Log Decided to build my own case

jmarin

Airflow Optimizer
Original poster
Mar 8, 2018
260
186
Long time no post! I have been lurking lately, as I became bored with what was my current case (seen here). So the past few weeks, I have gone through the task of finding a smaller case to take up less space on my desk. My Raijentek Metis case was aboud 13.3L in size, so not huge, but not as tiny as I could get (as the pictures in my other thread showed the amount of empty space there). I searched the usual places, but did not find anything I was in love with. A couple of cases on Aliexpress/TaoBao were nice, but not exactly what I was looking for, either a bit too big, or didn't accommodate the hardware I already had (mostly the SFX psu was the holdup on a lot of these). The Custom MOD Case SXM caught my eye, but ultimately was not exactly what I was going for (and also hard to justify the price, but that is more of a marital issue, as I know the case is definitely high quality ?). I did, however, find a case that, for whatever reason, I LOVED the aesthetics of in the Lone Industries L5, in black and white, but that case was too small. It also reminded me of the Fractal Design Meshify C, which I also loved in black/white, but that case is WAY too big. So what is there to do?

Well, I built/am building one. I did some preliminary mock-ups of how I wanted to place the hardware and make it small enough to be worth my while. I used a similar layout as the Custom MOD Case SXM, but I also wanted plenty of air flow, so I added 2 120mm fans to the front, and it is rectangular like the L5. All I have currently is a frame that is 90% complete, but will be finishing it up with a couple of touches, then spray painting it black. Then I will be designing some panels to go on this puppy, and they will most likely be acrylic (cheaper to get laser cut than aluminum, and I won't have to paint them!). For the frame I used aluminum angle bar, and some aluminum flat bar. Motherboard tray is sheet metal. All the screws came from old PCs I had hoarded over the years, and the frame is riveted together with a nice $5 rivet gun from Harbor Freight, so the cost so far for the case has been like $15. Anyway, here are the pics of progress so far. Let me know what you think!


I did upgrade to a Noctua Chromax NH-L9a for this, and I must say, as my first Noctua product, this fan is silent af. I expected it to be quiet, but not completely so. I also have a nice power button coming from J-Hack very soon (tomorrow is the expected date) so the long black cord hanging down from the case will be gone ?. Button will be mounted on the back under the GPU. I am conflicted on whether I should leave the back open like it is or try to get the I/O shield on. I may just do some sort of custom type I/O shield that is mostly vented to allow air flow through the case front to back better. I am also going back and forth about shoe-horning some front mounted USB/Audio ports. And other than the panel design, I need to design a SSD/HDD mounting bracket to 3D print for the bottom of my case (FYI for anyone else thinking about doing a similar build, 2 SSD/HDDs can fit underneath the power cable connectors on the Corsair SFX PSU, which gives you pretty much the same depth as an ITX mobo. If I did not have the fans in front, I could have easily made this smaller, but I wanted the air flow despite the modest hardware).

Any comments/suggestions are welcome.
 

jmarin

Airflow Optimizer
Original poster
Mar 8, 2018
260
186
Small update, I 3D printed some "drive rails" for my SSD and 2.5" HDD to rest on the bottom of the case better and not be loose. Of course, I had to do a couple iterations to get it just right, and, like all things SFF, had to assemble things in the correct order for it all to fit and work. Pics in the case don't show a lot because of the cabling, but you get the idea.


I think I have a right angle SATA connector so that at least one drive is easier to plug in. I might have to explore some (other) custom power cables as well, right angle SATA power cables would come in handy, too. Would just need to stagger the drive stack. But this leads me more to the point that I think I am going to use this frame as more of a prototype to the finished product. When I went to mount my power button (Thanks J-Hack!), some things I was willing to let go made it difficult to mount a small piece of metal to hold the button in a way that didn't look totally half-assed. Since the aluminum angle pieces were cheap, I will probably go that route again, but with this frame already built, I have a better idea what to do and how to make it look much cleaner.

