Concept Walrus mk01: a 3D-printed brickless 5.0~5.5L fully watercooled case

morj

Trash Compacter
Original poster
Feb 11, 2020
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Hi, everyone!

First off, I want to thank this community for the inspiration and lots of golden threads with food for thought. Lurking since my first proper SFF build in January (images in my profile), but this summer decided to push further with a custom case.

Current project status summary: [will be updated when needed]
CAD 90% done, working on 3D-printing a prototype.

Short facts: [will be updated when needed]
  • Bounding box: 251mm x 215mm x 95mm (excluding protrusions, but I have not designed any ATM)
  • Volume: 5.1L (subject to change)
  • Thick 184mm radiator support
  • Only water-cooled


The concept:
I've seen a couple of crammed builds like petricor's brickless S4M and decided to do something watercooled too especially since I have some hardware and experience from my January build. I also liked the functional beauty of CNC'd internals of the FormD T1 case. So I started learning parametric modeling in Fusion 360 to create something similar, but very custom and designed around my GPU and motherboard.

The hardware:
I'm a big fan of Alphacool since they have a lot of SFF-freindly offerings so I have started researching radiators to slap on something dimensionally similar to Velka 3, but Alphacool 2x92mm rads was a bit too long. Eventually I stumbled upon Black Ice Nemesis M184 GTX by Hardware Labs which supports 2 92mm fans, is 213mm long and 54mm thick which fits perfectly in the front of the case. The downside was protruding fittings instead of flush holes, but eventually it led me to the concept of a load-bearing radiator. The idea was to design brackets enveloping those fittings and incorporating them into the case design.

For the pump I could go with Eisbaer LT, but what's the fun in that if I can have a proper reservoir (Eisstation 40 DC-LT). This led to a slight problem of not enough vertical space due to Flex PSU + riser + GPU giving no chance to fit even just the DC-LT with plexiglass top.

Warning: this photo is just an early work in progress, next pictures show the up-to-date renders of a newer CAD design!



So, back to drawing board, where I finally came up with an "inverted Flex ATX sandwich" layout. The motherboard PCI slot is now at the bottom, motherboard on the right side of the case and GPU backplate is facing the left side panel. Now the riser and GPU PCI slot can slide lower next to the Flex PSU leaving about 5.5cm of space above the GPU for the Eisstation with DC-LT pump. My plan is to use 13mm soft tubing and regular fittings (not ultrathin tubes with pneumatic fittings).

I usually find the specs a bit boring, but here is the hardware I'm currently using and planning to use for this build too:
  • Zotac 1070ti with Alphacool waterblock
  • ASRock Phantom/Gaming ITX AC
  • i7-8700K
  • dual NVMe SSD
  • 2x NF-A9x14 HS-PWM chromax
  • Black Ice Nemesis M184 GTX radiator
Current progress:

I have 3D-printed most of the parts, trying to keep as much "flat" pieces as possible (motherboard tray and back panel are completely flat, the side panels will be flat too).

After assembling the prototype I plan to order all the flat pieces in lazer-cut aluminum. The pieces with complex shapes will stay 3D-printed, but I really want them to be CNC'd (it's hell of expensive though).

Probably I can show some photos of the 3D parts assembled and looking kind of as a PC case next week...



Final thoughts:

I'm pretty sure the cable management will be tough, might go with customizing the cables which is Terra incognita for me for now.
I want to complete the build as soon as possible, but component availability may play its role and postpone it 'til September!

Bonus:
A photo of my GPU: 173mm in length, with a stubby but shiny custom output port cover.

 
Last edited:

morj

Trash Compacter
Original poster
Feb 11, 2020
43
45
Update!

So I have printed the first prototype over the weekend. Obviously, it has some issues, namely the GPU riser position being too low and its holes being of a wrong distance (trusted the ADT-Link 3D model without measuring the distance with a caliper myself, hopefully not making this mistake again).

