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My take on a SFF tower

Carsten

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
May 16, 2020
11
25
Hello all,

I recently got into the SFF world, especially liking the Velka 5 and other small footprint cases.
No case ticked all my boxes though, so I thought it would be a fun project to create my own case.
This is the result so far...

Style: tower sandwich case for full size GPUs
MB & GPU IO to the bottom, partly rerouted to the back
Construction method: 2mm lasercut stainless steel, assembled with threaded cubes M3x12
3x 92mm case fans at the front (or 2x 92mm fans & 1x 92mm AIO) - additional option to mount 2x 92mm fans externaly to the back
Handle at the back for easy carry

The design for the outer panels is not fixed yet.
My current plan is a solid wood top and (1mm ?) coated steel side & front panels
Here is a pic how that could look:


Dimensions of the skeleton, ignoring protrusions: LxWxH 195x120x352 ( 8.24 l)
Probable final dimensions, ignoring protrusions: LxWxH 200x122x367 ( 8.95 l)

Current status:
skeleton with working hardware build

Views from all sides:

In theory, there is enough space in the upper front to fit a 92mm AIO
If I actually wanted to fit one I would really need a custom cable for the 24 pole connector.
Instead, I will probably put a third fan in there to work as an exhaust.
The lower two front fans work as air intake.


IO compartment - not a pretty sight but normally hidden from view when the side panels are finished.
I plan to add a cutout in the back for the ethernet adapter.


Some build pictures:
Lasercut - I went with a single part because the shop of my choice charges an extra fee per part

First assembly after some tapping, counter sinking and cleanup


Hardware: not really important as my focus is more on the case, but here it is:
  • MB : ASUS ROG STRIX B450-I GAMING
  • CPU : Ryzen 7 3700X
  • GPU : Gigabyte Raedon RX 5700 XT GAMING OC 8G
  • RAM : 2x8GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 3600MHz
  • SSD : M.2 2TB Intel SSD 6
  • PSU : Corsair SF600 80 Plus Platinum
  • Fans : Noctua NF - A9x14 chromax
  • CPU cooler : Noctua NH-L9a-AM4 (fan switched to a NF - A9x14 chromax)

Next steps:
- Deciding on how to fit the Panels to the case. I see two options:
1) screw them on
2) fit Magnets to the frame and snap mild steel panels to them
- fix the design of the panels
- find a supplyer for the panels (cutting folding, finish)
- create the wood top as soon as the panels are ready (I can do that myself)

Let me know what you think of my efforts so far.
Do you have suggestions regarding the next steps?
 

tinyitx

SFF Guru
Jan 25, 2018
1,185
1,058
Did I read it right that the design has 3 front case fans, 2 lower ones being intake and the upper one as exhaust?
Would this lead to undesirable re-circulation as intake and exhaust are so close together in the front?
I look forward to your final airflow design as well as some thermal numbers.

Aesthetically, I suggest adding a piece of wood to the bottom as a matching element to the top piece of wood. This should make it look more 'balanced' visually.
 
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Phuncz

Lord of the Boards
Editorial Staff
Moderator
Gold Supporter
May 9, 2015
4,521
4,065
Nice project ! My suggestion would be to increase the height on the bottom so you don't need the I/O extenders but can just plug in the original connectors. Maybe it was a deliberate choice though, but those extenders cost a lot of space themselves and might make some future upgrades or connectors very difficult.
 
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Carsten

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
May 16, 2020
11
25
Did I read it right that the design has 3 front case fans, 2 lower ones being intake and the upper one as exhaust?
Would this lead to undesirable re-circulation as intake and exhaust are so close together in the front?
I look forward to your final airflow design as well as some thermal numbers.

Aesthetically, I suggest adding a piece of wood to the bottom as a matching element to the top piece of wood. This should make it look more 'balanced' visually.
There might be some re-circulation, the distance between the upper fan and the two lower ones would be only 3cm.
On the other hand, warm air rises and I dont see any benefit for an additional intake up there.
Everything else acts as intake already. So I think it is either exhaust or no fan.

Regarding wood at the bottom: I considered that early in the design.
I didnt saw much benefit in it at the time, maybe because the colour was so close to that of the table.
Revisited the idea just now and I really like it with a darker wood. Thanks for the suggestion 👍
 
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Carsten

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
May 16, 2020
11
25
Nice project ! My suggestion would be to increase the height on the bottom so you don't need the I/O extenders but can just plug in the original connectors. Maybe it was a deliberate choice though, but those extenders cost a lot of space themselves and might make some future upgrades or connectors very difficult.
Thanks.
The height of the I/O area is 4cm currently. My HDMI and DP cables are all fairly bulky and stiff. To fit them properly i would need 3cm extra space.
My original goal was to be able to plug everything in from the back, without the need to flip the case - I didnt achieve that.
I can do a cutout in the wooden base if i decide to add one. The little extra space from that may be enough that I dont need extenders for ethernet, sound and USB.
 
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troybot

Trash Compacter
Sep 6, 2018
42
42
This is fantastic.
If you dont mind me asking, how much did it cost to cut the stainless steel?
Is there a reason why you chose stainless instead of aluminium?
Do you plan to ake the cad drawings available? (I understand if not of course)
 

Carsten

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
May 16, 2020
11
25
This is fantastic.
If you dont mind me asking, how much did it cost to cut the stainless steel?
Is there a reason why you chose stainless instead of aluminium?
Do you plan to ake the cad drawings available? (I understand if not of course)
about 55€ + shipping
I wanted it to be solid and was unsure if aluminium was good enough with all the cutouts. Stainless was overkill.
If I would do it again I would probably go with mild steel and some kind of finish. That would allow me to just put in some magnet cubes and snap the side panels on.

