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Making a custom PC enclosure with Protocase

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January 25, 2007 11:53:52 AM

PC customization has exploded in recent years, but it's important to remember that computer customization has always been around.
January 25, 2007 1:06:19 PM

That's too much money for metal object with a bland paint job.

It's also too bulky to move, and the handles would be useless because of the dimensions.

And no power button? No switches? No USB or Firewire ports? If this was an entry in one of your computer cases shootouts it would have got a failing grade!

Next time, let me design it. I'm more into fashion and advertising, but I could do this well.
January 25, 2007 1:13:28 PM

Ya no kidding. Why would you buy a 1500 custom built case when the first thing you have to do is customize it yourself to include at the very least, a power and reset switch??? I will stick with antec.
Related resources
January 25, 2007 2:12:18 PM

This is a joke right?
a b B Homebuilt system
January 25, 2007 3:13:02 PM

The case itself is not too bad....
The build quality is top notch.....

The lack of a power button.....well it kind of sucks....but one could live with it....

The lack of hard drive space does kind of contradict your drawings. Who can live with one hard drive and no rear exhaust fan?

Just out of personal opinion.....
your drawn case would have been better....the big ass THG logo could have allowed for one of those 250mm fans....You had 3 hard drive bays.....and ohh yeah.....does it come in black?

Overall i would rate it at least a 7/10
after all there are few cases with that build quality on the market....i mean look at those cd rom holders....they even have a good bit of space to let the heat dissipate....and its long enough for a 8800gtx and then some....but the lack of hard drive space does hurt it.....As for the plain color.....thats a preference....i got my Sonata(and my Sonata II) cause it was under stated....just plain back(and the door hid my optical drives :)  ).....
January 25, 2007 3:35:05 PM

I think this is awesome for someone who wants to have a unique case. Its expensive, but that definitely isn't a problem for some people. Not only does this make your case unique, but also it would be a blast to design the case yourself.

If I had 3 or 4 grand (or the 10 grand i've seen people in here trying to spend on a pc) I would definitely try to fit this into my budget.
January 25, 2007 4:29:41 PM

I agree with a few of the others here.
$1000+ for a sub standard case!

Why not just buy a case and get someone to cut the logos in it for you?
Would be a heck of alot cheaper!!

For what the case lacked, I would say, not worth it.

However, it is a start...

I'm sure if you built out the PC and had a design your case contest,
picked the best drawing and the winner would get the case....
They'd be happy
January 25, 2007 4:31:54 PM

That is a little pricey, but at the same time I can see the work involved and why they wouldn't sell it for less.

I think any knock on the design (about the HD room and such) is probably at least partially the author's fault. He had to sign off on the final design and must have oked the 1 HD spot.

The no power button thing is not a big deal, but really, for a product that expensive, the little touches like that are what provide real value. Adding the power button, maybe some fans, reinforce the handles (maybe add some grips too) etc, would really help this company to differentiate itself from its competition. Its always the last 5% that really makes a difference to the customer.

As for the comment that "your drawn case would have been better", I'm sorry, but if I spend $1400 on a case, it better not look like every other case out there (you could even just get a custom side panel made). I don't particularily like the case they ended up with, but at least its not the status quo.

And for paint color, I'm sure they would do whatever you want, THG just seems to like the powder coated white (10k PC, etc).

*EDIT SPELLING*
a b B Homebuilt system
January 25, 2007 5:17:03 PM

by the drawn case i mean



imagine the cooling that could have got with a 250mm fan in the center.....and the 3 hard drive bays......

I did not mean the 3ds Max one :) 

I say the build is nice....i just think a big ass THG logo would look nicer....and cool better.....
January 25, 2007 6:00:49 PM

How about using LEGO as a raw material for custom case design? I made one few months back in a theme of old school LEGOLAND sets:

http://www.brickshelf.com/cgi-bin/gallery.cgi?f=174449

Certainly the cost of producing a LEGO case like that would be under $1000. It was fun to customize the design and build. A challenge to find cool ways to make things work. I don't want to sound insulting, but this THG case is really just a tower with side panels. I'm not sure that's worth $1500. Then again my LEGO case is just a desktop case.

