Prototype Mini ITX APU Case - Sub 3.0L - Billet Aluminium

One Works

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While stuck on my design for a billet aluminium case for a Mini ITX board and GPU I decided to work on a design for an APU style case as was suggested in the thread for the other case. As always, keen to get feedback on the design.

Dimensions: 206 x 206 x 68mm
Max Cooler Height: 43mm
Construction: Main case machined from a single piece of 6061-T651 (Or similar)
PSU Support: Designed around HDPlex 200w DC/DC or similar

Edit: Machining of the first Prototype is complete, images below.





Original post continues below.

 
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RenG

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Jul 17, 2016
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I like it. Maybe less vent holes on the top or relocate to the sides? Because of the case orientation, dust might easily fall into the case.
 

One Works

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I think it'd definitely need some form of filter in the top panel with the current design. Looking into options for that at the moment.
 

Goatee

King of Cable Management
Bronze Supporter
Jun 22, 2018
675
1,402
Potentially controversial, could you flip it, have the vents on the bottom?

What’s you view on making the back of the case multi functional?

hdplex make a small passive case the H1, previous versions had a back plate that would support a single PCIE extension slot on a riser sat above a thin ITX board.
 

Rumpkin

Efficiency Noob
Mar 24, 2019
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This looks really cool, I agree with the comments regarding top vents and dust. I like the erring on the side of good ventilation however.

Question: Have you considered a brickless design or is the vision to have the smallest pure APU case possible? Just for me, I would give up a little extra space to ditch the external brick, but again I might be alone there.
 

One Works

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Oct 3, 2019
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Potentially controversial, could you flip it, have the vents on the bottom?

What’s you view on making the back of the case multi functional?

hdplex make a small passive case the H1, previous versions had a back plate that would support a single PCIE extension slot on a riser sat above a thin ITX board.

I had considered flipping it. My first designs when I started looking at machining a case from one piece was to have it intake from the bottom and exhaust out the top in a Surface inspired design style. It would make the intake side much simpler as it wouldn't need to be aesthetically pleasing or a consistent design since it wouldn't normally be visible. In this instance I'd probably have a 120mm opening around where the CPU cooler would be so that a standard fan filter could be used. This should also give a path for airflow, as simply flipping the design in the original post would likely result in hot air getting heavily recirculated. I'll include some images of that concept at the end of this post.

Having it be multifunctional is not something I had considered. With so few thin ITX boards out there I'd be concerned about adding complexity to the overall design to fulfil a very small market.

This looks really cool, I agree with the comments regarding top vents and dust. I like the erring on the side of good ventilation however.

Question: Have you considered a brickless design or is the vision to have the smallest pure APU case possible? Just for me, I would give up a little extra space to ditch the external brick, but again I might be alone there.

Thanks, it looks like there are two ways forward at the moment. Either stick with the original design with multiple holes in the top and add a filter. Or go with something that intakes from the bottom, like the concept at the end of this post.

I prefer fully internal power supplies myself. I did look at it briefly, but it significantly increases the overall size of the case to include something like the HDPlex 200w AC/DC unit internally. LCD monitors seem to have gone full circle, external bricks, to brickless, and now it seems common for them to be back to external bricks. I recently purchased a pair of LG 27" monitors that have external bricks.

Being CNC machined rather than sheet metal construction means that I could produce both options without having to invest too much in tooling. There would be fixtures for machining, but certainly nothing like the costs for forming dies etc.


 

RenG

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Jul 17, 2016
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Though the inverted design seem to make more sense, i kinda leaning towards the first one. Maybe because it somewhat resembles the front of the mac pro? XD
 

One Works

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Though the inverted design seem to make more sense, i kinda leaning towards the first one. Maybe because it somewhat resembles the front of the mac pro? XD

Haha, yeah, when I first showed the concept to a friend he said it looks like an Apple product. Then I had to ask if that was a compliment or an insult ?

I've made some further changes to the design to make it more practical from a machining point of view (although the power button change actually makes it harder) as well as to make the filter a more realistic prospect (placeholder mesh in the design to see how it looks. Also wanting to keep a similar aesthetic between this and my other project and felt I need to differentiate the design of that one a bit further from the Modivio product. Even though the construction method and price point are completely different. I don't want to step on any toes in the community.

