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Laser CNC’ing

TL;DR: Schematics for the case included below.

Too poor to afford AutoCAD

Too poor to afford AutoCAD

There will be times when you buy something totally on impulse just because “it’s cheap”. This was one of those. This motherboard was on sale for $25, so I just went ahead and ordered. I didn’t need it: I have an 8-core Xeon workstation, an Alienware gaming machine, a bunch of laptops, and other smaller computers lying around the house. I can’t even use it: I don’t have any skylake or kabylake processor, I don’t have any unbuffered, non-ECC DDR4 stick for desktop, I don’t have an extra PSU, and I sure as hell don’t have a case for it. But I bought it anyway, because, hell, it was only $25. Why worry about having to go and bid on eBay for a cheap i3-6300T CPU, or finding a cheapest heatsink, or buying that RAM stick and PSU, right?

Anyway, with everything in place, I just needed a case. Normally I wouldn’t bother putting my stuffs inside a case, but this combo had potential. With my old GTX 750 Ti, it is whisper-quiet, consumes very little power, and can play all the JRPG and couch co-ops I can throw at it, so I want to at least be able to carry it around without having to disassemble everything everytime. It would be awesome if I can use this to replace my Alienware Alpha for my couch gaming (not like there’s anything wrong with the Alpha, just that a little higher setting on games would be nice). There is just a small problem: I can’t fit any reasonably-priced mATX case that accept a full height graphic card into my media console. There are options out there, like the Thermaltake Core G3 which, while slim, is still big, heavy, and expensive as hell. Plus, they all rely on PCIe riser cards/cables, which often cause problems.

Now, my board is mATX, but is smaller than the max size specified by the standard: only 235mm long, omitting one PCI slot, and only 185mm wide (as opposed to 243mm x 243mm max size from the standard). With a low-power CPU I can get away with a low-profile cooler. There are SFX PSUs out there that won’t turn on the fan until the load hit 90W or so, and I have a laser cutter! I just need to learn some CAD program, buy some cheap plywood, and make my own, which was exacly what I did.

Organic computer case.

Organic computer case.

The laser cuts to sub-millimeter precision. All the joints fit snuggly without me having to compensate for, say, the width of a saw blade. And the cuts were so clean I didn’t even have to sand them.

The middle bars are just there for cable management, not structural. There was still space near the 60mm fan cutout to mount a liquid cooler or a 3.5in HDD. The 3 small holes next to the fan was intended for the front-panel USB 3.0 card, which unfortunately DOA’d on me. I do have that “front-panel” USB 2.0 header thingy (props to anyone who can find it in the photos!) so it’s not really neaded anyway. There is still space at the last PCIe card slot if the slot is not used. It should also be fairly easy to mod this into a closed case.

Next to a standard mATX case

Next to a standard mATX case

Even smaller than a lot of ITX cases

Even smaller than a lot of ITX cases – with some sacrifices

All in all, I was pretty happy with the result. There are many places that can be improved (better interlocking joints would be nice, or mounting holes for an SSD, or holes to put the power LED and power button.

Download: CAD file for the case

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computer caselaser

Dory • March 5, 2017

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