they can just tell you what they can and can't do. Like I was telling the OP, I'm more of a designer vs. a engineer/builder, so I don't know how much use I'd be. Besides, scratch builds are really personal projects that showcase one's own abilities.
     
  19. wahaha360

    wahaha360 Gawd

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    The pic below is what I have so far. It's a little bit of SG05 and FT03-Mini to minimize the footprint. Parts: Asus P8Z77-I, GTX 680, ST45SF, 2.5" HDD, Slot Load Slim Drive, 140mm x 25mm Fan

    It's my first attempt. Since the SketchUp components are probably inaccurate, most likely a flawed model.

    Necere, I can send you the SketchUp model if you want to take a closer look

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2013
  20. wahaha360

    wahaha360 Gawd

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    size comparison,

    from left to right: SG05, SG05 standing up, prototype, FT03-Mini, Prodigy

    [​IMG]
     
  21. ekuest

    ekuest [H]ardness Supreme

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    we should all get together and start an sff case company! :p i have the utmost respect for necere after his SG09 mod, which was easily better than the original, and machupo is making a badass mini box right now that i cant wait to see when its finished. my project is actually through the design phase and im waiting on dwood over at OCN to get back from vaca to cut my panels. i'll post a pic of mine here once i get on my solidworks rig.
     
  22. wahaha360

    wahaha360 Gawd

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    Jokes aside, it's more plausible than most people think.

    We need:
    1. Design - Necere + others on the forum
    2. Manufacture - Lian Li
    3. Money - Kickstarter
    4. Marketing - People on this forum + Kickstarter

    5. Distribution / Delivery - NEED WORK
     
  23. Necere

    Necere 2[H]4U

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    Nah, I get the picture. I can tell you though, there's not nearly enough space at the top (for cables) or at the bottom (airflow). Really, the FT03-mini is as tall as it is for good reason, and you can't go much smaller without further limiting the internal components.
     
  24. wahaha360

    wahaha360 Gawd

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    I left about inch on top and bottom, that's not enough for cable & airflow?
     
  25. Necere

    Necere 2[H]4U

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    Get a power or video cable and hold a ruler up to the connector with a reasonable amount of bend in the cable. That's how much space you'll need at the top. It's going to be 60mm at a bare minimum; more like 70-75mm (~3 inches) for a comfortable fit.

    As for the bottom, bear in mind people are gonna put the case on their carpet. 35-40mm is more optimal.
     
  26. ekuest

    ekuest [H]ardness Supreme

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    i dont think it really needs that much space on the bottom. unless its on a ridiculous shag carpet, the carpet should only be a couple mm tall, and if thats pulling from in front of and behind the case then there should be plenty of room. youre absolutely right about the top though. i thought the same thing as soon as i looked at it. power cables can be right angle and take up very little space, but dual link dvi cables have a huge plug and then are pretty stiff and i think mine takes up almost 3" like you said. definitely needs more space there.

    and wahaha, it may sound easy, but making something like this would be $50+ for materials alone for a very simple design. you can get a decent itx case for that much that actually looks professional from a real company. we just cant compete with a real manufacturer tooling for a case and getting their costs way down, or their quality.
     
  27. wahaha360

    wahaha360 Gawd

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    I will make changes to the space on top. For the DVI connector, I was thinking about right angle DVI adapter like this
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/DVI-24-5-Ma...=US_Audio_Cables_Adapters&hash=item20c64a4d58

    ekuest
    I think $80-$120 per unit is about the average for an aluminum case. I'm NOT trying to start a company or profit from this, my hope is that for $80-$120 per unit, Lian Li can make something professional.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2012
  28. CrimandEvil

    CrimandEvil Dick with a heart of gold

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    Nope. Play around with a case enough and you start to see what's realistic and workable.
    Unless you're willing to include those with it. Don't expect people to hunt down such adapters just to use your case, it makes more sense just to go with a different case at that point.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2012
  29. Necere

    Necere 2[H]4U

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    Maybe, maybe not. Someone did a test once and determined that anything much less than 25mm (IIRC) kills the airflow. I know SilverStone tests their designs pretty extensively so it's probably a safe bet that whatever it is on the FT03-mini is about where it needs to be.
     
