Concept Modular and Watercooling friendly SFF cases...

royalba94

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Hello everyone!

I'm working on a couple case ideas I have but today I thought I'd share my ideas regarding my Micro ATX version of the case.

The Backstory:
This all started when I was trying to come up with a way to mod an S4 Mini to accept watercooling. I started off with designing an ITX-based case (and am still working on two versions of that one [One with an SFX PSU and the other is a DC-ATX system]) but then I noticed the real lack of good mATX cases and started designing essentially the same case only for that form factor. Since mATX and ATX is very similar in footprint (same width, only taller [excepting the informal eATX and formal EATX boards ofc]) I am now working on the ATX version and then the mATX and mini-ITX versions will essentially will be smaller versions of the case.

The main idea behind this case (as I see it currently) is to have close to top tier Tower Case options like dual 360mm radiators and Full-length GPUs but in a smaller form factor than your typical tower case. Good use cases I could see for a case like this would be a smaller form factor gaming/capture rig, a HTPC build with lots of storage, etc.

The Design:
This is were I will be posting the images of my most current design iteration. The old versions will be kept in spoilers at the bottom of the post.

Exterior dimensions are about 405mm x 310mm x 215mm without any side panels

The Specs so far:
These are the compatibility specs for the case in it's current design iteration. Please take a moment and expand the spoiler. I'd list them not in a spoiler but I don't to make this first post terribly long since the list is fairly extensive.
Planned radiator support (max no. of the rad size listed, not all can be accommodated at once):
  • 2x 360mm (triple 120mm) radiators (25mm thickness for Push/Pull support, push or pull only thickness up to 50mm with 25mm thick fans)
  • 2x 240mm (dual 120mm) radiators (25mm thickness for Push/Pull support, push or pull only thickness up to 50mm with 25mm thick fans)
  • 4x 120mm radiators (not recommended but possible with effort) (25mm thickness for Push/Pull support, push or pull only thickness up to 50mm with 25mm thick fans)
  • 2x 280mm (dual 140mm) radiators (25mm thickness for Push/Pull support, push or pull only thickness up to 50mm with 25mm thick fans)
  • 4x 140mm radiators (not recommended but possible with effort) (25mm thickness for Push/Pull support, push or pull only thickness up to 50mm with 25mm thick fans)
  • 1x 360mm (dual 180mm) radiator (thickness up to 40mm with 35mm thick fans, no Push/Pull support)
  • 1x 180mm radiator (thickness up to 40mm with 35mm thick fans, no Push/Pull support)
Possible radiator support:
  • dual 92mm
  • single 200mm
PCIe card support:
  • 2x Standard height two slot GPUs (up to 300mm long)
  • 4x Standard height single slot GPUs (up to 300mm long)
  • 1x 3x half-height add-in card (215mm max length)
  • NOTE: Taller than normal cards likely will fit (have yet to verify extra height plus the waterblock ports)
PSU support:
  • SFX
  • SFX-L
  • Currently a Flex ATX PSU, looking for other ideas
Storage Support:
  • up to 8x 10x 3.5in Hard drives with very limited no Radiator support
  • up to about as many SSDs as you could want (haven't finalized what will be the officially supported number, with special brackets and no rads it's ludicrous tho)
Top Fan support:
  • 4x 60mm
  • 3x 80mm
  • 2x 92mm or 120mm
Watercooling Pump support:
  • DDC pump
  • D5 Pump
AIO Support:
  • Should be possible to install an AIO for the CPU and probably even the GPU(s?), haven't yet verified

Feedback/advice I'm hoping for:
  • Thoughts on the general layout and idea
  • Different PSU options (don't like the idea of a non-modular bare metal PSU on display)
  • Anyone like the idea? :)
Updates will keep coming as needed

Thanks so much for looking!!


Old versions:
Original Post:

This case essentially is made functional by what will be an acrylic side panel with the Watercooling paths cut into it. this pic is from an earlier mockup of the Mini ITX version but should help give you the idea:

Exterior dimensions of everything is 400mm x ~300mm x ~170mm (with acrylic panel)

Post update 1:

Exterior dimensions of everything is currently 405mm x ~300mm x ~210mm (with acrylic panel)
 
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Aibohphobia

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If you ditch the upper 2x 3.5" drives and add about 25mm more depth you could fit SFX/SFX-L there instead.

And you'll need more space above the FlexATX for the power cable.
 
