RGB SAS DAS scratchbuild - 1 PC in 4 cases

Discussion in 'Modding Worklogs' started by DrFrag, Mar 5, 2017.

  1. DrFrag

    DrFrag Member

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    This is a project born out of chronic shoulder pain from years of lugging heavy cases to LAN parties. I've tried case wheels and trolleys, but there's still so much lifting out of cars, through doorways, over cable run covers, over rough carparks, etc. I also have CFS, so reducing my exertion at LANs is important in reducing my recovery time.

    My existing system is a full tower aluminium case with 10 drives, plus an external mid tower steel case with 14 drives on a SAS link. Both cases weigh about 16kg. My goal is to carry nothing over 10kg. My solution is to split the setup down to 4 cases. PC + three 8 drive enclosures. There are SAS drive towers out there that do this, but I could only find them in steel. This gets the weight down to 11kg per case at best, but I want something closer to 8kg so I've opted to scratch build my own from aluminium. Since there's no motherboard in a drive tower, the design is pretty simple - 8 bays, a small PSU, and a SAS bracket to convert internal cables to external ports.

    Design goals:
    • Lightweight
    • SAS interface
    • Toolless
    • Anti-vibration mountings
    • Front access drive replacement
    • Carry strap that doesn't interfere with panel access
    • Power switch
    • Quiet
    • Cool
    • Compact
    • Minimalist design
    Things I don't need:
    • Hotswap
    • Cosmetic lights
    • Activity lights, other than a power light
    • Low cost

    First I checked out Lian-Li aluminium drive modules, but they're based around 5.25" bays which would bulk out the size a lot. So I opted for a full scratchbuild.

    Bunnings sells a thing called Connect-It, which is 25mm aluminium tubing with plastic corner connectors. I've seen cases built with it but most of them look too bulky for my liking. It's really designed for furniture. So I bought some 12.5mm tubing with the intention of making my own smaller scale version, with 3D printed corner connectors. This didn't work out for a few reasons, and I discovered that using 25mm tubing would only make it a few hundred grams heavier and also a lot stronger. It also has other benefits, since the corner connectors are hollow the tubing can be used as a cable conduit.

    The design went through a few iterations until I settled on something like this:

    [​IMG]

    I actually started on this project 3 years ago and finished the first case in October last year, so I can show you some juicy completion pictures already. I had the first case anodized in red.

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    This is the Red 1 case. My first PC in the 80s used to boot up with a flashing RGB thing that I can't find documented anywhere, but from memory looked something like this:

    [​IMG]

    So that's my inspiration for this project's name and colours.

    This worklog will document the construction of the next two cases, Green 2 and Blue 3. I'll post some photos I did for Red 1 as well, which are a little bit different because I was designing as I was building.
     
  2. Ash_Williams

    Ash_Williams Member

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    This is rather awesome, means another project to add to my list.

    What SAS interface are you using there?
     
  3. PsydFX

    PsydFX Member

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    Interesting build.


    How is the tubing fixed to the connectors?
     
  4. DrFrag

    DrFrag Member

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    My PC has an LSI 9200-8e card which is SAS 3Gb/s. It's a couple of generations old but I'm still not able to saturate it. Reading from all 8 drives simultaneously maxes out at around 900MB/s, so it looks like the bottleneck is the drive speeds.

    The enclosure itself uses SFF-8087 internal and SFF-8088 external connectors with an agnostic passthrough card, so I believe it'll handle newer SAS standards.

    It just pushes in and holds there with friction. I had to use a car jack to pull it apart.


    This seems like a good time to post the parts list. As far as scratch builds go, this is a pretty easy one cause there's no fiddly motherboard/IO shield/PCI bracket work. So I'll post all the info in case someone wants to make their own. The way the drives screw in is particularly good even if I do say so myself. I've done a lot of custom drive bay mods and I think this design is the best I've seen.

    Connect-It tubing system. I got mine from Bunnings. Not cheap, but so much quicker and easier and more accurate than building the framework by hand.

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    Angled aluminium, 25x25x1.4. I got mine from Bunnings.

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    Sheet aluminium. I bought a 2400x1200x0.8 sheet from Paramount Browns and had them cut it into 3 for transport. Anything thicker would be too much for my basic model sheet metal bender. Tape it up asap to avoid scratching.

