Navig Does It Again - Project Resilience is Complete!

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If you frequent the cases and modding sections of our forums, chances are you have seen or heard of Navig creations. He’s been making custom cases since long before I’ve got into overclocking. If I recall correctly, he has been featured in CPU Magazine before and for good reason. His cases are superb examples of creative ingenuity.

His latest project took about a year’s worth of (intermittent) labor. The end result is a work of computer art. The long build log, formerly titled “Project R-Unit” can be seen in its entirety in the alternative modding section of our forum. After final completion, last night he posted more concise overview of the case, which will be merged into this post and you’ll be able to see his work  below. For now, I leave you with my favorite photo.

Project Resilience - Image Courtesy Navig

Project Resilience - Image Courtesy Navig

Thanks for sharing your beautiful work with us Navig!

– Jeremy Vaughan (hokiealumnus)

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  1. I decided I wanted to build a smaller but still full sized case. I wanted it to be sleek and utilitarian like a futuristic piece of laboratory equipment. I also wanted to incorporate some curves, yet be completely identifiable as a computer case.
    So I started with a sketch pad, and the first shape I drew was a slightly modified "R":

    This basic shape has some curves (yes I'm aware of what sort of curves we might be talking about), but I was also planning a component layout.
    Bumping it into a 3 dimensional shape:

    This structure could actually have 3 separate compartments. The front curved area for an upright motherboard, a back area for the powersupply and hard drives, and a bottom unit for 5.25 bays.
    Finally I had a dream of having the front curved panel open up with a hydraulic type action:

    And so I had my basic idea of how I wanted this case to look like.
    Time to head into the shop.
    .
    I started with a paper template, sized to accommodate a rough layout of components:

    I then cut out the basic structural panels from 1/2" MDF:

    MDF is an artificial wood product. The pluses of using MDF is that is strong, has a very even composition (no wood graining), but can be worked with all your standard woodworking tools and techniques. The downsides are: its very dusty to work with, the cut edges are pretty rough, and its very water-absorbent.
    The additional bonus is that MDF is very cheap and obtained from your local Home Depot/Lowes. In total I probably spent <$10 in MDF.
    Here I machined out the general layout, so now you can get a good idea of how this was going to house components:

    The general tools I used to work MDF were a tablesaw for rough cutting, jigsaw and scrollsaw for detail cutting, router for machining.
    The structural parts are jointed with dado joints, reinforced with screws (I used a lot of 6-32 machine screws, with a corresponding tap and/or brass 6-32 threaded inserts).
    All standard woodworking kind of stuff.
    .
    Now that the structure was there, I planned on having the large surfaces covered with plastic paneling.
    I started with stock 1/8" thick dark gray plastic sheet (from Delvie's plastics).
    After cutting it to the appropriate size, I popped the sheets into an oven, and with very careful monitoring, brought them up to a temperature where they were pliable.
    Then I pressed them into molds replicated from the curves on the original panels, where they were allowed to cool and re-harden:

    This panel was cooled and checked for fit:

    There were 2 curved panels, the large front panel, and the top panel. The rest of the panels were plain flat rectangles. I cut the rest of the panels, getting the whole surface sheeted in smoked acrylic:

    5.25 bays were located in this lower area here, with additional spacing for a switch panel and a USB/firewire/audio panel, plus a lot of wire routing.

    A lot of hinging, mounting bracketry, trim finish later:


    I had pictured this case being like some sort of minimalist futuristic lab apparatus. I took my color cues from the lab depicted in the movie Moon.

    The large plastic panels and trim were going to be all smoked gray acrylic and flat black.
    I chose to paint all the structural and interior panels (basically anything made from MDF) laboratory gloss white.
    For color highlights, I choose a cool tone yellow. I painted all my fan blades this yellow, as well as some decorative striping on the video card.


    As you've already seen, all of the plastic was a dark gray. Add all the trim components painted black:

    The effect I was trying to achieve was to essentially have the whole center portion of the case wrapped in black:




    The large side panels and all of the interior was painted white.
    I started with the bare MDF, sealed it with multiple coats of high fill primer.

    I then base coated with white and top coated with glossy clear:

    For the large external surfaces, I went so far as to polish it to perfect reflectiveness.




