Prototype MT4-S - Compact and flexible 4 liter case

What finish would you prefer on this case?

  • Bare brushed aluminum

    Votes: 2 16.7%
  • Black powder-coated

    Votes: 8 66.7%
  • Two-tone (black inner frame with silver exterior)

    Votes: 2 16.7%

  • Total voters
    12

CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
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Nov 1, 2015
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The design for this case has been about two months in the making, but its process is on top of iterations from previous case designs (some which I have also prototyped and some which I didn't). However, this time I decided to hold off on revealing it until I had a prototype in my hands.

I'd like to present to you the MT4-S, a 4.7 liter case made out of 2mm to 2.5mm aluminum. The case is a sandwich style case that can accommodate short graphics cards with Flex-ATX power supplies or certain AC and DC-ATX combinations of power boards.

CURRENT STATUS (7/1/20)

Three prototypes frames have been assembled. These stand apart from the very first prototype which uses a different construction method (corner cubes vs slots and tabs). The frames more closely resemble the following renders for the target design.




CURRENT DESIGN TARGET (6/5/20)




SPECIFICATIONS - FULL HEIGHT VERSION
  • Dimensions: 195mm L x 222mm H x 109mm W (4.7 L volume)
  • Material: 2mm - 3mm aluminum frame, thinner aluminum or steel for exterior
  • CPU cooler: height supported up to 47 mm
  • Motherboard: mini-ITX
  • GPU/expansion card: 2-slot up to 190mm in length
  • Power: Flex ATX (150 mm) or various DC-ATX
  • Storage: up to 2x 2.5" drives depending on CPU cooler height
PHOTOS OF VERY FIRST PROTOTYPE (5/20/20)






My current PC build is running in this case and all that's missing are the side panels which will be important for thermal testing. Most of the design elements are complete and I will continue to make other updates to the design as I continue to test my build in it.

Thanks for looking!
 
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ignsvn

By Toutatis!
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Apr 4, 2016
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If I recall correctly this is a continuation of your previous project (was it 3D printed at the time?)

I understand that the outer panels are joined with the connection cube, but how is the middle plate (the backbone) joined?
 
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CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
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Nov 1, 2015
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If I recall correctly this is a continuation of your previous project (was it 3D printed at the time?)

I understand that the outer panels are joined with the connection cube, but how is the middle plate (the backbone) joined?
Not quite a continuation, but more of an offshoot of the 3D printed project. With the previous project I explored ways to how to assemble a workable case together, but with the more refined look and durability of metal, this case will take priority for production.

The middle plate for the motherboard is joined with two smaller, slotted pieces that sit between the cubes and the front panel. They are thick enough that the slots and tabs join the pieces well, and tolerances are tight. The plate stays in place with 4 of the outer panels attached.
 

smitty2k1

King of Cable Management
Dec 3, 2016
814
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Looks great! Glad you have kept working on this!

How much "height" is available in the flexatx psu mounting area for AC/DC PSU?
 
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CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
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Nov 1, 2015
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Looks great! Glad you have kept working on this!

How much "height" is available in the flexatx psu mounting area for AC/DC PSU?
Thanks!
The PSU mounting area has 42mm of height. This should be enough for a HD-PLEX 200W AC-DC or several of the 12 Meanwell units (including enclosure).
 

Tute

Caliper Novice
Sep 16, 2018
22
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Any chance of some front mounted IO and power button? Or is space just too tight?
 

CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
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Nov 1, 2015
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Any chance of some front mounted IO and power button? Or is space just too tight?
One of the design goals for this case was to have a cleaner looking front without a power button. But it could be possible to fit a front power button provided you don't use a modular power supply where cables can easily get in the way. Front IO is much trickier- I would have to increase the length of the case by at least 8mm for USB ports to fit alongside a power button, but I'd rather mount the IO on the top.
 

CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
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I now have better pictures of the case, with a completed build inside. Currently all that's left to do for this prototype is to secure the PCIe riser cable with screws, and attach the side panels once I receive them.



Full album below:

 

CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
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I made changes to the case so it's a bit longer at 190mm, plus a possible support for top IO (though not guaranteed). It now has another brickless option. The case is now just barely long enough to fit a HDPLEX 400w AC with DC unit, running passive mode (for 250-300w support). For this setup, there will be an add-on attachment panel to install a C6 connector through the back.



 

robbee

Master of Cramming
Silver Supporter
Sep 24, 2016
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HDPLEX 400w AC with DC unit, running passive mode
Some creative mounting should allow the fan to be mounted outside of the case if one would need the full 400W :) How much room do you have between the brick and the front panel? From personal experience, you need at least some 6-8mm for the plastic cable holder thingy and to route the cable.
 

CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
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Some creative mounting should allow the fan to be mounted outside of the case if one would need the full 400W :) How much room do you have between the brick and the front panel? From personal experience, you need at least some 6-8mm for the plastic cable holder thingy and to route the cable.
The front panel (if any will be included) will be mounted to the top. This way it won't interfere with the power supply but it may limit the max length of certain GPUs you can install.

Another idea I have for the case is to replace the corner cubes with Makerbeam parts to hold the sides together. This is an idea I have had before, but haven't gotten around to sourcing an affordable manufacturer for sheet metal back then. It does create reliance on more third party parts, and while I don't have any issues with rigidity using cubes, metal beams look more presentable IMO.
 
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CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
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Currently I'm revising the vent patterns of the case and re-thinking the case dimensions. For now, the case will remain at its original length of 182mm, so if a HD-PLEX 400W DC power unit were to be used, you must go with an external power brick. But the redesign will be taller. This has two purposes, to make installation of parts easier (I want to avoid having to take the whole case apart if possible), and allow room for two 80x10mm fans on the top.

Vent patterns are largely dictated by cost- all the panels are laser cut and patterns with many small holes are costly and inefficient for this kind of process. Each hole requires more time to burn through the material and travel distance for all the holes really adds up. Larger, fewer holes is cheaper, but also makes the case too open and will require fine mesh. It's also less aesthetically pleasing, at least to me.
 

CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
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After thinking about it some more, I'm planning on pivoting my design to a lesser-explored layout for computer parts. It will still stick with the same roughly 4 liter size and small footprint. Stay tuned!
 

CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
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Here is the new design in progress. It still has a more industrial look to it, but the internal layout has changed. The vent pattern is still not final.

It may be hard to tell the scale from these pictures, but there is mounting room for two 80mm fans on top. So it's still pretty small.


 

CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
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I'm spending my time focusing on the frame now. You can now clearly see I've moved on to a layout that puts an emphasis on low profile cards. This also allows me to shrink the case volume a bit.



As the (mostly) internal skeleton of the case it's the most important part right now to develop. In comparison outer panel design should be trivial. It uses mainly T-slot screw joins to assemble the case, an alternative to threading holes on different sides. You can see an example of this being used in the RAW V3 ATX case. I will have to make another proto with this frame only to test rigidity. The pieces themselves may be thick, but the joints have to be secure as well.

EDIT: I'm updating this post with a rear view with outer panels. The production case should be a lot like this, with all the frame, back, top, and bottom painted black, while all other exterior panels could be either painted a given color or anodized. Hopefully this shows the kind of design vision that I wish to achieve.

 
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CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
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Just for kicks, I chopped off 10mm height to see what it looks like minus top fan support, bringing down the volume to 3.8 liters. You can still fit a SSD on the top, though!

 

smitty2k1

King of Cable Management
Dec 3, 2016
814
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Neat! I think the ZS-A4-DC had a similar layout for LP cards? Not sure if that's still available on Taobao though