But the great thing is that as a proof of concept looks like everything fits like planned, especially the bend of the riser (and the riser PCI slot aligns perfectly).

Next up:

Except for the obvious riser position problems I also want to redesign the back panel. It's about 215mm high and therefore doesn't fit the printer I'm using to print the prototype (Ultimaker 3). This means I had to print it vertically losing a lot of precision and the panel turned out just fugly. Looks like I will be able to redesign it so that it could be printed in 2 separate parts by putting an extra structural beam behind it.

 
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c12

Efficiency Noob
Jun 25, 2020
6
11
Looks awesome. Definitely getting some FormD T1 vibes. Was hard to see in the mockups but the integration of the rad fitting holes into the chassis is so cool. Super efficient use of space. Are you planning on leaving the rad exposed, or covering it with panels?
 

morj

Trash Compacter
Original poster
Feb 11, 2020
43
45
Looks awesome. Definitely getting some FormD T1 vibes. Was hard to see in the mockups but the integration of the rad fitting holes into the chassis is so cool. Super efficient use of space. Are you planning on leaving the rad exposed, or covering it with panels?
Haven't decided yet. The fins on this radiator are super soft so I definitely need to somehow cover it. I'm thinking of a combination of a structural panel with as little flow restriction as possible covered with a fabric mesh.
 

morj

Trash Compacter
Original poster
Feb 11, 2020
43
45
Another problem I need to solve: how to route the tube from the GPU compartment to the CPU compartment. I was going to use 13mm OD tubes. One tube in the GPU compartment will be connected directly to the radiator, no problem there, but another one should go to the CPU block from there. I thought it could go below the motherboard between the fans and PSU, but looks like I won't be able to route it down from the GPU to this place. So should I think "outside the box" and route the tube behind the back panel, or should I make the case a bit longer or wider to accommodate the tube inside?
 
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owliwar

Master of Cramming
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Apr 7, 2017
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Longer would solve that and would help specially with cable management, so there's that.
the other route would be to let the tubes go out of the case on top OR the bottom of the case. on the top is more visible, but also could work as an design element.
on the back would be the less visible when setup, but I think it would not help on transport

either way I think it would look really nice. just think what is more important, aesthetics (of smaller footprint) or safety for transport ( tubes inside)
 
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owliwar

Master of Cramming
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Apr 7, 2017
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oh, just realized the back exit has lot of issues. if your i/o area has space it would work (yeah, I was thinking on routing the cables there) but most itx board now have some very populated i/o or integrated i/o shields, and that wouldn't have space for tubes probably
 

morj

Trash Compacter
Original poster
Feb 11, 2020
43
45
oh, just realized the back exit has lot of issues. if your i/o area has space it would work (yeah, I was thinking on routing the cables there) but most itx board now have some very populated i/o or integrated i/o shields, and that wouldn't have space for tubes probably
I've been fiddling with different tube layouts and came to the conclusion that aesthetics aside the routing through the back panel should work even for motherboards with an integrated I/O shield. Per ITX spec, the I/O shield is offset from the edge of the board (in my layout it's the one by the PSU, the bottom edge) by 13.56mm allowing to pass my 12.7 OD tube there (see Figure 8.4 | Front View from Protocase). Moreover it's even over 13.56mm since I have almost extra 2mm between the PSU and motherboard.

The problem with making the case longer is that I will no longer be able to print the structural beams because of the printer 200mm limit. Thinking...
 

morj

Trash Compacter
Original poster
Feb 11, 2020
43
45
I think I will go with the route of extending the case vertically giving it about 251mm x 230mm x 95mm dimensions (adding extra 15 mm above the motherboard and radiator). Beside routing of the tubes there it will add some extra volume for the good stuff like power button in the front above the radiator, some USB headers and maybe even a 15mm thick 2.5'' HDD bay (I have a 5TB one at hand).

