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Case Mod - In Progress Project work log - Aurora by Fraze (water cooled CM690 II) Completed

Discussion in 'Project Logs' started by SFraze, 27 Nov 2011.

  1. SFraze

    SFraze New Member

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    Project work log - Aurora by Fraze

    Hey All,

    This is my first build, but it did however take me a while. I've been working on it on and off (sometimes not working on it for a few months) during my highly time consuming degree, but FINALLY I can say I am satisfied with it.

    The project goal:
    I wanted to make a water cooled build that was unique, sleek and aesthetically pleasing. Whilst many water cooled builds use large cases, my goal was to fit my build objectives into a medium sized case without hindering performance too much.

    I chose the CM690 II Advanced due to its classic styling, excellent ventilation, removable HDD mounts and the option for top and bottom mount dual radiators. The work log will show that I've had to modify a few parts of the case, particularly for the vertically mounted graphics but as a whole the overall case is original. Mounting the card vertically was a challenge, but it was a feature I wished to have so eventually I found a manufacturer of PCI-e2 extension cables in America and had it shipped over. I realise this restricts expansions and upgrades in most slots, however for me this is not an issue, as I don't intend to have dual cards or a dedicated sound card.

    You may notice similarities to the Murderbox008 build which I drew my inspiration from. The light panel took some thought and experimenting but came together well. I'm still not sure how the Murder Mod light panels are constructed, but my method seems to work fine for a low cost and includes switching between blue and white lighting (discussed in the work log posted soon).

    The water channel running through the light panel was a later idea and took some brainstorming and experimenting to ensure flow rates weren't affected. Once you see how I made it, it's actually reasonably simple in construction, but was a bit time consuming.

    The smaller blue window was an idea I had to show the pump and exit of the water channel. I went with a blue acrylic so it didn't distract from the main features of the build.

    I always liked the idea of neat and organised cabling, so early on I decided to make the rear side attractive rather than a cavity to hide poor cabling, so I went with mesh inserts which are still easily removed if necessary. The hole above the still allows access to HHD plugs for removal.

    It took me a while to come up with a name that was simple, yet represented the feature of the built which in my opinion is the glow of the light panel, so Aurora seemed fitting.

    The project work log is basically a walk through on how I made everything from start to finish. It includes information on where I purchased certain accessories and supplies in order to help those out that are located in and around Adelaide, Australia.

    I'm sure Aurora isn't to everyone's taste and I do realise it isn't built solely for high performance or practicality but it met my goals better than expected and I hope you like it.

    Hardware

    CoolerMaster CM 690 II Advanced
    Gigabyte GA-EX58 UD4-P
    Core i7 920
    MSI ATI 6970
    Corsair HX-650 PSU
    6GB 2000Mhz Kingston HyperX
    2x 1TB WD HDD
    Pioneer DVD/CD

    Cooling

    5x 120mm Noiseblocker Black Silent fans
    140mm Cooler Master Silent Blue fan
    Deepcool 50x10 mm silent fan
    Deepcool Rockman Fan Controller
    XSPC RX120 Radiator
    XSPC RS240 Radiator
    Swiftech MCR120 stackable
    Danger Den CPX-Pro pump
    EK 150 Reservoir
    EK 6970 Water Block - Nickel Plexi
    EK Supreme CPU Block - Nickel Plexi
    Tygon tubing 7/16" 11/16" 1/8"
    Bitspower 1/2" highflow barbs

    In the beginning.....

    I knew I wanted to go with a medium sized case and luckily I stumbled across the CM 690 II case, which had the option for top and bottom mount dual radiators. I began with brainstorming ideas on how to incorporate a light panel I was working on based on the Murdermod light panels. Using dimension specs of cooling hardware obtained from websites, I made cardboard cut out models to play around with layout ideas, considering both form and function.


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    I came across a thick XSPC RX120 Radiator and a MCR120 stackable on eBay which I got for a great price both in excellent condition. Because of the removable HHD mounts, I was able to position the thick XSPC RX120 Radiator upright at the right hand side (RHS) so the fan pulled air out of the case. By positioning the thick rad here, I was able to mount the CPX-Pro pump and also use the thinner stackable swiftech rad on the bottom of the case allowing for the light panel to sit on top whist still providing enough room for the fan to operate, pulling air from the case and pushing it out through the mesh in the bottom of the case. A bonus to the positioning these rad is that the stackable inlet of the swiftech acts as a lowest point drainage hole for the loop, as does the XSPC RX120 due to its drainage hole feature at the bottom (very handy throughout the build).


