Updated: Jul 12, 2018
Welcome to follow my build process for my signature project TILT!
I've been sketching on a few geometric shapes for a while now going from really advanced ones to more simple. Some suitable for a computer build and some not. Finally I decided to go with a special version of the plain and simple cube. My ambition is to build this case with the tools I got at home. No CNC. Cutting, grinding and welding. All on my own.
Following are a few features my case and project will focus on.
Unique design. This will symbolize what I stand for as a custom PC-designer and modder.
360° view. You will be able to look at it from all directions, finding almost hidden details.
100% Show & 100% Function. There will be no compromises neither for display nor daily functionality.
I'm doing a 3D-model for this case to be able to take measurements, order material and try different layouts.
The case shape is simple, it's a cube with one flat corner as foot. This gives it a interesting layout and ability to show all components inside. I've changed my mind a dussin times regarding material and design. As I plan to build this on my own there's no point making a 3D-model of a case that I would not be able to create. My first choice would be an aluminum frame as it's easy to work with and perhaps polish as finish. But I don't have the gear or knowledge to weld alu and screw it together is not an option.
I decided to go with steel. At first I was afraid of the weight it would add to the finished project. But as soon as I got the material at hand, I changed my mind. The weight and stiffness will only be positive for stability.
The frame needs to be simple and clean, and as steel is really stiff I can use thin profiles without compromising stability. I found a standard dimension of L-profiles that was 15x15x3 mm and updated my 3D-model regarding to their measurements. This was my way to find out how much I need and get a clue how the design will be afffected.
Well said and done, I went to a steel shop and got my profiles cut in suitable lengths.
Here they are!
L-profiled steel, 15x15x3 mm.
A pile of junk. Dirty and rusty. But as perfect as I want them.
The frame is supposed to be built by 9 identical pieces and welded together at the corners to get the shape of a cube. One corner will be "cut" and act as bottom/foot.
This is no work for a tiny dremel. I'll go for the angle grinder!
I used the angle grinder to do rough cuts and then my stationary sander for last millimeters.The 9 pieces needs 45 degree angles at boot ends and this was kind of tricky with only my plastic protractor as help. There's also three different pieces for the special corner that needs a rotated angle of aprox. 35,3 degrees.. Well I think I got near 35 degrees and the right rotation after a while. It will prove itself when time for assembly!
I had to buy me a few tools to get this welding done properly. Angled magnetic blocks and a brass brush will come in handy. I've got a small MIG welder without gas that will have to do the job. As I'll be welding from the inside I think it will do just fine.
The magnetic angles does not work as good as I thought they would with these small L-profiles. But they're better than nothing I suppose. Without a proper welding table I used my kind of flat garage floor to get all lined up. With the garage door fully open there will be no need for extra ventilation and I'll get away from headache.
First side done and so far so good! I start with tiny welds to not get the profiles to twist or bend.
I chose to weld the frame in sets that I will put together at the end. I also found out pretty soon that my floor was not completely flat. Therefore I found me this plate from a shelf to use instead.
This is the "cut corner" that will act as foot. I will then weld a 3 mm thick trinagle shaped metal sheet to it. This will give me good support and weight at the bottom of the case.
It feels so good to see the shape come to life. It's like a hybrid between a Boxee box and a HP Omen. And this one will be fully transparent! See you soon!
I decided to go for 3 mm thick steel as base plate to add a bit more weight and stiffness at the bottom. My local shop helped me out with a square piece that I could cut and grind to fit just perfect.
The frame is done and I can start working on the layout based on real measurements. This thing will get sand blastered and painted. I was considering polish but think paint is the way to go, if I find a color I like.
This is all the steel that's going into this mod. From now, everything will be acrylic!
With the frame all done I could start with the backside which will hold almost all parts. For this one I chose 4 mm thick acrylic for stability.
First I cut the corner as my piece was 300 x 300 mm to start with.
I've gone through many different layouts and options about how to mount motherboard and graphics card. It's now decided to go with mITX and therfore also single GPU. A horizontal orientated motherboard is not the best choice regarding room inside the case. But it will fit according to my 3D model and the finished layout will look alot better this way.
I'll be using a rear mounting frame from a stripped motherboard tray together with another acrylic sheet as tray. Lets get to it and do the cut out with my battery jigsaw.
It took me some time to deside how to mount all side panels to the frame. Each side will be fastened by 8 pcs of M4 screws. Therefore, I had to make several threaded holes, by hand.. I don't own a stationary drill yet so by hand was the way to go. A couple of hours and out of patience, I finally got them all done and in the right place!
With the frame finalized and ready for surface treatment I continued my inside layout planning. My wish is to have this all figured out before painting the frame. This because I want to minimize the risk of scratches.
