Project: mITX SFF custom case

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

  1. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    Update, got a picture from the machine shop today.

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    Last edited: Aug 23, 2017
  2. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    Updating to show the powder colors I have to choose from.

    [​IMG]
     
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  3. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    Update to throw out a teaser for the powder coated side panels and what I'm thinking can be done. For those who don't know, I'm a Cleveland fan - these are panels I'm prepping for a system I'm building to donate to the Leukemia & Lymphoma society at the end of the month (I live outside D.C.).

    Note: Nats & Caps are on the same panel. Both sides are painted so you could flip them over if you wanted. I'm not going to paint two different colors on a single panel so it just works out the team colors are similar.
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    Last edited: Sep 4, 2017
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  4. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    Update from the machine shop: Initial base units have been punched and bended with fasteners. They expect all pieces to be powder coated and finished next week. I've been playing with the powder coating and different colors, etc. to be prepared for batch. I still have soldering to do on both the buttons and the LED strips, organize the hardware into bags with labels, not to mention test fit a system together with some high quality images for "marketing". I also need to create a QA checklist for myself to make sure each unit I ship has all the correct items in it at ship time.

    [​IMG]

    I should have final prices, specs, and availability by the end of next week. My currently estimated price will be around $250 for the case, button, LED strips, and basic colored side panel/stand. I'm going to have to figure out what the charge will be for custom colors. I also have some refurbished m.2 SSDs (250GB and 512GB), power supplies (Corsair SF600), and video cards (open box ASUS 1070 STRIX and new VEGA 64 Limited Edition) to include with the first orders.

    I've also got contact information for custom length sleeved cables for the Corsair SF600 that work great with this case, expect pictures of what I have (currently some are a little long but better too long that too short).
     
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  5. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    Ok, update: picked up all the cases today. I don't have time to make an in-depth post but I did find a major problem that I'm working with the shop on. It's fixable but may require some hand finishing to make right.

    Sorry for the bad pictures, took them with my phone. Trust me though, better quality pictures will come.

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  6. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    I've got the following left to do before I can say I'm ready to ship some cases:

    1. Powder coat the black screw heads to match the black cases.
    2. Glue thin nylon washers to the underside of the thumbscrews so they don't scratch the case as they are installed/removed.
    3. Finish soldering the LED components, glue the LED strips to the case, and test them to ensure they don't have wiring problems.
    4. Find a suitable material to use for the feet to keep it from sliding/scratching the surface it's standing on (may not be able to do this as time will limit my options).
    5. Install and adjust each GPU mounting bracket to be ready for a standard video card to be installed.
    6. Actually take some high-res/marketing photos of an assembled silver and black case.
    7. Pick the pricepoint.
    8. Pack all accessories and install protective materials on the base unit, leaving the side and stand panels bare for painting. This includes having each unit ready to ship inside it's own shipping box, only to be pulled out when an order is made and the panels need painting.

    I expect by the middle of next month to have all this done and ready to take orders. I think I'm going to stand up an Etsy page because their commission is lower than Ebay. I might be interested in offering discounts for members here but we'll see.

    Also, look forward to a video review from a certain YouTuber in the next few weeks.

    This is where I spent most of my weekend. I'm not good at soldering but after 10 hours I got a little better.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    Have made a lot of progress. About to ship the first one out for review. I'll have more pictures of the final product this week. I had to make a modification to the GPU mount because for whatever reason the card didn't fit right on the final run even though it did on the last prototype. Anyway, here's a teaser:



    It's loud because the Biostar board revs the CPU fan up until bios settings are changed.

    Specs:
    Ryzen 1800X
    EVGA 1080Ti SC2
    16GB G. Skill DDR4 3600 RGB
    Corsair SF600 600W PSU
    SAMSUNG 850 EVO 1TB m.2

    I'm donating this build in a black case for leukemia and lymphoma society this Friday in Washington D.C. It will be a blind auction and come with a new RGB mechanical keyboard and mouse (thermaltake) as well as a new Alienware backpack to take it home in.
     
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  8. K-Mac

    K-Mac [H]Lite

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    still great work!
     
  9. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    Thanks! I successfully donated my first build on Friday to the tune of $1200 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma society. This week I'll be finishing up the wiring for the internal power connections and attempting to get all the accessories bundled. Once that is done, I need to pickup the altered cases from the machine shop and start installing the LEDs, controllers, and USB adapters. After that, I should be ready to start taking orders - so in about 2 weeks I expect I'll have a price point and a store front on Etsy to take orders.

    I also don't have any documentation on installation so I'm going to film myself installing hardware into a case and upload that to YouTube. I will include in that some helpful tips I've learned for people looking to purchase this case.
     
  10. Chimpee

    Chimpee Gawd

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    This is a sick looking case, cannot wait until you release it!
     
  11. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    Thank you!

    Update for last night: I spent about 7 hours stripping wires, installing spades, soldering, and heatshrinking. I didn't finish anywhere near what I planned on finishing but the good news is that I didn't plan on having that time anyway so it gives me just a little bit of a head start towards assembling all the cases in preparation for orders. I will be working on getting a video made sometime this next week on the install process, but I'm unsure when exactly that will happen as I'd like to finish collecting parts and hardware for the cases before I make the video. My Amazon account has exploded with random parts and pieces over the last several months. Definitely getting value out of Prime.

    I would like to have all the power connectors/switches finished by this weekend and to have begun adhering the LED strips into the cases. Once the LED strips are in the cases, I then have to install and test the LED controller and USB adapter in each unit. Then I still have to finish sorting and bagging all the accessories into each of 40 boxes so I don't have to worry about doing that at shipping time. Then I'll assemble all the parts for each case inside its shipping box. Once that is completed, I'll be able to start taking orders. I expect from the time an order is made that I should be able to get the case shipped in 1 to 2 days depending on the backlog for painting. I'm also working on getting swatches for the powder coating colors I have so there will be a selection of colors for both the side panel and stand.

    As you can see, there is a lot of work left to do and I'm a bit of a control freak so even though I've had offers to help, I will insist that I be the one to do all this work. It's going to slow down the availability but will help make sure I have a consistent product that I can have confidence in its quality.

    If anyone has suggestions on how I curb liability for something like this (boards fry, houses burn down) let me know. I've debated creating an LLC or an SCorp, but that's yet more money I have to spend just to support a fun project that I don't expect there is too much risk for legal trouble. If I use Etsy to sell these, I do expect that I'll have to put a disclaimer on them to the effect of "use at your own risk" and "for display purposes only" just to protect myself from damages.

    I'll try to get better pictures soon but I have to finish all the packaging stuff first so I don't lose track of any individual components. It's hard keeping all this organized when there is no dedicated space to work in.
     
  12. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    I know there have been no pictures lately, but I'm furiously working on getting all 40 units I have to sell prepared so there's minimal effort on my part to get them out the door. Last night I finished wiring up all of the power inlets/dongles for the internal PSU connection. I'm waiting on a few parts still from Amazon before I have all the accessories I need to finish all 40 units as well.

    That said, I'm making great progress and should start installing the LEDs tonight in all the cases. That is going to take several days however as the glue must dry overnight and I only have a dozen or so clamps to use to hold the LED strips in place.

    I'm going to meet with a liability lawyer this week and then a CPA shortly afterwards to discuss my best options for property liability protection and tax implications. I won't start selling anything until after those meetings.

    The price target as of right now looks to be around $225 shipped to the lower 48. This includes all accessories and painted panel/stand with colors I already have. Additional charge for custom colors will apply. I also will consider selling with panel/stand unpainted for a discount.

    Because we need pictures, here's a huge hint as to what YouTuber already has a case and will be reviewing it in the next week or two:

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2017
  13. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    Also, in preparation for getting some high-quality photographs, I'm going to need to have two (one silver, one black) cases painted. If anyone is interested in pre-ordering (I'll need a deposit, only when I'm ready to paint), I'll be able to throw in some VERY good bonuses. Contact me for more info.
     
  14. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    Updated one of my last posts because I mis-calculated the price. It looks like the price will be $225 shipped to the lower 48. Still looking for someone who wants a silver case and is willing to pay deposit so I can paint up the panels for marketing materials.
     
  15. Mathews

    Mathews n00bie

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    The size and arrangement look fantastic! Great work!
     
  16. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    Thanks a lot! I'm working very hard to get more information soon.
     
  17. Mathews

    Mathews n00bie

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    Have you attempted to sand blast the whole case? I'm wondering if that finish would look similar to the finish of a Mac Pro, which would look great!
     
  18. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    I have - I used glass bead and while the finished product looks nice it also shows fingerprints easily and is very hard to make uniform in appearance. Mostly it ends up looking uneven and splotchy. This is why I decided to have every unit powder coated either silver or black - it saved me time and money plus the finish will be more consistent.

    I guess I could bead blast it and then powder coat it with a clear paint, but that's a lot more work than simply powder coating it. In the end, I already have a 3 year old in the house and just found out my wife is pregnant again so my window of opportunity is closing to finish this project.

    Thanks for the suggestion though, maybe I'll play around with one or two units after I get the majority of them sold.
     
  19. Mathews

    Mathews n00bie

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    I'm wondering if it would be more ideal for you to find a professional that could blast it and provide a consistent finish? It would save you time and you could offset the cost to your buyers. (I would be willing to pay a premium ;))

    Also, would you be producing full-white cases?
     
  20. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    Yeah, I think that looks is awesome but not worth my time or money to try and make happen. It's going to be very expensive. Besides, all the cases are already painted either silver or black, it's the side panel and stand that I'm going to powder coat custom colors because those pieces are still raw.

    If you're willing to pay a premium, I would suggest that you could buy one of these and then find someone near you to strip the case and all the adapters to have it bead blasted and then probably anodized to strengthen the surface (to avoid scratches). When I researched this, I found this page which was helpful in describing the process the aluminum needs to go through to get that "mac" look.

    http://blog.jdslabs.com/?p=580/how-to-finish-aluminum/

    I would warn that it's going to be very expensive to have done - the machine shop charged me about $17 per case (which includes 4 pieces each) to powder coat, so it was just much more attractive to me as someone trying to make a consistent product.

    I even investigated having some of them plated (copper/gold) and that was going to run well above $1000 each, so that idea was dropped immediately. Let me know if you want some help finding someone to perform the finishing technique near you, you'll get better service and probably pay less than asking me to do it for you.
     
  21. Mathews

    Mathews n00bie

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    Wow, didn't think it would be that involved. Think I'll stick to powder coat then lol.

    Do you have better pictures of the silver powder coat finish you could share? (full side view)

    Will all of the bases be white, or is that just the primer? :)
     
  22. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    I'll get some better pictures of the silver this weekend. As for the base, so far everyone wants a white base but I'm open to painting it any color.
     
  23. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    I'm in the process of creating an LLC right now and that should be done by the end of next week.

    Last night I got all the LEDs installed and the accessories all boxed up. I've still got to get the LED controller, front button, USB adapter, and the PCIe extender installed and some odds and ends cleaned up on each one. I'm still shooting to have the photos and video made this week.

    I made the mistake of not ordering enough USB adapters and now I have to wait a week or more for the remaining 20 units to arrive before I can complete this cases.

    [​IMG]
     
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  24. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    Update: I am working every spare second I have to get the cases in boxes ready to ship. I am running a bit behind for a few reasons, but primarily because I didn't order enough USB adapters and I've had to research product liability and LLCs. I will share the LLC and model names once that is complete.

    I should have the black cases ready for final inspection after tonight and then I can start on the sliver cases. For each case, I'm wiring up the LED controller to the LED strips that will be powered by a 4 pin Fan connector. I also have to install the USB adapter, then install and adjust the PCIe mount using a test-fit video card, then file down two of the holes on the back because the power paint is too thick for the screws to fit, and finally install and check the power extension cord for the PSU.

    I've been asked a lot about warranty and I'm not sure what to think. I feel like either the case works or it doesn't out of the box and will continue to do so unless the user breaks it somehow (in transport, etc.). So I want to know what is the desire for a warranty? I should be able to provide at cost any replacement parts one would need for a short while (~1 year) and if the unit is damaged in shipping that falls back to me to claim the value from FedEx. Let me know what you think.

    Pictures are coming soon - I have the test panels painted but wanted to finish all the case assembly first so I could hit the ground running with pictures at the same time my etsy page goes live. I don't want to take money and then ask people to wait, when I'm ready to take money, the cases will be ready to ship.
     
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  25. grsychckn

    grsychckn n00bie

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    Ok, I finished prepping the black cases yesterday morning and tested all the LEDs and buttons in each one. I just finished the silver cases tonight and tested the LEDs and buttons. There were 5 silver buttons that were bad so I'm going to have to order some new ones from my new source (where I got the black buttons) as none of those were bad and they were half the price of the silver ones. I also used a vinyl decal to try my hand at masking for powder coating. You'll see in the photos below (bad quality I know) that I made a green one with a US Army star and a simple flat blue panel. I swapped them on the cases to give the recipients of these two a better idea of what they look like on each case.

    The LLC goes through this week. I also will have the good cases packed in boxes ready for paint by the end of the week. I'm currently waiting on more silver buttons and the USB adapters. Until I get the new USB adapters I'll only be able to sell about 9 black and 7 silver cases. I also found a fastener that was the wrong size in one of the silver cases and a set of standoffs that should have been removed on another. At least I can try and fix those myself.

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    I will try and get a video made this week showing the build process. I am no videographer, so it's not going to be great quality unless I manage to convince my photographer friend to help me make it. I'm guessing the video will be no longer than 30 minutes but I have been known to ramble.