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Project AluCase: Update 27/8/06: Its Alive!

Discussion in 'Project Logs' started by BjD, 18 Feb 2006.

  1. BjD

    BjD New Member

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    Intro
    Welcome to Project AluCase! This is going to log the building of my new case from scratch. The project has been in progress for a couple of months now, and since I now have some solid work to show I thought I'd show what I have here. That and I don't have much else to do this weekend...

    What is it?

    • Custom built case
    • Aluminium Construction
    • Designed to be as easy to work on and maintain as possible
    • Watercooled
    • Hopefully it'll look cool too!

    It will house the parts from my main PC (specs in sig) and replace the Nokia style case I hacked up a couple of years ago.

    The method of construction is nothing new, I've just looked at others on this site (Notably Phat Ass' work on Serverama), and a few ideas from the kit-car world.

    Log continues in the next post with some pics of the hardware acquired for the case!
     
    Last edited: 27 Aug 2006
  2. BjD

    BjD New Member

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    As mentioned, the main reason for the new case was a move to water cooling, so thats where the log starts. I'm going for a part external setup, with the radiator and associated fans mounted in a separate enclosure. This means I don't have to squeeze a rad into the case, and can easily change to a larger/better rad, or another water cooling system, in the future with minimum fuss. The following are some pics of the proposed parts.

    [​IMG]
    This is the first rad I acquired, a heater core from a Mazda. I think this is a bit thick but it was cheap...

    [​IMG]
    This is the second rad, which I will probably end up using. My Dad pulled it from under the bench in his workshop, its originally from a JCB. Its obviously been bashed about so I may end up using the other rad...

    [​IMG]
    CPU water block, a Waterchill unit. 2nd hand (thanks Yoda!), and already trimmed to clear the caps on the NF7. I did have to take the top of and give the insides a good clean though. Needs some 1/2" barbs fitting.

    [​IMG]
    Eheim 1048 pump, fitted with a 1/2" outlet barb. This will be mounted in a res.
     
  3. BjD

    BjD New Member

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    To make working on the case easier I wanted to have a removable motherboard tray. My first PC had one and its a feature Ive alwyas missed in my other cases. I couldn't find a UK source of trays, and a whole case was a bit pricey, so I decided to try using my old case. The motherboard tray and back panel will be cut out to form a new tray that the new case will be built around.

    [​IMG]
    Old case before the carnage began

    [​IMG]
    OMG nekkid!

    [​IMG]
    Temporary 'case' for the PC...
     
  4. BjD

    BjD New Member

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    Theres not much holding the back panel and motherboard tray together on this case, so I wanted to strengthen the connection between them before I got the hacksaw out.

    [​IMG]
    These flaps supported the PSU, and make and obvious spot to attach a strengthening plate to.

    [​IMG]
    I made up a template in card and tranferred it to some aluminium. It was clamped in place and holes drilled; 2mm pilot then taken out to 4mm.

    [​IMG]
    OMG rivets!
    The plate was cleaned up with 400grade wet&dry and then rivetted in place. i used some silicone sealant between the pieces to help prevent any slight movement.

    Once set I drilled the rivets holing the two parts together.

    Once apart it started to go horribly wrong...

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Once free of the rest of the case the tray twists out of shape. I fiddled with some more plates between the parts but it didnt help.

    Plan B was put into action.....
     
  5. BjD

    BjD New Member

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    What I now needed was my own removable tray. First up was some suitable parts.

    [​IMG]
    1.2mm thick aluminium sheet, the perfect size to mount a motherboard to, reduced the amount of cutting needed :)

    [​IMG]
    Lengths of 1.6mm thick 25x25mm aluminium angle.

    I had a rough plan in my head about how to do it, and a few hours with a hacksaw and mitre block produced this.

    [​IMG]
    As you can see I removed the pressing from the case with the expansion card and port knockouts. This saves me a load of precision work :) This is obviously all just clamped together as a test.

    [​IMG]
    First corner rivetted together. Again I used silicone sealant between the parts before rivetting them, this should stop the parts rattling around and stops any slight movement once set.

    [​IMG]
    2nd corner being clamped up ready to drill. This is one of the better ones in terms of the 45degree cut being roughly equal on both parts. Other ones have required some filing down to get right.

    [​IMG]
    Corner section clamped in place and ready for drilling. The large alu sheet in the foreground is being used to ensure the corner is aligned properly at 90degrees.

    [​IMG]
    Rivetted in place.

    [​IMG]
    Corner from the opposit side rivetted together. One of the corner pieces is in the foreground, basically an 80mm square cut in two.
     
