Concept A 10L watercooling mini tower case

CC Ricers

Shrink Ray Wielder
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Nov 1, 2015
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Introduction:

When I joined OCN, I came for the awesome case mods and water cooling builds, but I ended up staying for the SFF builds. However I still enjoy looking at others' watercooling builds, especially in small cases, and miss having one of my own.

So at this moment I'm starting to transition to another scratch built SFF case that can support off-the shelf watercooling parts. Nothing super tiny, no crazy or novel part configurations, just a straightforward case for a mini ITX and most graphics cards. Update: It's now down to 10L, with a vertically mounted GPU that will be visible from a side window panel.


Current design:



Multiple case layout views


The interior layout will be very similar to a NCase M1 but with a tad more vertical room. You see, I had the M1 for a very short while. It's a very well made case, however, I was disappointed when I saw I could not fit my XSPC AX 240 rad on the bottom. First, I needed to remove the front I/O so the cables don't get in the way, and even then I wouldn't be able to fit the slimmest of fans on the rad. And putting it on the side panel wasn't an option for me because I wanted to look through the case to show off the parts inside.

So with that said, my case will also be short and rectangular, like the M1, and also made of aluminum. But I also am inspired by the cases by Sunmilo for their simplicity in looks and craftsmanship. Whereas the M1 is made from precisely machine cut parts (especially the frame), the Sunmilo cases, for the most part, look simple and practical enough to be made by common home tools, and I really like that about them.

First Version:


It is more likely I will finish this case before Slim Machine, which is put on the backburner. I've started to replace some of my PC components to test specifications of the case, such as a full-length GPU, and a 120mm tower CPU cooler.

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This build log will be split into two phases: Air and Water. The Air phase is the first, using lower-cost components and showing off the case with an air-cooled system. That will be done on a shoestring budget, a kind of "basic but good" build.

Air Build Parts:

  • Asus Z97I-Plus motherboard
  • Intel Core i3-4130T
  • 2x4GB Samsung low-profile "wonder" RAM
  • EVGA GTX 770 Superclocked
  • Corsair CX550M semi-modular power supply
  • SanDisk X110 128GB m.2 SSD
  • Toshiba 3.5" 2TB hard drive

That will be later followed by the Water phase, where I want to go all out and get a high-end CPU and Pascal GPU and watercool the entire thing. That won't start until I have saved enough money for all the parts. For the time being, I just want to make a scratch build I can really show off, no matter what the budget is.

I'll update this post with pics of the first design later on.
 
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wywywywy

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Aug 12, 2016
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Holy moly! A SFF water cooling case with a full window! This is exactly what I want! I even have all the water cooling bits on the floor right now waiting for the right case. I'll be keeping a close eye on this project.

I would have ordered an Ncase M1 if it wasn't for the water cooling. I've searched everywhere, and the closest alternatives are Compact Splash which is no longer produced and I'm not too keen on the aesthetics, and the Jonsbo UMX1 Plus but that needs extensive modding.

So I also want to do a scratch build, but I'm not talented or skillful enough to do a good one, though I do like daydreaming about it a lot, and here below are some random thoughts that may give you some ideas or at least something to laugh at.

Firstly because I'm a noob, there's basically 2 possible ways to bring an idea to life without looking completely crap - the first one is to use Protocase to do a U or L enclosure, the second one to use a beam system then use aluminium/acrylic panels on top.

I've played in the Protocase Designer software a lot because it's so easy and the possibilities are endless, and I'm sure the quality of the finished goods will be outstanding. But the prices are high (I guess quite a lot of manual work involved) and a frame solution may work better.

Inspired by Sunmilo, a beam system can be reasonably easy while still looking good. The MakerBeam system is perfect because the beams are only 10mm, use M3 screws, with lots of accessories available, and not expensive. Then either get LaserMaster/TheLaserHive to laser cut or DIY dremel cut aluminium/acrylic sheets.

Another thought is vertical GPU orientation. This is the ultimate show off. I was even going to order that one from Sunmilo but unfortunately he doesn't ship to the UK. And also with his cases, the rear and inner front panels are structural which I'm not sure if I'm comfortable with. You can potentially fit a 240mm rad vertically in place of the SSD to the back of the GPU, if it had vent holes there. It won't be 12L of course but 15-17L should doable.

Sorry for the above nooby wall of text.
 
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CC Ricers

Shrink Ray Wielder
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I already updated the first post with my design, let me know what you think. Not everything is present still, I have the components floating in mid-air.

And no problem @wywywywy. I already know about the Makerbeam kits- Sunmilo appears to use them or source something similar (since they use red colored beams in some of their cases). I thought about using those, but I decided to go with square profile aluminum bars instead.



Aside from the square bars being bit cheaper, I wanted the case to be a length of exactly one foot, and the 300mm maker beams come a bit short by 5mm. The ones I'll use will have a 1/2" square profile, or 12.5mm. The motherboard tray will be mounted on it from one side.

Here are some pics of the components more or less in the planned layout, aside from the hard drive.


Already I'm seeing that the stiff ribbon cables are going to present somewhat of a hassle to organize in this kind of layout. I may have to resort to a custom length sleeved set if worse comes to worst :eek:
 
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CC Ricers

Shrink Ray Wielder
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Well I've decided that I will be selling the Silverstone SFX power supply and going for a non modular ATX power supply. Two reasons: I want to really show how much I can cram into the case, and plus I want to go a more economical route.
 
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Shrink Ray Wielder
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I'm gonna start making the motherboard tray today. I have four 1/2 inch square aluminum rods 12" long, which serve as the basis for the frame and structure support. The tray will sit on top of two of these.