*Edit: for those curious, the first pic of the drive rails was just with 2 spare HDDs to make sure they lined up correctly before putting in the chassis, in case anyone was wondering
 
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jmarin

Airflow Optimizer
Original poster
Mar 8, 2018
260
186
As I alluded to in my previous post, I decided that my current frame is good as a prototype, but not really a finished product. There were a few things that just were not quite right and cosmetically would have needed a total rework. While thinking about how I would re-do the frame so it would be better both aesthetically and mechanically, I came across slydex's post here. In it, he used a frame to create a custom case, and the parts he used were from makerbeam. I liked the idea and look of it so much, when my wife asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I decided on getting a kit ? . So here are some pics of what I have done so far with a re-worked frame.

back

mobo side

front

front 3/4 view

rear 3/4 view

I have a few details to work out and I need to test fit some things. The new frame will allow me to do a couple of different things. The beams are 10mm x 10mm, so I can slide the HDD and SSD on either side of the PSU with some brackets I am going to 3D print. This gives me a little extra room in front of the PSU where I planned to put them before to place cabling and make it easier to shorten the case. The front does not have a bar across the top to accommodate the 2 120mm fans without expanding the height more than necessary. The horizontal bars on the bottom will act as case feet and support for the same reason. I will update once I get some test fitting done and figure out a motherboard tray setup that works. I also think I am going to leave the back pretty much open for air flow and simplicity's sake. Won't be looking at that much anyway once I get it done and reposition it on my desk.
 

neilhart

Cable-Tie Ninja
Apr 18, 2017
149
271
There are corner cubes available for the 10mm Makerbeams that greatly clean up the corners. Good luck with your project.

Neil
 

jmarin

Airflow Optimizer
Original poster
Mar 8, 2018
260
186
Thanks Neil. I do have some that I used for the motherboard tray section, but I wanted to limit cutting the pieces as much as possible. Most of the brackets will not be seen in the final product, minus the back, so I am not worried too much about it. A couple of spots won't work with the corner cubes either due to how I have the bars coming together. I made some progress on mocking up the motherboard tray, will have to post pics later. Thinking I might make it out of steel or aluminum for the final product, I just used some plexi I had laying around for now.
 

jmarin

Airflow Optimizer
Original poster
Mar 8, 2018
260
186
More Progress! And a lot more screws on the back ???

Instead of a full on motherboard tray, since the frame was already kind of acting like one, I 3D printed some brackets to hold the motherboard standoffs in the correct spots. This allows for the entire back of the motherboard to be exposed, minus a 10 mm border around the edges. Makes it super easy to replace the heatsink if I ever wanted to or access the m.2 slot on the back.



With the move to the makerbeam frame, there was space to place the drives on either side of the PSU without making the body wider. I designed and printed holders for the drives that slide into the track of the makerbeams. 2 minor issues that could be remedied that I ran into was not countersinking the screw area so only 3 screws are in due to rubbing. And the other is the HDD is 9 mm thick, meaning my 2 mm thick bracket makes it 11 mm, and that would push out the side panel an extra mm or so. Not a huge deal, but may move the HDD to where I was originally going to put both drives, or replace with another SSD (probably just move for now so as to not spend extra money unnecessarily).



I added an aluminum support at the front top for extra rigidity, and it made the structure easier to square up.



Also 3D printed some brackets for the PSU. They are temp until final design so I did not care about the color. Will have to reprint one side anyway as I had to flip the L bracket above it because I was slightly off with my measurements for the 3D print. It will look better mirrored to the other side anyway. With the brackets in place and the PSU screwed in, it does not budge at all.



Next steps are to design/print brackets for the 120mm fans up front, supports for the video card, and figuring out a panel/spot to mount the power button under the video card. Then it's designing/ordering panels as well as tweaking the overall look of the frame.
 

jmarin

Airflow Optimizer
Original poster
Mar 8, 2018
260
186
Not that anyone is reading this but I have another update ?

I got the brackets for the front fans printed and in, and while mocking everything up, also went ahead and printed some cable management pieces that slide into the makerbeam slots as well. It helps some, but it's not perfect. May just live with it for now and let some ideas marinate. Also printed a bracket for the GPU and a plate for the power button. Fit everything together and am happy with the results thus far. Added some RGB (because I know some of you love it ?) on the inside of the motherboard area, so it adds some ambient light, nothing too garish. I ordered some supplies to do some custom length cables as what I ordered from my previous build are a little too bulky and long. Well, enough blabbing, on to the pics.