  30. CMadki4

    CMadki4 [H]ardness Supreme

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    That's an outstanding idea! I've got the CNC equipment, press brakes and the SolidWorks/Catia/3DVia/AutoCAD/Inventor capabilities! :D I'd be happy to assist.
     
  31. wahaha360

    wahaha360 Gawd

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    DVI is going to be obsolete and its size is an impediment to a more compact case. I might as well just include the right angle adapters.

    Products are about trade-offs. The product design either lead the market or follows the market.

    When the MacBooks Air was released, people complained about the trade-offs to accomplish such slim profile, but it has become the gold standard and one of the best selling laptops.
     
  32. CrimandEvil

    CrimandEvil Dick with a heart of gold

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    Because it was still a well balanced laptop. Having a case small mostly for the sake of being small isn't going to have that great of appeal outside of the niche.

    If you want a broader appeal I would suggest you look at Falcon Northwest's Tiki case and take cues from that instead.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=Fal...oH4vY9QSZsYDAAw&ved=0CEkQsAQ&biw=1092&bih=937

    Hell, I'd LOVE to have several cases like that. If I wanted something like the SG-5 I might as well get an SG05 or just build my own.
     
  33. wahaha360

    wahaha360 Gawd

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    Made the changes suggested, more straight forward, probably cheaper to manufacture as well.

    [​IMG]

    CrimandEvil, I like the SG05, but for $120, the build quality and the non-modular PSU is not good enough.
     
  34. CrimandEvil

    CrimandEvil Dick with a heart of gold

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    Call me obtuse but how is the motherboard mounted with the video card completely on the wrong side of the case? Are you using a PCIe extension cable?

    What? I didn't suggest you get one. I'm suggesting you look beyond that case for inspiration. That's what "If I wanted something like the SG-5 I might as well get an SG05" means.
     
  35. ekuest

    ekuest [H]ardness Supreme

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    you realize the st45sf-g is $90 right? if they included that psu the case would be $30. the st45sf is around $60, so the case being $60 too is reasonable.
     
  36. dastral

    dastral n00bie

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    I think the biggest problem with making a "perfect SG05" would be the motherboard's CPU location.
    The CPU needs to be "in the middle" and not "in the back side" but... you run into GPU positioning issues...
    Honestly what i'd like would be :


    Take a SG05 and move the MB so that the beginning of the MB touches the intake fan
    [​IMG]

    Use a PCIE Extension/Daughtercard so as the shift the location of the GPU
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    You now have a SG05 clone with the MB sitting in the middle.. So using a 90MM tower/fan is now possible.
    Then you can add a "wide 2 sided/layer PSU, with a 90MM pull fan" kinda like this one :
    [​IMG]

    Thus ending up with something like this :
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2012
  37. wahaha360

    wahaha360 Gawd

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    SketchUp component error, I will fix it

    I completely agree. The design has to be good enough to be funded via Kickstarter, going beyond SG05 is necessary.

    I get the math, but the Case and PSU is bundled by SilverStone, NOT sold separately. I'm not starting a company and this is a hobby; without the need to profit, I can probably get an aluminum case, by Lian Li, for around $80. That's reasonable.

    I'm just designing the basic layout, Lian Li will do the engineering. I wouldn't attempt this without a reputable case manufacture .

    Putting the HDD behind the motherboard would create a problem for the motherboard I/O
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2012
  38. illli

    illli Gawd

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    curious, why not flip it the opposite way and have all the ugly cables exit the bottom of the case? in the current design they'll all be coming out the top
     
  39. ekuest

    ekuest [H]ardness Supreme

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    it's a lot easier to take a cover off the top and plug/unplug cables than to turn the whole thing on its side to try to get to the ports on the bottom. same reason the ft03 and ft03-mini have the ports on top.
     
  40. wahaha360

    wahaha360 Gawd

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    I think airflow is part of its too. Since hot air rises, the GPU (exhaust) and Motherboard I/O is kept on top.