Modding tools recommendations? (Including cable soldering/sleeving)

zovc

King of Cable Management
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Jan 5, 2017
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Hey!

My Logic Supply MC600 project is starting to get more and more ambitious trying to cram as much as I possibly can into it, but I'm also getting excited that I keep coming up with solutions that allow me to inch further towards fitting a GTX 1070, an i7 (or an R7, depending on how those ITX boards turn out), the works, and an AC-DC adapter in the case to remove the need for an external power brick!

With some help from @Kmpkt, I've been pointed to the Artesyn CPS250-M series 250W AC-DC power supply. So far, this power supply looks like it will have the right amount of Watt headroom for my system and I'm willing to undervolt my parts a little to make sure things are stable. It's 2" * 4" (by about 1.3"), and after building a custom front panel for my case, I should have pretty much exactly enough space in a cavity near my GPU. If I have to, removing or modding the GPU's shroud can earn me an etra ~1/4" of clearance, and modding the CPU cooler (just fins) could get me another ~1/4".

Once I've got AC power coming into my case and turned into 24v DC, I'm planning to send it to a HDPLEX 300W DC-ATX to distribute my power to my computer. Most folks around here seem to trust HDPLEX and its components, this system should always stay under the 300W rating anyways. I should, again, have enough room for this power supply in my custom front panel.

I am not an electrician, but this stuff is looking straightforward "enough." There are technical documentations for the Artesyn AC-DC PSU and it's very helpful and clear about which pins are what, and it looks like they use standardized connectors to make it harder to mess things up.

Here are some questions regarding the power supply:
  • Is there anywhere I can shop for connectors that will match up with this board? The weirdest one, apparently, is the 2-pin fan header.
  • Do you have any suggestions for the kind of power cable I use with this PSU?
  • Will I save any appreciable amount of space using low-profile modular PSU cables? I was pointed to these, I don't know if there are others that maybe more flexible or have 90-degree bends or whatever else. Will cables like that be any harder to re-wire, sleeve, or dye?
  • The enclosure Artesyn sells is 3" by 5" and is too big for my case. The case I'm visualizing in my head would fit the power supply pretty snugly and only cover up the parts that 'need' to be covered--could anyone help me figure out what parts need to be covered? I was planning on building this enclosure out of ~1/16" thick wood and having it be used as only a cover rather than any form of structure. I'm hoping to leave an opening for the GPU's airflow (the majority of air will come out of the 'back of the card, onto the PSU) to help with circulation around the PSU), but could try to find a way to mount a dedicated fan for the PSU too. Even a 40mm fan will be pretty big for the amount of space I'm working with, though.
I've been trying to play this close to the chest for surprise factor, but I'm hoping to make the custom front panel out of natural hardwood. I have enough woodworking experience myself to at least visualize the process of making the part, and I have friends/my dad who are handy and can probably help me hands-on if I happen to need it. I might also be able to borrow tools from them, it's just cumbersome and difficult to coordinate that sometimes.

In the MC600, the front panel is more or less "just for show," it probably goes to help with the structure of the case when attached, but without the front panel (or top panel) on, the case is already pretty much just a steel frame. I'm going to use the original front panel that came with the case to lay out the outline of my new front panel, but adding a new 'cavity' of 3/4" wood that will give me the room I need for the Artesyn AC-DC power supply on one side of the front panel and enough room for the HDPLEX DC-ATX on the other. From there, I'm going to figure out how I can fit USB ports, front panel I/O, and a power button around those two devices and make room for that too.

