Prototyping ~10L ish watercooled CNC case, versatility as end goal

Konungr

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
Oct 4, 2018
11
18
Introduction

Hello guys, today I would like to share with you my SFF case concept that I have been working at on and off for the last year or so, In this post I will run through my concept, my first iterations of the design, and why they couldnt work, and finally where I am now with the design including renderings and specifications, and hopefully (in the next couple days!) I will have my hands on some 3d printed prototype parts and I can update this thread.

Why

First off, I want to explain breifly why design a case instead of buy one, there are loads of great cases on the market, some which I took inspiration from. I decided to design my own as I am an engineering student and wanted to take the oppertunity to try learn some CAD skills by doing something that I would enjoy and really just for a bit of fun, and after sticking with it whenever I had the time I now have something I would like to share and have feedback on.

Initial Concept

The idea for the case originally was soley based around the hardware that I currently own, primarily my AIO cooled GPU. Using tinkercad I mad a quick mock up of the various hardware componants of a pc, nothing fancy just plain boxes with the correct external dimensions, and using this I rearranged them in all the ways I could think of to try visualise optimal layouts and airflow ect.

From this I got the main idea of the case, using two 120mm AIO's, one for the gpu and one for the cpu, I could sandwhich them together between the two side pannels of the case, thus creating a single unrestricted airflow path from one side to the other. This idea while also utilising a sandwhich layput for the motherboard, except instead of the GPU behind the motherboard I would have the PSU behind the motherboard and the GPU under the motherboard. I attachted the original mockups below.




First Design Attempts

So with this initial concept I went about picking a CAD program and learning on the go, I will save you the details on the research ect I did on manufacturing and case design, but I decided to use Fusion 360 and its sheet metal design capanilities. So first thing first, I had to get accurate size specifications for all the componants so I could design to the right size have the correct cutout dimensions ect.

Issues

With my first try there was a lot left to be desired, the case was lacking in versatility, there was only one way for the componants, my way, and the various parts and bends of the design where far too complicated to manufacture for a reasonable price, in the render below you can see that the only layout option really is the one I made in mind, which of course wouldnt suit a whole lot of people. Along the top and bottom edges on the side there is cut outs for ball and stud fasteners for easy panel removal, and the top/front panel was screwed on at the back and bottom so that the screws wouldnt be visable. At the time I was very proud but I realise now that it wouldnt work.


New Ideas

So after this I decided that the case needed to be more versatile in the componant layout, and the vertical mount for the fan in the V1 attempt was how I would aim to achieve this, by putting this vertical fan mount on rail that runs horizontally along the case top and bottom, you can mount anything you want anywhere you want. With this Idea I iterated again. I also decided instead of trying to use complex sheet metal bends to support the sandwhich motherboard layout I would simply use a tabs on the front and rear panels of the case (Like the Ghost S1). This version instead of ball stud fasteners has cutouts for the lian li clips for the side and top pannels. Also once I started modeling this I found the rails too difficult to implement so went with a 240mm fan mount like the NCASE on either side of the case, with the intentions of being able to mount AIO's, PSU, HDD and SSD.

I did try Implement some of these changes in my V1 sheet metal design as you can see here:
I posted this on reddit a while back, included are different layout options as a collage.

Mock up

Using the V2 design I adapted some of the threaded holes ect and got it 3d printed, using black PETG and a company called RENND I got an excellent print, however having the design in person I realised that a lot of my supports for the vertical beams and the fan mount ect would be too flimsy and overall the design was a bust. However the physical object let me come up with new ideas and see what I could maybe improve, as well as give me a nice size comparison to my current S340 Elite tower. Pics below.


Current Design

So finally, the current design iteration. After leaving the design for a while due to exams ect, I came back to it with a fresh mind, and instead of attempting a sheet metal fabrication design I decided to try a design which would use CNC machining. So, I researched how to optimise designs for CNC and what was actually possible ect and started planning a new design, and after many starts and stops and throw aways I came up with the following.

Concept

The basic concept was to stay the same, sandwhich layout for the motherboard and rails for multiple mounting options on either side, after messing with some different designs I found that to cnc some sort of rail system would probably be too complicated and expensive so I opted to try aluminium extrusion or mitre tracks. I chose these as they are cheap and easily sourced. Problem is I couldnt find any small enough for what I wanted to do, for example your standard aluminium extrusion is 20*20mm in cross sectional dimensions which was far too much for my liking. I eventually came across specialised extrusion made by a company called makerbeam, their extrusion is 10mm*10mm in cross sectional dimension which is the exact size I was looking for, on their website they also sell all the neccessary t-slot bolts and nuts ect for their extrusion. So I made a quick 3d model of their extrusion profiles and brackets for use in my design.

