Project: mITX SFF custom case

Discussion in 'Worklogs' started by grsychckn, Dec 13, 2016.

  1. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    A few months back I started getting excited about Zen and Vega so I wanted to try something I've never done before. I began working on an ITX SFF case that would house a dGPU as well while keeping the volume as small as possible.

    I began this project without knowing about the Sentry case, but decided to move forward instead because I both wanted to do some things differently and go through the experience of design to manufacture for myself.

    I went to Michael's and bought some thick drawing board to first mock up a design in paper before translating it into CAD. These images are from the end of September and show the result of of the design I was able to achieve just sitting in my living room playing with dimensions and positions of components. You'll notice the mITX power supply I chose to use which later had to upgrade to a SFX when I realized I could only get it up to a maximum of 600W.

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    Once I had this portion complete, I started learning SketchUp so I could design the case and export it to the machine shop for their punch machine to manufacture. After I had the design complete in SketchUp, I added a placeholder for the SFX power supply as well as a USB 3.1 Type C 20-pin board and a wireless LED RGBW controller board. The plan is to install the custom RGB LED strips inside the case and have a custom front-panel RGB button.

    At this point, I had decided to make the dGPU face "up" so the fans would be oriented in the same way the CPU fans were. This way, I could configure the case in either a vertical or horizontal configuration and not have to worry about airflow. Another change I made was to allow the case to be mounted to the stand on either the "top" or the "bottom" face so that the user could decide which way they wanted the vent panel to face.

    I added a 4mm panel without vents to provide strength as well as a cover for the "mounting" panel so you can easily access the underside of the mainboard as well as the SSDs.

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    At this point I sent the design to the machine shop who immediately threw it back to me because SketchUp's IGS format converter did a lousy job of converting SketchUp's surface format. At this point, I purchased ViaCAD Pro and remodeled the entire case from scratch so I could send the case file to the machine shop.

    As far as the power button, I decided I wanted something much different than usual. I started by looking at Alibaba to find what buttons manufacturers offer that also provide LED lighting. I stumbled upon Piezo switches that seemed to provide me with something unique. Piezo switches have no moving parts (similar to capacitive switches but without a power requirement). After ordering a sample, the LEDs were fine, but the button operation was momentary only - you cannot "hold" the switch in the off position. Therefore, this button style wouldn't work and I started running out of time to have these by the end of the year. Below is a picture of the sample Piezo switch I ordered.

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    I eventually settled for a standard button in a similar style with RGB LEDs.
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    After the machine shop asked me to make a few tweaks, I modified the base to simply have 4 angled feet so I could get a prototype done, but I'll probably modify the base again before making the final product.

    Specs
    Internal Dimensions: 304mm x 68mm x 350mm (7.23L)
    External Dimensions: Unknown (will depend on metal thickness)

    1 x standard ITX motherboard mount
    1 x PCIe dGPU with maximum length of ~304mm
    4 x 2.5 drive mounts (if I decide to make adapter plates they could be stacked to support up to 16 drives without a dGPU)
    1 x SFF Power Supply (Using Lian Li 750W to mock up mount plate)
    1 x USB 3.1 Type C connector (front panel)
    1 x USB 3.0 Type A connector (front panel)
    1 x Wireless LED controller with phone app to adjust RGB color

    No optical drives

    For a lot of the parts I had to order them in quantity so it is possible that I will be making these for sale at some point. I'll be updating this thread as I make progress. Currently I'm waiting on the machine shop to make the first prototype which should be done by the first of the year. BTW, the prototype will be done in aluminum which I plan to use unless it proves too weak to support the weight of the components. I will then finish off the main portion of the case by blasting the aluminum to have a "macbook"-like finish and I'll paint the thick side panel and base a bold color.
     
  2. mayera

    mayera n00bie

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    That is awesome. I am doing something similar but instead of a case I am wall mounting it. I look forward to seeing the results.
     
  3. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    The buttons arrived yesterday and I got a chance to test one out. Ignore the scratches on it, the box was damaged and this one was the only button with scratches so I used it to test. I plan on media blasting it to see if I can change the finish. I'll be sure to use media too large to fall into the button.

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    Note that in person the colors are more rich. For whatever reason, the video washed out the colors. It is pretty cool though to use the app on my phone to manually control the colors of the button or specify a function to change colors on a period (RGB color cycling set in the video).

    I had to purchase 20 buttons so it looks like I may be making approximately 20 of these depending on the prototype which should be coming in the next 3 weeks or so. Updates will come when I get the prototype for sure.