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royalba94

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If you ditch the upper 2x 3.5" drives and add about 25mm more depth you could fit SFX/SFX-L there instead.

And you'll need more space above the FlexATX for the power cable.
Two very good points. Thanks!

1. I was/am trying to keep that back section available for plenty of modularity options like all radiators (dual 360, dual 240, a dual 180[that's what is shown]), all storage (up to 10 3.5in drives, no idea how many 2.5in drives lol), or most importantly hybrid options (like a 360 + 240 + 2x 3.5in drives). So it seems I'm still stuck with a Flex ATX unless I figure out another option or give up on that modularity.

2. Would you happen to know how much space I would need? Right now there is about 15mm between the PSU and the top fans. If I'd need more than about 20mm then I guess I'll have to cut into the top fan options since I'll still need space for the GPU connectors (which doesn't have enough space in that version anyway imo).

P.S. I'm gonna edit the OP and post up another version with an ATX mobo instead + with a little bit larger depth dimensions + more thoughts

EDIT: OP updated :)
 
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jmsantos1983

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Too crazy. Like what you going for, but too crazy looking. Can you make it simple? Is there a way you could make it fan based with optional water cooling add on? Folks this days want something compact, simple, attractive and with not too many options. Thinking of something new is hard.
Regarding the PSU, have you considered looking into the G-Unique?
Motherboard, ITX?
Slim fans?
Something that uses only the smallest components in the market with many options and addons?
 
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Biowarejak

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Too crazy. Like what you going for, but too crazy looking. Can you make it simple? Is there a way you could make it fan based with optional water cooling add on? Folks this days want something compact, simple, attractive and with not too many options. Thinking of something new is hard.
Regarding the PSU, have you considered looking into the G-Unique?
Motherboard, ITX?
Slim fans?
Something that uses only the smallest components in the market with many options and addons?
I mean, I'm not sure that was really the design goal here....
 

Kmpkt

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I've played with this layout before and was wondering if you've thought about using a 180mm radiator instead of the 240 and 360. Would likely be adequate cooling for most anything you'll be using and is much better matched dimensionally to the ITX board.
 

royalba94

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Thanks for the Feedback!
You bring up some good points. I'll share my thoughts on them below. I actually had a few of these points in mind but I neglected to put them in the OP :[

Too crazy. Like what you going for, but too crazy looking. Can you make it simple? Is there a way you could make it fan based with optional water cooling add on?

I actually have been thinking about this and I do have a couple ideas about how I could essentially separate the Front chamber and Back chamber that way if someone didn't want the watercooling or extra storage support they didn't have to buy it. I'm still working on the details for that though.

The current version does have support for regular air-cooled cards and a 70mm tall CPU cooler along with the fans at the top of course.

Regarding the PSU, have you considered looking into the G-Unique?

I have considered it but I was hoping to be able to avoid having to deal with the whole power brick thing and with the amount of possible components that would need power being so high I didn't want to have to run into the issue of dual DC-ATX units and power bricks. It'd still not off the table yet though because I can't seem to find many options in the FlexATX category and none of them have modular cables.

Motherboard, ITX?

Yep, I'm planning an ITX version as well. I actually started this whole thing trying to figure out how to mod the S4 Mini to be watercooled :)

Slim fans?

Possibly, I'm not really sold on the Slim fans though and the main reason the radiators in the ATX version are in push/pull is because I was planning on supporting 180mm radiators which are 35mm thick as well as the 180mm fans. it also helps keep the stacked 3.5in drive option.

Something that uses only the smallest components in the market with many options and addons?

Yep, I'd look towards my Mini ITX version for that although I was planning on a SFX PSU in that one so maybe I'll do a DC-ATX version with Short GPUs as well.
 

royalba94

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I've played with this layout before and was wondering if you've thought about using a 180mm radiator instead of the 240 and 360. Would likely be adequate cooling for most anything you'll be using and is much better matched dimensionally to the ITX board.

Thanks for the tip!
Yes actually I have :) The first version was showing a dual 180mm radiator. (I put it in the spoiler at the bottom of the OP)

Radiator support for the back section is planned as listed in the Proposed Specs spoiler

Planned radiator support:
  • 2x triple 120mm
  • 2x dual 120mm
  • 4x single 120mm (with some fancy tubing routing)
  • 2x dual 140mm
  • 4x single 140mm (with some fancy tubing routing)
  • dual 180mm
  • single 180mm
Possible radiator support
  • dual 92mm
  • single 200mm

If When I do a DC-ATX Mini ITX version a dual 180mm would probably be the largest radiator it'd support in the rear section.
 
