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Old 20th Jul 2012, 21:10   #1
Snowcrash
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TearDrop Ė Special Update: Custom Res!!!

Project ďteardropĒ Ė Acrylic Tech-Bench / Open-Air PC


Hi everyone and welcome to my first project log

To begin with, Iíd like to thank everyone for sharing their projects and posting comments on this forum. The works and discussions have been a true source of inspiration and knowledge for me.

Secondly, a BIG thank you goes to Nate (Editor22) for the pivotal role heís been playing in making this build a reality. E22 certainly needs no introduction from me, but if you havenít had a chance to check out his excellent designs and wonderful craftsmanship, you can go here: http://www.e22.biz or here: http://www.facebook.com/E22UK

One more thing before diving in. As this is my first log, Iíd like to apologize in advance for any hiccups in the presentation and ask for your patience if I make mistakes along the way.

And, of course, any suggestion/comment/criticism you might have would be very much appreciated!


Brief Intro

As the title suggests, for some time now Iíve been wanting to build a custom tech-bench/open-air pc with water-cooling capability. The idea is to create something that would look nice and could sit comfortably on my desk. Hence, size is an important factor. Another major consideration is modularity as Iíd like to retain maximum flexibility when it comes to changing parts and future upgrades. That said, the main motivation is to try and come up with a design that is simple yet elegant, a tech-bench that has an aesthetic touch to it as well as a functional one.

The material of choice for this build will be clear acrylic, and by this I mean that just about everything will be made from this incredible material. To quickly list itís obvious advantages: itís is very manageable to work with even if you donít have power-tools and/or a decent work-space (I donít have either); itís easily obtainable and relatively cheap; and perhaps most importantly, transparent acrylic provides just the right sense of ďlightnessĒ I aiming for in this build (I like anodized metal just as the next guy, but I think metal has a much ďheavierĒ feel to it, especially in condensed constructions like the one I have in mind for this project).

At present I donít have much by way of hardware for this build, so Iíll be borrowing the necessary components from my other rig and try to figure something out down the line.

I think this more or less covers the basics so letís move on to the design.


Design

The decision to create the entire build from acrylic meant that I had a lot of freedom with the design. My initial thought was to create the fundamental structure from acrylic and get the mountings and fixtures from retail. But like I said , I think that adding a lot of metal components would make the build feel ďheavyĒ, plus itís much more challenging and fun to create your own thing Long story short, everything including all the different brackets and fixings will be made from clear acrylic, while metal will be used only where absolutely necessary.

From what I've seen, most conventional tech-benches have a simple rectangular shape. I wanted something more curvy and irregular, though. After playing around with different designs, I arrived at a 2D shape which I liked (looks familiar?):





Added some thickness:








This plate about 385X330mm, so somewhat larger than a conventional ATX mobo. Not exactly tiny, but not very big either, I think.

Btw, I should point out all these renderings have been coloured so as to make it easier to see the different angels and details. However, please bear in mind that the actual parts will be completely transparent.

Next, I added 6 columns to make up the basic structure. It made sense to me to have the feet constitute a continuation of the columns (Iíll say more on this later):











With this basic structure in hand, it was time to do some measuring (well, A LOT of measuring) in order to figure out exactly what goes where. Iíve spent a considerable amount of time on this stage as it was crucial to make sure thereís enough room for all the different components Iíll want to fit inside.

Here are the top and bottom plates completed with mounting holes for motherboard standoffs and the rest of the required elements (i.e. mounting brackets, etc.):





As some of you probably noticed right away, there are a number of things missing from these plates, but Iíll come back to this point and discuss it in more detail later.

Moving on to the parts, I began by adding an illustration of the mobo and pci bracket on the top plate:











Moving to the mounting solutions, I started by sketching this 3 piece mounting bracket for the PSU. The idea is to have the supporting columns fixed in place, while the face-plate+PSU can be easily pulled in or out of the tech-bench:




















Iíve also made mounting brackets for the drives, power switches, etc., but I think it would be nicer to show you the actual parts rather than sketchup designs so Iíll stop here.


For Next time

Many of the parts shown here (and additional ones that I havenít presented yet) have already been made and right now I'm working on the initial assembly of the tech-bench. Iíll be presenting all of this soon

In the meantime, hereís a little taste of things to come:





And, like I said in the beginning, Iíd very much appreciate any comments/criticisms/suggestions you may have both on the build itself and the log.