Here are some questions about the front panel:
  • Can a dremel be used to cut 3/4" hardwood? What about ~1/16" (or 1/8") Hardwood?
  • If the dremel won't work, will a coping saw work? I don't think I can get access to a router and Home Depot doesn't seem to rent them out.
  • Are there any foreseeable issues with mounting power supplies (AC-DC and DC-ATX) to hardwood? What if it's mounted against a foil-tape backing on hardwood?
  • Any recommended solutions for front panel USB, I/O, or power buttons? PCBs you like, or whatever else.
  • I thought of a pretty cool power button idea today. Are there pre-made power switches that have 'everything' assembled besides the 'face' of the button itself? Preferably one with an LED inside of it.
  • Do you have a recommended trick for getting screws through the holes of my front panel that will be able to catch with the threads on the MC600? I'm afraid if I use a threaded insert on the hardwood, the screw's threads won't line up with the threads on the MC600 on the other side and the panel will have gaps in it. I'm also worried that if the screw doesn't thread into the 3/4" piece of wood its passing through, the front panel will wobble around.
The power supply and the front panel will be the biggest mods. I also need to:
  • Cut fan holes in the case. The CPU and GPU will both be taking air in from the top of the case. I'm going to cut a circular hole above the CPU that matches up to the fan's size (currently a 90mm fan, but I might try to squeeze a 120mm or 140mm fan in there. The GPU, I'm hoping to cut a 'flattened oval' shape over its two fans.
  • Trim the frame of the front panel. The gap between the top and bottom of the front panel are just barely too small to allow the PSUs to fit. I am going to use my dremel to take off enough material for the PSUs to mount in the cavities I'm adding to the front panel and clear the frame of the front of the case.
So, all of that said, I currently only have access to a very cheap dremel from a big-box hardware store and the most basic IT-person hand tools. At work we have a soldering iron I could get access to and we also have a vise and a tiny drill press. I'm probably able to borrow a cordless drill, too.

Pretty much everything else, I'd need to buy, borrow, or rent. I'm not opposed to getting my own tools, it's just a large up-front expense, and it's possible I won't necessarily have another use for many tools. I do technically have a shed area in the back of my current place that I could store some tools, though.

My biggest concern about doing custom wiring is that I'm not good at stripping wires by hand with pliers. I've never soldered anything before, and having one of those stands with flexible arms and clips seems like a real blessing for holding stuff together while adding solder.

I'm also in the market for bright neutral white (4000K) head lamps or desk lamps that could double for lighting if I'm doing any sort of photography.

Thanks in advance. Sorry if this is a cluttered post, this project has quickly gotten out of hand--as projects tend to!
 

CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
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Nov 1, 2015
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To answer your PSU questions, when working with electronics hands-on, datasheets are gonna be your best friends. You can see from the CPS250-M datasheet in the pin assignments section exactly what kind of connectors you'll need. Usually you'll be able to pick them all up from one place like Mouser electronics or Digikey.

A common power cable with a C14 3-prong connector would be good enough for 250W. I'm not exactly sure if C8 (clover leaf style) would also suffice, someone else will have to correct me on that. When I made a custom extension for a SFX power supply, I needed to splice a power cable and wire up the three inner wires with the 3 leads. Make sure you get this step right, since that's where the mains voltage comes it. It's a huge safety risk if you don't.

From your post, I'm not exactly sure where you're going to use the low-profile 6-pin cable. Is it just for the GPU or are you planning to retrofit it for the 24V DC connector?

As for your DIY questions I can safely say, you could cut hardwood with a Dremel but for 3/4" that's gonna take a while. Dremels work best for small details. I'd just go simpler and use a coping saw or hacksaw. Drill a couple of holes first to guide the saw inside to cut the cavity.

I don't own this case personally, but @Runamok81 made his Little Mac build in it so he'd know more about making cuts into this case. I believe he used a big hole saw for the fan holes.
 
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zovc

King of Cable Management
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Jan 5, 2017
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Thanks, I bought the power supply from Arrow, they had free shipping and the total ended up around what it would have been from other places that had lower prices but not free shipping. I'll have to look at those vendors and see if they have the connectors mentioned in the datasheet. Is there a specialized tool for terminating my wires into those connectors?

I was hoping there was a way to use low-profile connectors going into my HDPLEX 300W DC-ATX. Possibly into my motherboard's 24-pin connector, too.

A coping saw shouldn't be hard to get my hands on. I'm not confident in my skill/precision with one but for the main cavities it should suffice. I would probably trust a dremel more for cutting something like slots for a power buton or USB ports.
 
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Phuncz

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Ordered the QuadHands, even though it's not made available in Europe (eBay !). Thanks for the tip, I was looking for a good helping-hands !
Amazing video yet again !
 
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zovc

King of Cable Management
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Jan 5, 2017
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Hi zovc. I decided to answer your post in video form. Just 'cause:


Bulgin switch video I reference.

Modding video I reference.