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    One problem I saw some people were having with this case was that dual rads were difficult to mount with the barbs at the front end of the case if a DVD ROM was in place at the top slot of the case. The problem was that the back of the DVD ROM was in the way of the barbs/tubing. I didn't want to have the tubing at the back end of the case purely because I wasn't happy with the layout so I modified the mount holes and cut out some the metal to allow for better air flow at the top mount location in order to move the radiator back.


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    I have always been slightly frustrated with seeing nice water blocks placed on GPUs but due the mounting position of the board, the underside is never displayed. The Murdermod TJ07 cases on the other hand have the motherboard mounted upside down, displaying the water block from the top. I didn't want to do this so due to the extensive modifications I would have to make for the IO panel at the rear of the case. I tried to figure out how I could mount it in a different way. My friend who works on server computers mentioned that extension cards were available for PCI-e 1 GPUs and I could then mount it any way I please. After a fair bit of searching, I came across a couple of PCI-e 2 riser cards at Ameri-rack in the US so I contacted a guy there and got the ARC1-PEVX16A2-C15 (15cm version) shipped over (US$35 plus postage).

    After trialling different GPU orientations, I decided on a vertical GPU mount and cut out the original rear mounting brackets (no turning back after that).


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    Now that the rear brackets were gone, I had to think of a mounting method for the GPU and how to fill that void. I thought of making it out of acrylic as I knew it would match the light panel underneath the GPU. Instead I went one up and had an idea of using a light panel at the back as well. Fixed on this idea I set to work figuring out the a way to make a thin light panel for the rear hoping that it would fit. During this time I was looking at the Murderbox008 on MDPC, admiring its design and I particularly liked the way the blue coolant glowed in the tubing lit from the light panel underneath. One photo from above showing the tubing glowing blue gave me the idea to create a clear acrylic channel for the liquid to flow through and mount it on top of the main bottom light panel. After a few days I worked out a way incorporating the channel into the construction of the light panel its self reducing its overall thickness and making it a distinct feature of the build.


    The light panel is obviously not my idea, you all must have seen the light panels Murdermod sell for $200 (last time I checked anyway). I read the work log, and the construction wasn't discussed because they obviously have invested interest in the light panel. They did however mention that the idea came from a light box technique used in photography which involves reflecting light up through a semi transparent layer (sometimes cloth) producing a even glow. People have been lighting logos on acrylic by scratching the surface and installing LEDs on the outer edges. I thought to myself, what if I could use reflective surfaces around the edges and bottom of a thick clear bit of and only allow the light to reflect out of a completely scuffed top surface and use Opal coloured acrylic used in lit shop signs to create an even glow.

    I had the acrylic cut to size from Acrilix Plastics in Adelaide and made a trial version for the Antec 902 I had at the time and incredibly it worked very well! I later refined the design making it slightly thinner, cheaper and much simpler to construct by using mirrored acrylic, reflective stick on vinyl and 24xLED strips.

    So, here is how you make a light panel for about AU$20! I'll also show you how I incorporated the water channel into the main light panel, and also show you the simple construction of the rear light panel.

    The mirrored acrylic (3 mm thick) I got was difficult to cut due to it melting with the use of a jigsaw so breaking it along a straight edge with the aid of guides cut into the surface with a blade.


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    The main light refracting piece is 6 mm thick clear acrylic to which I sanded one surface to help light reflect up.


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    The refracting 6 mm acrylic is then glued onto the mirrored acrylic using acrylic solvent. To this I glued down two LED strips (one blue and one white) slightly offset so the LEDs in the rear strips shine through between the other strips LEDs. To neaten up the light panel and to stop light from omitting where I don't want it, I placed a thin strip of mirrored acrylic on top of the LED strips and stuck matte black adhesive vinyl on top.