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Kmpkt

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The other idea I've played with since I'm on the topic is keeping the radiator and PC chambers separated by a sheet of acrylic or some other insulator. What that would do (I believe) is move all of the heat out of the PCs chamber allowing it to be as cool as possible so that anything passively cooled (ie. M.2 has the best environment in which to perform).
 

royalba94

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The other idea I've played with since I'm on the topic is keeping the radiator and PC chambers separated by a sheet of acrylic or some other insulator. What that would do (I believe) is move all of the heat out of the PCs chamber allowing it to be as cool as possible so that anything passively cooled (ie. M.2 has the best environment in which to perform).

Another good point!
That is really close to what this design is doing (even though I hadn't thought about it that way) since the radiators are essentially in a separate chamber behind the motherboard. There is also the top fans to provide a bit of airflow for the Motherboard's VRMs and that area.

I think this chamber separation idea will be at its peak in the DC-ATX Mini-ITX version since there won't need to be as many cutouts for cables ad whatnot.

Edit: Spelling
 
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royalba94

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Original post updated again. Gave in and Decided to add SFX and SFX-L support along with another full-size PCIe slot. The Top Fan options have also been reduced as a result of needed clearances for PSU and GPU cables. Thx!

Oh, and does anyone know what the needed clearance would be for the PCIe Extenders? (how much height is added at the PCIe slot because of them)??
 

Aibohphobia

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It's hard to tell due to perspective, but how much space is there between the PSU and the motherboard?
 

royalba94

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It's hard to tell due to perspective, but how much space is there between the PSU and the motherboard?
About 7mm. That's actually probably a bit too close for people to remove the 24pin now that I think about it...

Not sure if I should move it away a bit more and be able to actually support the Maximus VIII Extreme (it's about 26mm wider than the actual ATX standard) or just leave that as one of the limitations of the case.

There is also the point about the right angle headers that are sometimes close to that area (like a couple mobos with right angle 24pins, I really dislike that they did that), though if I did widen the case to fit the Maximus VIII Extreme you should be able to plug in the right angle USB 3.0 cable.

It's really quite a slippery slope once you go down the reasoning of a few more mm here and a few more there... But I guess if it makes the case more of an option for people it'd be worth it.
 
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royalba94

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Within reason....
lol :) Very true.

I'm really hoping to keep the case down to about 30L or less if possible and the fact I had to go SFX for the PSU means I'm pretty much there already by the time I add the side panels and everything.

It would have been so nice if there was a proper Flex ATX option... -_-
 
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royalba94

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going all the way to supporting the Extreme seems a bit excessive.
Yeah, that was my thoughts too.

I figured if anything that the user could partially remove the PSU in order to remove the 24pin which they'd likely need to do anyway because they'd probably be either upgrading the PSU or Motherboard and would need to remove it in either case.

------------

On another note, do you (or anyone) any have thoughts on using PCIe Extenders? Obviously a bunch of them would be needed in this case and I wondered if it might be worth it to just go ahead and add the extra ~50mm to have the GPU/full-height cards slot in like normal to avoid the extra cost (of the extenders) and potential issues. I'd like not to add the extra depth since I was trying to go for the 'slim tower' form factor and it'd also push me over 30L for sure but I haven't had any experience with them yet myself. :/

Edit: typo
 
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Biowarejak

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Yeah, that was my thoughts too.

I figured if anything that the user could partially remove the PSU in order to remove the 24pin which they'd likely need to do anyway because they'd probably be either upgrading the PSU or Motherboard and would need to remove it in either case.

------------

On another note, do you (or anyone) any have thoughts on using PCIe Extenders? Obviously a bunch of them would be needed in this case and I wondered if it might be worth it to just go ahead and add the extra ~50mm to have the GPU/full-height cards slot in like normal to avoid the extra cost (of the extenders) and potential issues. I'd like not to add the extra depth since I was trying to go for the 'slim tower' form factor and it'd also push me over 30L for sure but I haven't had any experience with them yet myself. :/

Edit: typo
Keep yourself under 30 :) just my $0.02
 

Biowarejak

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:) guess I had another weak moment there, told you me it's a slippery slope lol

Guess the only thing left is to design the actual frame of the case now (unless someone finds a big flaw I didn't) :)
I think you've got a lot of good ideas going into this and I'm just half wondering if you'd find it worthwhile to sit and reflect on what you really need to make it work :)