Let's face it; there really isn't anything wild that can be done with a PC case due to component shape and size. In the end it will be a box of some sort or another that fits the components.
January 25, 2007 6:46:23 PM

$1500 = whole new computer for me. but it is cool if you had the money
January 25, 2007 6:56:00 PM

I dont see how all of the enclosures featured would cost that much money...

As a enthusiast PC user, this would be my last choice for a PC enclosure... but maybe none of their customers have come up with a good one...

I can see how this company might be good for enclsing other equipment, not PCs.
January 25, 2007 7:10:31 PM

What about using their free cad program and taking it to a shop to be custom built? I wonder how much that would cost.

I built a custom aluminum cube case that way, and paid about $200 in labor.
January 25, 2007 7:32:39 PM

The idea is great, having a company specialize in custom enclosure design and manufacturing, the only problem is the way it's being carried out.

Firstly, the price. Uniqueness and one-of-a-kind is something you cannot really place a price tag on, granted. There is a fee you always need to pay to have something nobody else can have. But $1500 for bare metal, even if it includes labor and design, is to me off the charts.

Secondly, the details. For that kind of money, and design, I would expect the finer touches of a power button, leads and other standard case gizmos. When you are out to exceed your customers expectations, the finer points mean everything!

As for the paint, I guess that is preferential to everybody. But it wouldn't hurt to offer a few basic colors for that price, save the real work for the folks at smooth creations.

To be honest, if you can assemble a complete PC for yourself, if you live near a hardware store and you have your own big-enough workbench, you might as well go out and build your custom case yourself, as I did, and do your wallet a great favor.
January 25, 2007 7:53:52 PM

I agree with everyone else that the current case is way to pricey for what you get... however this case has a lot of potential. With a couple of revisions this could be an awesome design.... I love the cylindrical look and the way it is layered in the front...
January 25, 2007 8:58:22 PM

I have to agree with everyone: nice idea but way too pricey.
I'm an aerospace engineering student and therefore I have some knowledge about designing things and manufacturing processes.
The whole case was probably made from one or two sheets of metal, costing at most between 150 and 200 dollars (you've got top quality metal at that price, you could get acceptable stuff cheaper). It was tooled with simple bending devices and probably a water jet cutter for the logos. The round plates can also be made that wat but for that they could've used a bandsaw too.
These machines are not cheap but then again they can be used for a very long time, so they shouldn't charge more than $100 per customer in total.
All of this can be done in one day by a single man. I don't know the usual wages in the US but I don't think they pay him more than $150/day.
That adds up to 400-450 for manufacturing, and that's a high guess (probably it's a lot cheaper).
That's $680-730 less than they charged.

Then the design: for some reason they placed the hard disk vertically in front of the small fan intakes, thereby destroying a natural airflow.
If there's one thing in designing you don't do is deviate from the customers whish unless it renders production impossible or over budget. That wasn't the case here o why did they do that?
I've got 3 hard disks in use, like the 'original pen drawing' did, A fast 150 GB one for windows and programs, and two times 300 GB for storage. In my opinion only one is useless nowadays.

The setup fee indicates (if my $150/day guess was correct) that there were two man-days or 16 hours in the designing process, I really don't think that's the case since they were provided with a designed case with drawings by the article's author. Not only a description of 'I'd like to have this and this, please make it happen'.

I'm not saying they delivered a bad product (exept for the harddisk thingie) , I couldn't have done it myself. But it certainly is way overpriced.
January 25, 2007 9:19:48 PM

I personally think that Tool462s wooden case is a lot cooler and more innovative!
January 25, 2007 9:55:00 PM

That one big arse case.
January 25, 2007 10:01:45 PM

I also really like the well done wooden cases. They have a craftmanship that goes beyond pretty much any other case I have seen. There are issues with wood though: heat dissipation, warping, rf signals, etc. There have been a few really good threads on wood mods on THG forums in the past 6 months or so.

