Yet Another Briefcase PC Mod

Discussion in 'Modding Worklogs' started by fauxhound, Apr 30, 2009.

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  1. fauxhound

    fauxhound New Member

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    Hello all, and welcome to the work log for my first recorded case mod project.

    I'll be attempting to mod a PC into an attache case, something I know isn't particularly original, however I haven't done it yet, so that's all the originality I need:p
    I'm planning on modding the motherboard and other components into the base, and a screen (as large as possible) into the top, with ideally, enough room left over for a keyboard and mouse to fit inside when closed.

    Before I get started, I should probably say a little about me;
    I'm an engineering student who has finished advanced diploma at Tafe, and is considering uni, but would prefer to jump straight into the industry. Unfortunately the current economic conditions means no one's looking to take on juniors like me.
    This results in me being a bit bored and needing to build something. If anyone knows an engineering company that's in Perth and might be interested in someone who can use Inventor and Solidworks, can design and source parts and generally engineer things; let me know ;P

    First, the victim;

    http://www.jaycar.com.au/products_uploaded/productLarge_1094.jpg

    One standard aluminium attache case from Jaycar Electronics. Hopefully I wont have too much trouble removing everything inside it.
    I'll give some real pics once it turns up.

    And now, some 3D sketches.
    I started with the dimensions of the case, 455x330x152, then measured up all the components i'll be putting into it; power supply, motherboard and graphics card, dvd drive and hard drive. If you're having trouble seeing the hard drive, it's a 2.5" Notebook hard drive (that was originally in my PS3) that's attached to the side of the PSU in these pictures.
    [​IMG]
    You may be wondering why my graphics card is sideways and parallel to the motherboard, but I'm fairly sure that my graphics card would stand too tall if it was directly plugged into the motherboard, and mean that I couldn't have a screen in the top. So I'm planning to use a riser card to turn it 90 degrees, which should give me a lot more clearance.

    [​IMG]
    I've tried to keep all the components as low as possible, as I'm hoping to be able to put a perspex top over all the components, but still have space for a keyboard and mouse to fit inside. This may also mean that I need to have a two levels for my top, one that covers the grapics card and power supply, another lowered one to act like a shelf for the keyboard and mouse, that will probably end up being flat ontop of the CPU cooler with some holes drilled in it for air intake. This should ideally will make it a portable PC in a case, rather than a computer box with a handle.

    [​IMG]
    That's the extra clearance I was talking about with having the riser card.

    [​IMG]
    This is an underside picture, showing the inlet though the power supply, and outlet behind the graphics card, so in theory most of the air will bypass the graphics card heat sink on it's way out. I'm not too worried about heat, since it's a fairly low-spec system that in all likelihood, wont be used very often.

    I found out the PSU fan blows outside the case, so I could either flip the fan over and have it suck in, and was part way through doing that when I realised I could just flip my other fan near the graphics card that was originally the exhaust, which should net me better graphics cooling.
    [​IMG]

    I also decided to add some holes for access to the motherboard ports. I'm not sure it'll look too good, but I'll do it like this to start with since it should be quick and easy, and if it looks crap, i'll dremel out a hole for the motherboard's proper I/O shield plate.
    [​IMG]

    If it seems a little disjointed and 'timelapse'-ish, I've edited this together from the one I've been posting on the goodgame forums the past few days, but I'm hoping to get some feedback from people more experienced before I make a mistake that someone could have pointed out to me :D

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    Offending images removed. I'll put them back when I get around to uploading them somewhere approved
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2009
  2. daneh

    daneh New Member

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    Looks interesting... but umm... there is these new things out called laptops :pgive them a try some time? ;)
     
  3. AussieTemplar

    AussieTemplar Member

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    Should be good. :thumbup:
     
  4. OP
    OP
    fauxhound

    fauxhound New Member

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    I've got a lappy, and it's pretty similar to this, large, heavy, short batter life, but decent power :p

    Woo, it's here!
    It's surprisingly shiny,especially around the handle.

