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The Navig Exoframe--Completed!

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Senior Case Master
Dec 7, 2003
Hi all,

Here is my promised completed thread for my latest project. A few prefacing notes:

1) The worklog can be found here, when it was titled my "Framer Project".

2) A lot of this is re-hash of the project log, but I've got some pretty nice money shot pics.

3) I will be re-posting this in other locations, pretty much cut'n'paste--I've felt insecure ever since the Abit forum went down!

4) Please refrain from posting until I am complete

Without further ado, I give you:

The Navig Exoframe



Right side of the case.


Backside of the case.

In one sentence, I’d describe the Navig Exoframe as:
A DIY scratch built watercooled exoframe covered with plastic panels.

The 2 basic elements to this case are:
1) Square tube aluminum box frame
2) Translucent plastic paneling (dark bronze on the front, top, back, and bottom, and light blue on the sides).

3 Additional elements:
1) Aesthetically, rather than end up with a plastic cube type case, I actually wanted to expose the square tube framing—that’s the “exo” in Exoframe.

2) Size—since I was hand fabricating the frame, I could choose any size. I decided to go ultra-large to accommodate any future upgrades and additions, especially regarding watercooling elements, which always take up a lot of space. Basically I wanted to build a case where I would never find myself requiring more space.

3) Watercooling—going for a fully inclosed native support for multiple loop/radiator cooling.

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Senior Case Master
Dec 7, 2003

My original basic drawings. Again I wanted large and native support for watercooling. I went with a double wide concept, with an upright motherboard.


Double wide would allow me to have my hard drives and 5.25 drives side by side, motherboard and power supply side by side, and the possibility of 2 rows of 2 radiators side by side.

Once I had my general layout conceived, I needed to develop my method of framing.

First I started with square aluminum tube, cut to length and miter cut at the ends to meet at the corners.


Next I fabricated corner brackets from hand cut plastic, bonded to form a 3d corner bracket:


Put these 2 together and the corners of my frame can be secured like so:


With this basic principle, I could build a box frame:




Senior Case Master
Dec 7, 2003
This frame is at the whole heart of the design of this case, which is why the project is titled the Exoframe. All the necessary intrinsic components will hard mount to this frame. The plastic panels will give the illusion of a fully enclosed case, but they are pretty much just decoration.

For this reason the frame had to be solid by itself (paneling does add some rigidity). Here is a test showing both the lightweight and stable nature of the case:


Then I laid out all my internal components and planned out all the methods to mount them:


Next I constructed a removable motherboard tray:


Then I cut all the large side panels:


And now it looked almost like a complete case:




Senior Case Master
Dec 7, 2003
But there was still a lot of work!

The panels had to be cut to accommodate fans, and bays.

Spent weeks designing and wiring the case. At this point I had settled on 2 2x120 radiators—so with fans in push-pull that alone requires wiring for 8 fans! I also had to work in wiring for cold cathode lighting. And remember, the switching panel is close to 1.5 feet away from the motherboard! In the end I constructed a custom cable harness.


For example, illustrated above is the cable harness for my cold cathodes. That’s 3 cold cathodes, powered by 2 inverters, with a switch on the front panel some 3 foot of wire away.

One trick I did to keep the case clutter free was that I actually ran many cables within the tube framing itself!


On the left, you can see how I strung the cabling into the framing. On the right, when I reassembled everything, it appears that the cable is disappearing.

Now that wiring was complete, I installed my watercooling components. 1 resevoir-pump column, 2 radiators, 2 blocks (one each for the cpu and gpu). Here I’m filling the system:


Finally, you put in the pc components and turn it on!


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Senior Case Master
Dec 7, 2003
Enough of the re-hash, now let's look at the completed project, where I'll point out some of the features built in.


Starting with the front of the case:

1) I wanted to add a little architectural interest, inside of a straight cube, so I add a sloped panel at the top. It houses the switching panel, which features 2 vandal switches (power-on and reset) and a toggle (cold cathode lighting). The vandals light up (orange for power-on and purple for hard drive activity).