Thanks for watching

Last edited by Snowcrash; 26th May 2014 at 23:07.
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Old 20th Jul 2012, 21:17   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Snowcrash View Post
...Hence, size is an important factor....
Don't you hate it when they say that?

Love the shiny acrylic!
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Old 23rd Jul 2012, 00:19   #3
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Quote:
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Don't you hate it when they say that?

Love the shiny acrylic!
Damn, should have seen it coming

Thanks Achron Lots of shiny stuff on the way
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Old 28th Jul 2012, 04:49   #4
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Project ďteardropĒ Ė Update 1: Custom Parts & Initial Assembly (28 July)

Update 1: Custom Parts & Initial Assembly

Hi everyone, time for an update


Custom Parts

I enjoy working with acrylic and making parts by hand when I can, but the irregular shape of the panels and some of the other parts made it virtually impossible to manufacture them manually.

Fortunately for me, Editor22 came on board and CNCed the parts to perfection


Letís start with the main panels. Here's the top one:





As you can see in the next pic, Editor22 has done an absolutely stellar job in cutting and polishing the edges:





And this is bottom panel (which is essentially identical to the top panel, except for the number of mounting holes):





Next up are the 6 columns and corresponding feet to support the main structure. For these I used 25mm clear round bars cut to size.





I started by drilling a hole all the way through each of the feet and then countersinking it so that the screw-heads will fit completely inside the feet.





Sanded the top and bottom side of each column, made a small hole at each end and embedded these M3 brass inserts inside:





A view of the column+inserts:











And together with one of the feet:





Repeat 5 more times:








It's worth mentioning that the overall design was made with future extensions in mind. More specifically, the basic structure (panel+six supporting columns) can be duplicated to create an additional ďlayerĒ or ďstoryĒ (or even two), thus creating more space for extra components if needed.


With the large panels, columns and feet done, time to proceed to the initial assembly.



Initial Assembly


At this point, Iíll leave the pics to do the talking:









































In the next update I'll be showing the PCI bracket and other mounting elements that will be used in this build. Till then, as always, all comments/criticisms will be very much welcome.


Thanks for watching :-)
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Old 28th Jul 2012, 08:52   #5
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Simple and elegant idea I like it
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Old 28th Jul 2012, 09:57   #6
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That really looks so good, your photography is coming out great too!
It has such a clean and light look to it, the transparent acrylic was deffo the best choice than a coloured acrylic, keep it up.... am loving it so far.

Oh, did you think about using seperate plug points on the top half for the psu? Like using double ended connections to plug the psu in underneath, and possibly use pre sleaved cables or make your own to connect up ur motherboard, HDD's etc up top. Then you would have a very quick removal option for the psu, also you could tidy n rout cables up top and not have to undo all that work when swapping the psu?

Maybe too late, or an idea for rev 2. lol
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Old 28th Jul 2012, 23:19   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jamsand View Post
Simple and elegant idea I like it
Thanks jamsand, much appreciated


Quote:
Originally Posted by Stem83 View Post
That really looks so good, your photography is coming out great too!
It has such a clean and light look to it, the transparent acrylic was deffo the best choice than a coloured acrylic, keep it up.... am loving it so far.

Oh, did you think about using seperate plug points on the top half for the psu? Like using double ended connections to plug the psu in underneath, and possibly use pre sleaved cables or make your own to connect up ur motherboard, HDD's etc up top. Then you would have a very quick removal option for the psu, also you could tidy n rout cables up top and not have to undo all that work when swapping the psu?

Maybe too late, or an idea for rev 2. lol
Thanks Stem83 Very kind of you, especially since the whole photography business is entirely new to me.

It’s funny but the clear acrylic was a bit of a fluke. Initially, I was thinking of going with transparent red for the columns, but then I discovered that coloured acrylic rods cost about 5 times more than clear ones! I have no idea why that is, but it forced me to go with the clear rods and I’m very glad that it did.

Also thanks for the suggestions regarding the PSU. What I would have really liked is to use a fully modular psu for this build, particularlly as there's nowhere to hide the cables and space is rather limited. However, I don’t have one so for now I’ll be using my good old (non-modular) Silverstone. To keep things as tidy as possible I’m planning on using extensions for everything so that swapping PSUs should be relatively easy.

