Stalled Mini LP - general-purpose case for low profile cards

CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
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Project is stalled for now, but not completely dead. I'd like to focus on my other case for now and take what I know and apply similar approach
to making this type of case in the future.


The experience I have gotten from prototyping another case has inspired me to bring this one back, and see it fully through to completion.

MINI LP - A Multipurpose Case for Low Profile Cards

Side interior-exterior view of the current design. The new materials will use acrylic and 3D printing.



Interior view with complete parts layout



Last update: New renders of the 3D-printed case design

I've looked at the compactness of other cases and like how there seems to be a downward progression in size (Dan A4, LZ7, Hutzy XS, STX 160.0). Lone Industries makes nice low-profile cases and so I've decided to go that less traveled route instead of trying to pack the most powerful graphics cards possible into a small space. Segotep's Desert Eagle II gets a nod from me as well.

"Mini LP" is a tentative name for my case and build. It will probably change later. It's designed primarily for low-profile cards, in combination with a Steam Machine-like layout to make the case truly slim and compact. It's been in my head for a while, but with the unfortunate circumstances regarding my last build attempt, I'm deciding to take this opportunity to change direction and make this case.

Posts #2 to #34 are on development of the old design, just left for reference

Internal layout- case top with components installed

*NOTE* no longer using this aluminum shell design, but the internal layout is pretty much set in.



Isometric view - case top w/integrated PSU



Isometric view - components installed



Oh, and also, the case top is inverted! Which means the motherboard is flipped upside down when the bottom cover is attached to it. Simpler case design now, will have some exposed screws but it will greatly improve the flexibility of the case and its construction.

Specifications
  • Expansion card support: low-profile cards, 200mm max length
  • Motherboard support: Mini-ITX
  • Expansion slots: up to two for dual-slot GPUs
  • Storage: 2x 2.5" HDD/SSD
  • Outer case dimensions: 257mm x 62mm x 210mm (3.34 liters)
  • Front I/O: possible 2x USB 3.0
  • DC Power: PicoPSU, HDPLEX, G-Unique or similar direct-plug DC board
  • AC Power: external adapter or Mean Well EPP 150-200W PSU [2]
  • Designed for low power (< 200W) builds
I also don't know if many SFF enthusiasts would want to see yet another low-profile case on the market, but before I can even get to that I'd have to figure out what my process for producing them will be.

Footnotes
  • 9mm max thickness. Situated directly behind/above the expansion card.
  • External power jack is installed between the expansion card and motherboard. This can either be for external power adapters with barrel style plugs, or a three-prong IEC C8 connector as used with the Mean Well EPP series PSUs (200W recommended). The case layout is optimized for those PSUs.
 
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CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
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That sucks. Maybe now would be a good opportunity to try something like Onshape?

Actually, I'm considering FreeCAD for the moment. Onshape looks good but looks like it requires a constant fast connection for it to work well, and I don't have that at home right now.

Also just bought a used 500GB laptop drive for $20 so that should help start the build. It's about 18 months old. I'm also waiting on a R7 240 to arrive. It's just for light gaming, so it should be interesting to see what's the ideal performance for different games on this card.
 

Aibohphobia

aka James
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Feb 22, 2015
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constant fast connection

Constant yes, fast no. It will work on even a 0.5Mb/s connection if you're willing to put up with a bit of lag, but if your internet is flaky then yeah, it's not a good solution.

FreeCAD looks good though, having a proper solid modeling program you know how to use is helpful if you ever want to get something manufactured by a sheet metal shop.
 

Hahutzy

Airflow Optimizer
Sep 9, 2015
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When my old HDD got thrashed it took Sketchup (and my Sketchup files) along with it :eek:

:( Damn that sucks.. Back up the stuff, whether it's on the cloud or (preferably) on a physical drive.
The time spent doing it pays for itself compared to amount of time/stress that comes with redrawing designs.
 
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Shrink Way Wielder
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Got my next piece of the puzzle for the build, a XFX R7 240, bought used. I usually don't get cards this low-end but I'm trying to stay conservative with my budget, and just to try out how a low profile card will fit in the case...



...but it didn't come included with the low profile bracket. Hmm. I'll have to go look for one myself or contact XFX support to see if they can provide me one.
 

Kmpkt

Innovation through Miniaturization
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In case you missed it, Galax just released a
75W GTX 950 Low Profile which is an awesome little card.
 

CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
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In case you missed it, Galax just released a
75W GTX 950 Low Profile which is an awesome little card.