Fun fact, I actually use a dremel in that video with the flap disk. I was desperate OK... XD

Thanks a lot Josh! I'll definitely look into the stuff you reommended, that harbor freight angle grinder sounds like pretty good value.

We actually have a plug-in drill (I think it's a Dewalt) at work it's just so high-torque and sensitive that I tend to avoid using it... I may have punched myself in the face once or twice. (Safety first!) For using on such a small piece made of thin steel like the MC600 I'm honestly afraid I'd obliterate it with the plug-in drill we have, I think it would throw the panel as soon as the circular saw bit into it. Maybe that vise could save the day?

Regarding the woodworking: That cutout you use for reference on the S4 Mini is pretty close to what I'm trying to cut out on the hardwood. Basically, a rectangular hole for me to put the each of the power supplies in. Based on what you had to say, I think a coping saw should get the job done--I drill a hole in each corner and just try to make a straight line between all of them and pop the rest of the material out. I'm kind of thinking of the job as a "2D milling operation" as you describe it, but ultimately I just need rough holes for the parts to fit into--they won't be visible and they don't need to look great or be very precise.

I would like for any holes on the 'veneer' covering piece to be nice and neat though, like holes for the power supply or USB ports or maybe even audio I/O. For that stuff I feel like I could get cleaner/straighter cuts with a dremel (or an angle grinder?) than I could trying to hand saw a straight line? It'd just be ~1/16" to ~1/8" wood, which I've found a few pretty cheap sources but I'm still trying to decide on the species of wood.

Foil Backing Tape: This was a recommendation from Hans at Logic Supply (@breakfast), I mentioned to them that I was considering using hardwood as the face plate on the case. Hans suggested that foil tape would help block out any EMI, since I'll be using a PCIe riser cable. I don't know if it's necessary and I'm trying to make sure I select a riser cable with shielding (I'm eyeing the HDPLEX cable you sell, I know!), but the foil tape did seem like a good suggestion... before I was trying to mount power supplies to my wooden front panel.

I'm sorry you have the experience to confirm that threaded inserts were a pain to work with! XD I think you're right that the screws simply passing through (and pressing down into) the wood will be good enough to hold the panel in place. It will be at six different points! The countersink you described is painting a pretty nice picture in my head, I'll probably go with that.

I'm glad you told me not to use a hole saw with a drill press, I probably would have done that.

Wiring: For now I'll probably jump for an 'automatic' wire stripper, but those diagonal cutters do look quality. They'll end up on my shopping list evenetually! I'll watch your video on switch making after I run some errands today. On my shopping list right now are those quad hands!

Lighting: I guess the marketing got me! Haha. Most places (including Home Depot/Lowes, but most of my shopping has been done on Amazon which I'm sure is dubious) seem to call ~4000K "natural daylight" or "neutral white" or something to that effect, so I went with it. That said, compared to the 2700K lights I was using before is literally "like night and day!" I was using my computer at midnight or later with those "soft white" lights and the contrast was murdering my eyes. Maybe I'm just used to the 2700K by now, but this 4000K looks white to me, what's more, most vendors start referring to 5000-6000K+ as "cool" variants of white... So I probably have had one pulled over me.

I don't necessarily need 'professional' lighting, and it's probably not worth the expense of 'professional' lights. I just am considering taking pictures or shooting video of computer hardware I get and don't want things to have a gross yellow tone to them. I'm imagining (though it could just be naivety) that decent-to-good 'residential' lighting with a lamp here or there to ssoften out shadows should be good enough for how 'casual' my photography is going to be. I don't mean to argue against the importance of lighting, I just am paying out of pocket for a non-professional setup! Anyways, I'm sure the rest of your equipment is quality, but when you turned on the (ceiling/room) lights, those seem 'good enough' for what I'm doing if I also have a desk lamp and maybe a third lamp opposite of it. Obviously your fancy lights look better, though! Regarding that flash, maybe I'll get one as a gift for my friend with a decent camera so that I can borrow it from time to time. :p

You mention 'work lights,' if those are sort of like 'value' continuous photography lights, they would possibly be a good compromise between making my monitors easy to look at, making it easy to work on things in my office, and making my photography look better than if I didn't have nicer lights!