Your suggestion to put plug points on the top panel is a really great idea but unfortunately there won’t be enough room for that in the current setup. However, I’ll definitely be keeping it in mind for rev. 2
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Old 3rd Aug 2012, 00:38   #8
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Project ďteardropĒ Ė Update 2: PCI & PSU Brackets (3 August)

Update 2: PCI & PSU Brackets

Hello everyone

Today weíve got the PCI and PSU mounting brackets on the menu.

So letís get started.


PCI Bracket

The PCI bracket was made by hand using 10mm square bars and 4mm acrylic sheets. It was a rather time consuming affair as I needed to do some reverse-engineering in order to get the dimensions just right.

Unfortunately I didnít take any pictures while making it, but there wasnít much to it, mainly cutting and welding the pieces together:





As you can see in the next couple of shots, the bracket is made of two parts: a fixed "u" shaped frame and a removable top piece. The top piece is not finished yet and will require polishing at some point:





Youíll notice that those cute little M3 inserts came in handy here as well:





And onto the bench it goes:
















PSU Bracket


Youíve already met the custom PSU face-plate in the first post, so hereís just a quick reminder:





Here it is again with matching button screws & socket head screws:








To attach the face-plate to the tech-bench Iíll be using a couple of 15mm square bars. Hereís a shot of one of these bars with inserts and screws already fitted at both ends:





Next, I added 3 sets of inserts to each of the bars:








And all ready for assembly:





A few twists of the allen key later and itís done:











And into the tech-bench it goes as well:











To avoid scratching the bottom panel every time a PSU is being pulled in or out, as well as to dampen potential noise from this area, I found these transparent silicone stickers:





Luckily during the design stage I remembered to position the PSU about 1.5mm higher than the level of the bottom panel in order to leave enough room for the stickers to sit comfortably between the panel and PSU. Took a couple of tries, but finally got them all lined up nicely:







For Next Time

Things are slowly coming together, but there are still lots more parts to be customized & fitted (switch mounts, SDD & HDD brackets etc).

For now, Iíll leave you with this little piece:





As always, comments/criticisms will be very much welcome!

Thanks for watching

Last edited by Snowcrash; 4th Aug 2012 at 00:54.
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Old 11th Aug 2012, 00:00   #9
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Update 3: SSD & HDD Brackets + Switches

Hi everybody

Here's a quick update on the custom SSD & HDD mounting brackets for this build, plus some work I've done with the switches.


SSD Bracket


For SSD mounting I wanted to a bracket that's minimal on the one hand, yet sturdy and elegant on the other.

This is what I came up with:








Fitted with an insert in the middle and some screws:








And here it is with an actual SSD:












HDD Bracket


Next up is the HDD mounting bracket that proceeds in the same general line:








And a couple of shots with an actual drive - I still donít have a hard drive for this build so this is just an old IDE drive I had laying around:








Iíll come back to how these parts will be fitted on the tech-bench later on, but now Iíd like make a quick detour and move to the switches for this build.



SWITCHES


Iíll be using 3 Lamptron switches in the bench: one 22mm (power switch + power led) and two 16mm (reset switch + hdd activity led & the third is yet to be decided).





First, soldering the crimps to the wires. I could have soldered the wires directly to the switches but I wanted to be able to change the cables later on as I'm planning to use a different color scheme for this build (at the moment Iím just using some leftover sleevings from a previous build).








At this point I thought it was done:





However, I wasnít happy with the result, mainly because it was a bit too long and slightly messy:





So, out with the old:





and in with the new...





Chop off their heads:





Stuck a small piece of folded paper in the crimp to prevent the solder from clogging it. To be honest, I didnít think it would work as I was sure the paper would simply burn, but decided to give it a shot anyway and it worked out great:














Some heatshrink and sleeving and itís done:





HUGE difference, no?


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Old 11th Aug 2012, 00:03   #10
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SWITCHES Ė CONTINUED.


