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Tony's Photo Galleries
(Click on the plans a second time to see a higher resolution version.)
The concept for this case was as follows:
Current computer case designs share the interior space among all the components. The disk drive, power supply, CPU, and video card all get the same cooling air.
I was having trouble getting a case that both adequately cooled the components
was very quiet. Part of the problem was that when the components started to warm up, the power supply fan would sense it and would crank up its speed to compensate.
So I wanted to completely separate the power supply from the CPU and video card using baffles on the interior of the case. That would allow me to use lower speeds on the cooling fans for each section, thus quieting things down.
These plans were made in Corel Draw.
Armed with my measured specifications, I assisted my friend Aaron Anderson cutting up the pieces of plexiglass using his brother-in-law's table saw. I took the pieces home and began to assemble them by drilling very small holes in each piece and using very small machine screws.
Getting the right size and number of screws is tricky. I think I must have gone back to the hardware store for more/different screws something like four times during the course of construction.
I carefully cut the holes for the various parts, for instance, intake air, exhaust air, and the places where the cables connect to the motherboard and cards. I used three different kinds of large-hole-drilling tools, as well as a lot of Dremel work.
Note that the protective adhesive plastic is still on the plexiglass in these pictures.
In the final design, the idea is to create a positive-pressure system where the 120mm fans blow cool air into the case from the front, and exhaust all hot air through holes in the back of the case. So all airflow is one direction. Many of the holes on the back of the case are only there for the purpose of exhaust air.
The case looks rather stunning with all the holes drilled and the protective plastic removed.
The fact that you can see all of the screws joining the pieces together was a deliberate design choice on my part. I think it looks cool.
However, if I had to do it over again, I'd do most of the assembly with Lucite-welding glue instead. It turned out that drilling the pilot holes and putting in the machine screws is a procedure fraught with peril. I stripped many a screw and split the lucite in a lot of places. Most of these mistakes are so small you can't notice them, but it would have been a lot easier just to glue most of it.
Even if I had glued most of it, though, I'd still have needed some screws to hold the components in place and to open the case for maintenance.
Here's the case with the first pass on the components installed. Note the handle on top of the case for carrying it to
The two black strips you see on the side of the case (in the middle of the photo) are velcro. A similarly-matched pair of strips on the bottom of my keyboard allow it to stick to the side of the case when transporting it to LAN parties. Combine that with a handle on the top of my monitor, and a small backpack for cables and mouse and such, and I've got a system that takes only two hands to carry into the LAN party.
That's a single trip in from the car, people. For those who do LAN parties, you know what I'm talking about. There's something particularly nice about parking, grabbing your stuff, locking the car, and walking in. No going back out to the car for a second trip.
A few things differ in this version from the original plans.
First of all, I abandoned the idea of having a floppy drive, even though I could have done it in this design. This is now my first floppyless computer. The fact that the DVD-ROM is a bootable device, and the existence of
, removed my last objections to going floppyless.
Second, I'd gone to a lot of trouble to make the lowest case fan ducted over the GeForce FX 5900 video card with an installed
Zalman ZM80D-HP Passive heat Sink
. But during the construction and fiddling, I managed to (unknowingly) knock one of the adhesive-backed RAM heatsinks off one of the video RAM chips, and subsequently cooked it during a test run. So as you can see in this photo, the video card has been replaced (at great expense) with a newer card, without the fancy aftermarket heat sink. I think I'll stick with stock heat sinks for a while.
Here, you can see that I've just replaced the front cooling fans with a different brand than in the earlier photos.
I'd originally gotten some cheap 120mm fans at Fry's Electronics. My idea was that 120mm fans, when wired at 5 volts instead of 12 volts, would still move a lot of air yet be very quiet. While this is true, it's all moot when you buy really cheap crappy fans which are noisy even at 5 volts.
So I did some research and ordered up some
, which were orders of magnitude quieter than the cheapies from Fry's. Ah, much better. If you happen to need quiet 120mm fans, definitely look up the SilenX ones, they are worth it.
Here, you can see that I removed the lowest baffle, the one below the video card. I took a quiet 80mm Vantech Stealth fan and mounted it in place of that baffle, next to the video card, blowing directly on it. Then I took the video card's built-in jet-engine fan and wired it to run at 7 volts instead of 12 volts.
Now, instead of one super-noisy fan directly mounted on the video card, I've got three incredibly quiet fans in that lowest video-card section, blowing air through the case and onto/across the video card. This allows the card to run 3D games at high resolutions with all the settings cranked, and it doesn't cook the card, yet still remains whisper-quiet.
Here's the first of a couple shots with the LEDs in the fans lit up. This is what the computer would look like at a LAN party.
With the lights on in the room, it still looks really neat to have the glow.
Later, I cannibalized
just the LEDs
from one of the cheapo noisy fans to light up the back half of the case.
Here is a close up allowing you to see the inner baffle that cuts across the motherboard. You'll see that I've cut notches into it that fit over the RAM and other components on the motherboard. Then I use soft foam weatherstripping to seal it gently against the motherboard and the components.
This keeps the air fully separated between the video-card-section and the CPU-section, allowing the cooling fans for each component to work individually and not have to absorb the heat from other sections of the case.
The end result is very satisfactory. I use some software tools to check the case and component temperatures, and everything is operating quite cool even at full tilt playing a high rez 3D game. And it's all whisper-quiet.
Update to the video card cooling fan...
Removed the cover over the video card's heatsink. With the video card's built-in banshee fan disconnected, instead use a Vantech Stealth 80mm fan, mounted at an angle, to blow across the heat sink.
The angle works well. Drawing cool air that comes from the big 120mm fan at the front of the case, and directing it across the fins of the heat sink. Keeps the card quite cool.
Tony's Photo Galleries
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