Cool AND Cool

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Cool looking and cool running case mod – Strogg

What This Is About

Many have made modifications to their case to make it look cool. Others have made mods to just cool it down.

One thing who don’t see often is one that does both. I have attempted to make a custom case that is both affordable AND is one that will cool down a system without any trouble at all for around $100.

Many have made modifications to their case to make it look cool. Others have made mods to just cool it down. But one thing that doesn’t happen often is a custom-made case that is made to cool down heat-sensitive components. I have attempted to make a custom case that is both affordable AND is one that will cool down a system without any trouble at all. The budget: $100.

Design

First, I designed the case. It took me about a day, and was by far the hardest thing to do, but not spending the time to do it right before you start means spending more time AND money fixing mistakes AFTER you start.

Here it is:

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As you can hopefully see, the left side of the case is for the motherboard and the expansion cards, while the right is for the PSU, drives, and whatever else you’ll find in a case.

By moving the heat-generating devices that are NOT heat-sensitive to another section of the case (in this case, we’ll call it the “right section”), I hoped to protect the heat-sensitive devices from extra heat, hopefully aiding the cooling on that side.

To circulate air throughout the <1/2 cu. ft. of space, I chose six 44cfm 92mm fans. They are quiet, yet move quite a lot of air.

I decided to use acrylic sheets as the basis for the box. Since I wanted to spend as little as possible, I chose 1/8″ sheets for the front, back, and sides and chose 3/8″ sheets for the top, bottom, and center.

I debated with myself quite a bit about how to finish the case. Should I paint the box internally or externally?

The difference between the two is simple: painting externally will require sanding, some good car polish, and wax to make it look cool. Internal painting will let you have the shine for free, but that means any holes going through the clear part of the plastic will look weird.

For a while, I was going to paint the box externally and glue the pieces together with acrylic glue, since I don’t want random screws seen on the top middle portion of the case. Then I decided to internally paint it, and have all the sheets screwed down by screws so that the whole operation would be easier and faster. But then again, I wondered how hard would it be to make the outside look half decent if painted externally, so I chose external painting again.

Still basically undecided on this point, I then had some people comment on it (some constructively, others not). Then I went to work.

Beginning To Build…

I went to TAP Plastics to get my acrylic sheets. Price: $53.57. Amount left from $100: $46.43.

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Ah, the smell of burned plastic. Anyway, I took the sketches and proceeded to measure out the big 3/8″ pieces so I can glue them together. I finally chose gluing then external painting.

I peeled back the protective sheets on the acrylic to see what I was gluing, then glued. After all that careful measurement and preparation, it came out looking rather good.

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I wanted to make the left panel first, since it would be the easiest panel to cut out. All I needed to make were 3 90mm circles and 4 screw holes each.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a hole saw to put on my drill, so dremeling was the only solution to this problem. The circles aren’t even near perfect, but it’s good enough to show that the holes are supposed to be round.

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Drilling and Painting…

I then decided to drill the holes necessary to mount the 4 panels into place (yes, I’m avoiding the laboring work of the front/rear panels). I eyeballed the drilling. I need 6 holes per panel (3 top, 3 bottom), each being 1/8″ thick…

Oops, I forgot that the panels needed painting. I’ve handled spray paint before, and know the little tricks for painting anything. I don’t have enough paint to paint the whole case, it was time to go to Kragen!

For a while, I decided to go all black, but when I saw the variety of colored paints there, I decided to go crazy and get blazing orange! Unfortunately, they were out of stock, so I went for gold instead.

The manufacturer this time isn’t Krylon, but Duplicolor. We’ll see if they can hold up to the Krylon quality.

$46.43 – $10.80 (two cans) = $35.63 left from $100.

Time to paint! Whoop-de-doo. I shook up the paint and started spraying the cleaned-up panels. Using the little tricks I found from the last time I spray painted a case panel, I started the process.

Oh, oh… Apparently, the gold paint is harder to handle, because the color inside isn’t a solvent mixed with the liquid, but more like a flaky texture than anything else. This doesn’t look so hot.

Now I’m officially screwed. At least it only looks bad in extremely well-lit places, which my computer room isn’t, fortunately.

Moving on, I finally decided to cut the front panel. I need to draw the template first, so I drew on the fan holes, then the rectangular cutout for the drive bays, then the locations of the buttons and LED’s on the panel.

I started cutting, badly. I screwed up the panel, and it was too late to fix it. Oh well, back to TAP Plastics for another panel.

$35.63 – $5.12 = $30.51 left.

Time to try AGAIN. This time, I got everything right! Next, the back panel. That part is easy, but the first thing I need to do is to look for the location of the power supply.

Since I’m going to use double-stick tape to tape it on to the corner (as in the picture), I’m going to have to mount it first in order to figure out where to cut the hole for the PSU to breathe. I would have to do the same thing for the card bay and the connectors for the motherboard. This part is easy; only 3 non-circular cuts.

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OK, time to see what else to troubleshoot.

Expansion Cards and Drives…

How am I supposed to mount the expansion cards without making everything look all ugly?

The only thing I can think of is to use some acrylic left over to make something to screw on the cards with.

What I will do is make an extra plate and glue it on the inside of the back panel. Then I will take all my expansion cards (all two of them) and bend the bracket so that it’s straight (no more 90° turn). Then I will screw it on the plate. There! Problem solved.

Another problem is how to mount the cdrom drives and hard drives in the computer. With some extra acrylic I have lying around (well, that little screw-up with the front panel DID have some up-sides), I rigged up something to house the massive units onto the case.

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On the very left, there’s another piece of acrylic (2 glued together) that attaches the drives into one big unit. That will then slide into the socket that you see in the middle of the picture. When done, the units won’t be sliding around all over the place, but be completely secured.

The cutting is finally complete! Now to fit everything together to make it all work.

Wait, what about the fans? Time to go to Directron and order some!

$30.51 – $23.36 = $7.15 left.

PSU…

I had to do something to keep the PSU in place (I don’t want to screw in the PSU to the back panel for the fear of crackage in case something goes wrong). This is what I did:

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Two acrylic sheets taped together support the PSU (the metal thing on the top edge) like a support beam in a large building. It works well, well enough to keep the PSU steady for the past 2 months.

The case is finally complete. Here it is:

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Now it’s time to test it.

Testing…

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Not bad for the case… not bad at all. It was actually cooler than my other case, so I’m quite pleased.

I gave it the name Plastic Fantastic, which is also a nick-name for the mostly-plastic Glock 22 pistols.

Like its namesake, it’s a double edged sword. While it’s reliable and lightweight, it may not perform well for some people who are hardcore users (it’s plastic for crying out loud!).

Overall, the plan succeeded. It obviously isn’t the best designed case in the world, but it sure does look cool while keeping the components the same way.

The experience was great, even with the problems I had along the way.

If you want, you can surely steal… er… use my design for your own needs. If you have any questions regarding the case, construction, materials, or any other random computer-related question in general, you can email me and I’ll try to reply as soon as I can.

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