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    Now that I had the base unit to the light panel, the next step was to build the water channel. This was a time consuming process and marked the point where my rotary tool paid for itself tenfold just in convenience. The whole construction of the water channel is actually fairly simple. There is a thin piece of clear acrylic on the bottom, A 8 mm thick piece of clear acrylic the same size with a channel cut into in and another thicker 4.5 mm piece of clear acrylic the same size for the top. All three glued together make the channel with the 8 mm section with the channel cut acting as the void.
    I used a jigsaw to cut the overall shape of the channel then used a sanding bit on the rotary tool to smooth rough edges then used wet and dry light sand paper to further smooth the inner edge, and finally used the buffing tool to polish the edges smooth to aid water flow.


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    I used liquid solvent to glue the 8 mm channel section onto the 2 mm acrylic and sealed the edges with acrylic glue which was the easy part. Gluing the top on is much more difficult because I didn't want to overdo the solvent. Once that top piece is on you obviously cant clean up edges inside the channel and any solvent spots will not only roughen the channel surface but also look dodgy. For this I used acrylic glue which is more viscous and application spots can be controlled. I used a thin line about 10 mm away from the channel edge and let it set with gym weights applying pressure. I sanded the bottom side of the channel area to help refract light into the channel and to also provide a semi opaque appearance between the channel and the lighting base.


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    END OF PART 1
     
    Last edited: 29 Nov 2011
  2. SFraze

    SFraze New Member

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    PART 2

    Now that the channel was made, all that was needed was inlet and out let points to screw fittings into. It proved difficult to find, but I managed to eventually get a female 1/4" British Standard Pipe taper for $15 at Gasweld St Mary's Adelaide (bargain! Note that a male taper cost about $130 due to the process required to make it apparently). I used this to tap a thread into the acrylic for the Bitspower fittings to screw into.

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    Carefully removing rough edges with a blade
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    Testing for leaks (all good!)
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    The outlet end of the channel was cut so that it would fit in around the thick XSPC rad and also allow tubing to connect to the underlying Swiftech rad. The end result is the lightly sanded block which is the water outlet seen through the small blue window of the case. Originally the hole for the outlet was about 10 mm away from all edges at the end of the channel which created a bubble vortex I couldn't seem to remove which made a crackling sound due to the bubbles hitting each other. Unsatisfied with this, I had to completely cut back sand and replace the under edge of the block and create a new bottom piece which hosted the outlet hole now located at the very end of the channel.


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    This completed the channel section of the light panel which I glued to the lighting unit base using solvent. I then cut out the exact channel shape out of a piece of 2 mm opal acrylic with the aid of a stencil and glued it to the top of the channel using solvent. The channel was masked up to prevent solvent from etching the surface. The opal white acrylic provides a diffusing layer for the light. So after some trial and error and a lot of time invested, the light panel with a water channel was finished!


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    Making the rear light panel was fairly simple. It uses the same construction as the main panel, but instead of attaching a water channel on top of the refracting clear acrylic piece, I place the 2 mm opal acrylic directly on top with a black 2 mm acrylic strip glued to the edge of the opal piece which covers the LED strips. In this case, the LED strips were cut down to size. These particular LED strips can be simply cut with a knife at every third LED (these LEDs are wired in groups of three). Once the light panel had been made, I mounted it using screws at the rear of the case and marked out locations for the GPU mount and a hole for the DVI cable to fit through. The GPU mount is made from 6 mm acrylic which has holes matching the PCB cooler mounts. Screws with rubber washers hold the GPU in place against the light panel. Note that the card in the photos below is my old card (4870 IceQ4+)


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    To operate the light panels I decided to have a switch panel at the rear where a removable vertical slot was located. The switches allow me to switch between blue and white light or both on or all off and also switch on the LED which lights the CPU block.
    The switch panel itself was made using some 3mm black acrylic and some neat, little black switches I purchased from [URL="http://www.jaycar.com.au/index.asp/]Jaycar Electronics[/URL]. Each switch clicks into a rectangle hole cut into the acrylic. I also covered the panel in a flat black vinyl that matched the powder coated case. I mounted the switch panel by drilling some pilot holes and screwing into the acrylic from the rear of the case. The wiring was distributed via 3 pin male plugs from a fan splitter attached to an acrylic base. I also made some for the dual fan set for the top mount radiator.