The benefits of using this is that the rail system and the motherboard mounting hardware are now inherently modular as they are built on these linear tracks, also I would no longer need to model supports for a motherboard tray which reduces the complexity of the parts to be CNC'd. Furthermore the side panels and top panels can be mounted directly onto the extrusion also further simplifying and bringing down costs of the design.


Specifications

Ok. Finally. The specifications.

ParameterSpecification
Case Dimensions230 (H) x 150 (W) x 300 (L) mm
Case Volume10.35 L
Graphics CardDual Slot, reference height up to 290mm in length
MotherboardMini-ITX
Power SupplySFX or SFX-L
Drives4 x HDD/SSD if no AIO's mounted
CPU cooler heigh clearance65mm
AIO Support1 x 240mm AIO (width including fan = 70mm) or
2 x 120mm AIO or
1 x 120mm and 1 x 140mm
Front PortsNone yet but I was thinking USB Type C??
Power ButtonAnti-Vandal switch, can be easily changed in future

Renders

Here I have provided renders of my newest design in both silver and black colour, I didint render many different layouts as they are essentially the same as the layout options found in the V2 album.




Prototype

Currently waiting on the delivery of the extrusion profiles and the back and front peices 3D printed, Decided not to get the panels as they are not essential for test fitting ect. I will update this with pictures and thoughts when they arrive.


Further Ideas/Changes

The two current Ideas I have that I would like to see implemented, is firstly to have the motherboard tray movable, by being able to move it forwards you could increase the space behind it for drives and cooling ect as the heigh of an AIO on the CPU would not be very high, or you could move it backwards decreasing the space behind it allowing for larger air coolers as not everyone has an AIO or wants to use one.
The other idea, is that the space behind the motherboard currently is very large, inface its large enough to fit a 3 slot GPU, I know my case has limitations because of the GPU position, however with the additions of a bracket that mounts to the rails or extra PCIE cutouts, the option for the 2 slot GPU at the bottom or a 3 slot behind the motherboard would add a lot more versatility to the case imo.


Conclusion

If you read this far I really appreciate it, I would love some thoughts and feedback on this project, or if there is anymore information or viewing angles of the models ect that you want then just let me know! Thanks guys :D

3D Printed Prototype Build

3D print prototype

Build Using Concept parts

Finished Prototype Build
 
Last edited:

quetzacoatlx

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Aug 11, 2017
93
62
I think your original design may have a better thermal. The current one may choke the radiators since they are too close to the back of the motherboard where there may not be enough room for air.
 
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Konungr

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
Oct 4, 2018
11
18
I think your original design may have a better thermal. The current one may choke the radiators since they are too close to the back of the motherboard where there may not be enough room for air.
With the "sandwich" AIO design? Yes I think it might struggle for air being behind the motherboard but the sandwich layout is still an option in the newer design aswell and will be the option I would go for, tests when I get a prototype will be needed for sure. Can the size of the 240mm overcome its lack of airflow compared to the 120mm is the question.
 

Konungr

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
Oct 4, 2018
11
18
intersting twist on the sandwich trend + Ncase feelings....
Keeping an eye here
The weird layout might be worth it just need to get thermals done...and I cant say the Ncase wasnt a source of inspiration, it is a great case, got some inspiration from many others as well ofcourse, Ghost S1, DA2, Dancase, Circle pro ect.
 

oliveoil

Efficiency Noob
Jun 13, 2019
6
0
This look great to me and I really hope you make it to production, unlike some other cases in this category.
One suggestion: make it so that the case can be flipped upside down. This is something that was planned for the DAN C4, and I like it because then I can put the GPU at the top where it can breath better. Maybe you already planned for this though, as it seems the top and bottom parts are identical?
Other than that I hope metal (vented) side panels are an option?
 

Konungr

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
Oct 4, 2018
11
18
This look great to me and I really hope you make it to production, unlike some other cases in this category.
One suggestion: make it so that the case can be flipped upside down. This is something that was planned for the DAN C4, and I like it because then I can put the GPU at the top where it can breath better. Maybe you already planned for this though, as it seems the top and bottom parts are identical?
Other than that I hope metal (vented) side panels are an option?
Thanks for the support, I really hope so as well, the use of parts that are pre fabricated will hopefully keep my manufacturing costs lower. More chance to get it to the market and hopefully for a cheaper price.
And no worries the external dimensions are symmetric so you can rest the case on either top or bottom so GPU can have some nice fresh air. Not shown in the renders are feet/stand mostly because I haven't thought of a design for them yet.
And yes I forgot to post the render with the vented side panels will update when I'm home, the small gaps you can see from the side view adjacent to the top/bottom rail, the tabs for the side panel will insert in there allowing for a clean finish with no visible connectors.
 