2) The main panel holds the bracket for 5.25 bays, up to 5. I’ve got a Lite-on DVD burner, and a Sunbeam rheobus to control fans (currently controlling the two front intake fans and the pump).

3) There are 2 intake fans with dust filters. These blow across the hard drive rack to keep drives cool.

Side view:

This is the main viewing angle, displaying the motherboard.


When unlit, you can get hints of the underlying components.

Or hit the internal lighting and everything is now visible.


I’ll remove the side panel for best viewing of the internal components.


Starting with the motherboard:

I’m running a Abit IP-35E with a q6600 clocked at 3.6ghz, 2gb of Crucial Ram, and a G92 8800gts.

I kept my watercooling simple: inflow and outflow to the cpu, inflow and outflow to the gpu. Gives it a simple clean appearance, with low restriction to flow rate. I’m using a Swiftech Apogee GTZ and a MCW60 waterblocks on the cpu and gpu, respectively. To give it a sleek look, the tubing appears to run parallel to the surface of the motherboard, with the last turn-ins done by Bitspower rotary adaptors. No giant loops of tubing (at least on this side). The tubing itself is standard Tygon ½” ID ¾” OD tubing with black anti-kink coils.

You can also see the hard drive rack—I’ve got a 1TB and a 300gb Seagate drives. The racks are borrowed from Lian Li components, with tool free slide-in slide-out mounting.

You can also see the Pump-Resevoir column. I’m using an EK resevoir and a Laing DD5 pump with a Petrastechshop top.

Even tho the big ticket items are watercooled, airflow is still very important for overall performance.

Motherboard components are kept cool with some dedicated fans: 2 120mm fans take air from under the case and fire at the graphics card. 1 120mm exhausts from the standard motherboard tray location, and 2 more up top exhaust hot air out the top. There is also a mini-40mm fan on top of the PWM heatsink, which gets quite hot with a overclocked quad.

There are a lot of fans, but all of them are controlled down, running in the very quiet realm of 1000rpms.


This diagram shows my overall air movement scheme. Blue boxes highlight intake fans and red boxes exhaust.
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Senior Case Master
Dec 7, 2003
Back view:

Here is a view of the backside.


1) As you can see, the motherboard tray is fully removable.

2) The power supply sits behind the motherboard tray, giving close access to components, while also helping manage cable clutter.

3) Also a reminder—all the panels are translucent, so even thru the back you can see hints of the internal components.


Left side of the case:

Lights off:


Lights on:


And again, without the blue plastic panel so that you can see the components:


1) The left hemisphere of the case, pictured here, is mostly dedicated to the watercooling components and the power supply. The clutter (water tubing and power cables) are sequestered to this side.

2) I used 2 radiators (Swiftech MCR220), with low speed fans in push-pull. You can see how the tubing is routed.

Pump --> top radiator --> cpu block --> lower radiator --> gpu block --> resevoir --> pump.

This loop separates CPU heat from GPU heat, which is important as this system runs [email protected], loading all 4 cores AND the GPU at 100% 24/7.

Again, thanks to the case size and layout, there is plenty of space to run tubing without worry of kinking.

3) The 2 major areas of cable interface are accessed from this side—and are still somewhat difficult to spot. I use the areas underneath the 5.25 bays and underneath the powersupply, to tuck away my cables. In a case made entirely of translucent panels, you must find areas to hide cable management.



Senior Case Master
Dec 7, 2003
More Features:

As a modder constantly changing and upgrading components, one of the biggest features I appreciate about this case is accessiblility to components. With a powered screw driver, all it takes is 2 minutes and a dozen mounting screws, and the side and top panels come right off. No need to even turn off the system:



As you can see, with these panels off, pretty much every component is exposed.

Also remember, all 7 panels are simply mounted with screws and can come off (altho for example the front panel, you must disconnect the bay drive devices first).

