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 Post subject: Finally my MDF case is done!
PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 3:53 pm 
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Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2004 2:18 am
Posts: 449
Finally my MDF computer case is done!

Update late 2006: Bought 'dead' Maxtor 160GB that still had warranty.. It is now my second disk. Not the best but at 15 euro...

Update mid 2006: Stock NB cooler (also passive) back on to make room for a 6800GT card, see how that went by clicking the link in my signature!

What's inside:
- Asus K8N Nforce3 with Zalman passive NB
- Sempron 3000+ @ 2,5ghz 1.41V with Sonic Tower heatsink
- Ati AIW 9700 Pro with 90x85 AMD64 heatsink
- Samsung Nidec 160Gb
- Fortron 350W old-ish model fan swapped for low speed Yate Loon
- fan controller thermal probes on both PSU heatsinks and on bottom of GPU

I wanted to make a compact case. My room is pretty small and like they do in cities, the only way to build is up. :) The ground surface it occupies is one A4 sheet of paper (300x210mm) and the case is 67cm high including the wheels it rolls on. The case is made out of 12mm MDF

There are three compartments. The bottom compartment houses the PSU and up to 3 harddrives suspended using a simple bungee method. The middle compartment houses the mainboard and the upper compartment has room for 2x 5.25 drives or in my case 1x 5.25, 1x floppy and 1x fan controller. Many cables are routed underneath the mainboard for a more tidy look.

Here are some pics:

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Empty case..

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Not quite finished internal layout (close though)

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PSU / HD chamber with bottom intake

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GPU duct in place, PCI cards secured

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In its final position..

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5.25 door open

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Left is reset switch + HD led, right is 9700 power switch, main switch and power LED. (Long story, system needs delayed power to the GFX card)

So how well does it work? Very! All fans are spinning at just 500RPM (fan controller minimum + 50 Ohm resistor). The powersupply has thermal probes attatched to its heatsinks which don't get close to 40c under full load. The Sonic Tower with the slow Nexus does a good job with load temps again having a hard time to reach 40c. The graphics card was 55c after a few 3D marks and 57 after more intense gaming, still nearly 10c cooler than with the stock cooling sollution.

Needless to say, 3x yate loon @ 500RPM and a suspended Samsung Nidec harddisk are very near silent in operation. The PSU has some coil buzzing that is louder but not too obviously noticable. The mainboad tends to squeek a bit under 3D or USB operation (noisy camera transfers anyone?:)) but all this is pretty minor. With the 5.25 door shut I don't get light pollution anymore from the bright fan controller.


Last edited by niels007 on Mon Jan 08, 2007 5:35 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 4:07 pm 
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thats pretty sweet. ive been thinking about makeing a case for a while now. I just cant decide if it is going to be worth it, but this pushes me a bit more towards doing it.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 4:11 pm 
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Overall, very nice. 8)

About the only comments I have...

1) maybe you could have done something to avoid the direct sound exposure to the user -- you. IE, use baffles for intake.
2) in the same vein as above, the fan fo the VGA could be at the back.

What does the right side look like with its cover on?

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 4:17 pm 
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MikeC wrote:
What does the right side look like with its cover on?


its just a guess but im gonna say it doesnt have a right cover, if you look at how that floppy drive is sitting. but i might be wrong.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 4:50 pm 
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Quote:
1) maybe you could have done something to avoid the direct sound exposure to the user -- you. IE, use baffles for intake.
2) in the same vein as above, the fan fo the VGA could be at the back.

What does the right side look like with its cover on?


1) is very hard if you want to keep the case compact, plus I was used to having exposed fans at low RPM and hapilly accept the noise of a 500rpm Nexus. Mostly a matter of tradeoffs.
2) Not really.. Now there is just about 4mm too little space for a 92mm, and with a future second graphics card (pci) that won't get easier.

Edit: Doing some testing really showed that ducting is the only way to make 'blown in' air go where you want it to. If you look at the open side pic... In that configuration the top fan didn't cool the graphics card but the air went 90% down to the CPU area. Behaviour like this I've also seen in the 'Floworks' CFD computer program that I used.

I also had a 92mm fan on the GPU with the front hole nearly closed but case temperature kept rising, hot air just got stuck in the case. With this case I had lots of options like closing both front holes and opening the hole from the lower to middle compartment (Edit, yes there is a (now closed) hole there for flexibility ..) to make air intake all come from the bottom. That didn't work quite as well although I might get away with keeping the VGA duct and closing the lower front hole, opening up the psu/hd to mianboard chamber for the cpu to draw air in from.

