Production DSE Breathe - A 7.3L Vertical Format ITX Tower

DSE

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Feb 8, 2017
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Hi everyone. This is a project I started in late September 2016. With that being said, I am proud to present the Breathe.











The Story
I have a long history of designing and building things ever since I was 7 years old. Through the years, the projects I pursued grew in complexity and so the stakes got ever higher. My parents would give me a budget to work within, and I had to make my ideas work right the first time, every time.

In the summer of 2012, I built my first computer. This computer has been my workhorse and has followed me all the way into today, my freshman year of college. I love my computer, it has proven to be my most prized tool and a great source of entertainment and learning. I can't stand being away from it. But recently, our relationship has gotten rather rocky.

At every vacation or extended break from school, I take two things with me back home to Houston. A portion of my wardrobe and my computer. Being built in a Corsair 300R, my computer is not light nor small by any means and thus, it has shown itself to always be a pain to transport.

In addition to that, a gaming organization at my university holds biweekly LAN parties. I lust to go, but the size and weight of my computer holds me back.

So I craved something smaller.

It began with a cool 3D printed lamp I saw and Makirole's Aetos. Both made use of Voronoi patterns in their designs. I knew that by using Voronoi patterns in my case, it would be strong, lightweight, and allow for virtually unrestricted airflow — which I know is something many SFF cases struggle with.



Very quickly, I saw how stupid this looked, with how large it was and how much empty space there was on the interior. So I tried to compact it down to minimum total volume, borrowing the back-to-back layout of the DAN-A4.



For the oncoming months, I worked on the case relentlessly, tinkering with drive placement and power switch location in order to maximize the usable volume of the GPU compartment.

Moving the SSDs from the topside to the underside of the GPU made so much sense, since no graphics card would ever extend in that direction.


Sourcing a better power switch was quite tedious, but I was able to find one with a diameter of 8mm, which conveniently fits in between the feet/tabs of the PCI-E bracket, allowing me to move the graphics card further left and increase the maximum graphics card height.


This continued on, including further size & proportion optimizations and some minor reorganization, for the next few months.

You can see the condensed genesis of the final case design here.


You can see I experimented with extended feet for the case and inverting the motherboard, so all cables would come out the bottom. I got rid of that idea and settled on small feet for the bottom, allowing for exhaust airflow for the PSU and omnidirectional power cable routing.


As December began and winter vacation started to creep up, working on the case became rather stale. I was practically done, but something about it felt off to me. I started to become unsatisfied with the open air Voronoi pattern of the case, but I had no good ideas on hand. I just wanted it to look cleaner; something to match the slimness and verticality of the case.

At this time, I left the design alone for two months.

Winter break ended and the spring semester began. My sister and my friends noticed how much time I was putting into playing Overwatch (heh), and so I was motivated to offset that. I got into the productive mood again and resumed work on the case two weeks ago. I started with translating the design from Sketchup into Inventor.


Those two months away from the case allowed my tastes to mature, and so I had a great idea for the new design of the venting of the case.

Taking cues from Braun's classic design language, I gave the exterior of the case an orthogonal hole grid pattern, giving the case, in my opinion, a much more modern and understated aesthetic while still keeping the standard of ample ventilation. I knew that this appearance would be carried into the final version. I was in love with the way it looked.


**AUGUST 2017 UPDATE: No longer in love with the hole grid pattern. This is how the case will look now. I love it even more. Thanks guys.


So yeah, that's pretty much it up until now. Now onto the specs.

Specifications, Dimensions, and Features
The Breathe supports a variety of configurations in its second compartment due to an array of mounting holes I incorporated into the design.

From left to right:
Standard Config: one large graphics card + four 2.5" drives
Alternative Config One: one short graphics card + four 2.5" drives + one 3.5" drive
Alternative Config Two: one short graphics card + eight 2.5" drives

The 2.5" drive bracket is removable in case it's not needed.