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    The light panels covered a fair amount of the inner case and was the main feature but I wanted to separate the pump area from the hardware and also neaten up the inside, so I went with mesh painted in a flat black so it was a very subtle feature throughout the case. I purchased the mesh from [URL="http://www.greensteelsupplies.com.au/]Green Steel Supplies[/URL] near Hindmarsh Stadium, Adelaide. A couple of guys there were really helpful considering I was just looking for off cuts of mesh for cash or small cuts from larger sheets.
    I started making cardboard stencils to best figure out the layout of the mesh inserts. The rear fan area and beneath the main light panel was my main concern. For the rear fan, I wanted to make the fan appear flush mounted on the inside and also cover the polished steel casings of the motherboard plug panel. Underneath the main light panel, mesh covers the power supply and bottom mounted Swiftech rad. After making stencils, I traced the patterns out with a china graph pencils and cut the mesh out with tin snips, and smoothed the edges with a file, sanding bit of the rotary tool and then coarse sand paper. The steel was soft and perforated enough for the sand paper to smoothen the edges. I tried a couple paints I had lying around (matte black and gloss black), both of which I wasn't satisfied with. The paint I decided on was Rust-oleum Universal All Surface Flat Black (not matte black) which isn't too dull but doesn't create a shiny surface.
    The mesh piece on the fan is held in place by screws attached to the fan itself. The mesh under the light panel is attached to the light panel screwing into the acrylic.
    All the mesh pieces have door/window sealing adhesive foam at contact points to stop any unwanted vibration noises.


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    I covered the back of the DVD drive with flat black vinyl and also painted some parts with matte black model paint, a technique used by Murdermod on some builds.


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    To neaten up the front of the case I removed one of the mesh bay covers and carefully cut out a slot for the DVD drive tray using a cutting disc on a rotary tool. The raw edges were then smoothed with a file and sand paper and painted with black model paint. By doing this, the mesh of the case is continuous and adds an overall neater appearance. Ideally, I wanted to go with a slot loaded drive but they proved very difficult to find and can be pricey when found (let me know if you know of a place to get them in black of course).


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    Most of the new motherboards now are completely colour coordinated, the Gigabyte x58 UD4-P I purchased when the Core-i7 1366 pin had just come out was almost there with the colour coordination, however it had a couple of ugly bright orange slots so I carefully painted some of the orange slots on the UD4-P motherboard in a blue matching the heat sinks.


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    By now, I had purchased all the components I needed for the build, but before installing all the components, it was time to do some sleeving. Just as a note some of the fittings in the photo below (including the bulky 90 degree fitting) weren't used in the build. I purchased some Phobya swivel angle fittings, but wasn't happy with the finish or the inner diameter of some angled sections so these weren't used in the build. The Bitspower, though more expensive, seem to be superior at the moment.


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    Now to the sleeving. I went with Grand Bleu colour and Black sleeving from [URL="http://en.mdpc-x.com/mdpc-sleeve/sleeve.htm]MDPC X[/URL]. Early on in the project I was trying to decide between Grand Bleu and Aquamarine but glad I went with the Grand Bleu as it matches well with the heat sinks and Hyper X RAM and isn't too loud against the rest of the build. Note; B-Magic blue sleeving was not released when I purchased the sleeving.

    With the SATA cables I covered them in flat black electrical tape before sleeving to avoid the red colour showing through on bends (shown in the pictures below).


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    The Noiseblocker Black Silent fans come with black sleeving but the sleeving doesn't extend all the way to the motor so with the rear fan which is visible, I replaced the sleeving extending it completely so the ugly wires weren't exposed.


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    At some stage throughout the many hours of fiddly sleeving, poured a nice scotch :)
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    One feature of the Murderbox008 I was particularly impressed with was the neat cable management on around the rear side of the case. I wanted to follow similar levels of neat cable management. Eventually I decided to make the cable cavity a bit of a feature by incorporating mesh inserts I had used inside the case to hide some cable gathering points around the back of the HDDs. I cut a hole for the fan to allow for better airflow from the XSPC RX radiator. The holes above the fan allow access to the SATA and power cables for the HDD's for easy HDD removal.

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    END OF PART 2
     
  3. Mojo

    Mojo Well-Known Member

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    Good work so far!!
     
  4. barfastic

    barfastic New Member

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    nice.
    Does the PCI port work fine after you painted it?
    Looks really nice though. and you have given me many ideas!
     
  5. GuilleAcoustic

    GuilleAcoustic Ook ? Ook !