Some of the custom mods where people take other ordinary objects and put PCs into them are pretty cool too. I saw one a with a 21" CRT that had the whole PC and and LCD monitor jammed into it. Or a PC that fit into a giant whisky bottle. Lots of cool ideas there.

@nukemaster

Sorry, I thought you meant the other one. Yeah, the larger logo would have been a lot better. They probably convinced the author that fitting a 120mm intake would be better. I personally agree that a giant 25cm intake would have been cool (or even a few 120mm fans).

I'm not sure what's with the hard drive location. I wish the author of the article would come on the forums here and explain his decisions and let us know why the company wanted some of those changes.

With this case design it would have been cool if they could have modded the external drives to be rounded and fit with the outside of the case, then the whole thing could have been rounded instead of just the sides. That would be a bit more work though.
January 26, 2007 1:00:43 AM

Quote:
This is a joke right?

i wish...

no offense, but judging by Don Woligroki's first design and happiness with the outcome i'd have to say he has no style...

first try = most boring
final outcome = bulky, impractical, overpriced AND boring
a b B Homebuilt system
January 26, 2007 1:20:56 AM

Quote:
I personally think that Tool462s wooden case is a lot cooler and more innovative!

yeah....that case is sweet....
January 26, 2007 4:20:35 AM

this smacks of PAID ADVERTISEMENT
nearly 1500.00 for not much more than two big round pieces of metal stuck onto a case? and the author says this is a good deal?

O_o

Valis
http://www.valissoft.com
January 26, 2007 9:33:27 AM

a company making modded cases is not entirely new there are a few setup if you know where to look, plus if you head onto a modding website it wouldnt be hard to commision one to be done for you by an individual. the work would be better and possibly cheaper but my opinion is that there is no point in getting a custom case unless you built it yourself otherwise your just getting an expensive normal case
January 26, 2007 11:52:09 AM

For that price, these guys oughta have a reality show on the discovery channel.
a b B Homebuilt system
January 26, 2007 2:38:41 PM

yes a show about the forums and the trolls(not you).... :) 


_____________________________________
Real Forums : Real Trolls airing this week on the Discovery Channel @ 9pm est
January 26, 2007 2:57:24 PM

I can see all the folds in the front of the case 8O , how is that top notch? All you need is some solder and then sand it down before you paint. Really I know a few people who run CAD and CNC mills, they could set that up in a few hours. The bending of the drive bays would be the only challenge and it looks like they have something that cranks them out to. I can't see that taking more then a few days. $500 would be a fair price but just because it's custom other wise it's worth $60 because of the open folds in the front :x .
January 26, 2007 3:45:35 PM

This isn't the first review on Protocase I've seen. There's another one at BoxGods where they made a test bench for Geno.

But...couple things on the comments on this.

First...there's no power button or some of the other things people have been complaining were missing because the client didn't ask for them. Simple as that. They put no more, and no less, into the build than was asked for in the design...nor should they. They have no way of knowing if he wanted a power button, for example. Why risk putting something in there that could cause the client to freak out and cancel the order because he didn't want it? It's pretty simple really.

Second...As to the price...yes, it's a bit steep as compared to a pre-made case that they manufacture and sell, at minimum, hundreds of. However...find a competitor that's willing to do a one off from a design that can be as simple as a hand drawing. I can't think of anyone who does this commercially that will do a custom build with whatever folds or cuts that you want, powder coating, custom silk screens, etc, unless you're willing to order 100 pieces or more.

I'm sure there are a few machine shops out there that would tackle it for you if you had a cad design in hand. There might even be a few that would do a design for you as well. But I seriously doubt you'll find any commercial enterprise that will be willing to design, build and paint a single case for you for less than what THG paid. If you know of one, great...please, share with the rest of us. I'd love to have another source for custom work for those that have the means to pay for it. I've got a case design in my head that I'd love to see made if I could find someone to do it for less than a thousand dollars.