Specifications/Dimensions
Length: 183.1mm
Width: 115.1mm
Height: 346.9mm
Volume: 7.31L

Material: 1.5mm aluminum
Finish: Powder coat

PSU compatibility: SFX
Motherboard compatibility: Mini-ITX
CPU cooler compatibility: 50mm max height
Graphics card compatibility: 322.1mm max length (from outside face of PCI-E bracket to end), 45.6mm max width, 152.2mm max height (from bottom of PCI-E fingers to top)

PCI-E riser compatibility: 3M twin-axial PCI-E riser and Li-Heat D-Type riser -- both of them will work in the case.

Another notable feature is the inclusion of an anti-theft lock slot on the bottom of the case. (thanks, Aibohphobia)

I'm always looking for ways to improve this thing, so let me know what you think.
 
Last edited:

Kmpkt

Innovation through Miniaturization
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Feb 1, 2016
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Looks pretty cool. Any chance on getting a series of photos rather than one huge long one? I like the organic form of your grill pattern.
 
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Thehack

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The SSD's would be a pain to wire. I would drop support for that many drives. Regular ITX motherboards support 6 at most usually. And if someone wanted more than 6 drives, then they would want a cleaner more dedicated solution. Also, using more than 6 drives requires a PCIe SATA controller. Consider a 5.25" mount points for those people who want lots of drives.

Keep it simple. If you make lots of options, you will have to create documentation, testing, and verification to prove that your product works.

I am of the opinion that if you care about aesthetics, you would recess the I/O plane. Cables are a sore sight, and the few vertical cases we have make strides to cover them.
 

DSE

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Original poster
DSE
Feb 8, 2017
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Some renders for the glamour.

Case in white.


Another silver.


In black.

Size reference with an apple.

GTX 1080 inside.
 
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Nocturnize

Caliper Novice
Feb 11, 2017
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Woah! Just a few minutes after posting my last comment and refreshing the page, I was surprisingly welcomed by your post, and wow - it was worth the read.

Personally, huge fan of having the rear I/O panel on the top - makes everything perfectly accessible right away, specially when taking portability into account (you know, the ol' good disconnecting and taking it apart to take it with you to then put everything back the way it was later on). The hole grid pattern looks very elegant in my opinion; I am no expert in case ventilation, so I found myself without words to provide feedback in this area, functionality-wise. Excited to see how everything goes from here on - I was about to settle with a Silverstone ML08 for my upcoming build since I'm not a fan of external bricks, but this has changed my mind. Keep us posted!

edit: digging that white finish. :oops:
 
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DSE

SFF Lingo Aficionado
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DSE
Feb 8, 2017
137
390
The SSD's would be a pain to wire. I would drop support for that many drives. Regular ITX motherboards support 6 at most usually. And if someone wanted more than 6 drives, then they would want a cleaner more dedicated solution. Also, using more than 6 drives requires a PCIe SATA controller. Consider a 5.25" mount points for those people who want lots of drives.

Keep it simple. If you make lots of options, you will have to create documentation, testing, and verification to prove that your product works.

I am of the opinion that if you care about aesthetics, you would recess the I/O plane. Cables are a sore sight, and the few vertical cases we have make strides to cover them.

Thanks for the advice. I understand that managing the cables in small cases is difficult and would be compounded by the increased number of drives in the possible storage configs, which is why I'm doing completely custom cabling in my personal build with the case.

As for the large number of drives, it's not something I suggest or recommend, again, it's just something that's there. A choice if someone wants/needs to use it or not. I cannot predict my own usage case 3 months from now, let alone 5 years from now. I have no idea if I'll need a ridiculous number of SSDs in the future, that's why if I ever do, the mounting holes are there. There are mount points for the 3.5" drives, but I do agree that they could be more elegantly implemented. I simply was designing with space optimization as the priority.

As for the I/O plane and the issue of wires and connectors, I held the same sentiment as you early on in the design process. That's why I tried experimenting with an inverted layout to try and hide the cables by having them come out the bottom. But alas, I bit the bullet and just accepted the sight of cables as a reality and continued with size and portability being the priority, so further work in trying to hide the cables was nixed.
 

DSE

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Original poster
DSE
Feb 8, 2017
137
390
Woah! Just a few minutes after posting my last comment and refreshing the page, I was surprisingly welcomed by your post, and wow - it was worth the read.