I could send you the dxf for the laser parts if you really want it.
That would be without any instructions but you could probably figure out the necessary steps for assembly using the pictures above.
 

Colinreay

Cable-Tie Ninja
Silver Supporter
Aug 28, 2016
183
413
This case is awesome!!! Great work! I like how you nested all of the parts into a single piece to be laser cut. Great way to reduce costs.
 

troybot

Trash Compacter
Sep 6, 2018
42
42
about 55€ + shipping
I wanted it to be solid and was unsure if aluminium was good enough with all the cutouts. Stainless was overkill.
If I would do it again I would probably go with mild steel and some kind of finish. That would allow me to just put in some magnet cubes and snap the side panels on.

I could send you the dxf for the laser parts if you really want it.
That would be without any instructions but you could probably figure out the necessary steps for assembly using the pictures above.
Ok, that is actually surprisingly cheap! I had some acrylic side panels made for my dan case for around 30€, so for that price I am impressed. But to answer your quesiton, yes I would love to receive the dxf. No instructions needed of course. Except to tell me where you got it cut for so cheap. When I google search all that comes up is larger companies not small batches. Thanks again
 

Carsten

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
May 16, 2020
11
25
I ordered from laserteileonline.de
They are based in germany but ship to a few european countrys. The webside is in german only though.
The dxf needs a minor update to reflect some changes that I made on the delived parts. I will send it to you when that is done.
 
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Arboreal

Master of Cramming
Silver Supporter
Oct 11, 2015
452
478
@Carsten, that's a great looking design and project.
I was really interested to see how well it worked, as I am working on a design for a really compact 11-12L mATX case using 2mm aluminium sheet.

At the moment, I am not sure whether I will use construction cubes or possibly have the laser cut alu folded to give either 2 faces or 3 faces in one single piece.
 
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Carsten

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
May 16, 2020
11
25
@Carsten, that's a great looking design and project.
I was really interested to see how well it worked, as I am working on a design for a really compact 11-12L mATX case using 2mm aluminium sheet.

At the moment, I am not sure whether I will use construction cubes or possibly have the laser cut alu folded to give either 2 faces or 3 faces in one single piece.
I like the cubes, they are a simple and flexible solution.
Also, I couldnt find a source for laser cut and folded parts.

Can you reccomend one? I am still searching for one for the front cover.
 
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Arboreal

Master of Cramming
Silver Supporter
Oct 11, 2015
452
478
I'm in the UK and a friend is the production manager at a sheet metal company.

He could send my design to be cut at the same time as a work batch with a company a couple of hours away, as the minimum laster cutting fee locally is 80 GBP.

He said it could be less than half that cost for my case in 2mm alu.

He would rather make a folded design, but I have zero experience with this king of work, so will be guided by him and my friend who is creating the DXF files for me.
 
Last edited:

Carsten

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
May 16, 2020
11
25
Ok, I did some Tests with fan configurations to figure out the best fan arrangement.

Findings:
- masking / creating a duct for the CPU can reduce the CPU temperature by several °C compared to open case
- two intake fans (or more intake than outtake fans) are a bad idea, hindering the air intakes from CPU and GPU by creating positive pressure in the case
- the upper fan is important to keep the overall case temperature down
- most 3-fan configurations are equally effective - but only slightly better than a single upper front fan by itself

These are the tested configurations, pictures of the crude masking and my results:
 
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troybot

Trash Compacter
Sep 6, 2018
42
42
Nice testing.
Did you consider removing the fan and shroud from the gpu and using some slim fans (noctua a12x15 or a9x14)? Your results make sense, because the GPU is always intake. But if you could reverse the fan direciton you could test a more even air pressure setup where the gpu isnt fighting for air.
 
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Carsten

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
May 16, 2020
11
25
Nice testing.
Did you consider removing the fan and shroud from the gpu and using some slim fans (noctua a12x15 or a9x14)? Your results make sense, because the GPU is always intake. But if you could reverse the fan direciton you could test a more even air pressure setup where the gpu isnt fighting for air.
I didnt consider that and I believe this wouldnt be benefitial:
- The CPU has the same problem with positive pressure and Noctua seems to think that it would be a bad Idea to reverse the air flow. The fans are designed in a way that prevents an easy reverse of the fan on the CPU cooler. It can be done, but that would require longer screws.
- The GPU currently gets fresh air, reversing that would mean at least somewhat warmer air from inside the case.
- I dont want to modify the hardware

CPU & Chassis fans generate quite some noise when the CPU is under full load.
Instead of multiple NF-A9x14 for case fans, I now intend to put a single NF-S12A in the upper front.
Those are volume optimized for cases instead of pressure optimized -> Double flow rate for a fraction of the noise.
Unfortunately, the chromax version is sold out everywhere until august.
 

Carsten

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
May 16, 2020
11
25
Trying out another panel design.
Main motivation for the new version is the fact, that I cant seem to find a source to order laser cut and folded sheets from.
This design consists of only two sheets, that require one fold each.
I am confident that I can find a local shop that is willing to do these folds.

I also like the look :)

new vs. old