Thanks so much (again), Josh. I'll spend some time this evening going through your videos, but for now I have to take care of chores I was supposed to do yesterday!
 
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zovc

King of Cable Management
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Jan 5, 2017
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Ok, I'm putting this here partially for my own reference, partially for anyone else's reference, but also primarily for you folks to double-check me.

I looked this stuff up using the datasheet:
  • AC-in connector: 3-pin Molex "09-50-8031" connector, I found them here via Google. AWG 20-18.
  • DC-out connector: 6-pin Molex "09-50-8061" connector, I found them here via Google. AWG 20-18.
  • Fan header: "Cvilux CI0102S0000 housing," I can't find this anywhere. AWG 30-24.
Now, I'm like 99.9% sure those two Molex connectors are the ones I need. I don't know how I'm supposed to terminate/crimp wires into those, though. Do I need a special tool?
 
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zovc

King of Cable Management
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Jan 5, 2017
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Thanks! Just looking at that stuff I'm not sure how to use it, my best guess is I put the wire into the pin, then slide it into the connector and crimp it? I'll try to look up a video.

Edit: I found one. Not too intimidating. I think I can figure it out!
 

zovc

King of Cable Management
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Jan 5, 2017
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Re: Shorter connectors going into my HDPLEX DC-ATX and motherboard/GPU.

I see Molex has a few different standards (Micro-Fit, Mini-Fit Jr., Nano-Fit, and Ultra-Fit) with Nano-Fit having a pitch of only 2.5mm (and a current rating of 6.5A)... Do these interface with one-another, or would I have to re-solder the connectors on my HDPLEX (and motherboard) to use shorter connectors? If I need to do that... it's probably not worth the risk of breaking things.

Or, are there other places I can find connectors compatible with the headers on my HDPLEX, motherboard, and GPU that would be shorter than the cables provided with these parts? Also, sourcing these parts for the sake of color coordination would be cool.
 

jottwehh

Bonobo
Mar 19, 2016
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Hi zovc. I decided to answer your post in video form. Just 'cause:


Bulgin switch video I reference.

Modding video I reference.

Fun fact, I actually use a dremel in that video with the flap disk. I was desperate OK... XD



@Josh | NFC you already got it?! Did I missed your testing on it, or are you still testing it in your
indispensable vice?!
 

EdZ

Virtual Realist
Gold Supporter
May 11, 2015
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Ordered the QuadHands, even though it's not made available in Europe (eBay !). Thanks for the tip, I was looking for a good helping-hands !
Amazing video yet again !
Where did you order it from? The Quadhands looks a darn sight better than the normal flimsy helping-hands.
 

Josh | NFC

Not From Concentrate
NFC Systems
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@Josh | NFC you already got it?! Did I missed your testing on it, or are you still testing it in your
indispensable vice?!

I got it, going to take it apart, and no, I'm not sending it back. I feel bad because James is a good dude but it is his fault for trusting me with his epic creations.

Where did you order it from? The Quadhands looks a darn sight better than the normal flimsy helping-hands.

Amazon.com

And as someone who has purchased more than my fair share of helping hands, I can tell you they are a breath of fresh air. Totally happy with them.
 
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zovc

King of Cable Management
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Jan 5, 2017
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So I noticed something that's maybe dangerous?

I ordered the CPS255-M (24 V @ 10.42 A) which, so far as I can tell, outputs 24V. (Going to look into that a little more.)

The HDPLEX 300W connects to DC power with 3 19V pins.

Am I going to blow my new desk up?

Edit: The answer is no! The HDPLEX 300W DC-ATX takes anywhere from 16V to 24V within its specifications and I should be safe.

Also, I may have caught wind that the HDPLEX 300W AC-DC (internal) brick might be launching in about a week.
 
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zovc

King of Cable Management
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Jan 5, 2017
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So I was looking on McMaster Carr--and I have no idea what I'm doing here--and I noticed they have wires with 'extra functionality' like ultra-flexible wire, tangle-free wire, space-saver wire, among a few other types.

Is there any reason to consider those kinds of wire (given the right gage) over whatever I can find locally? If maybe I need to make weird or tight turns, would the flexibility help an appreciable amount?

If I'm going to be sleeving these cables, will those tweaks even matter anymore?
 
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