So the cables for the switches are done (at least for now):





But there was still one little thing which bothered me about the switches themeselves:





That's better:





At last ready for mounting on the bench:





See you next time and thanks for watching

Last edited by Snowcrash; 11th Aug 2012 at 00:09.
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Old 11th Aug 2012, 00:04   #11
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sorry, posted this one by mistake (and apparently no option to delete )
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Old 11th Aug 2012, 02:02   #12
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Very nice, keep up the good work!
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Old 12th Aug 2012, 03:09   #13
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Just wondering for those inserts, did have to heat em up and then push it into the hole. Cause these things would have made my easier cause tapping a hundred holes is such a pain.
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Old 13th Aug 2012, 00:50   #14
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Very nice, keep up the good work!
Thanks Vampiel


Quote:
Originally Posted by KryptiK View Post
Just wondering for those inserts, did have to heat em up and then push it into the hole. Cause these things would have made my easier cause tapping a hundred holes is such a pain.
Yep, heat them up and stick them in. Takes a bit of practice to get right (heat too little and they won't go in or go in half-way which is even worse; heat too much and they'll melt everything around), but it's pretty simply to do. Just make sure to pre-drill holes for the inserts otherwise they'll clog with molten acrylic an it's a pain to get it out.

Personally, I'm not crazy about tapping acrylic for the small size screws (M3 and the like). For one thing, the grooves tend to deteriorate very rapidly. Also, it's easy to over-tighten a screw and get pressure cracks around the edges. With metal inserts you avoid both issues (and probably easier than tapping... )
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Old 19th Aug 2012, 00:30   #15
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Update 4: Switch Mounting


Hello everyone


Switch Mounting


The switches are more or less done and can go on the bench.

Hereís a close-up of the pre-drilled place-holders for them on the top panel:





I could have just plugged the switches in the holes, but theyíre kind of long (about 3cm) and I didnít like the way they looked with their butts dangling down from the panel, soÖ

You might recall this piece from a couple of updates ago:





Add a few spacers made of 6mm tube and some button-head screws:





And lastly, 4 inserts embedded in the top panel. I was nervous about this part as one tiny mistake and the whole panel could be ruined especially with the two holes so close to the edge, but it worked out ok in the end (only thing I forgot is to clean the panel before taking the shot):





Put it all together:





Nice mirroring effect isnít it?





Well, not reallyÖ to keep the symmetry I actually had a couple of these brackets made:





One goes above the panel and the other below (btw, thatís why the inserts were needed):





Some side views:














Time to bring in the switches:








What looks like a white strip under the o-rings in the next shot is just an optical illusion created by the lighting:





Same goes with regard to the switches looking like theyíre positioned slightly above the top mounting bracket - in reality theyíre sitting flush on top of the bracket and thereís no gap:











Another advantage of using the mount is that itíll bring the switches to the same level of the motherboard (i.e. about 12mm above the panel):





Next up Iíll be moving on to the fans mounts on the top panel.

Thanks for watching
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Old 24th Aug 2012, 00:35   #16
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Update 5: Fan Mounting

Hello everyone


Fan Mounting


To keep everything on the top panel nice and cool, Iíll be mounting a couple of 140mm fans, one to push air above the RAM & CPU and the other to help cool the GPU area:








For this purpose Iíll be using these Cooler Masters which fit perfectly with the all transparent theme:





These fans are not only very quite yet still capable of pushing a decent amount of air , they also feature an independent on/off switch for the LEDs which is cool as I haven't yet decided on the lightling of the bench.

In an effort to keep the rat-tails to a minimum, I trimmed down all the wires and made the on/off switch detachable till I decide exactly what goes where:





The metal brackets for mounting:





And a couple of custom brackets to allow for quick mounting/dismounting:








The original plan was to mount the fans+brackets directly on the top panel like so:





(the black circles in the middle which look like theyíve been photoshoped are in fact my miserable attempt to cover the stickers with black vinyl Ė it was since changed to a much less offensive grey)





Vinyl issues aside, I soon discovered that this way of mounting the fans creates two problems: for one, it makes it impossible to route cables from that side of the bench down to the lower level (notably the 24-pin and 6/8-pin for GPUs); and for another, some motherboards have the sata ports facing the back & at a 90 degrees angle and therefore will be completely blocked by the fansÖ

To overcome these issues, the fans needed a bit of a lift:





After getting the usual treatment:





And assembled:








A view from the top after mounting:





The result:











And with the fans:














Thanks for watching
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Old 24th Aug 2012, 02:59   #17
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Steller work stunning Love the look of clear acrylic
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Old 24th Aug 2012, 10:20   #18
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Looking incredible now its all coming together dude!
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Old 24th Aug 2012, 10:41   #19
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Really nice work that, will be watching
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Old 24th Aug 2012, 12:49   #20
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Great job. Its really lovely and proffesional made.

I want to ask you... This will be a test bench ? If so how you plan to protect it from scratches?
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