Also, I'm contemplating making the case a bit taller, to effectively support mATX boards as well. It would push the case into 13L capacity. The mATX spec limits component height in the card slot area to 0.6", or 15mm. The total offset of the board would then be 37mm including the rod frame and mobo tray.

In a case 160mm wide, I would doubt that radiators would be supported at the bottom if a mATX board is used.
 

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Shrink Ray Wielder
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I updated the design, to be more simple to build.


This allows me to keep using 2mm thick sheets for the exterior panels with minimal bending. 6-32 socket cap screws hold the panels together with four 12.5mm square rods on the longest edges. With the screw holes counter-sunk the heads of the screws will be just as tall as the panels are thick.

The motherboard tray will also be 2mm thick, screwed on to the inner sides of the rods.

Clearance above the motherboard: 25mm, just long enough to fit the angled plug connecting the PSU

Clearance below the first slot: 60mm + 10mm (for single slot height)

The power supply in these renders is a ATX sized one, 140mm in length. I am certain that at 140mm some modular plugs can fit with some room to allow the cables to bend.
 
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CC Ricers

Shrink Ray Wielder
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Got some new parts! First is the Corsair CX450M power supply. This is a new line said to have a better OEM setup than the previous CX line with the green-colored labels.



Yes it's ATX sized and semi-modular but I'm confident that I can make it fit in my case. I already did some measurements and test placement with it beside the graphics card and I can make the attached cables bend enough to give room in the small space below it.

And speaking of graphics cards, I had to sell my GTX 760, and got a great deal on a used 770, for $110. Also I already know it would come with some extras but didn't want to show you, until now...



Yes, it comes with a full-cover waterblock, and backplate. And I still got the stock air cooler to go along with it. Could things get more interesting? I don't know. It's tempting to forgo air cooling and jump right ahead to a watercooled build, but I don't have a pump, and may need radiator fans.

But it's still nice that I got this whole combo. Tomorrow I should finish the motherboard tray and begin installing the parts into the case.
 

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Shrink Ray Wielder
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Can't wait to see more pics

Thanks for the support. Unfortunately I don't have pics to show from the time I spent in my friend's workshop yesterday (where I do the majority of the build work). I wanted to get the motherboard tray done, but didn't get enough time to drill and tap holes for the second of the two metal beams for the tray to sit on.

I had to make some of the tray cuts using a jigsaw and still need to file it to make the edges perfectly straight. Otherwise it won't look good and it will also be prone to messing up the measurements for the bottom beam, as I really do not want the beams to be the least bit crooked when I screw them in place. They also have to connect with the back and front panels of the case.
 

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Shrink Ray Wielder
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Ugh, I broke my 6-32 tap while tapping in one of the blind holes for the square beams. I was working on holes 3 and 4, and 1 and 2 are already set in place holding the top of the motherboard tray. The tap got stuck in the beam with a small, sharp end sticking out. But I can "cover it up" by just having it stick in with the bottom hole of the tray. I'll have to make another hole elsewhere along that will go through the beam, confident I can get the whole tray attached.

I'm starting to think I should have gone with the MakerBeams instead. The ease of attaching stuff to them would be worth the extra 10 bucks.
 

EdZ

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Ugh, I broke my 6-32 tap while tapping in one of the blind holes for the square beams. I was working on holes 3 and 4, and 1 and 2 are already set in place holding the top of the motherboard tray. The tap got stuck in the beam with a small, sharp end sticking out.
Alum!
 

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Shrink Ray Wielder
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Made some progress with the motherboard tray today. The sides aren't evenly cut, so I need to file them and still align the beams so that they are perfectly parallel, otherwise the front and back panels will be a bit off.



The middle bars are used to temporarily keep the tray from warping as I clamp down.



Upright and resting orientation of the assembled tray with the beams. These took a long time to tap properly. The 3/32 inch metal cutting bit I used is actually a bit narrower than the 3/32 inch included in the tapping kit (I bought a new one by the way). So I reamed the holes with the "larger" 3/32 then followed it up with threading the holes.





Here's a 9mm thick SSD on the back side of the tray. I would be able to install two of them on the back, so I may add some rails to mount them on with screws. There will also be a hole cut around the CPU cooler area.

 

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Shrink Ray Wielder
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Well, my 2TB hard drive is acting up again and now this time I fear it's actually gonna kick the bucket soon. CDI has found too many reallocated sectors and the hard drive sounds like it's constantly being trashed.

That doesn't bode well for how I'd like to carry out the build. I'm still slowly working on the case (just fitted a back panel for measuring) but I'd have to give up on using the GTX 770. Still won't be the same without it. So I'd still keep looking to build the case but I'll need to sell the 770 to buy a new hard drive and salvage what I can.
 

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Shrink Ray Wielder
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If there's data on it you need I'd back it up ASAP.

Yeah, if I can get an operating system to detect the hard drive again. It just keeps making a clicking sound and Windows 7 won't mount it. I'm gonna try putting it in the freezer for 30 minutes tomorrow then use a bootable Linux drive, and if it mounts, to get as many files as I can from it. Still gonna have to pick up a new hard drive, probably drive down to Micro Center.
 

Aibohphobia

Jessica. Wayward SFF.n Founder
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Feb 22, 2015
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The freezer probably won't help, that's more for if the mechanical parts are physically stuck. The change in temperature can sometimes loosen things up.

If it makes a continuous clicking noise then it sounds like the drive isn't initializing. Does the BIOS or device manager detect it?
 

EdZ

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As a last resort; I once had success de-casing a drive failing to spin up (marginal hub motor), plugging it in, then manually spinning up the hub by hand, and having it live long enough to image. Probably not a good idea to try unless you KNOW it;s the motor though.
 
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