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

FX_Project

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Dec 13, 2017
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MINI LP - A Multipurpose Case for Low Profile Cards



Last update: Pics of the prototype case frame in progress
Posts #2 to #34 are on development of the old design, just left for reference


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.

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, 184mm max length
  • Motherboard support: Mini ITX
  • Expansion slots: up to two for dual-slot GPUs
  • Storage: 2x 2.5" HDD/SSD
  • Outer case dimensions: 292mm x 55.6mm x 190mm (~3 liters)
  • Front I/O: possible 2x USB 3.0
  • DC Power: Pico-PSU 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
  • 7mm 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.
What did you use to design this views? thanks... g!
 
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CC Ricers

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Building on the momentum from my other case prototype, I've decided to revive this project. It's similar to the other MiniPC case but I feel it still stands out carrying the spirit of this project. It will now be built with acrylic and 3D printed material, rather than metal. I'm finding that I can carry out my designs better through that.

Edit: just a rough overview of the differerent parts of the case and inside layout. A lot of the exterior is carried over from my other case, but still need to make tweaks to the rear I/O panel and screw mounts for the motherboard and SSD tray.

 
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CC Ricers

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I'm still in the progress of making the design for this case, though it's the rear IO that's really taking me the most time :p I'm thinking that the rear is almost entirely going to be 3D printed, with just one small acrylic panel. The other sides are going to be mainly acrylic with the 3D printed skeleton all around.

EDIT: It's mostly due to trying to balance a good design while being cost-effective. I'm learning a lot on how to design around constraints like this, with having to balance both the amount 3D printed material and space used, and complexity of laser cuts.

I'd love to get this one built for my main build though it'll be very costly for just one case. I could distribute the costs more easily if I could make 2 or 4 cases- that is, with interested buyers.
 
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CC Ricers

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Case design update, and here's a new render for you to enjoy. The case is now narrower from front to back by about 12mm, shorter in length by 6mm, and the power button has been moved from the far right side to an off-center location between the motherboard and GPU area. It wouldn't have fit in the right side in this shorter case if you were to use a HDPLEX DC power supply. Also, the hard drive mounts are almost finalized in design.



There are other new features that are not pictured here.

You can mount two 80mm slim case fans in the bottom slot area for the GPU. This is helpful for single slot cards or replacing the stock cooler of dual slot cards, if the stock fans are considered too noisy.

Also, the bottom panel is now two separate pieces, and each can be individually removed by the user. This makes it easier to mount the 80mm fans, and to get underneath the motherboard to mount a CPU cooler bracket, or add m.2 hard drives.
 
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CC Ricers

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I whipped up a couple more renders last night. This time you get to see what different color combinations of the case look like (black, white, red) Initially I plan to release two versions only, in black and in white. There's also a test for a red frame color, just to see what it looks like, but it's not as easy to make for this color. All cases will have a gloss black front bezel for all the colors, the rest of the panels will be matte.


These cases will be built-to-order, but also in small batches. For an initial batch of 5 cases, I'll probably do 3 cases in black, and 2 in white.
 
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Windfall

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I am currently working on something similar, Using STX and half-height cards. This provided so very valuable info to me, and I found these MeanWell PSU, which are another good option.
 
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SumGhai

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Great to see this project with a renewed direction! I've been more and more thinking about working with printed parts as well, and watching your Thin-X project and seeing this has renewed my interest in making a case.

How are you handling the motherboard standoffs? Are they just threaded into your 3d printed parts or is there some way of attaching the standoff to the frame?
 

CC Ricers

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Great to see this project with a renewed direction! I've been more and more thinking about working with printed parts as well, and watching your Thin-X project and seeing this has renewed my interest in making a case.

How are you handling the motherboard standoffs? Are they just threaded into your 3d printed parts or is there some way of attaching the standoff to the frame?

Thanks, I'm still garnering more interest for this project. I'm working on the Thin-X at the same time- it's going to be simply a shortened version of this case so as to make it simpler to produce the parts for both cases.

The first prototype has the two standoffs on the back within the 3d printed parts, but the next one will have all four standoffs as part of them. That way it'll be possible to remove the bottom panel and install a CPU cooler or m.2 drive from the bottom without removing the entire motherboard.
 

CC Ricers

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What will be the Max high for the cpu cooler ?

It should be around 41mm in height, maybe 42. With my other case being made, I should know for sure because they are the same in height.
 

CC Ricers

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So I haven't updated this thread in a while.

Here are some things I have found out with this project. First, my experience with 3D printed parts suggests that making a case using the most recent design makes it cost-prohibitive with the amount of material needed to print the frame, given its size. As I'm using a third party service to print the parts, it's difficult to sell at a good price since you're paying for time spent in printing.

Also, I prefer going back to the more rectangular look of my old prototype (see here). After seeing some of the other ideas thrown around for custom mini STX cases, I still like its simplistic look and feel it suits this kind of build better. It still won't be made of metal, but exclusively acrylic, or at least with very minimal additional material. This would help keep the costs low.

The final design therefore will look more like the monolith tower style previously posted, just with changes in material and vent styles.

The case components selection may be cut down a bit for size constraints but it should still be good enough for many people.
 

Thehack

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I would think it is possible if you own the means to 3D print yourself.

Like you said, the material cost of a 3D printed part is not high. It's the machine time that is high. A small panel can take half a day to a full day.

I would say though, there's almost no money in manufacturing/designing a case. If anything, compared to doing a continuation of our day job, we'd be losing money due to opportunity cost. I do mostly for the challenge and fun so it keeps me going.

My previous acrylic project I worked on, I tried really hard to have 2 panels 3d printed, and then the remaining 4 panels laser cut. I think it is still very possible to fit in on a single acrylic 15x15 sheet. Thread here. If you are able to fit it on a regular 15x15 sheet, it makes small orders and rev. very cost effective. I may revisit in the future.
 

CC Ricers

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I'd be happy if I just break even with the costs. For me I too like mostly building and modding things and for now I'm experimenting with what designs can I get off paper (since I don't have the time to do that with all of them :p)

I remember that other case project you had, and did like the resemblance to an S3 Mini. I'm working with similar size constraints for acrylic. Working with one material instead of two makes planning and production a lot easier too.
 
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CC Ricers

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I've settled on a design that is a based on a specific method of joining the panels, which I find is adaptable to different variations of case sizes with similarities in the layouts. It will incorporate a "wind tunnel" style of ventilation where case fans can be used to push cool air or pull hot air away from a CPU heatsink. Also, it may be possible to get them cut from aluminum, so aluminum cases are not out of the question :)
 
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cleveland

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I've settled on a design that is a based on a specific method of joining the panels, which I find is adaptable to different variations of case sizes with similarities in the layouts. It will incorporate a "wind tunnel" style of ventilation where case fans can be used to push cool air or pull hot air away from a CPU heatsink. Also, it may be possible to get them cut from aluminum, so aluminum cases are not out of the question :)
Hey, @CC Ricers, I'm watching this thread since the very beginning and would love to know if it's going ahead to production or it's officially staled.
 

CC Ricers

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Hey, @CC Ricers, I'm watching this thread since the very beginning and would love to know if it's going ahead to production or it's officially staled.
I should update this to stalled indefinitely. For a metal case there's not much I can do at the moment. And I think @Thehack 's Pure MK2 can cover that niche for metal cases now. I might pursue another type of console case in the future, though, that is plastic and similar styling to my more recent project the MT5 case.