I haven't really been too active with the multitude of options as making nice ducts costs a fair bit of time and by now the coil buzz is the loudest thing anyway. :(

The other side:
Image

The floppy drive is there just in case I get a SATA drive and need to install drivers from a floppy :)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2005 7:56 pm 
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Location: Europe
Nice pillar case, it would definitely be beneficial to have a case with that shape and size in my cramped apartment. I wouldn't be surprised if you've been into the art of home-made speakers earlier.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Dec 18, 2005 4:28 pm 
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Location: Rochester, NY, USA
Looks a lot nicer than my particle board webserver case. I'm guessing you actually had access to power tools besides a drill. Needs paint now.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2005 5:14 am 
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Location: Gothenburg, Sweden
MDF...aaahh, what a good idea. Well done! :)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 2:49 pm 
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I like it, much better lay out than most cases i´ve seen. How much does it cost to make a case out of MDF and how much time?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 3:22 pm 
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Location: UK
LOL, the perfect SPCR rig: unconventional, self-built, very near silent (of course) and last but not least, cheap! :lol:

Quote:
How much does it cost to make a case out of MDF and how much time?


I doubt the materials cost much. The main time-consuming aspect is getting the layout of the components right (3 chambers is perfect for this setup; we may see silence-orientated retail ATX cases migrate to this format in the near future).


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2006 5:45 pm 
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Pretty Cool! Like many, I've been hashing this idea back and forth from time to time ... thinking about layouts and design for good cooling and quiet.

How did you handle mounting the hard drive?
Did you use any particular resources to help you in deciding on design?

Nice Work!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2006 5:32 pm 
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Thanks for the kind words!

azraeltecat, the local wood shop cut the MDF to size for 12 euro. A couple of houses down the road lives a furniture maker who spend one hour (35 euro, cheap guy :)) making the holes and glueing the case together. I spent one hour sanding it smooth, and a couple of hours drilling all the holes, mounting the harddisks etc. Mounting all the hardware was a bit hard as the mainboard compartment is quite cramped. Of course I spent about 100 hours over the years thinking about an MDF case and how to make it..

jaganath, well its not quite perfect but as far as tradeoffs go its pretty good :). With the cpu you could make a tunnel front to back with the fan in the back. I haven't bothered with anything like this as the cpu is so easy to cool anyway. However the top fan for the gfx needs to be front mounted, which is fine as long as it is a nexus at very low RPM but not so great if you need more airflow. Also you pretty much need the vga cooler to be big and custom and mounted so that it occupies a couple of pci slots. Actually, this might work reasonably well for Artic Cooling silencer type ones where you could hack off the stock fan and duct the front 120mm fan to it.. I doubt this combination can cool more than a 6600GT without a faster fan though. My 9700 pro isn't too power hungry and I get away with a 480rpm fan which maximizes my graphics card temp to just under 60c after heavy 1600x1200 gaming.

tomcollins, if you imagine the bungee cords between the hooks you should see how it works:
Image
At the end I used mostly experience to design this case, and a LOT of sketching in autocad putting the parts together like a puzzle in about 100 configurations. Everytime you solve something you introduce another problem, or two!

I did experiment with computer flow calculations which where very educating but I do not yet have enough understanding on that matter to design a case purely trusting this method. Plus this software quickly runs out of RAM when you try to model a modern thin fin heatsink.. It couldn't do half of my Sonic Tower before giving memory errors.. :) I tried to see what happens with a harddisk with no real airflow but couldn't really get good numbers.

I did learn a lot from this software. Air is a big wimp. It will not go where you want it to. Its afraid of heat! I did replicate what I found out with my old case where a side panel case fan was blowing air on my gfx card or so I thought. The card got really hot (just a gf4) with a 120mm side panel fan. When I made a 'ramp' (half a fan duct) temperatures improved dramatically (near 20c). I replicated the case with this computer program and indeed the air chickened out without the ramp forcing it towards the heatsink. This is mostly true for fans blowing into something. Sucking air out gives a much nicer (laminair) dependable flow. So the lesson learnt was: If you want your air to go somewhere, duct it..


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Jan 08, 2006 10:01 pm 
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Ha! :D When I got your response I realized my fingers had typed one thing when my mind was thinking another. I had meant, "motherboard". How did you mount the motherboard? Just screw regular brass fittings into the mdf?

And the hard drives. I don't know if it applies to thicker bungee cords but I had a hard drive secured with lighter gauge elasticized 'string' (for lack of a better word) and after a couple years it got pretty brittle. Probably wouldn't hurt to check out the elasticity once in a while.

Again, I'm feeling inspired. Thanks for posting the pics!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 11:10 pm 
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Very intelligent build!

I am very impressed. Good craftsmanship, good layout, what an innovation!

Why has no one copied you yet?

Derek


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 10:42 am 
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Hi Derek,

Thanks for the kind words.. Its not THAT big an innovation though, its a case with PC bits in them! :) I'm using the case for a while now. Here are the good and bad bits:

The good:
- I run the CPU passive, seems there is enough convection / room airflow from the bottom front opening to the back to keep it from overheating with just the moderately good Sonic Tower heatsink. Not bad for a 2.5ghz 1.4 volt Sempron64 (amd64 minus some cache).