    It will be neat to see the RGB LED strips inside the case coordinated with the button.
     
    pendragon1 likes this.
  4. Fritzz

    Fritzz Gawd

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    I would be interested to see some more pictures of the switch, specifically the back. I have a ASUS mobo with RGB headers built in and I think adding one of there to my case would be something I would do.

    Prototype looks sweet!
     
  5. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    I'll try to get a picture of the back tonight. Unfortunately, the buttons are dual-pole so there are 2 switches each with 2 pins (4 pins total). I also had to order the RGB-LED wiring to be common positive (+) and each individual color has it's own ground (-) wire because that is what the LED controller requires.
     
  6. Fritzz

    Fritzz Gawd

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    Sounds good, thanks for the info. The RGB having the common plus three other connectors is no big deal, that's actually how the RGB header on the ASUS mobo works.

    You'll have to forgive my lack of knowledge on these switches, but does it being a dual pole effected it's ability to operate as a power button for a computer? My understanding is that each pole is independent from the other, but the switch will actuate both poles at the same time. Also would the switches you have still allow one to use the "hold" function you would use on a computer to do a hard shutdown?
     
  7. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    I'm going to test that tonight as well with my multimeter. My understanding is that one set of pins is Normally Open (NO) and the other is Normally Closed (NC). I should be able to use the NO pins to wire up a power switch and it *should* stay in the switched position as long as the button is held down - I ordered these because of this reason as the Piezo switches were only momentary.
     
  8. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    I don't have a picture, but I did test the functionality of the push button with a multimeter and it behaves as I expected. Two of the 4 pins are normally open and whenever the button is pressed, it switches to a closed circuit (for as long as the button is held). The other two pins behave the opposite (normally closed, then open when pushed).
     
  9. THUMPer

    THUMPer [H]ard|Gawd

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  10. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    Thanks! Thought I'd update with the latest iso view and the new base. The machine shop has the template done for the punch machine except for the PCIe tab cutout. That's proving to be a little bit of a problem but nothing too bad.

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  11. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    Update: The machine shop finished the initial punch map for all 5 pieces.

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    We discovered that the video card "tab" is going to be quite difficult to make consistently so I had to create a new part that will require the video card screws be mounted in reverse from their normal position. Below is the updated part I created. I'm hoping that in the coming weeks I'll have the prototype in my hands for final tweaks.

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    I'm going to be out of town for a week but when I get back on the 16th, I'm going to try and play with finishes/paints on my buttons. I'll update with images when that is complete.
     
  12. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    Checking in to report no updates except that I might not need the altered video card tab. The machinist is going to try and use a "stitch" to make the bend. I'll have to wait and see how it turns out. Currently, my project is in the holding pattern until the he has time on the punch machine. As I understand it, his company is currently using the machine 24/7 for large orders.

    He did inform me that he is going to try to use 14ga aluminum (~1.5mm) for everything. This would reduce the overall external dimensions to around: 307mm x 72.5mm x 354mm (7.23L)

    What I have purchased since the last update:
    20 wireless LED controllers
    1 5050 RGBW LED strip (5m)
    10mm RGBW connectors (both '+' and 'L' adapters)

    For an additional project I've purchased a few CPU waterblocks, pumps, reservoirs, and tubing. The idea will be for an even slimmer case when raven ridge (APU) is released and the objective will be to build in watercooling (probably just a single 120mm radiator but I might go with something more "custom"). If I manage to make and sell all 20 of the cases above, I will definitely be making enough of the smaller "HTPC" cases to sell as well. Good news is that most of the legwork for parts and sourcing will be done by then.

    Hopefully I'll have some images to share from the machine shop this weekend - I'm feeling lucky.
     
  13. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    Looks like I wasn't lucky. Still waiting for machine time apparently. At this point, I feel I'd be lucky to get the prototype before Ryzen releases. The reason it's worth the wait is because of the price and service my contact is providing for me.

    Other purchases I made this week: Paint (2-stage clear matte, base, and primer), 16GB TridentZ RGB DDR4 3866 RAM, and 512GB Samsung 960 EVO 500GB m.2 drive.
     
  14. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    Update: The machine shop made the first prototype. It has some bend issues and even though he thought he solved the problem with the video card tab he later discovered there's still a problem with that bend. We're going back to the drawing board for that problem. I may try to get the video card holes/tab made as a separate piece that is attached post-build. it would give me 1.5mm more clearance for video cards and if removable it might allow for longer cards to be installed. Pictures below.

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    Also, I ordered both an R7 1800X and an R7 1700 from Newegg. Waiting for ITX mainboards to be released.
     
  15. shadyguido

    shadyguido [H]Lite

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  16. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    Thanks! I'm hoping the machine shop will be able to ship the prototype to me this week. In the meantime, I just received my order of 20 rgb controllers.

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