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Case Mod - In Progress Space Case Study (SCS-1)

Discussion in 'Project Logs' started by Karrek, 9 Nov 2020.

  1. Karrek

    Karrek Active Member

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    Hello all!
    I'm calling this project "Space Case Study 1" or SCS-1.
    --> Partly a case study on the minimum space an mATX case can take on my desk (the footprint).
    --> Partly an experiment (for me) in case-modding ideas and methods.
    --> And partly because as an amateur, my abilities and approach may remind others of a space case… :duh:


    But regardless, I look forward to any inputs or thoughts others may have!

    I have lurked on this website off and on for almost ten years now, and I've gotten close to starting a project log a few times, but because of life circumstances, the projects never really got off the ground. (blah blah, lack of time, moving frequently, not enough money, not enough time, kids, more excuses, more excuses, etc.) But enough of the excuses!


    Goals:
    I am modding to get a case that I want, and I'll worry about specific hardware later - so not much sexy component pics here yet. One of the guiding goals of this mod is a minimal footprint on my desk - because hey, space is valuable in my home office in the laundry room (which also acts as a storage room, my workshop, a music room, and much more...).

    I already had a false start that I'll briefly discuss below; and I expect this "case study" to take a couple turns as we go too...

    So let's begin this journey...!
     
  2. Midlight

    Midlight Member

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    If your looking for minimal footprint would ITX not be the better choice?
     
  3. Karrek

    Karrek Active Member

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    Initial Design Ideas:
    As mentioned, this will be for my home office in a confined space, so desk space is at a premium. Some of the things I know that I want include are: a mATX formfactor, and room for normal-sized components (PSU, GPUs, etc). And likely air-cooled (or an AIO), or compatible with both.

    Thus, this mod begins with a form-follows-function basis, and then we'll see where it goes from there.

    The largest component dictating a case size is the motherboard paired with the GPU… so that is where I'm starting.

    My first design decision was to place the motherboard vertically, with the ports and cords coming out of the top. There are not many cases in any formfactor with this orientation possible. (There are a few ITX cases in this vein.) So I started to look for cases that I could easily rotate or put on its back. I finally settled on the Thermaltake Core V21. This case appealed to me because of the simple and unique configuration, and the interchangeable sides.

    Stock Photo:
    [​IMG]

    I purchased the case, and then promptly got distracted by work and then a short time later was moved overseas for work. So the case came along in its box and was dormant for a couple years.

    I pulled it out a few weeks ago, and started the disassembly.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  4. Karrek

    Karrek Active Member

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    I just had the thought that I don't know if my photos will be visible - I think I made the Google Pics folder accessible... but let me know if you can see the pics.
     
  5. Karrek

    Karrek Active Member

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    Yes, but I also like the broader flexibility of mATX in that typically you can have 4 RAM slots, more M.2 slots, etc. So that is why I want to experiment in this direction...

    of course, I don't see many mATX builds, so maybe there is a reason out there...
     
  6. Karrek

    Karrek Active Member

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    So after stripping the case, I flipped it on to its back and removed the front (which for me was going to become the bottom).

    [​IMG]


    I removed all the rivets by using a classic drill bit that was the same diameter as the rivet (1/8" in my case). Not much pressure was need as I let the drill do its thing and then it suddenly pushes through and spits out the back side of the rivet across the workspace. Mandatory pic of rivet pieces (both old and new):

    [​IMG]



    I then rotated the panel 180 degrees. Since this is a square case, it worked really well, and I only needed to drill four new holes to hook back in the motherboard support panel. Part of my thinking was that I may still use the 200mm fan on the bottom to blow air up through the case - but still undecided.

    [​IMG]


    My intent was to then cut the case and basically remove the whole section below the motherboard support panel (about 3-4"); however, while looking at the case in this orientation, I started having doubts as to the size of the case and whether the case was really saving me as much desk space as I wanted.

    So in pondering, I decided to switch tactics…

    I put this case back together (with the end panel still rotated 180 degrees), and transplanted my computer into it. You can see in this pic how much space there is inside - even if I put in a full-length graphics card.
    [​IMG]

    Swapping cases freed up another case that I decided to cut up instead…
     
    Last edited: 24 Nov 2020
  7. Karrek

    Karrek Active Member

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    So a new start!