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    Aluminium modder's mesh. Expensive and fairly hard to find. I think I paid $17 for mine, with twice that again in shipping. My shipping box says modright.com, but they don't seem to sell it anymore. MNPCTech sells some, but the aluminium stuff always seems to be out of stock. Looks like Xoxide have some.

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    Rivets. I used aluminium 3.2mm diam, 6.4mm grip but I could probably have gone shorter.

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    Thumb screws for the case cover.

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    Case screws. We all probably have a box of these lying around, since every motherboard and case seem to come with a packet. These are the thin thread M3 screws (used on optical drives) since my tapping kit is metric. HDD and PSU screws are imperial 6-32.

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    Anti-vibration drive screws, aka damping screws. What a pain to get hold of. Most of the ones I found were massively expensive and/or only came in 4-packs. My entire build came down to whether or not I could source these, and I ended up paying $1 each. Can't remember where I got them now. eBay have something similar.

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    Case feet. These are easy to find on modding sites.

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    Case handle. If you've ever had one of those PC carry straps, you'll be familiar with this. I couldn't find them on any modder shop sites until a friend told me they're actually kayak handles! They're only a few bucks on eBay or AliExpress. Strong and comfortable.

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    25mm plastic/canvas strap. Can't remember the proper name for it. It's the stuff they use in buckle-down straps, except Bunnings and car shops only sell ludicrous coloured versions. I got mine from Spotlight, around the Velcro/elastics section.

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    Case fan. 92mm fit this build. I think I got mine from PCCaseGear.

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    92mm case fan grilles. I bought a 10-pack from AliExpress.

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    PSU is a standard SFX power supply. The lowest I could find was 300W. The lower wattage the better cause drives don't draw much power. Maybe 10W peak each? 80W max total load means a 300W supply is inefficiently underutilised. The Red case used an industrial looking Seasonic with a protruding fan (or rather, the rest of the casing was recessed) but they all have the same screw holes. I got mine from PCCaseGear. They're about $60.

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    The power switch is a combination switch and 24-pin PSU adaptor, so you can power on the system without a motherboard. It simply shorts the green wire to one of the black ones, with an extra line for the LED power. If you can get them for under $10 you're doing well. I got mine from AliExpress.

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    3M Scotch 4010 Mounting Tape, aka Tape of the Gods. MNPCTech sells this stuff. Everything you've heard about the strength of this tape is true, and then some. I had trouble cutting it because it kept sticking to the scissors/knife. Shipping costs from MNPCTech are brutal, but it turns out you can buy it in Australia, or at least something very similar. Bunnings sells a thing called Scotch Permanent Clear Mounting Tape, rated for 2lbs holding weight (apparently 4010 is rated for 2lbs). There's also Scotch Outdoor Tape rated for 15lbs (6.7kg), and Scotch Extreme Mounting Tape rated for 30lbs (13.4kg). One of them looks the same as the pic below but I can't remember which one. They're more expensive than MNPCTech, but cheaper after you take shipping into account.

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    Custom SATA power connectors. Good for minimising cable mess. Available from AliExpress and PC modding sites.

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    SFF-8087 to SATA breakout cable. Expensive in Australia, cheap from AliExpress (and they're probably made in the same factory). I prefer the red ones cause they're have a nice solid feel. The pale blue ones are super thin which is probably good if you want to bend a hard angle into them, but I always feel like I'm going to snap them. Short is good for this mod, since they only have to go 20cm at most.

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    PCI 2 port SAS internal-external adaptor, from AliExpress.

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    External SAS cable. This is something you'll definitely want to buy from AliExpress. Some Australian stores charge 10x the price.

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    Not pictured:
    • Heat shrink tubing
    • Masking tape
    • Screws for the case feet.
     
  5. emmjawsX

    emmjawsX Member

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    Awesome scratch build and i really appreciate the anecdotes/write up about using connect-it - i want to do a scratch build myself and have been leaning towards using it. Looks a hell of a lot cleaner than i imagined that stuff would be, think i might be in on it :D
     
  6. DrFrag

    DrFrag Member

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    Ratzz made a nice case last year using Connect-It as a framework.

    I got to see Broox's Almost Cubed at a LAN, but it wasn't finished so it looked like a bit of a teleporter accident.

    There's been a few others here and there, but so many unfinished projects and dead picture links. :(

    It's a tricky medium because it can end up looking clunky (it's really meant for furniture) but I think it has a lot of potential for modders. It's exactly the same thickness as a case fan, which I'm sure can be exploited somehow. The aluminium is thick enough to thread screws into, and it's anodized so it's durable. 3D printing should permit non-orthogonal connectors and rounded corners. I'm sure there's lots that can be explored but it can be hard to break away from traditional case design.
     
  7. SiriusDragon

    SiriusDragon Member

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    This is awesome!

    My question is... You have 3 x storage cases but a 8e SAS card. How is that going to work?

    Also, how did you design the storage boxes - is that SketchUp? Or something like a CAD/CAM app?
     
  8. DrFrag

    DrFrag Member

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    I have a 36 port Chenbro SAS expander in the PC. I'll include a picture of the cabling when the cases are finished.

    I did all the design on graph paper. The diagram is just some 2D vector work drawn in Paint Shop Pro 6. :paranoid:
     
  9. SiriusDragon

    SiriusDragon Member

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    Ah sounds good :D

    And wow, good ol paint shop pro :D
     
  10. DrFrag

    DrFrag Member

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    I paid $200 for it in 1999 and I'm determined to get my money's worth.
     
  11. SiriusDragon

    SiriusDragon Member

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    Nothing wrong with that logic that's for sure!
     
  12. DrFrag

    DrFrag Member

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    This post is going to be about tools, before I start on construction photos.

    Obviously you'll need standard shed tools like drill bits, hammer, vice, clamps, etc so I won't list those. Some of these tools are expensive, but any good tool is an investment in quality and reduced workload for years to come.

    Power drill - The most useful tool in any shed. I have two 18V cordless drills, one for drill bits and one for screwdriver bits since I got sick of changing the bits over.

    Dremel - High speed rotary cutting tool. Great for modding, but hard to explain the purpose until you have one and start noticing all the small useful jobs it can do. Some people recommend reinforced cutting discs for cutting metal, but they always break at the spindle for me. Then I discovered EZ Lock. Holy crap these are good. I bought a pack ages ago and I'm still on the first one.

    Rivet gun - Cheap tool for putting rivets in. There's only a few rivets in this mod so I could have used screws, but if you want a solid assembly on sections that don't need opening up then rivets are the way to go.

    Drill press - These are expensive but there comes a time when a handheld drill won't do the job. Particularly for large holes, precision work, and aligned rows of holes. I made the mistake of buying a $90 Ryobi bench press from Bunnings, and it was crap because it would shift a millimetre or two every time. So now I have a proper $250 pedestal one and it's been a solid investment.

    20mm drill/spade bit - This is for the power button hole. A spade bit will do the job, but a proper 20mm drill bit is better. Don't pay $50 at Bunnings for it, get a $9 one from AliExpress or eBay. The quality is the same.

    Sheet metal brake - aka metal folder (dunno why they call them brakes). I bought a small one for $60 off eBay years ago, but I've seen them locally since then. Folds 1mm aluminium, but I wouldn't want to push it with anything thicker.

    Tapping kit - for making the threads in screw holes. The important one to get is M3 x 0.5 for fine thread computer screws. If you can find a 6-32 imperial one that's probably good too, but I don't know if that has a separate thread guage measurement.

    Essential oil, like tea tree oil or eucalyptus oil - for cleaning barcodes and marks off the aluminium. Unfortunately no man knows where to buy this mysterious stuff, you have to ask a woman. I got mine from Mum. Perhaps she bought it from a chemist. You can also use kerosine or something similar, but that tends to smell pretty bad.

    Car jack - for prizing apart the Connect-It after a test fit. I wish I was joking about this. You can also rig up a vice with chocks and clamps, so that turning the vice pushes the structure apart, but it's not always possible for some sections. To remove the end caps, insert a thick dowel into the tube and hit it with a mallet.

    Metal files - for tidying up the ends and edges of cut aluminium. I mostly used a flat bastard for the long edge work and Connect-It ends, and a mini triangular file for the intricate internal sheet work. Powder them with talc to stop them jamming full of aluminium filings.

    Molex de-pinner - for depinning the ATX 24-pin connector so the wires can be threaded through. Forget about trying anything other than a dedicated de-pinning tool. I tried paperclips, custom tools made from hammered flat nails filed to shape, everything YouTube suggested. Nothing worked. Get a cheap de-pinning kit from AliExpress or eBay. De-pinning is optional for this project, I'm pretty sure I just cut and re-soldered mine. I'm not even sure if molex pins will handle the internal corners of Connect-It now that I think about it.

    Mitre saw - great for cutting aluminium, but iirc it tends to causing surface crazing on the annodized stuff (like Connect-It). I ended up using a metal cutoff saw and then filed the ends smooth.

    Jigsaw or circular saw - for cutting sheet aluminium. I tried the jigsaw first and it was pretty bad. It cuts, but there's a ton of clean-up filing required and you can never get a perfectly straight edge. Then I tried a cordless circular saw with an aluminium cutting blade. What a dream to use! Super quick, cuts through like butter, perfectly straight edge, and a smooth cut that doesn't need filing.

    90mm hole bit - forget using a Dremel for fan holes, hole bits are where it's at.

    Fishing wire, thin synthetic rope, and small round fishing weights - for threading wires through Connect-It framework. Every project needs some Aussie ingenuity. I'll cover this in a later post.

    8 dead hard drives - for test fitting the drive bays. I recommend older Seagate drives because they're in good supply. I used seven 1.5TB Seagate drives and a WD Green, which basically sums up my history of drive failures.

    An anodizing service - for the case finish. I looked up DIY anodizing on YouTube and said nope pretty quickly. I took mine to Key Manufacturing in Adelaide and they were great. There's also a place in the northern suburbs that does it.

    I recommend AliExpress and eBay for things like drill bits. Bunnings for hand tools and fittings but mostly convenience - they basically sell cheap Chinese stuff marked up with expensive brand names. For mounted power tools, go to a proper power tool store like Gasweld or Carbatec. They cost a bit more, but the quality is outstanding. So many times I've spent $100 on cheap Bunnings crap that isn't accurate or long lasting and ended up ditching it for a proper $300 tool I should have bought in the first place. Bad experiences with Ozito and Ryobi, good experiences with Bosch and Milwaukee.

    Edit: always browse AliExpress and eBay in incognito mode. Especially AliExpress. Shop owners get notified if you look at anything, and can send you solicitation emails. I get emails from Chinese manufacturers offering great deals on bulk chandelier orders or whatever I've drunkenly looked up late at night.
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2017
  13. PsydFX

    PsydFX Member

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    For cleaning sticker crap off things, I use WD40. Works a treat, and smells great.

    Looking forward to more build photos!!!
     
  14. DrFrag

    DrFrag Member

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    That never even occurred to me. Good to know!

    This post is gonna be image heavy, fortunately Tony Abbott gave the entire nation cheap NBN by 2016.

    All the cut pieces of Connect-It for one case:

    4 x 290mm (vertical pieces, derived from 8 HDDs with 10mm airflow between)
    4 x 230mm (horizontal front-back pieces, allowing room for components and cable space)
    6 x 104mm (horizontal width pieces, 1 HDD wide with 2mm each side for damping grommets)
    4 x 40mm (for the front section, originally designed to fit front fans but I left it that size)

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    These were cut with a metal cutoff saw, then the rough ends filed by hand. The cutoff saw is the only power tool that makes me uneasy. Maybe it's all the flying sparks. I'm pretty careful with safety, but on one occassion I forgot to lower my face shield and a spark of hot aluminium landed in the crease of my lower eyelid. So I made that red sign to remind me to double check safety before each cut. You can't restore eyes and ears from a backup.

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    The cuting and filing took me over a month. In hindsight, I should have used the mitre saw. Here are the cut profiles:

    1. Factory cut
    2. Metal cutoff saw

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    3. Metal cutoff saw, filed
    4. Mitre saw

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    So ... yeah. Use a good mitre saw. Lubricate the blade with machine oil or WD40 to keep it cool. The blades tend to have cross-cut teeth so imo they're close enough together for aluminium.

    For the L-strip aluminium, I originally cut it with a Dremel then filed it down. But that worked better in the mitre saw too. They're 280mm long. Oh, another safety tip: one time I put my Dremel down on the bench before it had finished spinning down. It rolled and cut into its own power cord. Not enough to penetrate the insulation, but now I always wait for it to come to a complete stop before doing anything else.

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    The drive holes on the first case were made with a drill press. 8mm holes, 7mm from the edge, spacing is 10mm from the bottom of the L-strip then 35mm between each hole (all measurements from hole centres).

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    Then the rubber grommets were added. They just push in, no need for a fancy gourd-shape hole.

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    Temporary drives put in to check the spacing. Rivets were done after that.

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    For the next cases, I started with the rivets because I already had the design down. The L-strips are clamped to one of the 290mm verticals, with 5mm clearance at each end. The gap at each end is so there's no interference with the internal case panels.

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    Two middle rivets done, then the clamps removed.

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    Rivet holes were first punched with a nail to stop the drill wandering, then drilled out to 3.5mm. The rivets are 3.2mm wide, but I found a 3.2mm drill hole was too tight to get the rivet head in. Spacing is 14mm from the edge, far enough from the flange for the rivet gun to fit. Rivet spacing, from the bottom of the L-strip, was 30mm, 65mm, 70mm, 75mm, with 40mm left at the top. This keeps the rivet heads away from the drive thumb screws. Not that it matters much, I probably could have chucked in 4+ rivets anywhere along the strip.

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    Riveting done, front and back.

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    Next is the hole for the power button, 20mm diameter in the middle of one of the 104mm pieces.

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    I have to show off this picture of drill press precision.

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    You can use a spade bit, but obviously that's not ideal because it gets hotter and that blunts it. You cannot use a hole bit, because the centre bit hits the other side of the tubing.

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    Filed off the burrs so it doesn't cut the plastic of the switch.

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    Some of the Connect-It corner pieces needed cutting down, which was easily done in the mitre saw. Molten plastic smell ... had to open the windows after that.

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    This is so they fit in the short 40mm pieces. I cut them down to 19mm each side. A quick note on the connectors - I had a couple that were a bit warped, causing the corners to not be square. I had to throw them out and buy new ones, so be choosy when picking them at the shops.

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    Connect-It can usually be pushed together, but sometimes needs a bit of help with a mallet and wood blocks.

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    Assembled drive frame. Short corner plugs and power button hole facing the front.

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    I drilled the drive holes after assembly for the second case, which meant I couldn't put it in the drill press. So I made a template from scrap MDF. The holes are large enough to take the tip of a nail to use as a punch.

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    A shot of the 8mm drive holes. The axle of the grommet is 8mm, the outer edge is 10mm. Simple to push in.

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    I like to drill smaller guide holes to start with, since 8mm holes are fairly large and can be a bit unpredictable sometimes. I start drilling slowly, then speed up towards the end to minimise drill jamming.

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    I also clean up burrs by hand with a larger drill bit (13mm in this case, cause I had one handy).

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    Drive section assembled, dead drives screwed in place. They can be out by about a millimetre and the anti-vibration grommets will handle it.

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    Assembling the rest of the case is super quick. This will need to be dismantled later to get the internal panels in.

    [​IMG]
     
  15. havabeer

    havabeer Member

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    couple of quick comments about the tools,


    great info keep the posts coming, i share you sentiment about eye protection, but in year 10 (2002) i was using a metal lathe at school with out any safety glasses on and a piece of swarf flicked up and hit me in the eye. closed my eye and went over to the sink to wash it out, tried opening it couldn't see... kept washing it and about 20 seconds later sight came back.

    went and put safety glasses on and kept going with my job, look back now and i could have honestly lost sight in 1 eye because of that so will always wear eye protection now days
     
  16. DrFrag

    DrFrag Member

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    Cool, I'll put that on my list.

    I think I have some of those in a Dremel pack but I've never used them. I'll give it a shot.

    :wired: It's good to remember those "I was so lucky" moments. When I think about losing my vision for the rest of my life it's suddenly not such a chore to put on safety gear for even the briefest of power tool use.

    I'll be posting all my stupid mistakes anyway, haha. I have a great pic coming up where a strip of aluminium got tangled in the circular saw. :sick: But if I can help one person avoid the same mistake then I don't mind looking like an idiot. :thumbup:
     
  17. DrFrag

    DrFrag Member

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    Updates are going to slow down a bit now that my worklog has caught up with my work, but I'm trying to do at least a couple of minutes on it each day.

    I finished the last of the drive holes. Quickest way turned out to be rivet the L-strips, nail punch the holes with the template, then do all the drilling on the drill press.

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    All frames done.

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    Time to start on the sheet metal. The circular saw I bought came with a rip saw (the one on the right) which has big gaps for cutting lengthways down wood. I replaced it with the one on the left designed especially for aluminium. It has a lot more teeth, they're all in line with each other instead of alternating left-right, and it has those four slots in it so that when it heats up and expands, it doesn't warp. I used sewing machine oil on the blade to keep it lubricated and cool.

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    I had to install it "backwards" since the teeth point in the opposite direction - my saw blade cuts upwards from below. An interesting side effect is it pulls the material up towards the front cutting edge and it's only held down by the surrounding plate. For thin offcuts of wood this would be no problem, unfortunately with metal this happened:

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    The strip I was cutting off was pulled into the circular saw and began wrapping itself around the axle. :paranoid: I stopped because it was making a weird noise. Not sure if that was dangerous, but it's certainly not good. The rest of my cuts were thick pieces.

    For each case I ended up with two sheets. A wide one 900x340 for the outside, and a narrow one 900x150 for the inside. The 900s are a coincidence - if the case was taller then the thin one would be longer.

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    Metal folding is mostly measuring and setting up. Lines are ruled with a set square because it has to be ultra precice. I found that leaving the masking tape on didn't affect the fold.

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    This small brake is fine for the narrow stuff, but kinda struggles on the wider 34cm 0.8mm aluminium. The middle doesn't have quite as sharp a fold than the edges, but it's fine for this project.

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    Bam, the fun part.

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    In order to fit the internal sheet for testing, I had to remove the drive pillars. This meant disassembling the Connect-It. I used a car jack for that. It has to be done very steadily and evenly or it risks cracking the corner plastic.

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    The end plugs were hammered out with a dowel.

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    For narrow spaces, the Connect-It can be pried apart with leverage. I used some 25mm alum tubing and a block of wood.

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    The frame is then reassembled without the drive pillars.

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    The fitting is perfect.

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    Loosely fitted inside the frame. I had a lot of tolerance on the edges, maybe 1-2cm, but I had to get the fold exact. Each following measurement is done after each fold, since the fold distorts the length. It's good to practice this on scrap so you know how it turns out.

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    The outer sheet gave me a bit of trouble. It turns out I needed to add 1mm to all the folds, which I didn't realise until the second fold. It was too tight. I ended up taking the frame apart and shaving 1mm off the length of the frame. On the last sheet I repeated my mistake, but only on one side which is arguably worse. Turns out you can shave 1mm off the frame and it still fits nicely and looks square.

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    With all the sheet folding done, it's time to work on the cutting. I like to start with the most complex parts, cause if anything's going to go wrong it'll be that. If I screw it up I don't want it to be right at the end.

    The golden rule of design is your first idea isn't always your best, so I drew a bunch of ideas (this was for the red case). I tried a bunch of mesh fronts, a bunch of 1 fonts, and some arbitrary designs before settling on a personal preference.

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    This is the marking out for the 2. I started with an outer box.

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    Then measured and marked the 2 on it.

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    Then shaded in the area to be cut, so I wouldn't accidentally follow the wrong line. I think this is kind of important.

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    I'm using a Dremel for this, with one of those awesome metal EZ Lock discs. I know there's a bit of a divide between the Dremel cutters and the jigsaw cutters, but if you have a steady hand imo the Dremel is way better. When I took the red case into the anodizers, he asked me how I was able to get such a clean, straight cut. With this kind of work it's vital that the Dremel doesn't jump, so you need a strong, steady grip and cut very slowly so it doesn't jam.

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  18. DrFrag

    DrFrag Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    Messages:
    1,267
    Location:
    South Australia
    Got frontpaged, better take this moment to do an update.

    So, I cut out the 2 with the Dremel.

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    Then used a kind of mini-hacksaw thing to saw through to the corners. It looks like a snapped blade but it actually comes like that with a detatchable handle so you can saw into blind holes.

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    It needs a fair bit of cleaning up with a file after that.

    Other side of the outer case, I drilled holes for the case thumbscrews.

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    I actually do this differently now. I put the outer case on the frame and just drill straight through the cover and the frame, then thread the hole on the frame.

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    The inner sheet needs a few bits cut out before I can test fit it properly. More Dremel work, then some filing.

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    So here's the inner sheet set inside the case frame (with the drive pillars removed). It's held in place with masking tape.

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    Now for the fan hole. I'm using an 89mm hole saw in a drill press. Wood below and a thin sheet of ply above to keep it really secure and flat. Added a bit of machine oil to the teeth as lubricant to keep it cool. If it gets too hot, the aluminium will flare outwards a bit around the hole, and the hole saw teeth will get blunt.

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    Doesn't show up very well in this pic, but I've marked holes to screw the inner sheet in place.

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    Just doing a few crucial stabilising screws for now, then once it's locked down I'll do the rest. No point in drilling 25 holes and finding it's slipped out of position halfway through.

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    Some of the screws in place. This is solid now, but adding more will reduce any vibrational noise between the aluminium along the seams. Note that the bottom left corner gets a bit narrow - I had about 5mm margin of error on this so that worked out okay. If I needed more accuracy I would need a more perfect fold in the sheet metal.

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    Putting in the last of the holes. 2.5mm holes for M3 case screws (fine thread), with the sheet aluminium holes being expanded to 3.2mm to give a bit of installation leeway.

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    This is my tapping kit, by the way. I only needed one of the pieces, but when I bought it I didn't know anything about tapping or what sizes I'd need. It's hard work on the fingers, but a slow drill can do the job just fine. Doesn't need lubrication with the type of thin aluminium I'm using.

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    With the inner sheet set in place, I could position the fan grille (actually I should have positioned the fan hole at this point). I used a mix of measuring and eyeing.

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    The PSU hole is tricky because I can't simply trace it. I started with some measuring to cut out a hole where the switch and socket go.

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    Used the Dremel again.

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    Now that the PSU is flush up against the case, I can make more precise measurements as to where the screw holes are.

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    That viewing hole was right on the edge. :paranoid:

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    The slot for the SAS PCI bracket gets marked too.

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    Cut with the Dremel. I didn't get a pic of this, but the SAS PCI rectangle section was removed by drilling into both ends, then bending it out with a few tin snip cuts.

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    Bit removed and edges filed down. The slot near the centre bottom of the pic is for the top of the PCI bracket, and has to be 1mm wide. I used the hacksaw blade again to get the length right.

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    Unforunately it wasn't quite wide enough, so i widened it with a needle file and a strip of 60 grit sandpaper.

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    This is how it fits in. A bit crooked, so that needs some more filing.

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    Needle file, sandpaper, and flat to get this done. More talcum powder to keep the teeth free of metal bits.

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    On the other side, the PCI bracket gets taped into place for working.

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    The end is drilled out.

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    And screwed into the case itself. So instead of having a regular inner sheet case screw here, it goes right through the PCI bracket as well.

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    On the other end, the PCI bracket will get a screw as well. This makes the SAS card extremely sturdy for plugging into. I can't drill the hole while the frame is assembled, so I'll do that later.

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    For the case fan I'm using rubber vibration damping things rather than screws. They take a bit of effort to pull through the holes, but they seem durable enough.

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    Test fit of all the back panel stuff. I made sure the fan screw holes were de-burred so they didn't cut into the rubber grommets. Also, the PSU screws were weird. It looks like they powdercoated all the threads so it was really tight at first and I thought I had the wrong screws.

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    And now I come to the point where I realise I've forgotten a few things. Like this screw hole below the drive column.

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    And the top gets one too, but that has to be offset because it's right under the power switch and the cables are going to be diverted through there.

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    I also had to clean up a few metal edges, like the one below. Technically the Connect-It will fit there, but I really don't want to cut it that close on part of the case that no one will see.