I've seen it on their US site before, but still haven't seen any local retailers stock it yet. Kind of annoying when they announce them but retailers take a while to pick it up and without a launch date :(

Wasn't expect anything amazing from the R7 240, and I didn't. The Valley benchmark I scored an even 720 with all low settings at 720p. The small fan has a noticeable whine in its default speed, but when set to 0% using Crimson, you can barely hear it, and it stays around 33C idle, and below 60C under load. I'm not gonna reinstall any games until I receive my additional hard drive.
 

Kmpkt

Innovation through Miniaturization
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Galax doesn't do retailers. You have to order directly from their online shop
 

CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
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Galax doesn't do retailers. You have to order directly from their online shop

Gonna have to wait till it shows up on their store then. For now, the 750 Ti is still my best option. I might get it when my next check comes around.

----

For now I'll leave you guys with a rough idea of what I'm planning.

 
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Shrink Way Wielder
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Wonder if any of those stores would be able to ship to the US. I'll have to look thoroughly. I've imported a lot of stuff from the UK and it's wasn't too bad in costs, but then again it was mostly vinyl records :p

On the case design I'm thinking of re-arranging some of the layout and changing the dimensions. Think of something like the S4 Mini, but exclusively for low profile cards.
 

CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
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Here's the layout for my new design. It's pretty different from my old one, but I think the parts here make more sense and in a smaller profile. Some people here might find the layout familiar.


I'm not gonna use T-slot extrusions anymore- they would add too much bulk to this new design. But I already have it planned out in my head how to make a prototype of the case fairly easily.

Edit: gonna update the first post with more general specs now.
 
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Shrink Way Wielder
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It's hard to tell from that pic, is there a DC-DC unit in there somewhere?

Yes there is, but it's not possible to view from the angle shown in that picture. The mockup uses a GPU that is actually too long for it (it's the first Sketchup model of a LP card I could find), but with most cards that don't extend past 180mm you can fit a 160W HD-PLEX unit in the front bottom, if the top is occupied by an internal AC-DC. If using an external power brick, you can fit a 160W or 250W DC-DC unit just about anywhere in the front.

There are several combinations that are possible in terms of power options, but I can't list them all right now. But like the S4 Mini you'll have more room and flexibility by going with a Pico PSU. (Has anyone tried connecting a Pico to one of the HD-PLEX internal AC-DC adapters? That would be interesting to see)
 

Aibohphobia

aka James
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Ah, gotcha.

Has anyone tried connecting a Pico to one of the HD-PLEX internal AC-DC adapters? That would be interesting to see

The HDPLEX AC-DC is 19V so the 160-XT that everyone uses won't work since it takes 12V input. The 120WI-25V can take 12-25V input but it can only do 6A on the 12V output so not very useful for anything with a video card.
 

CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
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Ah, gotcha.

The HDPLEX AC-DC is 19V so the 160-XT that everyone uses won't work since it takes 12V input. The 120WI-25V can take 12-25V input but it can only do 6A on the 12V output so not very useful for anything with a video card.

Ooops, forgot about their main differences in voltage input. Guess that won't be really possible then. I do remember going for the HDPLEX because I wanted more options to choose in 19.5V power adapters.
 

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Shrink Way Wielder
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Well, I'm about to pull the trigger on buying the sheet aluminum for the outer frame. I found a local supplier in my region that has more affordable prices when you factor in shipping, and they cut custom lengths, too. Better prices than the usual nationwide vendors and the stuff I find on eBay.

I'm looking to make the prototype with as few parts as possible. First, a aluminum bar with a 1/8" x 1 1/2" profile for the motherboard support plus a few other components, the aforementioned outer frame with cutouts for cards and I/O, and it will be enclosed by two transparent acrylic sheets so you can see the parts inside plus it's easier to cut the venting holes with.
 

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Shrink Way Wielder
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Here's my ghetto bench rig as it stands, which is just sitting on top of an acrylic sheet with standoffs. But this is how I'll lay out the main components.



It shows the Scythe Kozuti which I've used as the baseline for cooler compatibility of the case (40mm height maximum) and with my Samsung wonder DIMMs looking really good. And there's room for normal height DIMMs with this cooler too- you just gotta slide in the innermost one carefully.

A slight refresh of the case design puts the power switch at the angled top side, which lets me move up the internal PSU a cm or so. Aluminum L-profiles attach the sides to the top and bottom as well as keeping the motherboard tray in place.



Accommodating the thickness of the outer walls, exterior dimensions of the case will be 220mm x 280mm x 63.5 mm. It's just about as slim as the S4 Mini.

Next purchase will be a better graphics card. A 750 Ti would be the best bet. Although a low profile 950 is something I would really like to have, it's out of my budget for now, assuming it's gonna be close to twice the cost of a 750 Ti when all's said and done about shipping it to the States.