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    That is some impressive work matey :thumb:
     
  6. SFraze

    SFraze New Member

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    PART 3

    The next stage was installing all the components which was pretty straight forward except for the tight bends and link between the water channel outlet and the pump which due to its short length proved quite difficult to fit together. I used Tygon 7/16" 11/16" 1/8" due to its excellent bend radius and also by using 7/16" I didn't have to use ugly clamps (my decision was aided by this [URL="http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/showthread.php?157370-Tubing-Review-18-Types-of-Tubing-Reviewed-56k-warning]review[/URL]). I used a heat gun on low to warm up the ends of the tubing to fit over the 1/2 inch barbs. Once the tubing is on, it's very difficult to get it off again so there is no concern over leaks. In the tight bends I used a heat gun and a tightly wound spring near equal in diameter to the inner diameter of the tubing to mould the tubing into a curve then cooling it under cold water for a few minutes. This created a permanent bend in the tubing. I found that applying too much head with this particular tubing and forcing a very tight bend resulted in a weak point for the tubing to kink so I personally recommend heat on low and not to make the bend to tight.


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    There seems to be different theories of loop layouts. After some reading and advice in the forum, I agreed with the many that suggest that the water travels so fast through the loop that there isn't much temperature difference between the water exiting the GPU and the water exiting the radiator due to the water reaching an equilibrium temperature in the loop. I ended up going with a loop that seemed logical and had the neatest tubing layout.

    For those that are interested, the tubing route is as follows:
    Pump - XSPC RX120 Radiator - Swiftech Radiator - XSPC RS240 Radiator - CPU block - GPU block - Reservoir - water channel - Pump

    The amount of water in the loop is approximately 1 litre. I used to use Blue Primochill Dye Bombs however the colour would fade rather quickly and I didn't want to continue purchasing dyes so now I use food colouring (99cents from the supermarket) which has been in my loop for six months and there are no problems. The colour lasts significantly longer than Primochill dyes as well. I use 99.9% pure silver in the reservoir I purchased from a local jewellery manufacturer/modifier stop any algal growth.


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    With all the components in place I was able to measure out possible windows and the side fan vent. Instead of getting all the windows and vents water jet cut I decided to do it myself carefully with a jigsaw and guides. I used masking tape to protect the paint surface of the size panels and also to provide a surface to draw the window outline on. I then clamped MDF to the underside of the panel to stop any flex and minimize vibrations when cutting the metal. In doing this, the cut is very neat with minimal rough edges. The edges were then smoothed with a rotary tool and sanding bit to neaten the corners and a file and coarse sand paper to smooth it all out. The raw edges were then painted in flat black spray paint.
    For the main window I used clear acrylic, and for the small pump window I used transparent blue acrylic which was neatly siliconed into place and with the aid of weights to add pressure.


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    END OF PART 3
     
  7. SFraze

    SFraze New Member

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    PART 4

    At this stage, I purchased a MSI 6970 GPU and a nickel plexi EK block. I used the same mesh and flat black paint to cover the PCB which hides that unattractive dark brown standard PCB that all the reference cards came out with.


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    So with the new graphics card installed and all the components been up and running for some time I finally had some time after a big year at uni to add the final touch to the case. The logo was fairly easy. I made a small light panel in the same way used in the main light panel discussed earlier, but with four blue LEDs (2 on each end). The logo itself is a sticker I had made up by a car sticker business at the Brickworks markets in Adelaide. It only cost $20 for a few logos so that was a bonus and took about 5 minutes to make on the spot. The sticker is opaque black with the text cut out, therefore the light glows through the text. This logo unit is mounted to the inside frame of the case and sits behind a small window I made.

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    So that sums up the work log. I hope there is plenty of handy tips and perhaps new ideas or methods for your next build or current build.

    If there are any questions I'll be happy to answer them, just post up a reply in the thread.

    I'll now leave you with the final photos I shot of my first build; Aurora. Go easy with the photography, I'm a beginner :)



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    If you have any questions about the build, just post them up here on the thread.

    Cheers,

    Fraze :)
     
    jamsand likes this.
  8. KoSoVaR^

    KoSoVaR^ Professional Sleever & Modder

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    Quite an impressive work you did in the graphics card and the waterfall res :)
     
  9. bulldogjeff

    bulldogjeff The modding head is firmly back on.