- the PSU is really cool with only a ~500rpm fan, harddisks get enough air to be cool as well


The bad:
- I had one HD when I built the system. I have two now.. I should've suspended the drives turned 90 degrees. I have two on top of eachother now, the top one gets no air. Its about 8c hotter than the lower one (34 vs 42c,). Not a 'problem', two cool drives.. but a simple thing to improve.

- VGA cooling is tricky, the front fan quickly becomes audible should you need some real airflow.

Lessons learnt..
- Cursing at incredibly short PSU cables doesn't make them longer.. :)

- Electronic gfx and mainboard buzzing, even slight, really wants to get out through the front openings

- front mounted fans are ok until you have to ramp them up say higher than 600rpm. Not noisy but then its a little too 'noticable'..

- The absolute smallest amount of airflow is more than enough to cool a few harddisks.. I actually think just putting them in a box with some top and bottom vents might not see them heat beyond 45..50c on a hot day, seeing as one of my drives is basically not in the airflow path.

- A possible sollution to the 'front panel escapeing noises' (fan and electro buzz) would be to use a big GPU cooler mounted with the cooling fins at the CPU side, so a rear 120mm exhaust fan would suck air over both the GPU and CPU heatsink. Looking at how little airflow is needed with 'mid spec' graphics cards and todays processors, you'd be hard pressed to overheat the components. This way you can perhaps let it take cold air in from somewhere other than the front panel of the case.

'sucked' air is much more predictable, it goes where you think, unlike 'blowing' air which chickens out at the sight of obstacles or even heat! :)

However, at the time of build, I had a big-ass heatsink on the 'chip side' of the graphics card so the chosen approach was the thing to do. Getting one of those Thermalright VGA coolers would've cost about as much as I paid for the graphics card to start with!! (and the case cost much much less..)

:)

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My Nvidia 6800GT mod: Click!
My old 9700pro AIW mod: Click!


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 11:41 am 
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Regardless of your modesty, I still think it is one of the most creative ideas I have seen in terms of a more effective and silent cooling design. I was considering doing a wood build but I just recently bought a Lian Li aluminum case. I will be doing some of the classic ducting work. Like you, I believe that ducts are the ONLY way to move air in the direction you want it to go.

My general belief is that intake fans that just blow into the case don't do much. It is always funny how people will make diagrams of their "planned airflow" using blue arrows throught the front to show cool air and red arrows out the back to show hot air. I just don't believe it. The way I see it, air does not flow in a certain direction just because you draw arrows!

Good work man!
Derek


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 11:59 am 
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Very correct. While spending evenings with computer aided flow programs I couldn't quite simulate a case and get an idea of temperatures. I could see the randomness and ineffectiveness of 'blown' air. Only sucking air out of something gives somewhat predictable results. When your fans blow air, ducting soon becomes essential. :)

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My Nvidia 6800GT mod: Click!
My old 9700pro AIW mod: Click!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 1:22 pm 
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Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
niels007 wrote:
- Cursing at incredibly short PSU cables doesn't make them longer.. :)


Cable management--what seperates the "boys" from the "men" in case design! I've gotten progressively better at handling cables from build to build. My latest build even features a nice little pocket underneath the PSU to tuck all the excess cables into.

Quote:
- Electronic gfx and mainboard buzzing, even slight, really wants to get out through the front openings


One reason why I've taken to the "U turn" airflow layout which has no openings except to the rear.

Quote:
'sucked' air is much more predictable, it goes where you think, unlike 'blowing' air which chickens out at the sight of obstacles or even heat! :)


Yes indeed! But blown air can be slightly more efficient. Air blown in from a fan has a swirly helical motion, which provides just a bit of extra airflow. Most of my builds use a single fan which blows air into the case.

My favorite build is "Diskless Elegance", where the 120mm fan blows air upward toward the CPU heatsink. You can't tell from looking at it, but if you feel around you can tell the air is actually blowing in all sorts of weird directions. You can't predict it, you can only try it out and see what happens.

Normally, I use partitions with doorways to coerce airflow where I want it to go. With Diskless Elegance, however, appearances were more important than maximizing efficiency.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 1:34 pm 
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hehehe I should measure the cables.. My psu is a OEM fortron for small Medion pre built systems. So they probably specced the cables to be just long enough for those small mid towers. Its really incredibly short! :)

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My DIY MDF case: Click!
My Nvidia 6800GT mod: Click!
My old 9700pro AIW mod: Click!


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 21, 2008 11:46 pm 
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I'm letting it go, if you have 30 euros and happen to be in the neighbourhood, its yours! ;)

(neighbourhood being Groningen, the Netherlands..)

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My Nvidia 6800GT mod: Click!
My old 9700pro AIW mod: Click!


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