    I painted some small components a cool yellow to add some color.
    Fans:

    PCI plates:

    Video card accents:

    The end result was a very clean and striking sleek case:
    Here were the components I selected:
    CPU: Core i7 26k
    Motherboard: Asus Sabertooth P67
    RAM: Corsair Vengeance 2x4gb DDR-1600
    Storage: OCZ Vertex 3 240gb, WD Black 2TB
    Video: HIS 6950 2Gb
    DVD drive: Lite-on Blue ray/DVD burner
    PSU: Corsair AX 750W
    Heatsink: Thermalright AX140 RT
    Fans: 5x 12cm Yate Loon low speeds
    1x 14cm Yate Loon low speed
    Fan controller: NZXT Sentry 2
    I'm going to take you on a tour of the completed case, with some higher res pictures.

    The first thing that pops out is the main front compartment.

    The big blacked out panel gives it a sort of monolithic appearance, but the curve also makes unique and more organic.
    Unlit, its a bit mysterious.
    However, hit the 3rd button on the switch panel, and the internal lighting kicks on, showing all the inside components:

    The internal lighting is pretty dramatic, check out this video of lit and unlit.

    This internal lighting effect is achieved by two hidden light bars (one CCFL and one LED) shining down onto the motherboard. I've highlighted them in this pic:

    Underneath there, you can now see my Sabertooth motherboard, the large 14cm fan blowing over the cpu heatsink, and my video card.
    However!
    It wasn't enough for me just to be able to see these pretty components. Being a longtime overclocker, I needed actual access to my components!
    You may remember in my post above, during the conception phase, I wanted to have this front panel open up, giving me instant access to my motherboard components.
    First, you push this button on the top of the front panel, which pops up a hidden knob.

    Twist the knob and a latch releases, causing the entire curved panel to pop open.


    And now I've got full access to my motherboard, allowing easy change out of PCI components, RAM, even the cpu.
    The mechanism is actuated by this piston gas spring and the stealth latch mechanism.

    It is really that easy! Here is a video of it in action.

    I chose the Asus Sabertooth P67 motherboard primarily for its sleek look--the plastic shielding hides a lot of the caps, chips, and traces. Visually, the compartment is dominated by the large fan on top of my heatsink. Given the curved bulge in the compartment centered over the cpu heatsink, this case can accommodate super large tower style heatsinks, but the Thermalright downblowing heatsink performs excellently.
    The video card also got some yellow highlighting, mostly to cover up the original red ATi color scheme (pic here).
    I also put in a fair bit of work keeping my cabling clean. There are cable pass thrus at the top, bottom, and right of this compartment to allow for wiring to the 5.25 bays, power supply, and hard drives, located elsewhere.
    At the very bottom of the motherboard compartment, I put a pair of peek-thru windows into the switching compartment. I don't really know why other than I thought it might look neat. Also a good segue...

    This bottom potion of the case houses my switching panel and 5.25 bay drives.
    The upper row has my switch array. The large white circle is the main power, the small circle reset, and the little dot toggles my internal lights.
    The right half has front panel USB/firewire/audio connectors.
    In the center is a floating eye that is the Power-on indicator. You may notice that from picture to picture that this LED lit double sphere is a different color. It actually automatically slowly transitions through various colors.
    Just below it a red LED lit half-dome indicator which is the HDD activity light.
    These are actually what those units looked like during construction.

    Since this little area is actually a completely enclosed chamber, I decided to go ahead and add some additional lighting effects inside.
    When you punch the lights-on switch, 2 side bars and 2 middle floating white LED bars light up:

    All of this lighting effects is a bit difficult to capture in pictures, so I did a quick little video:

    Below the switching chamber is a row for 2 5.25 bay drives. Currently I've got a Blue-ray/DVD burner in the left, and a NZXT Sentry fan controller on the right.
    The backside of this compartment actually has 2 more slots for 5.25 bay devices.

    To access the 5.25 bays and their associated wiring, I have an access panel on the underside of the case.

    This side of the case has the two 12 cm fan intakes.

    I think I have mentioned that I laid down a show-car quality paint finish. Check out the reflections I caught in this pic:

    This is a pic of the right side of the case.

