Wednesday, October 19, 2016

And Now for Something Completely Different

Look at that.  Think of beauty, isn't it.  What do you mean you don't know what it is?

OK, so I entered a design competition on this site called cadcrowd.  Its a freelance CAD and design websites, where people who need something engineered for them on the cheap put up some dollars, and then the community of designers submit ideas in hopes of winning those dollars.  Anywho, one buyer was looking for a design for an ultra small Mini-ITX case, and I thought this would give me a chance to flex my old engineering design muscles.  He was looking for a case that weighed in under 9 liters of displacement, and would fit a full sized video card and  M.2 PCIe SSD.  Most of the other folks submitted designs that were 9.5-10L.  That sweet puppy right there is 8L.  Its actually my second concept for this project.

The first project placed the video card where it belongs, right inside the PCI-E slot directly on the motherboard.  The buyer is using a low profile heatsink/fan combo, so I was going to place the power supply directly above the motherboard (with some clearance for airflow).  I got everything laid out and took a measurement on my displacement: 10.5L.  Back to the drawing board.

Motherboard Cavity View
So then I came up with this concept.  I had seen some other small case ideas that involved using a PCI-E ribbon cable to basically move the video card in an orientation where it could be over or under the motherboard.  I decided to put a central "spine" in my case that the motherboard would attach to on one side, and the video card on the other.  The PSU would then have to locate in front of the motherboard, and the case would then be long enough to accommodate 10.5" long video cards.  Because of the somewhat "exotic" location for the PSU, I needed to source parts and a cable for the inside of the case, not at all dissimilar to the ML07 and RVZ cases from Silverstone.

GPU Cavity View
The whole case is made from sheet aluminum, with a brushed finish.  The spine is 3mm thick, and the outside panels 2mm.  The spine has a spot for the psu to attach to, and the spine itself will screw in to the side/bottom panel.  The back plate is actually welded/brazed to the spine.  Outside panels are well ventilated.

The only thing left to design is the front panel hookups (lights, buttons, and USB ports).  That is a whole design challenge in and of itself, since you can't really just buy a pre-made arrangement.  I think I'm going to have to design the button and light placements myself, and hope that I can make it look good.

Case with Panels
Here's hoping that I do well in the contest.  Wish me luck!