Personally, huge fan of having the rear I/O panel on the top - makes everything perfectly accessible right away, specially when taking portability into account (you know, the ol' good disconnecting and taking it apart to take it with you to then put everything back the way it was later on). The hole grid pattern looks very elegant in my opinion; I am no expert in case ventilation, so I found myself without words to provide feedback in this area, functionality-wise. Excited to see how everything goes from here on - I was about to settle with a Silverstone ML08 for my upcoming build since I'm not a fan of external bricks, but this has changed my mind. Keep us posted!

edit: digging that white finish. :oops:
Aw thanks man. I appreciate your feedback. Portability and accessibility definitely means a lot to me, so that factor is exactly why I chose to have the I/O at the top.

I too am quite fond of the white finish. But for me, I think I'll be going with just brushed aluminum for my personal build, since everything I own is either black or silver. ;)
 
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Thehack

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Thanks for the advice. I understand that managing the cables in small cases is difficult and would be compounded by the increased number of drives in the possible storage configs, which is why I'm doing completely custom cabling in my personal build with the case.

As for the large number of drives, it's not something I suggest or recommend, again, it's just something that's there. A choice if someone wants/needs to use it or not. I cannot predict my own usage case 3 months from now, let alone 5 years from now. I have no idea if I'll need a ridiculous number of SSDs in the future, that's why if I ever do, the mounting holes are there. There are mount points for the 3.5" drives, but I do agree that they could be more elegantly implemented. I simply was designing with space optimization as the priority.

As for the I/O plane and the issue of wires and connectors, I held the same sentiment as you early on in the design process. That's why I tried experimenting with an inverted layout to try and hide the cables by having them come out the bottom. But alas, I bit the bullet and just accepted the sight of cables as a reality and continued with size and portability being the priority, so further work in trying to hide the cables was nixed.

You can have it recessed with a panel cover. Silverstone's Fortress Mini does this.
 

DSE

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DSE
Feb 8, 2017
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You can have it recessed with a panel cover. Silverstone's Fortress Mini does this.
I see, but the issues I have in doing that are as follows:

The case is already very dense in its layout, so moving the parts downward to create a recessed area for cable connectors to hide in would be impossible. Instead, it requires me to extend the case walls upwards, which would increase the total volume to ~7L as well as increase the case's height to a point where it becomes difficult to fit in a typical backpack.

I understand you, I really do. I like things to be pretty as much as the next guy, but as for me and the aims of this project, size and portability takes priority over all.

It's just a cost vs. benefits sort of thing. Do I keep the case small and portable? Or do I sacrifice size and portability in trying to hide cables which will never actually be hidden because no matter what, they will still be there?
 
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Nocturnize

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Feb 11, 2017
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Cables are a sore sight, and the few vertical cases we have make strides to cover them.

It's true - cables are a sore sight, indeed. Thankfully, having a laptop as my daily driver has made me resilient against them. Which consequently made me think how perfectly the top I/O panel suits the needs of someone like me: you know, having to unplug it all before the day starts and into a bag, plug it all back in when arriving at the office - unplug it all yet again when the day ends and sometimes plugging it all back in when getting home late at night. Surprisingly, I've gotten used to it and with no complains on a daily basis by now, despise how often co-workers recommend a docking station.

You can have it recessed with a panel cover. Silverstone's Fortress Mini does this.

I do like this idea, though. Could have a sleek look to it as long as it sticks to the same design language and doesn't break any rules.

Aw thanks man. I appreciate your feedback. Portability and accessibility definitely means a lot to me, so that factor is exactly why I chose to have the I/O at the top.

I too am quite fond of the white finish. But for me, I think I'll be going with just brushed aluminum for my personal build, since everything I own is either black or silver. ;)

Neat! I like the way you think! But, don't get me wrong, though. I'd personally go for a black one. Mix it with some purple LEDs and it'd just be about as perfect as I'd want it to. Thanks for sharing this, by the way!
 
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Ceros_X

King of Cable Management
Mar 8, 2016
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I really like the layout! I understand your desire to have something super compact and portable, but I think if you are every going to try and produce this case for consumers that all of the IO cables coming out of the top will make it unpalatable to most. If it is a one off and it is just for you, then ignore it. That being said...