  6. BjD

    BjD New Member

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    [​IMG]
    This is the test system, which will crop up along the way. Its a dead NF7, my old 9200 and an old SCSI card. It'll be used to check that my actual system will fit in this thing once built :)

    [​IMG]
    A quick mockup of how it fits togther, still need some motherboard mounting screws fitting.

    [​IMG]
    Getting the alu sheet in place, this will form the tray itself where the motherboard screws to.

    [​IMG]
    Rivetted in.

    [​IMG]
    Expansion panle rivetted in place and half of the motherboard screws, err screwed in.
    The expansion panel is missing a couple of the 'struts' there as my WinTV card wouldnt fit with them in place, the aerial connector was a bit big...
    The motherboard is to be mounted with M3 screws as shown in the pictures. They're screwed through from the back and have 2 nuts on the board side to give the required clearance. Need some washers to get it just right...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Witht he test sytem in, it didnt fall out either! The drill batteries gave out which is why only half the screws are in...
     
  7. BjD

    BjD New Member

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    One of the other thing I wanted to do was to quieten the whole system down. Part of this noise was down to the Raptor, so I wanted to encase it in something to shut it up. I didn't want to cook it either so thought, lets watercool it!

    From my research drives are designed to sink heat through the case via the sides, and most coolers Ive seen work on that principle. So I decided to go with that thinking and sandwich some drives between some cooled copper.

    [​IMG]
    First off, some copper sheet (1mm thick) cut to size and with holes drilled it (sorta) the right place. Room for 3 drives, Im allowing for expansion. These two shown here are old drives with less capacity than some peoples RAM...

    To get water flowing over these plates I went for some regular 15mm water pipe, and soldered it to them

    [​IMG]
    Heres one side finished.
    I tried first of all with the blow torch attachment on my gas soldering iron, which proved a bit feeble and couldn't get the copper up to temperature. I was doing this on the electric hob in the kitchen (so as to be underneath the extractor fan...), so thought "why not just turn the hob on?" to give the iron a helping hand. Turned out the hob got the whole piece up to temp nicely and it was then very easy to just reel in sufficient solder. The area in the foreground on the above pic is where I tried with just the iron, as you can see it made a right pigs ear of it

    [​IMG]
    The second piece, turned out alot better as I knew what I was doing at this point

    Once the parts had cooled down I leak tested them. This consisted of filling the pipes half full of water, closing of one end with my thumb and blowing into the other. This showed one joint that was weeping, 1 out of 8 isnt bad! I then cleaned them up with some 400 grade wet&dry.

    [​IMG]
    Guess which side has been sanded?
     
  8. BjD

    BjD New Member

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    [​IMG]
    Both pieces all cleaned up. The bits around the elbows was right tricky.

    400 grade doesnt leave a mirror smooth finish as you might expect, but that was as far as I took the sanding. The interface between the copper and drives isnt 100% flat so I don't think it needs a mirror finish, and all the copper won't be on view in the case anyway.

    I then got the copper assembled up with the test hard drives.

    [​IMG]
    Drives in place, and I do realise Im missing a screw...

    [​IMG]
    Link pipe in place. The link pipe is made up of press-on fittings with some 1/2 inch tube between. I don't think the fittings are actually designed for this type of application, but they are the perfect size for me. Just found them in Focus :)

    [​IMG]
    The inlet/outlet fitting are of a similar stlye. I got a pack of these on ebay as they work out cheaper when you need a few of them (yes thy're going to crop up later on :) )

    [​IMG]

    The fittings are designed for 15mm copper pipe, or flexible pipe used to fit taps and the like. It just so happens the the flexible sort is the same size as the 1/2" pipe Im using in my system. These inserts allow the flexible pipe to push in to the connectors.

    Of course, it had to be tested...

    [​IMG]
    Ph333r my kitchen.
    There were some air bubbles present in the flow which created some noise, but a quick tap of the copper piping soon cleared them and silence ensued. No leaks were present after an hour of running. The copper and drives also got nice and cool.
     
  9. BjD

    BjD New Member

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    Next job was the angle required for the rest of the case, this needed to be cut to size with nicely beveled ends. An afternoon of cutting, measuring and filing gave these.

    [​IMG]

    Still loads more to go

    [​IMG]
    Tools used to get the angle done. From left to right; cheap dustsheet (ASDA bags), mitre box, hacksaw, G-clamp, metalworking file and a cup of tea.
     
  10. shplade

    shplade New Member

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    That looks incredible so far, can't wait to see more ;)
     
  11. BjD

    BjD New Member

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    Been a while, this was my own fault for not ordering enough aluminium and hence running out.

    Anyways, heres what Ive been up to...