Sure...it may not be worth it to you if you can find something on the market that nearly meets your needs that you can modify to your liking. But then again, there are a helluva lot of people that think it's insane to pay for 2 8800GTX, a Striker and an e6800...but there are those who think it's just a peachy keen idea. If you can't find something that meets your needs...or you lack the tools/skills to mod a box...and you have the cash...then this is an acceptable alternative.

Personally, I won't use them. Not because of price, but because after hefting my wife's colossal steel server case, I won't have one for myself made out of anything but aluminum, and they don't work with anything but steel, hehe. But to each their own. :wink:

peace,
Aielman
January 26, 2007 7:16:32 PM

Quote:
this smacks of PAID ADVERTISEMENT
nearly 1500.00 for not much more than two big round pieces of metal stuck onto a case? and the author says this is a good deal?

O_o

Valis
http://www.valissoft.com

good point!

i think that's why a lot of regulars aren't in here to defend it either...
January 26, 2007 7:33:03 PM

impossible standards for THG.
January 26, 2007 9:10:09 PM

Quote:

First...there's no power button or some of the other things people have been complaining were missing because the client didn't ask for them. Simple as that. They put no more, and no less, into the build than was asked for in the design...nor should they. They have no way of knowing if he wanted a power button, for example. Why risk putting something in there that could cause the client to freak out and cancel the order because he didn't want it? It's pretty simple really.


Yeah, and Ford will manufacture their new cars without an ignition keyhole and steering wheel - because the customer didn't ask for it...

You need it because without it the damn thing won't work!

This is NOT being angry at Aielman, but Protocase needs to do their homework.
January 26, 2007 10:06:19 PM

Before I go on I'll add myself to the category of people that are horrified that the design process neglected even the thought of the electric bits.

Quote:
I have to agree with everyone: nice idea but way too pricey. I'm an aerospace engineering student and therefore I have some knowledge about designing things and manufacturing processes.

Of all the posts here your surprises me the most, and that's because of how you qualified it. OK, you're a engineering student, not an MBA, so it's not necessarily your fault. But as a student specifically in aerospace engineering surely you're not unfamiliar with how much aerospace contractors routinely pay for one-off or low-volume specialized parts?

Quote:
These machines are not cheap but then again they can be used for a very long time, so they shouldn't charge more than $100 per customer in total.

Is this a business analysis or did you pull the number out from between the dingleberries? Is the number a break-even that's typical of the socialist software pirates here or does it actually allow a profit? Does it consider the interest on the hardware investment and the costs of actually running a business or do you think it's just a guy in his basement not paying taxes and stealing electricity from the lightpole outside?

Quote:
I don't know the usual wages in the US but I don't think they pay him more than $150/day.

And so is a sad day for anyone thinking of becoming a qualified machinist. By the way, have you forgotten what it costs to give employee benefits, pay business insurance, etc.?

Wow buddy, open your eyes.

-Brad
January 26, 2007 10:47:00 PM

I think if one thing stands out it's the lack of finishing touches. It has a bolt together look to it. Things we have come to expect in a $100+ case are overlooked here like.
rolled edges
rubber on the feet and handles.
flat inset screws
welded seems
vibration reducers in the drive cages[ which are not removable it appears]

It just doesn't look like a comp builder made it, more like a shop rat[ not a put down to those that work at shops just a term here in Michigan where shops are plentiful]. For anyone wanting to have this done at a low price. Check your local paper/phone book there is most likely an ad for custom machining, my friends dad use to do it. You will probably have to spend sometime going over what you need with them and a lot of the old guys run the mill by hand so CAD my be out. You will have to do the finishing touches your self but you do with protocase also. Plus helping a local out is always a good thing and at most likely fourth the price it's a great thing :D .
Just my 2 cents
January 27, 2007 5:39:04 AM

I agree with bberson in that you cannot dictate how much profit a company should make off a transaction. Sure if they charged less they would probably be a higher volume business but you never know the hidden costs in custom making things like this.