All this and still under 5.5L!
 

morj

Trash Compacter
Original poster
Feb 11, 2020
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45
Quick update:

Not much time for CAD this week, added 15mm on top of the case (instead of a 2.5 drive possibly can add 1 extra slim 92mm fan in this space). Also added 12mm feet integrated into the back cover. The width is still 95mm. Still work in progress, hoping to print some updated parts over the course of the next week.

Now instead of all rectangular FormD T1 references it's getting some Circle Pro vibes.

 

JohnCA

Trash Compacter
Dec 2, 2018
41
15
Looks dope, 2 questions:
Do u intend to make the case in metal too?
Wouldn't be better to place the aio fans on the opposite side of the rad, to push cold air from the outside?
 

morj

Trash Compacter
Original poster
Feb 11, 2020
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45
Wouldn't be better to place the aio fans on the opposite side of the rad, to push cold air from the outside?
I need to evacuate air from the case, not pump it in, especially if I will use some closed-off panels (like glass). For extra cold air intake an extra slim 92mm is now supported on top.

Looks dope, 2 questions:
Do u intend to make the case in metal too?
I really adore CNC-cut metal, but this might require a lot of refactoring of this design. The more I work with 3D-printed plastic, the more I feel that load-bearing metal parts can be done so much cleaner if I designed them from the ground up without the ability to 3D-print in mind. I think the 3D-printed layout will serve as a "design study" to verify components placement and thermals. If it will be successful, there are some major changes to be made in order to make this design at least somewhat feasible for production:
  • air-cooled "ITX" GPU support without the need of changing the GPU port cover
  • possibly, ability to mount GPU like I did, but also the other way around (for better cooling of air-cooled GPUs, but it might also work in current layout "as is" just like the CPU fan in the current Intel NUC 9 Pro)
  • motherboard shroud support (particularly for motherboards with integrated I/O shroud)
  • support for more than one 2x92mm radiator model (to include similar Alphacool rad, not only Black Ice)
All this, but also quite steep price of CNC machining is making the potential production pretty far ahead.
 

CC Ricers

Shrink Way Wielder
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Nov 1, 2015
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I really like the rounded corners of the new design. I suggest moving forward with that one, although I am also biased since I also had 3D printed designs with rounded corners :p I like the overall idea of the Circle Pro case being assembled into different pieces, even if it was very expensive.
 

morj

Trash Compacter
Original poster
Feb 11, 2020
43
45
I really like the rounded corners of the new design. I suggest moving forward with that one, although I am also biased since I also had 3D printed designs with rounded corners :p I like the overall idea of the Circle Pro case being assembled into different pieces, even if it was very expensive.
I've already started printing it. The rounded corners are tough to print because printed parts must contact the printing surface with the large outer plane, meaning the corners require supports to print.

But when everything comes together I will experiment with printing those corner supports with dissolvable support material.
 

morj

Trash Compacter
Original poster
Feb 11, 2020
43
45
I really like the rounded corners of the new design. I suggest moving forward with that one, although I am also biased since I also had 3D printed designs with rounded corners :p I like the overall idea of the Circle Pro case being assembled into different pieces, even if it was very expensive.
By the way, haven't seen your MT5 thread, probably that was the rounded corner case you were referring to. Will study your thread for inspiration. Some of your versions look really similar to my current prototype.
 

Ezzoud

Cable Smoosher
Mar 25, 2018
12
3
Idk if this sounds stupid or not considering youre 3d printing it. But if you were to cnc it you could route the tube on top of the case with copper tubing and fitting and it could act as a handle, but im not sure of the rigidity. Ive also contemplated of a similar build but i lack the modeling knowledge. What if you rotate the radiator 90 degrees and use thick 25mm fans, granted youd lose airflow in the case. Not sure how much air circulation mobo, vram requires. Would also help with the tubing inside case.

Case looks sick tho :thumb: ,definetly on my follow list :D