I have noticed that there is no handle and that this case would be a little unwieldy to carry in its present configuration. Perhaps you could implement a handle and a cable cover at the same time? If not, perhaps make a cable cover that is removeable. Flip the the case over and make extendable case feet (thinking some L shaped feet that slide up into the case body but can be pulled down and rotated to lock?) That wold let you keep the small size and hide the cables. With retractable feet you could even orient the case either way.

I really think you have one of the more innovative layouts I've seen in a while!
 
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DSE

SFF Lingo Aficionado
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DSE
Feb 8, 2017
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390
I really like the layout! I understand your desire to have something super compact and portable, but I think if you are every going to try and produce this case for consumers that all of the IO cables coming out of the top will make it unpalatable to most. If it is a one off and it is just for you, then ignore it. That being said...

I have noticed that there is no handle and that this case would be a little unwieldy to carry in its present configuration. Perhaps you could implement a handle and a cable cover at the same time? If not, perhaps make a cable cover that is removeable. Flip the the case over and make extendable case feet (thinking some L shaped feet that slide up into the case body but can be pulled down and rotated to lock?) That wold let you keep the small size and hide the cables. With retractable feet you could even orient the case either way.

I really think you have one of the more innovative layouts I've seen in a while!
Thanks for the feedback! I think I need to clarify my stance as a vendor and the amount of people I aim to target as a consumer base, as it should shed some insight into my design stance as well.

I feel like many are missing the point of why this whole project exists in the first place; with people advising me on how to get more buyers and whatnot. Obviously you acknowledged it, but perhaps it's best to restate it for others.

Yes, this thread is of a currently in-development case. Yes, I am looking for suggestions on how to improve the case. Yes, I want to be able to sell this case.

But creating a case for the purpose of retail was not the reason why this project began.
It began because I was designing a case for me.
That is, and always will be, the end-goal priority for this project.

I'm not going to do drastically major design changes, such as altering the case's structure and layout, just so I can appeal to more of the general public in hopes of selling more cases.

Will I miss out on the general public as a consumer base as a result? Yeah, maybe. But they aren't who I was ever even going for. Selling to the masses was never a realistic expectation from my position. A consumer group of that size would be too big for me to handle.

Who I am targeting with this case are the fellow size freaks out there. People who want a case that's small but doesn't compromise on the componentry of the computer inside. People who are in the same use-case scenario as me. With that relatively small consumer base in mind, I'm only going for small-scale buy and sell. Group buys in portions of 20-40 units at a time. I am a full-time college student after all.

And again, this case is for me; first and foremost. It makes no sense for me to make changes to the case that I, myself, would not like to have. I'm building this thing to be my perfect case, not your perfect case, or someone else's perfect case.

If I determined that hiding the cables would be the best course of action, then I would have done it already. I made a choice on that long ago.

I'm just not going to be wholly subservient to my "potential customers" and fervently do everything I can to grab a bigger audience. That's not how I roll.

The bottom line is this:

I made a case.
I made a case for me.

If I were to put this case into relative, preexisting terms, it's basically a slightly smaller, cheaper DAN-A4 that has been turned on its side, includes its own set of unique features, supports a bigger graphics card, and supports more storage.

So if you like it and want to buy it, welcome aboard. I hope to send you a case inside a box with your name on it.
If you don't, that's fine. It's my loss.

Forgive me if this came off as aggressive, ignorant, and closed-off to suggestions, but please don't interpret it in that way. That was not my intent. I'm just trying to convey my stance. Maybe I'm just cranky because I'm tired. (It's 5:45 am as I write this)

I still would love to hear any of your suggestions on features I can put into the case. Sometimes I miss things that only become clear to me through someone else's way of thinking.

And what I mean by "suggestions on features I can put into the case" I literally mean into the case.

I'm not receptive to anything that would change the external volume of the case. Size is final.

I don't want any changes that would make the case bigger; and I am certain I can't make the case any smaller.