To be honest, the entire case is held together by standard 6-32 machine screws. 10 minutes and a electric screwdriver, and the case can be reduced to a pile of aluminum brackets, some plastic parts, and the drive bays.

Another feature I commonly use in many mods is my internal lighting. I like to use darkened plastic panels that are mostly opaque in normal lighting. However, punch one switch and the whole inside becomes lit up with 3 white CCFLs, displaying all the marvelous hardware workings inside. Now you see it Now you don’t style.




Senior Case Master
Dec 7, 2003
And my closing pics:


It’s a blend of simple monolithic panels, but complicated internal workings.
My modding typically does not involve much decoration (no paint or flames)—just plastic and brushed aluminum.
I prefer radical and purpose-driven design, and generally use my PC hardware for décor.
Plus, this was meant to be a functional case (hard to scratch brushed aluminum!).


Altho the large side viewing panels are the lightest, all the panels are translucent, so hitting the internal CCFLs in a dark room allows you to see everything from any angle. It almost looks caseless.



Needless to say, I’m a hardware junkie. Love showing off the internal components, especially the motherboard and the watercooling components.



Q6600 3.6ghz
Abit IP35E
Crucial 2x1gb RAM
Seagate hard drives 1TB, 300gb
Lite-On DVD burner
Sunbeam Rheobus
Corsair HX-620W

Laing DD5 with PTS top.
EK Resevoir 150
2x MCR220 Swiftech radiators
CPU block-Swiftech Apogee GTZ
GPU block-Swiftech MCW60
G92 iandh heatsinks
Tygon ½” ID ¾” OD tubing with antikink coils
Distilled water, PT nuke

Approximate Cost:
Stock aluminum square tube: $50
Plastic sheet stock: $150
Brackets, nuts n bolts: $50
Bay and hard drive brackets: $60
Switches: $40
Custom wiring: $10

Time: 5 months at about 6 hours per week. Total 120 hours.

Must thank: my wife, supporters at the (now defunct) Abit forums, ocforums, and xtremesys forums.


Thanks, Navig


Feb 3, 2005
That is just mind blowingly beautiful!!!!!!! :drool::drool::drool::drool:

Well done on another fine job, you have out done yourself this time I think. Will you be producing these to order like the benching rig?


Senior Case Master
Dec 7, 2003
It's certainly possible. As you can see, the design is easily customizable.

Obviously, tho, it would be quite expensive--the parts alone cost 3x as a benching station. I think a large reduction in cost and time could be had if I could find a shop to machine me the main corner brackets--which I'm looking into.



Sparkomatic Moderator
Apr 29, 2002
:drool: WOW!!! :drool:
I think MountainMods has a serious competitor here :beer:

You also could have the Al tubing anodized to any color (like black) if there is enough demand.

I was looking at making something like this with real beefy heavy stainless steel or bronze/copper mesh panels for a Faraday cage case.
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Jan 26, 2009
Central Florida
That's a hell of a case. You did a great job and I don't have the adjective for you, I'm sorry.

If I can offer one piece of constructive crit. it would be that on the front of the case, where it hit 45 at the top, there should be more switches! Or an indication panel or something. Idk....sweet case though :D

Edit: Or one of those things at the DMV where it's like rubberized goggles at the eye-testing station, haha. As if to indicate that you're supposed to place your eyes there for further viewing. /joke


Rest In Peace
Feb 1, 2008
Lewisville, TX
It's certainly possible. As you can see, the design is easily customizable.

Obviously, tho, it would be quite expensive--the parts alone cost 3x as a benching station. I think a large reduction in cost and time could be had if I could find a shop to machine me the main corner brackets--which I'm looking into.


Price? Price? I don't care! I'll pay it, lol. That case is just awesomeness and complete WIN. Nonono, Epic Win with extra L33tsauce and pure pwnage!

Ok, I've used enough nerdy gamer slang for one post. Seriously though, I can't imagine that being more than at least some of us would be willing to pay for a 1st Gen Navig Custom Case.