Konungr

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
Oct 4, 2018
11
18
An Update here, Waiting for delivery still but I have pictures of the front and back prototype 3d printed as well as the render of the case with the side panel which I forgot. Will post them here and update main albums above.



and the 3D Printed parts:

 

BaK

Master of Cramming
May 17, 2016
384
382
Nice renders and concept!
I also like the movable mounts on the Makerbeam rails, à la Streacom!

How thick are your 3D printed parts, 4mm? PETG?

It looks like the space under the mobo is very thin to let the PCIe riser pass, but that should be enough I guess.
On another hand, the clearance on the inner side of the rad, especially between the rad and the motheboard looks very low (16mm?) for proper air circulation.
And what strikes me most is the lack of room for the tubings and fittings when using water, but maybe you already planned this out?
 

Konungr

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
Oct 4, 2018
11
18
Nice renders and concept!
I also like the movable mounts on the Makerbeam rails, à la Streacom!

How thick are your 3D printed parts, 4mm? PETG?

It looks like the space under the mobo is very thin to let the PCIe riser pass, but that should be enough I guess.
On another hand, the clearance on the inner side of the rad, especially between the rad and the motheboard looks very low (16mm?) for proper air circulation.
And what strikes me most is the lack of room for the tubings and fittings when using water, but maybe you already planned this out?
Yes definitely like the streacom, Its a great system.

The back and front parts are 5mm thick, side panel is 1mm and the top/bottom is 2.5mm. I got it printed in PLA my last attempt at 3d printing an older design was PETG, definitely would have preferred PETG but as it's just for testing size ect for the components I don't mind.

And the total size behind the motherboard is ~70mm however this measurement is motherboard PCB to side panel, with a standard 25mm fan and 30mm rad you will have as you said 15mm of clearance.

The riser has about 2/3mm of height clearance hopefully enough for the cable, the riser I have from easymod isn't as thick as that.

It's not shown well but there is also 10mm of space above the motherboard that can help with cables ect, I know it's a tight fit so I will know how the tubing is once I can test it, all I can say is that I think it can fit when the components are layed out well, thanks for the reply :).
 
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Bjornyyy

Trash Compacter
Jan 22, 2017
44
18
I'm interested in this case since there aren't a lot of sff cases that support watercooling and not have a sandwich layout. The only concern I have is the amount of space between the side of the gpu and the side panel, this is were the extruding part of a gpu waterblock (where you put the fittings) is. Do you think there is enough room for a gpu waterblock to fit?
 

Konungr

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
Oct 4, 2018
11
18
I'm interested in this case since there aren't a lot of sff cases that support watercooling and not have a sandwich layout. The only concern I have is the amount of space between the side of the gpu and the side panel, this is were the extruding part of a gpu waterblock (where you put the fittings) is. Do you think there is enough room for a gpu waterblock to fit?
So looking at the dimensions for EK waterblocks and a few others it seems that the case width would be 5mm or so short, If its something people would like I would happily add the width to the design, the volume would go from 10.35 Litres to 11 Litres.

However, with an additional bracket or cutout the sandwhich layout is an option with plenty off space with the bottom area used for the radiator. The extra case width would be better IMO.
 

Bjornyyy

Trash Compacter
Jan 22, 2017
44
18
So looking at the dimensions for EK waterblocks and a few others it seems that the case width would be 5mm or so short, If its something people would like I would happily add the width to the design, the volume would go from 10.35 Litres to 11 Litres.

However, with an additional bracket or cutout the sandwhich layout is an option with plenty off space with the bottom area used for the radiator. The extra case width would be better IMO.
Thank you for looking into it. The increase of the volume isn't worth it in my opinion.
 
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Konungr

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
Oct 4, 2018
11
18
Prototype Update

With the 3d printed parts I recieved the other day, I put together the first prototype, I dont have all the hardware componants to hand yet but I done what I could and I have to say, the construction was a breeze, completely assembled the case in about 5 minutes then spent about 10 minutes messing about putting in my GPU and motherboard.​
I tried to take some nice pictures but I have no photography skills and my camera isnt great but I think I have showcased the design quite well:​



Some notes on the case:
  • I think a bit of extra width would really help, the GPU AIO hoses are really tight for space, as mentioned above the few extra mm would allow for cards with a waterblock as well.​
  • The GPU on the bottom setup overall is really tight, you can only really fit a reference design, I did design it this way but I thought there would be a of manuverability, but there really is none whatsoever.​
  • I will get onto designing a bracket that will allow a sandwich layout and post updates, that way I can showcase how a 3 slot card could fit in the case.​
  • Above the motherboard between the two top rails, a U-shaped bracket would easily allow for a few SSD's to be mounted out the way above everything else, I will also design this and showcase it when ready.​
Thanks for reading guys, I will be gathering quotes for the parts to be CNC milled from Aluminium very shortly, then there will be a real prototype.
 