    Also has locks, but I'm hesitant to lock it too often, if the locks are of the same quallity as the 'aluminium-made-from-100%-recycled-cardboard' briefcase, I might end up having my kit locked away from me.

    Here's the interior, that top area's going to have to go if I plan to put a screen in. There's also those hinges, both sets, interior and exterior. The interior ones mean i'll have to cut space for them in the perspex. The outside hinge on the right is pretty much exactly where I wanted to put the graphics card intake, but I can shove it to the side, and possibly angle it back towards the graphics card.

    Looks like the production methords or qualities have changed in the past few years, this foam was barely glued in.

    Everything fits pretty much like it should from the CAD. I've wedged one of the foam inserts between the PSU and optical drive to hold them in place for the moment.

    There isn't much clearance between the PSU and where the perspex will be, though I could cut a square of the foam from underneath the PSU and get a few extra mm. It also looks like my fancy mouse/keyboard perspex shelf isn't going to work, the CPU cooler sticks up too high, and is less than 20mm below the PSU, so I think i'll go with a single sheet which can be lifted up, and have the mouse and keyboard stored underneath it.

    The side foam came out fairly easy, with just a sharp screwdriver to detach any parts that were actually glued in place. I've peeled it off in as large a sheets as possible, so that I might be able to cut sections out of it and glue it back in place, hopefully making it look nice again on the inside.

    Top section came away very easily, I didn't really bother cleaning it up, since there'll be a monitor covering it up.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2009
  5. Dexamenus

    Dexamenus Member

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    wow mate, great project:thumbup:

    i thought about making one like this a while back, same sort of case and everything, just never got around to it lol

    good luck:thumbup:
     
  6. ford ftw

    ford ftw Member

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    nice job did somthing similar to this when i was in year 6/7.:thumbup:
     
  7. OP
    OP
    fauxhound

    fauxhound New Member

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    I've been working away at the CAD a bit more for it, altering it to more accurately match what i'm seeing, and I'd really appreciate suggestions for some of the things i'm unsure about, mostly astheticly.

    Motherboard I/O access.
    Should I drill holes for just the bits I need like in one of the pics (last pic of my first post) or dremel a whole rectangle out and fit the proper shield plate.
    Current plan is do drill what I need, see how it looks, if it's crap, I'll still be able to dremel the rectangle out.

    Power Supply exhaust vent.
    I can either hole-saw a large hole for it, drill a series of small holes (looks quite good on the side of my desktop), or cut a rectangle. I could possibly cover the rectangle cutout with mesh.

    Motherboard Mounting
    I could mount the motherboard onto a cutting board like they did in the tweaktown guide, or drill mounting holes, and poke countersunk/dome head bolts up through the motherboard, and secure it with nuts. (so you see the bolt head from outside the case)

    Stealthing the disc drive.
    What cutting method should I use to cut out a section of the side for the optical drive. It needs to be as neat and accurate as possible, since I'm hoping it'll be nearly invisible when retracted. I'll see how the dremel goes with the less important cutting before I try for this part, but I could also use a scalpel or razor blade, since it's only cardboard.
     
  8. Ephphatha

    Ephphatha Member

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    Probably too much of a pain in the arse, but have you considered mounting the dvd drive front and center and cutting a slot right where the handle sits for the disc to eject through? I guess you don't have a slot load drive but getting one would probably be a good thing™
     
  9. Lil Flipp

    Lil Flipp Member

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    This is cool :thumbup:
     
  10. OP
    OP
    fauxhound

    fauxhound New Member

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    I'd been thinking about having the motherboard not touching any of the walls and having all the ports internal, particularly for the DVI connection to the screen, since I'd prefer that the cable stay inside the case and go up to the screen.
    I've decided to wait till the riser card gets here before making that decision. If the riser card brings the graphics card level with the lip of the case, which I've got a feeling it will, then I'd have to cut a section out of the lip for it. I'm not keen on that, so I may end up having no choice but to have the motherboard entirely internal.