    My victim case is now a budget case from Silverstone: a Silverstone Tek PS08B. Nothing remarkable, and in fact quite ugly (some of its product line siblings look better); but I needed a basic case at the time to put a computer together quickly for my wife to do some online courses. In fact, this computer has been humming along and is now my Work From Home (WFH) computer (although now in the Thermaltake Core V21 case until this case mod is done).

    A few stock photos so you can see what I am working with here:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Despite being compact already, the plan is to put this case on a diet and lose some inches around the waist!!

    So again I strip the case.

    [​IMG]


    My daughter wants to help, but only really does one rivet before deciding she'd rather watch.

    [​IMG]


    Again a photo of the rivet heads that build up on the drill. The hardest part of removing rivets is actually pulling these back off! I used some pliers to gentle twist them back off the drill bit. I'd be open to hear if there is a better way.

    [​IMG]


    Making progress:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]


    I made a couple cardboard mockups to give me a sense of space usage.

    [​IMG]


    An mATX board is roughly 9.6" or 244mm square. The ATX size PSU is 86mm x 150mm and the length can differ, but I made my mockup 140mm long.


    I continued to dissassemble, and started planning on where to cut.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]


    Part of me wants to see what I could build with mostly pieces from the same case, although I know I will need to supplement materials in later…
     
  8. Karrek

    Karrek Active Member

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    For most of the cutting, I used a dremel tool with a cutoff wheel. Definitely a skill where I have room to improve in. I have a variable speed dremel, and found that for steel, higher speeds were better, and I needed to not push but let the cutting wheel do its thing. If the wheel started turning red hot in places (I was doing this in the evening outside our front door, so I could see the glow!), I needed to back off a little. The wheel still cut when it got hot, but it also disintegrated or wore down much faster.

    Out of respect for neighbors and my family, I only did a little cutting at a time over the space of a few days. But this also worked out well as I could take time to re-assess the pieces and how they would fit together.

    The part that turned into a puzzle was deciding how to cut up the frame in a way that I could shorten it and put it back together.

    [​IMG]


    I made cuts and used some pliers to bend the frame to allow for the overlap.

    [​IMG]


    and fitting it back together…

    [​IMG]


    And here is the other end.

    [​IMG]


    I had to measure and re-measure a few times to make sure the frame was staying square and straight, so I could put the top (soon to be the back) back on…


    Test fit:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]


    I'm pretty happy with the way the top of the case fit back on, and it all feels sturdy -- maybe until I make more cuts in the case…
     
  9. Karrek

    Karrek Active Member

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    A little more work done.

    Depending on where the cables come out of the PSU, in theory an 11 inch GPU would fit, but it would likely be tight. I debated setting the PSU into the base of the case, or even below the current bottom panel… Put maybe in a future iteration of this mod. For now I'll see how it works as-is.
    [​IMG]

    Preparing a reversible PSU mount:
    [​IMG]


    Then I wanted to see if I could reuse the side panels, so I cut them down the side.
    [​IMG]


    I thought I had been so careful in following the line, but nope, still a little wavy... :wallbash:
    [​IMG]


    Both panels fit on the case again! But there is a slight outward bow on the side that I cut, since it no longer hooks into the case.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    I'll come back to the sides later. For now, I want to cut up the front panel…
    [​IMG]


    I removed some of the front ports and cables. The buttons and LEDs were hot glued in, so I didn't mess with them at this point.
    [​IMG]


    Used a dremel cutting wheel to make the cuts - slower speed worked better as it melted less of the plastic. I still had to break/brush off some of the melted plastic that gathers around the cut.
    [​IMG]

    After sanding slightly to smooth the surface, I used superglue to attach the panel back together.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Karrek

    Karrek Active Member

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    I want to experiment with using some Plexiglas I have laying around, but I don't have a way to bend it. So…. I decided to make a bender. Some friends were moving and gave us bags of stuff they were getting rid of, and there was an old hairdryer in there.