    [​IMG]

    Nicked the drive bay from my old case, after making the hard drive cooler I found out how difficult it is to drill accurately placed holes, so will use this to ensure the CDROM's fit properly.

    Next was to finish off the motherboard tray, namely to fit a panel over the back.

    [​IMG]

    Here it is, simply cut drilled and rivetted in place. The area in the top right of the panel wasn't supported by anything, so I had a look in the scrap bin and found a small piece to bridge the panel and frame.

    [​IMG]

    Back panel secure, motherboard in with the IO shield. The ports even line up!

    [​IMG]

    The inside of the back panel. The motherboard screws have also been replaced with some of a more sensible length.

    Next was to start construction of the case proper. For that we need materials

    [​IMG]

    Panels needed for the case structure, all nicely chopped to size by the seller on eBay.

    [​IMG]

    All 12 pieces of 1.6mm, 25mm square alu angle *finally* cut to length.

    Now the rivetting could begin. To simplify the design and construction, some of the panels are bonded and rivetted straight to the frame, such as the top and bottom panels. I started with the bottom panel. First job was to clean up the surfaces of all the bits with 400grade wet&dry, this got rid of most of the scratches that appeared during cutting. Next was to attach the angle around the bottom panel.

    [​IMG]

    These are the bits that make up the bottom panel

    [​IMG]

    First piece of angle clamped to the panel, using some card to protect the surface.

    [​IMG]

    A 2mm pilot hole was drilled through the centre two holes. 4 pop rivets hold the short length on, with a 50mm spacing.

    [​IMG]

    Next was to have some lunch and a brew. Can't work on an empty stomach

    [​IMG]

    The holes were then taken out to 3mm and an M3 nut and bolt used to clamp the pieces. The G-clamps could then be removed and the outer pair of holes drilled.

    [​IMG]

    All 4 holes were then drilled out to 4mm

    [​IMG]

    Then four 4mm poprivets were put in, with a thin layer of silicone sealant between the two pieces first.

    [​IMG]

    The longer side being clamped and drilled

    [​IMG]

    After some more dilling, rivetting and getting sealant everywhere except where it should be, the 2nd side is on.

    [​IMG]

    Repeat the process again and the the 3rd side is on.

    [​IMG]

    The drill battery gave out so I couldn't get the 4th side on, should be easy to get done next weekend.

    The top panel will be built in exactly the same way, just with some cut-outs in the top for fans and the like.
     
  12. BjD

    BjD New Member

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    Continuing where I left off last week, I quickly threw the last piece of angle on the bottom panel, and then did exactly the same all over again to make the top panel. I didn't want to bore you with too many pictures as its the same process as on the last page. Heres the highlights:

    [​IMG]

    Completed bottom panel on the right, top panel half done on the left

    [​IMG]

    Just need one more side and were're done.

    I took the above picture then realised I had only 2 rivets left, so had to pop out to the shops for some more. I also picked up a nice proper steel rule as I sat on my last one and broked it...

    [​IMG]

    Top and bottom panels finished

    Time and drill batteries were running out at this point, so I moved onto a smaller job that needed doing. I needed a panel to close off the top of the 5.25 bay to stiffent he structure up, and make it look tidier.

    [​IMG]

    5.25 bay top panel cut, drilled and cleaned up.

    The centre was cut with a hand nibbler, which must be one of the most uncomfortable tools in the world to use. This was then attached using the time honoured rivet and silicone sealant method. The sealant is important in these joints as its the area that will suffer from the most vibration.

    [​IMG]

    Panel offered up to check it fits before...

    [​IMG]

    ..being attacked with the rivet gun

    The final job of the day was to start on the PSU mounting. The PSU will attach to a panel on the lower rear of the case, idea being to draw air from the area underneath the graphics card. As this forms an integral part of the rear of the case its needs to be done before case construction can continue.

    [​IMG]

    First holes on the PSU mount.

    Only got as far as drilling the mounting holes, a large area in the middle will be nibbled away for the fan and power connectors. This will done tomorrow, so expect an update in roughly 24 hours...
     
  13. BjD

    BjD New Member

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    Following merrily on from yesterday, I first finished off the PSU panel. That was a simple job of marking up what needed to be removed for the fan hole and power connections, drilling a pilot hole, then going at it with the nibbler. I went for a octagonal rather than circular hole for the fan, its a little easier to cut out. Not so nice on the eye, but its not exactly staring you in the face is it...

    [​IMG]
    PSU panel cut out with test PSU in place

    The PSU is an old unit just being used for testing purposes. Next was to get this panel rivetted in place.

    [​IMG]
    First the panel was clamped in place

    [​IMG]
    Then drilled and rivetted

    Next was to build up the rear of the case, now that the PSU panel was in.