    Today I've been a bit busy,
    Took a trip to Bunnings, came home with some angle aluminium for brackets, masking tape and a box of M3 nuts and bolts, which I'll use to attach the motherboard, as well as possibly the disc drive, PSU and maybe screen if it mounts with M3 thread.

    Being unsure of the final placement of the motherboard, and the vent design for the PSU, I decided to start with mounting the fan that will cool the graphics card.

    I opted for the 'series of small holes drilled in a circle' vent method, which worked very well for my desktop comp (I'll post a pic later). Turned out mostly ok, only botched 2 of the 48 holes, but I'll have to see if I can think of a way to fix that. (Not even my best ratio, on my desktop I only botched 1 of 168 holes)

    Here it is with the fan installed, and though you cant tell, spinning. Sounds like i'm going to have to reduce the voltage though, cause this fan is way noisy for some reason.
    With the fan sorted, I only had one thing left that I had already decided; the stealth drive.

    Here we can see... not my best work. It doesn't look too bad in the picture, but looks worse in person. Good thing I've got some cunning :p

    Modders Edging* hides my shame :D Looks pretty ok too, though not the seamless integration I had in my mind.

    And finally;
    Woo! It works. Now I've just got to find a way to lock it in position so that it'll stay in a spot where it isn't impeded.

    Tomorrow I'll cut the hole in the side for the power supply, and possibly mount it if I'm feeling accurate with the drill. Still undecided on the venting system for it though. It'll either be a series of holes, like the fan (only the shape will be rectangular) or it'll be a rectangle cut out, and mesh over it. If anyone has a suggestion for either one, it'd be appreciated.

    *reticulation tube split open
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2009
  11. schnappy

    schnappy Member

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    I've got another project like this I've got to get around to finishing... the case I bought was $30 from DSE - usually $50 but at the time they had it on special which was very conveniant. My big issue which detered progress is mounting the PSU. How will you be doing that? I've come up with a 'modular' design... basically an acrylic sheet in the bottom, and then each part is mounted to that.

    Mobo tray bolted down to the acrylic, PSU bolted down (I'm thinking a piece of Al. angle as a bracket?). Optical drive attached with Al. angle as a bracket... for storage just a CF>IDE adapter and a cheap 4gb or so CF card from somewhere.

    Might give you some ideas...
     
  12. FRaNTiC

    FRaNTiC Member

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    Top idea mate! Looks good so far, keep up the good work.

    Just an idea, I was thinking if you're not happy with the air flow holes, you could always cut out the entire circle and place a grill there instead? I think that would clean up the whole section and also provide ample protection too... what you think?

    EDIT: You may also get away doing the same thing if you reverse the PSU to lower temps. But then if you lay it as you normally would, the exhaust would be blocked anyway :p hmmmm an idea though :D
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2009
  13. ICEW0LF

    ICEW0LF Member

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    thats what i would recommend as it would be much quieter and provide much better air flow. a grill would be best but you could always use some mesh in the spot for more protection from things (other then air) going in
     
  14. OP
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    fauxhound

    fauxhound New Member

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    Didn't have time for an update yesterday since I was pretty busy then had a party followed by an early night. I was literally still dremeling away when my friend arrived to pick me up. Looks like I probably wont get much done till the weekend either since I scored jury duty for the week.

    Here's what I got up to yesterday;
    Mounted the PSU and DVD drive using the angled brackets
    Drilled and dremeled holes for the PSU, I think I did a far better job with both on this one. Although I'll be adding the edging around the power switch/plug for continuity, and replacing the edging around the disc drive, angling the cuts so that it meets, rather than leaving the square gaps like it currently is.
    I'm thinking I agree with Frantic and IceWolf, and that the dodgy fan intake, and possibly also the PSU vent even, should be cut out and meshed over. Anyone know a good mesh supplier? (Had some 1cm x 1cm chicken wire out back, but figured that'd look terrible XD)