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    That is really really nice. I like this one a lot . Got loads of lovely touches and ninja cableing as well..Top modding dude.:thumb:
     
  10. Hannes

    Hannes Design | Art | Performance

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    Fuuu.. Everytine I think of something someone else have done it. Splendid work, love it! Truly inspiring
     
  11. rak500

    rak500 Member

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    +1
    I really like the standing gpu thing, it seems such a shame to hide such nice nickel/plexi blocks when connected normally.
    Awesome!
     
  12. -Jv-

    -Jv- New Member

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    Very, very nice work !
     
  13. Monsieur R.

    Monsieur R. In cornichons I trust.

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    Waow ! What a nice first mod ! :D
    And the vertical GPU is such a fresh, clever and exotic idea. I'm in love with it. :thumb:
     
  14. Angel OD

    Angel OD Pump Killer

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    This really is beautiful! :jawdrop:

    The water flowing at the bottom, the gfx sitting sideways, well the whole damn thing is just immaculate! :thumb:
     
  15. uerseya

    uerseya Covered in rock wool

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    Very very nice ! :thumb:

    Have you got any tips for painting the PCIe slots ? do's and don't per chance ?

    Plus have you got any good head on picture of the graphics card and mounting arrangement with decent lighting ?

    Thanks !
     
  16. Cyril06

    Cyril06 paradyse.conception

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    Really nice build ! Awesome work on the acrylic !
     
  17. SFraze

    SFraze New Member

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    Thanks KoSoVaR :)


    Cheers Bulldogjeff, neat cable management is one thing, but to display them is the next step which requires more time. I see plenty of quality builds that don't bother to much with neat cabling but I think with companies such as MDPC, people are seeing the value in sleeving and neat cable layouts, where it can become a feature of the build.

    Hannes, that's the nature of any project I guess, whether it be a custom car or a custom PC. If you have an idea, don't hesitate, design it, develop it, and construct it....before someone else does. I know I'm struggling to think of what to build into my next case that will be unique.


    Spot on rak500, particularly when you factor in the cost of these block. You're not just paying for the copper, but also the nickel and plexi to make it look nice.


    Cheers JV :)

    Thanks, Monsieur R,

    When I look at it now it kind of wish I did a few things slightly different or thought of other features, but I think I did okay for a first build. Can't wait to have a new idea pop into my head for the next build!


    Thanks Angel OD for the praise, glad you like it :thumb:
    uerseya, Thanks for the kind feedback.

    I wouldn't tend to paint a slot unless you don't intend to use it (like in this case).
    However its been done by many modders, you would just have to go about it in a careful manner. I used paper slotted just under where it is soldered into the board to stop paint from going on anything else and just used a fine brush and a steady hand. The problem obviously is getting paint on the metal contact points. Perhaps the paint could be scratched off each individual metal contact strip with a needle or tailored tool, but this would be time consuming and a bit hit and miss.

    I haven't got any other photos of the how the card is mounted and due to where the mount is on the mesh, its hard to get a good photo. The mount is a small 90 degree angle bracket that allows the board to mount to the bracket though a hole in the PCB of the GPU and the metal bracket. The bracket is deliberately hidden with a small screw driver access hole to undo the mount screw.
    At the light panel end, the photos show a clear piece of acrylic which is welded to the light panel surface with acrylic solvent (not going anywhere). The clear acrylic piece has holes through which screw go into via the holes of the GPU PCB. The holes in the GPU are already there from the standard air cooler mounts.

    Thanks Cyril06 :thumb:

    Acrylic is a great material to work with and is affordable (in most cases). Sometimes acrylic can look cheap or unfinished in mods so its up to the builder to master the material and choose the right type for specific purposes. The best thing about acrylic is the use of solvent allows things to be constructed without screws or brackets which can often look unattractive.
     
  18. Hannes

    Hannes Design | Art | Performance

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    You're spot on friend. A build doesn't have to be unique to be wonderful, but if that's what you strife for then you need to be fast and make the best out of what you have.
     
  19. p0Pe

    p0Pe gief cake?

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    Thats one wicked build mate! Amazing to see what can be done with basic tools and some good old creativity!
     
  20. y01p0w3r3d

    y01p0w3r3d New Member

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    da'am thats impressive... i wish i had that mad skillz
    :)
     

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