Shot of the back, GPU bracket and Power button plate installed (mostly, in order to get those other two screws in, I would have to disassemble everything)


Shot of one of the fan mounts and cable management pieces


Top fan mounts


Opposite side fan mount and cable management pieces. A good shot of the rats nest of PSU cables


Front shot of fans, with the fans mounted with their brackets, the top aluminum bar I had was unnecessary. Plus it was getting in the way


System on and running

Right now, without panels, total volume is about 7.4l. Ultimately, I would like to keep it below 8l with panels which should be doable as long as the panels are 3mm or less in thickness. Nothing at this point is permanent, but will be letting it sit in this form for a couple of weeks before changing or finalizing anything structural. Gotta let things marinate.
 

jmarin

Airflow Optimizer
Original poster
Mar 8, 2018
260
186
Minor update, although this is one of the individual tasks that has taken me the most time. I ordered some cabling and connectors to shorten up the cables in the case. The mess of sleeved cabling was hard to maneuver and get to sit right, so I went with straight black, no sleeves, and made them a custom length. First time doing it, and I think I did pretty good all things considering. The computer turns on and everything works so It can't be all bad! Here are a couple of after pics, you can compare to the last pic in the previous post for the difference it makes. Will definitely help with air flow as well. Now I just gotta clean up the huge mess on my desk ?



On a side note, anyone want some white sleeved cables for a Corsair SF450? ?
 

neilhart

Cable-Tie Ninja
Apr 18, 2017
149
271
Hey your custom cables are great. I almost always build custom cables for my hacks and know that it takes attention to detail to get it correct.

Good build and good documentation. I have enjoyed your thread.
Neil
 

jmarin

Airflow Optimizer
Original poster
Mar 8, 2018
260
186
Hey your custom cables are great. I almost always build custom cables for my hacks and know that it takes attention to detail to get it correct.

Good build and good documentation. I have enjoyed your thread.
Neil

Thanks Neil, that means a lot. I've looked at a lot of your projects and admire your craftsmanship so I really appreciate the compliment.
 

jmarin

Airflow Optimizer
Original poster
Mar 8, 2018
260
186
Minor update for anyone who cares:

Have done a few tweaks with the design. There are no longer beams being used as the feet. When I am using it, the tower rests on them for now, but once panel design is completed, actual feet will be added, whether integrated into the panel or separate from the panel. I also reprinted some parts in black instead of the blue, and redesigned the cable management. I might just change the CPU side to something solid since there is only one cable, but may just leave it because once panels are on, no one will see it anyway. Relocated the power button to the top on the back for ease of access. The other location was a pain to get to when I placed the tower where I have it now on my desk. Also, added USB 3 ports to the top front. I had a USB header extender that I used in conjunction with one of those USB header to USB 3.0 port adapters. I 3d printed an enclosure for it, and, after a couple of trials, mounted it between the GPU and the front fan.





I am pretty happy with the layout and how it looks now. Just debating on what to do for the panels. This part can be more expensive, so I want to make sure I come up with something I am 100% happy with, but sometimes if I keep thinking about it, I overwhelm myself with ideas ? ? ?
 
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jmarin

Airflow Optimizer
Original poster
Mar 8, 2018
260
186
Another Update:

Somewhat minor, I designed and printed a rear panel. Was going to leave it open, but thought it would look too unfinished, so while designing front, side, etc panels, I did a rear one as well. I decided to print this one myself because the size was manageable to do in one print and it is the back and won't be seen often by myself, let alone anyone else. I still need to tweak the PSU brackets and reprint those, and the bottom panel is temporary. Going to have the other panels laser cut probably through Ponoko as I did with my last build, in a matte acrylic. The same size/style slots will be on the CPU side, GPU side, and front panels.




I am also fiddling around with changing how the front fans are mounted as it was a pain in the butt turning them around and back again when testing patterns for the front grill and limiting noise from turbulence. Also thinking of ideas for mounting the hard drive as it is currently too thick to be in it's current spot by 1-2mm. Might try a different mounting bracket and keep the location or do a different location all together.
 

neilhart

Cable-Tie Ninja
Apr 18, 2017
149
271
Another great update.