    Also, look what turned up for me today;
    I can finally check that the graphics card fits.
    It's a little bigger than I was hoping. It had me worried that it would in fact raise the graphics card outputs level with the lip of the case. Also, not sure that the little mini-riser thing is for. In case I need a graphics card 1cm higher?
    Just scrapes under, meaning that I'm back to having options. Do I mount the motherboard flush with the wall, and have the ports poking directly outside (easy access, but the DVI cable will be sticking out of the case, only to go back in the screen :S, altough that would allow me to easily plug it into other screens for whatever reason) Or squish it up on the inside, and have all the ports internal. I could have USB ports external easily enough with a USB expansion thing, but ethernet and PS/2 ports I may still need access to. This also means there'd have to be a fair amount of clearance between the DVI port and the wall of the case, as a DVI dongle isn't a small plug, and would take about 60mm to bend around.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2009
  15. stroggos2k

    stroggos2k Member

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    Considered soldering a DVi or HDMI cable directly to the card?
     
  16. OP
    OP
    fauxhound

    fauxhound New Member

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    Nah, My soldering skill and soldering iron aren't nearly up to scratch for that :p
     
  17. ICEW0LF

    ICEW0LF Member

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    go to autobarn and you can grab yourself a piece of mesh that i think will be perfect - sturdy, stylish with big holes (but not too big) and the silver one would suit the case you are making quite well. i would take a pic of the stuff i got from there but it is out in my garage and its cold out there :D
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2009
  18. OP
    OP
    fauxhound

    fauxhound New Member

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    Minor update, but it's the weekend and the trial's finally over (guilty on all counts, one less kiddy-fiddler on the internet) so I'm looking forward to getting some actual work done tomorrow, starting with cutting out the space for the I/O shieldplate.
    I've decided to go with the less asthetic, but more practical 'motherboard ports poking out the side' mounting methord, which while it wont look as good, will make the case a bit more functional, as it'll be easier to plug things in, and it's not limited to just the screen that's in the lid. I'm planning on having the DVI cable plug into the graphics card (which pokes out the side) then have it quickly bend back into the case.

    After that, my worklist seems to be:
    -Mount motherboard
    -Buy screen to fit
    -Mount screen
    -design perspex shape and mountings for it
    -mount perspex

    This week hasn't been a total loss, I did manage to do the edging for the PSU port, and re-do the disc drive edging.


    Thanks IceWolf, next time I'm near one, or any similar auto parts shop i'll take a look.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2009
  19. OP
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    fauxhound

    fauxhound New Member

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    Done good work today, I/O Shield plate hole cut, and fits very nicely. Wish I'd done this good a job on the DVD drive XD
    Doesn't look half bad the way it is either. Pretty happy with that. (May still need to sand the edging if I want to get rid of the more noticeable tool markings.
    Motherboard mounted, little bit bent under the screws, but not so much I'm uncomfortable. It's too bad I had to have the motherboard already in position before I threaded the screws through, otherwise I could have used a nut beneath the motherboard as a riser.
    Ended up having to remove the fan to get the graphics card in, but after it's there the fan could be slipped back into place.
    All plugged in and working. No power button yet though. Looks like I'll have to cannibalise something to get the motherboard female pins. Also not sure where I'll put the actual button, I'm thinking the same place as Daneel, under the handle. When I'm done on the briefcase I'll do the cable management :p
    Close up of the I/O shield plate. Looks like it still needs some cleaning up.
    Close up of the graphics card. Started with a neat little rectangle, but then decided to try to pass the massive DVI plug through it, and had to keep making it bigger. I'll neaten that up next time I'm working around that area.
    Note; If I do this again, use either HDMI or DisplayPort for the graphics, far smaller plug XD

    List to do for it now;
    Get and mount screen
    Get and mount perspex
    Power button

    Oh, had a thought about the PSU venting. Not sure now if I want to cut it out and put mesh, since i'm pretty sure that'd make that side more than 50% hole, and i'm not sure if that little MDF can stand up to what it could be put through.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2009
  20. Pipster

    Pipster Member

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    do it!!! looking good :)
     

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