    I took it apart

    [​IMG] [​IMG]


    I went to the hardware store and bought a small piece of plywood (300x600mm, or a little less than 12"x24"), some aluminum channel of the same thickness, and some hinges. I cut the plywood

    [​IMG] [​IMG]


    Then glued and screwed it together

    [​IMG]


    added the channel and hinges

    [​IMG]


    to come up with this:

    [​IMG] [​IMG]


    I added a 90 degree angle guide and guidelines

    [​IMG]


    …and then I totally bogged down in trying to figure out the electrical part of it. I mostly figured out the layout of the hairdryer circuit, but don't fully understand the breakdown of the math and voltages (for example, it looks like the fan motor sees the full 220V, but that doesn't make sense to me as the motor is variable speed, and it also would burn up at 220V). Ah well - it's been too long since my circuit analysis courses back in school.


    An unfinished attempt at mapping out the circuit:

    [​IMG]


    I'll keep working on it and let you know how it goes…
     
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  11. Cheapskate

    Cheapskate Insane? or just stupid?

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    I'm wondering if you can get a hair dryer coil hot enough to bend plexi. You are going to need a ton of that asbestos card cut into insulators too. :( The last thing you need is that 220 coil shorting on the aluminum track... or you.
    Anyway, totally do it, but not on the carpet. :lol:
     
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  12. Karrek

    Karrek Active Member

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    I agree with you on all points! I definitely will not and have not put 220V anywhere near me - 120V has given me enough of a shock. So my plan was to basically do a trial and error approach as I continued to contemplate the hair dryer circuit for clues.


    So first I made the circuit a little more complete to ease my experimentation. I hooked up some wire to bring both ends to one side of the bender.

    [​IMG]


    I used a dremel to cut a groove into the head of a screw - allowing me to better control the wire through the center of the bender.

    [​IMG]


    Hooked up one end of the nichrome wire:

    [​IMG]


    I don't have a good picture of it yet, but I attached the other end of the nichrome wire to a weight, hanging off the other end of the board. In theory I will use a spring to keep tension on the wire as it expands (it expands noticeably when current is applied), but I don't have a suitable spring on me. Some are now on order… Anyway, so the weight (vise-grip pliers) kept the wire taut and in place.


    And then I pulled out a few random power adapters to play with.

    [​IMG]


    I started with low voltage/low amps and slowly moved up. Felt a little warmth with the 9V-.7A, almost the same with the 12V-.5A, but then really got results with the 20V-4.5A laptop power brick. I kind of expected this after seeing laptop bricks used on YouTube, but it was good to see. The wire got red, but still took a few minutes to warm up a piece of plexi to a bendable temperature.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Actually, you can barely see the vise-grip setup in that last photo.

    So in short, some measure of success. I intend to make the wiring and bender a little more permanent and easy to use once I get a few more parts.

    As a side note, I also tested a 24V-5A power wart (that came from a string of Christmas lights, but got almost no heat or anything from the nichrome wire. This was strange to me as it is slightly more power than the laptop brick, but maybe there was some user error in my process, or I missed something.

    Anyway, I think my bigger challenge now is how to get good consistent cuts on plexiglas, and then how to do bends at the right places and at the right measurements…

    More to come!
     
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  13. Karrek

    Karrek Active Member

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    While my Plexibender experiment has been moving forward, I've also done a little more on the case.

    I cut out the front (was the bottom) of the case.
    [​IMG]


    I sized the opening to a width of 140mm to fit fans or a radiator if I wanted to go that direction (although they would have to be attached in the opening or on the outside due to the tight space inside). In the process I discovered that there are non-standard fans out there... I was using the 120mm case fan that came with this case, and then what I thought was a 140mm fan that I had cannibalized from an old PSU that had died. Luckily I compared it to another 140mm fan that I bought years ago, and discovered the PSU fan was 135mm! So maybe a little less useful than I had thought… Here are the three fans:

    [​IMG]


    I asked some local PC stores if they had any broken or old components that I could use for sizing and spatial estimating purposes. I got a MATX board, an ITX board, and an old but working PSU. Not bad!

    Here is what the case looks like so far…

    [​IMG] [​IMG]


    I then decided I needed to make some cutouts for cable routing purposes.

    [​IMG]


    So current state:

    [​IMG]
     
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