You might get a defensive response from me in reply to your suggestion, but that's just because I want to fully explain my way of thinking to you and not just give you a petty retort of "I don't like your suggestion".

But yeah.

As for the handle, this is a rather confusing topic. The ideation behind this case was to either be able to throw it in a backpack or luggage bag along with whatever else you need and transport it that way, not really to tote around the unit itself. It's certainly possible to add a handle, but I never felt that it was necessary to add one to a case of this size. Keep in mind that the thickness(thinness?) of this case is lesser than the length of a standard index card, so grasping and picking it up with one hand should be fairly easy.

I just personally find handles to be tacky, no offense to people who like them. Like yeah, they're useful, but they just seem awkward to me. Like how often do you see a guy carrying around his computer like a briefcase? If I saw someone doing that, I'd honestly think they're a massive nerd. Hypocritical, maybe. Truthful, yes.

With all that out of the way, I like your extendable/retractable feet idea. It's inventive. It's a bit complex to implement and manufacture but perhaps I can find an elegant way of incorporating something like it after sleeping on the idea.

**EDIT
I don't know. Personally, the whole cable cover idea just seems like a futile effort to me. Like I said before, I can try to hide the cables, but no matter what, they're still there. That's just the ugly truth of all computers. I can make taller feet and have the cables run from the underside of the case, but that increases the volume. I can make a recessed area on the top of the case, but then again, that increases the volume and the cables still pretty much come out the top of the case. I can have the cables come out of the sides, but that opens up a whole can of worms as far as design complications go. Perhaps this issue stems from the slim and skinny tower format. It's great in almost every aspect, except for external cable routing. It seems I just can't win in this design scenario. It's aesthetics vs. utility. I value utility more.

The removable cable cover is indeed a good idea, but I can't think of a good way of mounting it to the case. The cover also introduces a new part, which introduces more cost, which is something I'm very conscious about with this project. I want it to be affordable.

I need to sleep.
 
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EdZ

Virtual Realist
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May 11, 2015
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The hole pattern is visually attractive, but I'd be concerned about airflow and noise: the holes themselves are fairly small and not very closely spaced. Not only does this reduce total intake area and increase intake restriction, but fans placed close to the side panels will be louder than with a less restrictive pattern. That may not mesh with the Braun-inspired aesthetic, which heavily used bold and sparse vent holes as a design element rather than closely spaced ones. The only exceptions were in speaker grilles for some HiFi equipment (e.g.), but using a separate mesh&frame would complicate assembly.
 

K888D

SFF Guru
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Feb 23, 2016
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Great case. I like your original organic vent style, it looks really nice and although it offers great airflow potential it doesn't fulfill the secondary function of a vent which is to provide a safety barrier!

The new hole pattern will be more universally accepted if you plan to sell them. In a similar fashion I would imagine the vast majority of people will be offput having the IO ports on top of the case exposed.

You could flip the case 180 and have taller feet so the IO cables are under the case?
 

Aibohphobia

aka James
Gold Supporter
Feb 22, 2015
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I knew that this appearance would be carried into the final version. I was in love with the way it looked.

In the more recent and momentous news, I'm currently talking with Protocase to get the first model made.

I hope you hate money, because getting that vent pattern cut by Protocase will not be cheap :p

The hole pattern is visually attractive, but I'd be concerned about airflow and noise: the holes themselves are fairly small and not very closely spaced.

I agree

And for putting this in a bag regularly, you may want to take another look at the feet. Because they're kind of sharp corners now, which may catch the fabric.
 

Ceros_X

King of Cable Management
Mar 8, 2016
746
655
No, you are good - I totally get you - I understand, if you don't like it move on. That said, before you order a case from Protocase (and pay $2k) I'd at least do a cardboard mockup with all of your cables coming out of the top or a render or something just to verify you're sure it won't be an issue.

For the feet, I've done a crappy MS paint mockup of how I envisioned them - no idea for production feasibility:

 

Kmpkt

Innovation through Miniaturization
KMPKT
Feb 1, 2016
3,380
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Very nice work. I would agree that I/O on the underside of the case would be a welcome change. I fear that you might end up with something like this if you leave it the way it is: