Worklog: Laser Cut Acrylic - Smallest Possible mATX Case (while still using a "standard" layout)

Discussion in 'Modding' started by sonicthemouse, Feb 12, 2019.

  1. OP
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    sonicthemouse

    sonicthemouse Member

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    3 sides assembled:

    [​IMG]

    Plus the rear panel and top panel cut last night:

    [​IMG]

    And with the top on:

    [​IMG]
     
  2. Kelvin

    Kelvin Member

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    Very nice ....
     
  3. DSTM (Dougie)

    DSTM (Dougie) Member

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    How is it coming along? sonic.
    Any update?
     
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    sonicthemouse

    sonicthemouse Member

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    Yeah sorry DSTM (Dougie) and everyone, busy week (as usual lol)

    We finished the first prototype and stuck some hardware in it, pics below.

    Had a bunch of issues with it though:
    - The two types of acrylic sheet seem to be "cast" and "extruded".
    One type is much better for laser cutting, this first prototype was made from the other type, so the cuts aren't super clean.
    - Even though it was done from the ATX spec, the stand-offs didn't quite line up so we couldn't really run a rig in it, as the motherboard wasn't secure.
    The laser cutter has a scale factor for each axis and they just weren't calibrated quite right.
    Not noticeable for small pieces but across the distance of the two furthest mobo stand-offs we were off by a few mm, enough that the stand off was barely visible through the hole in the mobo
    - The whole board was positioned too close to the back of the case, not enough room for the "tabs" of the GPU's slot cover to stick down between the end of the motherboard and the rear panel of the case
    - The IO shield didn't quite line up, usable but not perfect
    - The 3D-printed corner joiners were a bit too small, decided to beef them up a bit and have more support at the corners and slightly less support at each edge, giving the whole thing more rigidity (hopefully)
    - 3mm acrylic might be a bit too thin (my original acrylic case from back in the day is about 6mm) but we're hoping with the better quality acrylic that it will be okay, otherwise we'll move to 4.x mm
    - The holes were all cut to suit M3 screws, but the PSU and a few other things use 6/32 screws, so those need bigger holes

    Motherboard in:

    [​IMG]

    Motherboard in (another angle):

    [​IMG]

    Motherboard and PSU in (side panel off):

    [​IMG]

    Motherboard and PSU in (side panel on, much reflection):

    [​IMG]

    Reference GPU in (GTX1080):

    [​IMG]

    Big-ass GPU in (MSI RX570) - it fit, but it scratched the inside of the front panel of the case, not recommended lol:

    [​IMG]
     
  5. Kelvin

    Kelvin Member

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    Looking good!!!
     
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    sonicthemouse

    sonicthemouse Member

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    So along came the 2nd prototype.

    Looking good so far, will probably populate with the rest of the test hardware this weekend if we get time.

    We still need to 3D print a cover/bracket for the front IO section and for the space above the tops of the GPU slot covers, so the GPU has something to screw into.

    But as can be seen from the photos below, all the stand-offs now line up, the cuts are much cleaner, the IO shield is still a little off but we're getting there:

    Rear:

    [​IMG]

    Micro Tower:

    [​IMG]
     
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    sonicthemouse

    sonicthemouse Member

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    Happy to hear thoughts / comments / suggestions at this point too!!

    Also, forgot to take a photo beside a regular case, it's small.
    Not as small as a small ITX case like the Lian Li PC-Q07 or Jonsbo U1 Plus, but smaller than many mainstream ITX cases, and smaller than any mATX case I've seen to date.

    And

    We noticed that depending of the position of the CPU socket on your motherboard, and depending on the way the cables come out of your PSU, you might be able to actually fit a tower cooler in front of the PSU, especially a slimline one like these: https://www.anandtech.com/show/11407/140-mm-slim-tower-cpu-cooler-roundup/9

    And there is actually quite a bit of clearance between the CPU IHS and the bottom of the PSU (will measure it and report back) so there is heaps of room for "standard" old school HSFs, like Intel / HP / Dell stock HSFs, and heaps of room for AIO blocks, or CPU block + barbs if you're going to watercool it.

    There also seems to be room to mount an ATX PSU without changing the footprint of the case, but it would severely restrict the:
    - CPU cooler / AIO block choice
    - GPU choice (anything with components on the rear or a thick backplate wouldn't fit)
     
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  8. DSTM (Dougie)

    DSTM (Dougie) Member

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    What did you clean up the rough edges with, exactly?Did you flame polish them?
    4.5mm is my choice. 3mm sagged on me on a build.
    What sort of a start setup are you using, mic, usb. impulse start.?
    EDIT.
    You removed the image with the rough edges,that I mentioned. No worries.:thumbup:
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2019
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    sonicthemouse

    sonicthemouse Member

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    Not intentionally removed - rough edges should still be showing in Post #44 above :confused:

    Anyway I think I mentioned somewhere in the changelog between the first prototype and the current version that we switched from cast acrylic to extruded acrylic or vice-versa - I'll confirm and get back to you on what type of acrylic sheet we're now using :thumbup:

    Didn't need to clean up or polish the edges at all - whatever type of sheet we're using now cuts much more easily with the laser cutter and leaves a perfect mirror finish :D

    See comparison pic below - left is original prototype with bad edges, right is current model, note especially the slotted grill below the PSU and the cut-outs for the slot cards for a good example of the difference:

    [​IMG]

    Yeah I think we might have to move to 4.5mm. 3mm was fine with the first lot of hardware I tried in it (lightweight 200W PSU, 1060 ITX etc) but the back panel is sagging a little with decent hardware in it (heavier 500W PSU, 1080 Founders etc)

    Major updates coming over the next couple of days too :thumbup:

    Yeah just standard impulse start, we have a cut-out for front IO which will contain at least power button, power LED and HDD LED, then maybe a couple of USB and audio ports, although I'm not sure I want the extra cable clutter...
     
  10. power

    power Member

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    Very reminiscent of the Auriga CS 2001E and 2168E ATX midi case from the early 2000's with that PSU arrangement. It had support for Full ATX in that tiny package but only a single 120mm fan at the front and CD-ROM/FDD support obviously.

    Some of the Mac G4's went with this layout too.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2019
  11. DSTM (Dougie)

    DSTM (Dougie) Member

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    Yeah, I find cast Acrylic sheet,for best results. Not cheap.
     
  12. vladtepes

    vladtepes Member

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    What a world of difference between the two. Really looking good.
     
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    sonicthemouse

    sonicthemouse Member

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    Got a link/pic for those Auriga cases? Might be able to learn something from them.
    The case my original 478 system came in also had this layout, with ATX mobo and PSU support.
    It was not too tall but it was ridiculously deep, to allow enough room for an optical drive in front of the PSU.

    Yeah I remember the G4 Macs where the whole motherboard folded down on the side panel.
    Probably slightly over-engineered for a consumer product, with plastic baffles everywhere like you'd see in high-end workstations and servers.

    Still, very convenient for working on the motherboard.

    Yeah but the difference is amazing. And I think it works out about $6.50 per panel now as opposed to about $4.50 per panel before, since we buy it in big sheets and cut them to suit. I think we can live with an extra $12 per case to have nicer acrylic :D

    Thanks - yeah it really made all the difference. More to follow shortly :thumbup:
     
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    sonicthemouse

    sonicthemouse Member

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    Changelog: Rev 1 (right) vs Rev 2 (left)
    • Acrylic material changed. Cuts much cleaner and is also more rigid.
    • Relocated motherboard stand-offs to allow adequate clearance for GPU "tabs" to slot down between the motherboard and the rear slot area of the rear panel.
    • Moved IO shield cut-out for better alignment.
    • Changed 3D-printed edge fixings to use significantly fewer nuts & bolts per edge.
    • Enlarged corner brackets to provide extra structural integrity, especially when "side panel" (top panel in pics) is not attached.
    • Relocated front IO cut-out to be in line with front intake fan to allow more room for GPU.
    • Increased size of holes for mounting PSU (were M3, need to be #6-32).
    • Changed sizes of every panel so front panel sits infront of all other panels, and side panel sits inside all other panels.
      Hard to show with clear acrylic, but will be obvious once we introduce colours.
      For example, if you make an opaque orange case with a clear side panel, the clear side panel will be bordered by a square of orange edges, rather than the panel covering 2 edges and revealing 2 edges for no reason.
    • Other minor cosmetic tweaks.
    [​IMG]
     
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    sonicthemouse

    sonicthemouse Member

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    Thermals

    So quite a few people have asked "does it get really hot, being super small and made of acrylic?"

    Here are the first round of results, and my thoughts:

    Running "LAN rig" hardware:
    Mobo: HP mATX
    CPU: i5-4670S (low power model)
    RAM: 2x 4gb DDR3-1600
    GPU: EVGA GTX1060 SC ITX
    PSU: 220W Thermaltake SFX SL-B220SFX
    SSD: Samsung 128gb mSATA
    CPU Cooler: HP factory (absolute shit, not even copper core, just aluminium directly contacting the CPU) with 80mm fan

    So to set a baseline, I set that all up on the bench with no case, and allowed heaps of room around everything for airflow.
    Used no additional fans, only what was already on the CPU and GPU:

    Open Air Bench
    Ambient temp: ~19°C
    Max CPU Temp (Intel Burn Test): 77°C
    Max GPU Temp (Valley Benchmark): 74°C

    Then I stuck it all in the case (Rev 2 in post above this) and added:

    Front Intake Fan: 120mm Noctua NF-P12 PWM
    Bottom Intake Fan: Not used, just a big open hole there lol
    PSU intake fan facing towards side panel: Minimum airflow (due to no hole in side panel) but also not drawing hot air in directly from CPU area, which it would be if it had it been the other way up.


    In Case Bench

    Ambient temp: ~19°C 0°C change
    Max CPU Temp (Intel Burn Test): 82°C +5°C change
    Max GPU Temp (Valley Benchmark): 79°C +5°C change

    Here are my thoughts:
    • While the case is not helping the thermals, it doesn't seem to be significantly impeding them at this point.
      I suspect that +5°C would be present if you stuck it in pretty much any closed case.
      If I get a chance I might stick the same hardware in my Fractal R4, to see if having it in a case with a shitload of large fans actually improves temperatures over an open air setup on the bench.
    • Nowhere on the case was hot to touch during any of the testing.
      The area on the motherboard panel, directly behind the CPU was warm during the CPU test, along with the area on the top panel between the PSU and CPU.
      This happens in most cases I've used, some worse than others.
      The exhaust through the rear vent slots underneath the PSU was barely even warm during any test.
      The area at the back of the GPU was quite hot during the GPU test but it was really only the rear metal bracket of the GPU itself, didn't seem to be affecting the nearby acrylic panel too much.
      Also these 1060 GPUs are just hot there, it's just a thing. Every case I've had them in, they get hot where they exhaust.
      I suspect this is because they're ITX-sized cards and there is simply not enough heatsink material on them to dissipate sufficient heat.
      With the larger Gigabyte Windforce 1060 I had (almost twice as long, so almost double the heatsink area and also had 2 fans), the rear slot bracket never got hot at all, but I don't have that card to test anymore :(
    • Even the PSU didn't get hot, which surprised me because it had hardly any clearance for drawing in air, and it must've been running at near full load considering the GPU was chewing down ~120W, the CPU ~55W and the other stuff probably ~20W...
    • It is not really a realistic dataset because the CPU is a low power model and the CPU heatsink is total shit.
      This CPU would never usually get that hot, but in this case I think it's actually a good thing as it increases the internal ambient temperature in the case, making it a harsher testing environment.
      Likewise with the lack of bottom intake fan. But if it remains cool with the CPU spewing out heaps of extra heat and no bottom intake fan, it should run even cooler with a decent CPU HSF and bottom intake fan, and thus should stay cool in most consumer (115x platform) usage scenarios.
    • I'll get another set of data once I run my actual hardware in it.
     
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    sonicthemouse

    sonicthemouse Member

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    Proposed Rev 3 Changelog / "Real" Hardware

    So I have now loaded up the case with my X99 guts, or at least, kinda.

    Following are the proposed changes for Rev 3, and some pics of it starting to come together with "real" hardware.
    • IO shield needs to move down about 1mm.
      I've tried a couple of different boards with their corresponding IO shields in there and it turns out, they don't all cut the holes in the IO shield in the exact same place.
      i.e. the HP board doesn't line up by a different amount to the AsRock board, so it needs to be cut out such that it will line up nicely with the majority of boards.
    • The centre of the 3 holes for mounting the PSU need to be removed (circled below).
      The extra material there gets in the way of the power socket on some PSUs, the power switch on other PSUs, and every PSU I've looked at in the last 5 years, including good ones and shit ones, all have at least the 4 corner holes.
      Almost all of them have all 6 holes, but regardless only the 4 corner holes are needed to cater for almost any SFX PSU.
      [​IMG]
    • Depending how the GPU will be secured at the back where the slots have currently been cut out of the panel, the overall case depth may need to be increased by 5~10mm.
      Reason being, when you include the length of the tab on the GPU where the screw goes, the GPU cannot simply drop down vertically into the case.
      "No worries, just angle it" - can't do it at all with the PSU in place, well you can, but then you can't angle it back enough to align it with the slot (hard to explain without demonstrating it)
      So I took out the PSU, still can't easily angle the GPU in, my RAM actually gets in the way, and there was no way to get the tab into the rectangle where the tabs go without fairly significantly bending the rear acrylic panel.
      I don't think I damaged the panel in the process but it's certainly not ideal. I think it would be much easier if a reference length card could be dropped straight in top-down without the additional hassle of removing the PSU or other annoyances.
    • Stylistic thing only - might try to make the fixings symmetrical in all the 3D printed parts
    • Need an extra set of mount holes for the brackets which support the PSU, for SFX-L PSUs.
    • Main problem- AIO watercooling won't fit at all in this revision, the 24-pin ATX socket on many motherboards is basically directly under the front intake fan.
      There is heaps of (well not heaps of but enough) room to fit a standard-depth fan without hitting the ATX connector but it's really difficult to unplug said connector if the locking tab is on the fan/front panel side, as the tab ends up pretty much under the front fan.
      So you either have to remove the front fan to remove that cable (annoying) or lever the tab open with a screwdriver pivoted on the edge of the fan (also annoying).
      Adding the extra 5~10mm depth I mentioned earlier would alleviate this.
      And that's only working off a 25mm thick fan. As soon as you stick a rad on the back of that front fan, there is no way to get at that 24-pin connector, as it is well underneath the rad.
      Furthermore, the rad on my H55 doesn't actually fit as the 24-pin cable itself is in the way.
      My H55 has a total thickness of ~65mm (40mm rad + 25mm fan) but even with a slimline 15mm fan it's ~55mm and it still doesn't fit.
      The H60 is slimmer at 52mm with a 25mm fan or 42mm with a 15mm fan, but it will still be a squish and not at all pleasant to work around.
    • Design 3D-printed piece for mounting rear slot cards somehow. They can't mount directly to the rear panel like they would in a traditional case, so we've got some thinking to do here.
    • Might move to thicker acrylic, once the heavier components were in, there was minor sag in the back panel, until the side panel was secured.
    • Holes for fan screws need to be #6-32 or larger, currently M3.
    Original intention: H55, shows some of the colour scheme, starting to look the part:
    [​IMG]

    "Real" hardware in, had to resort to a stock cooler :upset: but at least it fits :thumbup::
    [​IMG]

    Standing up (this is how I plan to use it):
    [​IMG]

    Rear view (disregard top near corner bracket, it doesn't actually look damaged like that, just an odd reflection):
    [​IMG]

    Up and running:
    [​IMG]

    Love dat acrylic for glow-in-the-dark LAN fun:
    [​IMG]

    Size comparison: it's tiny. That HP mATX case behind it wastes no space at all (for a traditional case) and it is still significantly smaller than that:
    [​IMG]

    Size comparison showing rear layout of HP, the HP case is already quite compaqt (see what I did there):
    [​IMG]

    More size comparisons to come soon :thumbup:
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2019
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  17. DSTM (Dougie)

    DSTM (Dougie) Member

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    What's the dimensions of the case,as it stands, now?
     
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    sonicthemouse

    sonicthemouse Member

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    180mm wide (+ protruding screw heads), 282mm deep (+ protruding screw heads), 281mm high (+ protruding screw heads but including feet/clearance under bottom panel)
     
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