I've got something here don't I? All parts (Mobo-tray + mobo, graphics card and PSU) are mounted to the backside acrylic panel. One kind of cool thing is that as this stands now, no screws are used. The angle is perfect and the centre of gravity is slightly up front which allows me to just put the whole backside package in place and it will sit there on its own. I would love to say that this was all calculated, but it's not. Just damn luck :D
Next step is to plan the water cooling setup to fit all parts inside the case in a strategic way with pipe-routing and cooling performance in focus. I like symetri where it's possible and decided to go with a dual 120 mm rad setup in an angle in the front bottom sides.
Thanks to Bitspower I will use their series of true brass fittings and parts. Combined with slim radiators, acrylic hard tube and Cooler Master MasterFan Air Balance RGB fans. Don't let the pictures fool you with Corsair fans, they will be changed. As this is an all premium project, so should also the fans be.
First up is radiator placement and a mock up for a bit odd straight pipe connection between them. Will look epic from the front!
I will use a DDC pump and res combo mounted at the back panel in the same angle as the motherboard and GPU. There could be a discussion if a 45 degree mounting angle will tear down my pump really fast or not. This because of tilted pressure on the ceramic ball. I think this must depend a lot on pump speed, and this will probably not run over 50%. Well lets find out!
It got to me that this project is very hard to capture on picture without making it look all crooked haha. Will look gorgeous IRL though!
Motherboard tray, made from the same 4 mm thick acrylic as the backside. It will be slim in all dimensions and almost invisible underneath the mother board!
How about some hardware? Has been really quiet about that until now actually. Lets start off with the GPU. I decided to use a Nvidia GeForce GTX1080 Founders Edition and water cool it with a bitspower fullcover nickel/acrylic block. But I'll save that block-part to later and instead show some interesting modding!
The Bitspower block comes with a aluminum backplate that's been painted black and has got Bitspower and Nvidia logos on it. This is not premium enough for me and this project so I thought why not try something different.
I did a cut-out of the Nvidia logo which I filed and sanded to a perfect shape. This will allow the back of the pcb to be visible through the backplate.
But I don't want to stop here. I've been polishing alot of aluminum in my days and it's a pain. But with pain comes glory, and glory is my goal. Started with sanding down the paint and get a rough metal surface.
Then continued using finer and finer grit. Working my way up from 180 I think, to the finest I've got at home, 1200.
When all scratches are completely removed it's time for polishing using compounds and machine. I usually do this in three stages starting with a heavy cut compound going beond 1200 grit paper.
Then I use something called Autosol, a kind of chrome polish with small small particles in it. Last step is this shine polish, and it will make magic happen ;)
Here we go! A couple of hours of hard work paid off!
Well with the hardware layout figured out it's time to continue the work with the frame. Beautiful bare metal frame!
My neighbor got a better workshop than me and in one corner of it, he's got a large sand blaster box! It's old, crappy and the sand should have been changed years ago. But with time and patience it does the job!
I will leave the sand blastered surface as it is and paint right on it. This will give me a sleek but tiny structural surface of the paint. I don't know how this will work out and what result to expect, but I'm curious to try!
Time for some paint!
I usually try to paint all my stuff outside, but the weather did not allow me to this time. Therefore I did build myself a box inside my garage to prevent the paint from spreading all over. Quite primitive but will probably do the trick.
I skipped the primer after consultation with my local paint shop. As the frame is new raw steel and sandblastered all over, and the finished computer will just be indoors, there's no need for primer. This paint will stick to the surface just as good without it.
As you can see in the picture I put screws in all holes to prevent paint in the threads. They will also act as stand-offs while painting. This becaus I need to rotate and turn the frame over to be able to reach all sides.
My garage is pretty cold so I decided to use a 2kW heater to preheat the frame before painting, and after each layer of paint. A bit of extra lightening with a strong LED was also needed.
The frame was a lot harder to paint than I had expected. My wish was to cover it all with one layer with the paint still wet to avoid color changes or such. If I could have painted it hanging from the roof in a wire, I would have been a lot easier. This way worked though but I was afraid to touch the paint by mistake the entire time.
I decided 3 layers of basecoat must be enough. Actually that was all I've got haha..
I let the frame sit for a day to dry before going for the high gloss vanish. Same procedure turning and tilting the frame while painting. As many layers as I had paint to cover. Think it ended with 5 or 6. Well enough to get a good depth!
The custom color I went for is a black metallic but with only brass/bronze particles in it. My ambition is that it will go perfect with my chrome/brass theme of this build! I cetainly adore it!
Bottom side radiator panels!
The two bottom side panels will hold one 120 mm radiator each as shown earlier. I found these Bitspower laser cut black acrylic radiator grilles with hexagon shaped wholes. Perfect for me!
Large holes following the exact shape of the radiator for full airflow.
Finally time for some hardware don't you think?!
I managed to snatch myself this motherboard and the CPU on their release days.
GIGABYTE Z370N Wifi mITX
INTEL Core i7 8700k
There's also some sick RAM in this picture but I will get back to them.
Perfect color-scheme. Great performance and all the features I need.
This is a beauty. Made a deep whole in my wallet. Well done.
SAMSUNG believe in me and my work. They've helped me once before and was kind enough to do so now again. They sent me nothing less than their insane 960 PRO M.2 SSD!
I've had a great relationship with TeamGroup and we discussed what would honor this project in form of RAM. This ended with me receiving their T-Force Xtreme Special Edition 2x8GB 4133MHz World Record RAM.
All black, all unmatched performance. All according to theme!
Enough with hardware and back to rough modding. Actually painful modding this time. I needed screws to fasten the acrylic sides to the frame. But I could not find the srews with my decired design and the right length. After a while, I decided to take action and cut my own lenght from thre right screws.
I made a jig to hold one screw at the time from an acrylic sheet and a steel L-profile. Then I could cut them one on one with my angle grinder.
I'll be using brass screws and nuts to fasten the motherboard tray and I/O frame to the backside acrylic. The one to the right is straight out the package. And the other one is how I want the finish to be. High gloss polished brass incoming. It's easy to spend hours on these tiny details!
Here we go!
Time for some serious trial and error. I decided to make my own cable combs for this project. By doing that I can get perfect fit and design routing the cable just the way I want to. I have access to a Ultimaker 3 3D printer and will model my combs in Autocad and then try to print them.
Below are first mock-ups for design of one comb and me trying to find the right options and tolerances to fit my cables. This was a bit harder than expected and I found myself trying about 10 different combinations to find the one with best result. After that I could apply my cable separation measurements to all my planned combs.
My ambition is to implement my logo in to kinds of ways in this project. Non of them beeing a sticker. The first one will be on my home made combs!
Here's the first try with black on black without any touch up after the print.
This is what it looks like when the Ultimaker operates. I'm printing on blue tape to ensure the PLA plastic sticks to the surface. The glass "floor" is pre-heated in this one and that combined with the tape helps to prevent warping of the edges = good print.
As always, my measurements weren't 100% and I won't be satisfied untill they are. New day, new models, new prints. This time I tried with a white logo, and decided this is the logo design I want. The one at the back would be thrown away though..
The two ones as the front is 8 pin combs for GPU and motherboard. They will mount to the cables as close as possible to the connector and lead the cables in a beautiful loop goin up and turning 180 degrees down.
Together with the two dual 8 pin combs above, these ones below is my final set for the entire cable management! What you see is a looping 24 pin comb combined with a 8 pin extended path for the cables to my GTX1080 FE. Bottom right is a mid-path comb for motherboard (CPU) 8 pin cables. The last one is a combinder for 24 pin and dual 8 pin that will collect all cables just in front of the PSU. All cables will be routed with their hardware pinout design the entire way and through this collector. After that they will be split up and routed to fit the pinout of my SF600 PSU. And that split will be as short as I can make it. You'll see in upcoming pictures when I present my cables!
Positioning of the routing combs done on the downside of my motherboard holding plate.
I'll go for all black cables. Why? Because I want them to be routed in the open, but almost invisible. My ambition is to have them done in a way that people won't pay attention to them at first, perhaps not at a second glance either. But WHEN you do see them, you'll understand what effort I put in to them regarding, routing of each cable and its exact length. Their flow will present itself and satisfaction guaranteed.
Black cables, black sleeve and black connectors. It will be a challenge to route them all to the same place through the connector comb and finalize them at the perfect length. Lets begin!
A beautiful 24 pin bend next to the TeamGroup Xtreeme Special Edition
This is how the collector comb will sit infront of the PSU. 24 pin going in at the top and will be followed by 2x 8 pin below it. The distans between the collector and the PSU is as you can see very short. At this picture, the cables are routed to their right pinout but without connectors on them just yet.
Please give me 1:1 pinouts..
Last crimping on that second 8 pin and I should be finished! Lets just hope I've routed everything right. I've checked, double checked and will do a final check before pushing the button.
So, this is my final cable management. A squid-like harness including all power cables in one unit! Probably not the easiest way to do this but much more interesting and challenging!
Last print-job for this project is the support frame for the motherboard. It will be attached to the pin-out side of the PSU like an extension frame around the connectors. The top is raised about 5 mm higher than the PSU and will give support and allow me to have a 5 mm space between the holding plate and the PSU, enough to route some pump and LED cables invisible!