 

One Works

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How about sticking with the vandal switch?

Super hard to tell from the basic CAD model, but the original design wasn't actually a vandal switch. It was designed as a piece of machined aluminium to match the case that would engage an Omron microswitch mounted within the case. Basically the same system as the power button on a phone/surface product. I wanted the switch to blend in with the case as much as possible while still having it located on the front rather than the rear as the Mac Mini and others do.

The original button was larger so I had it flush with the outer panel. Reducing the size and changing the shape for this iteration, I also changed it to protrude from the front face by 0.5mm so that it could be pressed without going below the level of the front panel. I never would have imagined that I could spend so much time thinking about a power button ? haha
 

Daniel.f2277

Caliper Novice
Jan 13, 2020
22
11
Interesting looking at the thin sections between holes for the first design, looks like it would create a living hinge, where the grill would wobble around. I would be super curious just to see that shape cut out hahaha
 

One Works

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Interesting looking at the thin sections between holes for the first design, looks like it would create a living hinge, where the grill would wobble around. I would be super curious just to see that shape cut out hahaha

Heeeeeaps of strength! haha

I think it looks worse than it is, the cross section of material between holes is 2 x 4mm at the thinnest point. Just to be sure though I machined a quick dirty trial piece today. Could probably actually get away with less material left between.

 

Napybara

Chassis Packer
Dec 20, 2019
17
10
The original design looks good.
I actually have a pretty similar case 3d printed. Just different placing of the holes and button.

But the second design looks much better to me. That's a sleek one.
 

Daniel.f2277

Caliper Novice
Jan 13, 2020
22
11
Im sure the outer framing is doing a lot for the rigidity, but you're right, you do have quite a bit of meat where I once thought it was pretty thin, and of course more in the second design. So curious to see how it all turns out! Also, out of curiosity, do you have access bead blaster / sand blaster? Case would probably look great with that matte finish.
 

One Works

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? Interesting. Thanks for the feedback everyone. Seems split in terms of preferences between the original concept with multiple holes on the top and the 2nd concept with intake in the bottom. I may have to prototype the 2nd and see if airflow is an issue, that could well kill that concept off ? The exhaust vent is currently modelled up at 2.2mm, since I have a cutter that suits that size. I have a feeling it would need to be larger to be effective, getting tooling to make that possible is easy, but I did look at it briefly in the model and it doesn't look anywhere near as nice once you start increasing that slot size.

Im sure the outer framing is doing a lot for the rigidity, but you're right, you do have quite a bit of meat where I once thought it was pretty thin, and of course more in the second design. So curious to see how it all turns out! Also, out of curiosity, do you have access bead blaster / sand blaster? Case would probably look great with that matte finish.

Glad you mentioned bead/sand blasting, that's exactly the finish I had in mind for it. I don't have the equipment myself at this stage, but do have access to it for prototyping, and will definitely purchase one if I get to production with this project.
 
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One Works

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Finally got some time to work on this design again. I think I'll go ahead with this one and machine up a prototype.

Major changes from last version.

Increased hole size to 16mm
Moved power button to be standard switch on back side of case

 
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RenG

SFF Lingo Aficionado
Jul 17, 2016
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Looks good!

What finish are you considering? If I may, I would like to see a raw finish or sandblasted (like Apple products).
 

One Works

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Looks good!

What finish are you considering? If I may, I would like to see a raw finish or sandblasted (like Apple products).

Sand blasted then anodised is the plan... Now to buy a sand blasting cabinet ?
 

One Works

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Well, the world has certainly changed somewhat since I last looked at this properly. I had material ready to prototype, then it all kicked off. I've been busy since trying to keep everything going in the mad world we live in now.

But, I've finally found 5 minutes to work on this. Unfortunately, I'm a bit stuck again. My HD Plex PSU still hasn't arrived, so I'm currently looking for alternatives that I can get my hands on quicker. It appears as if some of the other options may use a different power plug, which I will have to sort out before I get to machining.

 
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