Konungr

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
Oct 4, 2018
11
18
Finished Build in Prototype Case

Hi guys, this build took a while to put together since I got the parts, I was waiting on the delivery of a 120mm AIO cooler and unfortuantly it arrived broken...so I have just used the AMD stock wraith stealth cooler that I had laying about as it fits with room to spare. Anyway, a few pictures are linked below, any questions or requests for other photo angles ect please let me know.

So I have here a 10L half watercooled case, with 2 x SSD, throw in M.2 there will be plenty of storage, if I stick with aircooling for the CPU I will use the Noctua L9x65, if I do this I could fit my 3.5" 2TB games drive in the case which would be nice, and good for other people who cant splash on large capacity SSD's. I havnt done any temperature testing yet as without the side and top panels I dont think it would be worthwhile.




Images



Some notes:
  • The GPU hoses are a VERY tight fit, with a side panel, you could probably squish it down fine
  • The SSD's on the top, if you routed the AIO hoses a different way you could fit more storage which is nice
  • The power cable is temporary until I can get the low profile angled one which will fit fine
  • Although I dont have ti too hand, there is 56mm of space behind the GPU AIO for a cpu one. 25mm fan + 30mm rad? perfect.
  • I didint want to spend money on the varous mounting brackets so I 3d printed them, thus they look a bit ugly and are not as strong
  • I havnt designed any case feet yet so its resting on an NZXT cable puck atm
Thanks for reading :D
 

gwertheim

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Nov 27, 2017
112
65
Finished Build in Prototype Case

Hi guys, this build took a while to put together since I got the parts, I was waiting on the delivery of a 120mm AIO cooler and unfortuantly it arrived broken...so I have just used the AMD stock wraith stealth cooler that I had laying about as it fits with room to spare. Anyway, a few pictures are linked below, any questions or requests for other photo angles ect please let me know.

So I have here a 10L half watercooled case, with 2 x SSD, throw in M.2 there will be plenty of storage, if I stick with aircooling for the CPU I will use the Noctua L9x65, if I do this I could fit my 3.5" 2TB games drive in the case which would be nice, and good for other people who cant splash on large capacity SSD's. I havnt done any temperature testing yet as without the side and top panels I dont think it would be worthwhile.




Images



Some notes:
  • The GPU hoses are a VERY tight fit, with a side panel, you could probably squish it down fine
  • The SSD's on the top, if you routed the AIO hoses a different way you could fit more storage which is nice
  • The power cable is temporary until I can get the low profile angled one which will fit fine
  • Although I dont have ti too hand, there is 56mm of space behind the GPU AIO for a cpu one. 25mm fan + 30mm rad? perfect.
  • I didint want to spend money on the varous mounting brackets so I 3d printed them, thus they look a bit ugly and are not as strong
  • I havnt designed any case feet yet so its resting on an NZXT cable puck atm
Thanks for reading :D
I don't think anyone cares about how ugly the 3d printed parts are but you mentioning it shows how much you care

So far it looks good for a prototype
 
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Konungr

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
Oct 4, 2018
11
18
I don't think anyone cares about how ugly the 3d printed parts are but you mentioning it shows how much you care

So far it looks good for a prototype
Thanks! Been working on this for a while on and off I was very excited when I first pressed that power button and finally had the "real" case infront of me :D
 

oliveoil

Efficiency Noob
Jun 13, 2019
6
0
Looks great! How are you mounting the motherboard/PSU? Are they screwed into the mounting brackets or is there another makerbeam in the middle? Any update on the CNCed parts?
 

Konungr

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
Oct 4, 2018
11
18
Looks great! How are you mounting the motherboard/PSU? Are they screwed into the mounting brackets or is there another makerbeam in the middle? Any update on the CNCed parts?
Thankyou!

In the original posts you can find some pictures that show how, but yes 2 makerbeam extrusions down the center, in some of my first design attempts I tried designing with a motherboard tray but I believe it increases in complexity and cost in a way that isnt worth it.

Currently I have 3d printed a bracket for the PSU which sits between the top back rail and the top motherboard rail, the initial plan was a bracket that fits onto the mounts used for the fans/AIO, however as I 3D printed these parts they are not strong enough for the weight of the PSU so I had to improvise.

Before the Aluminium Prototypes I wanted to test fit everything and make adjustments, so a few tweaks, and engineering drawings to be made and I will start gathering quotes, hopefully this can all be done in the next couple months.