    We've got the 12 cm exhaust, plus all the i/o ports. The power supply is also located here.
    This profile really highlights the nice curve of this case, and its relationship to my original sketch based on the letter "R".
    .
    This is nice picture of the case, top down, and internally lit:

    I've got 2 120mm fans up here exhausting--they actually straddle both the motherboard and the hard drive chambers, pulling out the heated air.
    .
    There are currently slots for 4 hard drives.
    This is a bit of an exploded view to show how the hard drives mount:

    There are 4 straight posts.
    Each post has a metal bracket that screws to the hard drive, either 3.5" or 2.5":

    The metal bracket then mounts to the post with a single thumbscrew:

    Currently I've got a OCZ Vertex 3 240gb as my primary drive, with a WD 2TB as storage.

    Compared to standard cases this location for mounting the PSU is a little different, but placement here puts its cables in close proximity to all the elements (motherboard, video cards, hard drives, 5.25 bays).
    I'm using a Corsair AX 750. Nothing fancy with the cabling, just stock Corsair kept tidy.
    Here is a video of me opening the back access panel:
    And that is pretty much a 360 degree tour of my case.
    Where does the name come from?
    I had based the shape of this whole project on the letter "R" (the working name for its entire build was the "R Unit").
    I cast about names that began with R and that symbolized this project. If you go thru the build log, you'll notice this project took me over a year to complete. I felt that every step of the way this project fought me--anything that could go wrong went wrong, anything that didn't fit required that I invent the wheel to fix. In short, "Resilience" is a euphemism for "this project kicked my butt".

    How long did it take you to build?

    I'm not sure. Overall, I started it over a year ago, altho I did multiple other projects simultaneously. I would have to guestimate maybe 300 hours.
    How much did it cost?
    Conservatively,
    MDF $20
    Raw metal components $20
    Paint $40
    Fasteners, hinges, gas spring $40
    PCI prefabbed bracket $20
    PSU bracket $10
    Switches, wiring, LEDs $40
    Plastic paneling $50
    Front USB/firewire cable $10
    Fans 5x$4 = $20
    Lighting bars $25
    I'm probably forgetting a few things.
    Total: $295

    Where did you get your materials?

    MDF--Home Depot
    Raw metals and hardware--Mcmaster.com, onlinemetals.com
    Modding stuff--Performance-pcs.com
    Components--newegg.com
    Other stuff--SVC.com, xoxide.com
    What tools did you use?
    Woodworking--tablesaw, scrollsaw, jigsaw, router, drill press
    Metalworking--bandsaw, dremel, tap tool, taps and bits for 6-32 and M3
    Sanding--random orbital sander, multitool sander, dremel
    Electronics--soldering iron, wire, wire stripper, solder, helping hands, crimping tool, heatshrink and standad black weave
    Paint--Home Depot Rustoleum--hi fill primer, white primer, glossy white, flat black enamel, and squash yellow satin. Spray can handle is a must.
    Have you seen how many screws are on this thing? Get a good lithium electric screw driver.

    Where did you do your modding?

    1200 sq ft home shop, oh yeah!
    Actually that was a big delay in this project--midway thru I moved to a new house, but the house did have a stand alone shop.

    What was the most difficult part of the project?

    1) I had a huge amount of anxiety about whether I could get the gas spring mechanism to work. I built an entire mockup just to see if it was feasible.
    2) Paint. Trying to get a professional show room quality paint job is just insane.
    What was your favorite part of the project?
    1) When I finished assembling my 4 pieces of structural MDF, I was like, holy cow this is looking like a real case.
    2) Finishing. Did I mention I was slogging at this project for over a year?

    Whom do you have to thank?

    All the folks following my posts, especially at the ocforums and raptor pit.
    My wife. (Babe, I gotta lay down another coat of paint....or sand....sand....sand....)


    I was trying to give the effect of a big plastic panel wrapped all the way from front to back, with the contrasting white sides.
    Also, the switches are independently powered, so even when the PC is off (as in this picture) the switches remain lit.
    .

    Paint job was a massive undertaking, so I like to show it off. To achieve the high polished side panel, these were roughly the coats of paint I used: high fill prime x 3, white prime x 2, white base coat x 4, glossy clear coat x 6. Then to polish it: 220, 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1200, 1500, 2000 grit wet sanding. Then polished with rubbing compound. When the paint has fully cured, I may consider waxing it.
    .
    .

    When the ambient light is low, and you kick on the interior lights, its like the plastic paneling disappears. All you're left with is are the PC components and the structural white gloss panels.


    .