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    For the in-built case handles, holes need to be drilled in the top of the case conectors. They need to be 8mm in diameter, 9.5mm from the metal. To make sure it's accurate I drilled a 1.5mm hole in the middle, then drilled it out to 8mm using a bit with a centre spike. I kinda like those spikey drill bits. They always seem to be hard to find though.

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    The reason for the 8mm holes (7mm would have been fine for the handle belting I'm using) is I bought 6mm fishing weights for threading the belting through. So the weight goes on a fishing line and gets dropped through the frame, then the fishing line pulls some synthetic cord through, then the cord pulls the belting through. This gets done later so I'll post more pics then. Needless to say it makes me feel like MacGyver.

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    Another thing I almost forgot - the out hole for the power button cabling. The cable will run from the switch on the top, through the frame, and come out near the PSU.

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    For the red case I had this coming out beside the fan (top left of the pic) for neat cable management. But since there's a mess of PSU cables and SAS cables in the case anyway, I just made the power switch cables come out of the ceiling of the case. That means less cable threading which is good because it's kind of fiddly.

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    That's the last of the sheet metal cutting for case #2. Next step is remove the tape and clean it up. I've done this, but Imgur has stopped working for me so I'll post those pics another time.
     
  19. DrFrag

    DrFrag Member

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    Messages:
    1,267
    Location:
    South Australia
    Case 2 cut and filed.

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    Taking the tape off. So shiny underneath! The edges need deburring.

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    Gotta watch those edges though, they can be a bit slicey.

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    Some areas left horrible tape residue, which I cleaned off with Eucalyptus Oil. Next project I'll spend a bit extra and get that blue/purple tape. It costs more but cleaning residue is a pain.

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    Case 2 cleaned and ready to be anodized.

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    It's gonna be green matching this sample. Should be sweet.

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    While case 2 is at the anodizers, time to start on case 3.

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    My first cutting mistake. Slight slip of the Dremel. Not a huge disaster.

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    3 is cut. I won't document the rest of this case cause it's the same as 2.

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    After this I had a few weeks' wait, and two problems came to mind.

    The first is the power switch gets quite hot. Like, 50 degrees hot after a few hours operation. It's a bit disconcerting.

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    The reason is the LED light is being powered by the 12V line from the 24pin connector. I looked into resistors thinking I could just solder something inline, then got confused about voltage and current and realised I don't really understand electricity. So I tried to de-pin the 24pin connector so I could switch the LED to a 5V line. My molex depinner wasn't up to the job and I couldn't find any documentation on depinning a female ATX connector (this is normally on the motherboard so sleeving mods never depin it). I ended up slicing the end off the 24pin connector and moving the 12V pin into a 5V hole.

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    It's a bit dimmer than I'd like, but I only need it as an indicator rather than a light source. I could also sacrifice the entire 24pin assembly (I have a few spare) and use the parts to wire both the 5V and 12V options into every case with a connector that would let me chose one or the other. But I think 5V will be fine.

    The second problem is Seagate's new line of hard drives - IronWolf, SkyHawk, etc. They don't have middle screw holes along the sides for mounting, which my cases require. If this is the direction the industry goes it's going to be a problem for me. So I made some extra strips to allow mounting drives using only the end holes.

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    For now this is just in the third case, but I can retrofit the others if it's the path I end up taking. They're removable so I won't be needing it for now.

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    One other job while the cases are being anodized is to cut the mesh for the front. I've done this very roughly because there isn't much tolerance and I want the cases on hand for the final sizing. I want to position the holes so it looks visually balanced.

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    Some time later, the cases came back from the anodizers. I had them done at Key Manufacturing in Adelaide, and they came to $66 per case (2 pieces). Would have been even cheaper if I'd brought them all in at once but I think the price is great for this quality of work. They were "bright" anodized.

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    I'd love to get a SilverStone TJ07 case and have it reanodized in gold. :cool: Apparently you can still get them and they're very easy to disassemble into component pieces. I very nearly bought one instead of my Lian-Li PC-A70B back in the day. But I don't need another main case.
     
  20. rainwulf

    rainwulf Member

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2002
    Messages:
    3,907
    Location:
    bris.qld.aus
    Just as an aside, are you mounting the drives like that for noise? or just because you heard its ok?

    Drives actually prefer to be mounted as solidly as possible. This is because of the head acceleration firmware assumes the drive body doesn't move.
     

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