    [​IMG]
    One rear upright clamped in place

    This was very tricky to get right, as trying to clamp and get the part square turned out to be harder than I thought. Plus the fact that the angles on the ends aren't exactly at 45 degrees (I blame the fool who cut them...). Anyhow, some adjustment with the file and it could be drilled for the rivets. This also turned out tricky due to there being limited room for the clamps.

    [​IMG]
    Every clamp I own in use.

    Three 4mm rivets along there gave plenty of strength. To triangulate the join in the other plane, I put in a small trianglular shaped piece in the corner, similar to what I did on the motherboard tray.

    [​IMG]
    More clamp action

    With those 4 rivets in, this upright was secure.

    [​IMG]

    At this point I couldn't resist getting the tape out and mocking up how the case should turn out.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    It certainly seems big in the flesh, yet its only a few inches taller than my old case. Its nice to know that the parts fit together too. Finally for today I did the same again to get the second rear upright finished. Heres some shots of it finished.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Note the high performance top fan on the PSU

    Next time I'll be doing exactly the same for the front end.
     
  14. BjD

    BjD New Member

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    I was up early today to pick up some nice stuff from the Post Office (always miss the postman in the morning) and grab some supplies on my way back.

    [​IMG]

    My fan club, 120mm Panaflos and guards.

    [​IMG]

    One DD fillport in silver

    Once back and with a brew in hand, I carried on getting the uprights in place. First off was to get the front lower panel in place. This provides the same support function as the PSU panel, and will no doubt house some switches at some point.

    [​IMG]

    Panel rivetted in place, and Im getting the left upright clamped in place.

    [​IMG]

    Rivetted in and secure

    [​IMG]

    Repeating the process for the right

    [​IMG]

    Making sure its square. This was a right PITA to get right, on all the pieces Ive done so far, which is the main reason its taking me so long

    [​IMG]

    Triangular support piece with sealant applied about to be rivetted in place. I use a very thin layer, and trim off the excess once its dry

    [​IMG]

    Yay, both front ones in place

    [​IMG]
    Surprisingly the top dropped into place very nicely

    Todays update continues in next post
     
  15. BjD

    BjD New Member

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    Before the top could be attached I wanted to cut the holes required for the hardware mounted to it, namely the top fan and fillport. Despite using watercooling, I still want some airflow through the case (thinking mainly of the Zalman NB sink) and a quiet 120mm at 7 or maybe 5V will be fine.

    [​IMG]

    Getting the fan in the right place. It needs to be offset or it will foul the motherboard tray

    [​IMG]

    Checking the holes Ive just drilled are in the right place

    [​IMG]

    Going for the stealth fan hole approach

    The hole was cut with the nibbler, using a CDR as a template to mark it up. The CD was a little big so I had to sketch in a second line a couple of mm smaller in diameter.

    [​IMG]

    10mm pilot hole drilled and nibbling started

    [​IMG]

    Woah, half way there...

    [​IMG]

    Ends in sight...

    [​IMG]

    Yay!

    [​IMG]

    Fan test fitted

    Im using an Acoustifan gasket set on this fan to reduce vibration. Next was to sort out the fillport hole. Not having a 1inch drill bit I had to nibble that hole too.

    [​IMG]

    Fillport in

    [​IMG]

    Another pose of case with new top

    [​IMG]

    Last job of the day was to cut these to secure the top

    Thats it for now, the top will be rivetted in place tomorrow
     
  16. AJB2K3

    AJB2K3 New Member

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    How are you gunna paint this cus its getting a very industrial look?
     
  17. BjD

    BjD New Member

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    Im still undecided whether to paint it or not. My original plan was to leave it unpainted, but Ive since thought that painting the angle may look quite good.
     
  18. valium

    valium New Member

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    You should replace the rivets with counter-sunk screws, and implement some acrylics and this case would look beastly. I have been wanting to do a project like this myself but I don't have the tools. I personally hope you chrome this thing out.
     
  19. Guido

    Guido New Member

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    Looking great! :thumb: One question for you... How did you get the corner triangular pieces so perfect? I'm having problems getting a 90° angle on the ones I'm trying to use in my project. I normally get an angle of about 85-88°.
     
  20. BjD

    BjD New Member

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    I wouldn't say they're perfect, more a case of being selective about what I photograph :)
    Seriously though, I just used a decent mitre box (I used a cheap one to start with and it was awful), and cut them 1mm or so too long then filed them down. I cut a square of alu diagonally to give me something like an accurate 45degree angle to use as a guide. Some of them haven't turned out perfect but I just arranged that they ended up on the rear of the case :)

    Your Projects looking good too, love the paintwork :thumb:
     

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