As you are nearing what I would term as project completion, I assume you have your next system design spinning up in your head.

Keep it up.

Neil
 

jmarin

Airflow Optimizer
Original poster
Mar 8, 2018
260
186
Thanks Neil! I'm probably going to divert my attention to a keyboard build after this but I'm sure I'll come up with some sort of design for something computer related. Can't be without a project for too long ???
 

jmarin

Airflow Optimizer
Original poster
Mar 8, 2018
260
186
What is this? Another update? So soon??? Well, I had some time again last night to do a couple of the tweaks that I mentioned in the last post and they seem worthy of an update, albeit minor. I redid the drive rail/caddy system to something much more simpler which gives me the space to mount the side panels without interference (or so minimal it will not matter). Basically just printed a flat piece with 4 holes, two for the drive (recessed) and 2 to mount to the makerbeam. This allows the 9mm thick HDD to sit within the 10mm thick makerbeam profile without rubbing against the PSU, but also makes it much easier to remove than the old design. I also swapped the SATA cable for a longer one for better routing. Makes a much cleaner and less obtrusive path now. I did a slight redesign and reprint of the PSU brackets as well so they line up better with everything and do not interfere with the plug on the PSU itself. Looks 10000% better now. And last pic is just a bonus shot of the PC on and running from the front. Removed the Arctic fan stickers for better aesthetics.






I did put in my order with Ponoko for the panels. I am going with a matte acrylic for all of them, with the top, bottom and both sides in white, and the front grill in black. Here are the renders from Sketchup as to what they will look like. Estimated delivery is right before Thanksgiving, but it might be before then depending. Can't complain for the price (60 bucks shipped for all), and it is 3 mm thick acrylic.






I went with the black and white theme seen on the Lone L5 and the Fractal Design Meshify C, as they are some aesthetic favorites of mine, and also that was the color scheme I had before as well (it seems to be something I like lately, as my car is also black and white now too ? ? ? )

Edit: Forgot to add a preview pic of the front grill. I printed one half to make sure the design looked good on the fan itself before sending out the order and this is it.


Can't wait to see the finished panels on this puppy!
 
Last edited:

aromachi

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Dec 18, 2019
90
97
Can't wait to see the finished panels on this puppy!

I love those custom panels you printed for the IO and fans. I'm curious, if you had to guess how much does it cost to print one of those fan grille panels? And why aren't you printing all the panels for your case?
 

jmarin

Airflow Optimizer
Original poster
Mar 8, 2018
260
186
I love those custom panels you printed for the IO and fans. I'm curious, if you had to guess how much does it cost to print one of those fan grille panels? And why aren't you printing all the panels for your case?

I actually have my own 3D printer, so the cost would be different through a service. For me, it cost pennies, as it was a small fraction of the $20ish spool of filament I purchased, and I did it on draft quality and thinner than I would a finish product. The back panel I also did in more of a fast print quality, but with the 3 mm thickness of a finish panel. I am getting the other panels cut for a few reasons, one is that it takes a long time to print large pieces, another is that printing flat pieces is hard (or in my case impossible as they are bigger than what my printer can print) unless the printer is in a very controlled environment, and also quality. Laser cut acrylic will always look better than a 3d printed piece in this kind of scenario because of how 3D printers work. Unless I wanted to do a bunch of post print processing and paint the panels (which I do not), it is quicker and easier to pay for them to get laser cut. I did the back panel because it would be hidden 99.9% of the time so the finish wouldn't really bother me. I wanted the other panels to look more clean and less like a DIY.
 
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jmarin

Airflow Optimizer
Original poster
Mar 8, 2018
260
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Would something like this be possible on your printer?


Printing smaller parts that can be assembled later. Only reason i ask is ive wanted to dive into 3d printing for a long time now but not sure how much moolah you need to invest to do bigger projects like this.

Yes, that is definitely something I could do with mine. I have a Creality Ender 3 Pro, which is pretty similar to the one in that post. I could have printed the panels, but I wanted a more seamless look on the bigger panels at least because there was going to be seams at all the edges, plus larger parts at higher quality takes a pretty long time to print, and my printer is not in a room where I can just close the door and forget about it lol. That case he made was pretty sharp and very well thought out.