I personally think the case looks a little boring and doesn't include some of the things we take for granted on our mass produced cases, I wouldn't have spent that much money to get such a bland case. Now if I had some money to burn I would have them create a case that looks a hell of a lot better for hopefully around the same price though I would ask that all those little things like power button and grips be included.

I would like to see on Protocase's web site photos of cases they have made in the past. I think that alone would draw in more business because it would allow people to better imagine in their minds what is possible in a case and once you get people imagining it becomes only a matter of time before some of them justify the price in their minds and place an order.
January 27, 2007 6:29:08 AM

That case is just awsome.
January 27, 2007 4:51:14 PM

It says a lot that a whole bunch of strangers say the case sucks and the old hands seems to praise it. It looks nice to me. I highly doubt that any deficentcies were because of the companies inability to produce, but the author's inability to perfect the design. I couldn't do better.
-cm
January 27, 2007 9:06:34 PM

Quote:
It says a lot that a whole bunch of strangers say the case sucks and the old hands seems to praise it. It looks nice to me. I highly doubt that any deficentcies were because of the companies inability to produce, but the author's inability to perfect the design. I couldn't do better.
-cm


It just seems like this is a "custom enclosure" building company, not a PC case modding/building company.

That's what bothers many here... that someone would spend $1500 for a PC enclosure thats generally not that amazing.
January 27, 2007 9:53:40 PM

Quote:
PC customization has exploded in recent years, but it's important to remember that computer customization has always been around.


For the price of admission ($1500), I can buy a welding kit, scrap metal, sander and paint, plus learn how to weld.

Having no power button is absurd. Thats like not adding mounts for a motherboard b/c it wasn't specified. Its a requirement, period.

Its just too much money for a lackluster product. 1500 dollars worth of metal and fabrication does not add up here. I'm also a powerlifter and own this power rack



This thing ran me about $1500 with all the extras and there's a hell of a lot of metal (I'd say it weighs in around 300+ lbs, lots of fabrication and an excellent paint job. I can't see the case that protocase manufactures costing more than $300-$350.
January 28, 2007 5:29:04 AM

Quote:
This is what custom cases is all about;This is what I have wanted to see for 3 years on the market.The only place to go is down from here in prices;They should hook up with dell and other OEM's and figure out how to lower costs in mass markets and still have an enthusiast offering.

Good show. :wink: Great find :!:


Actually, custom cases are about making it yourself, by hand.

Personally, I liked the first case better, the second one is butt ugly, and clunky, not to mention, not very functional.
January 29, 2007 7:21:14 AM

Nice! How much do you bench?
-cm
January 29, 2007 7:57:08 AM

The round design sort of reminded me of one of those industrial fans.

A big squirrel cage fan could've been put in the middle and you'd never have to think twice about airflow.
January 30, 2007 1:15:59 PM

Dust.
-cm
January 30, 2007 2:05:55 PM

Ok, why spend about 1,400 us just in a case. Even case above 200 seems to me truly expensive. I think that the money could be better spend in a high end proc a high end mobo. I agree with other guys in the forum this must be a really bad joke.

8O
January 31, 2007 3:19:25 AM

Damn man, for $1,500 I could have bought a Astek Vapochill, overclocked some hardware I could have bought with the change, and still be operating on sub-zero temps. Butt-ugly case though (the Vapochill, that is).

For Don Wologroski: You stated at the beginning of the article that you were hesitant about creating the cylinder design. Did you search the 'net for inspiration? There's tons of wacky case mods that are way more out-there than a cylinder. Hell, even Lian-Li make a quasi-cylindrical case (PC-777).

The best mods I've seen:

-A General Electric 1950's style chrome toaster
-A 1:18 scale model of a Lamborghini Diablo
-A case made entirely from bamboo
-An aluminium "roadies" suitcase with a side window (and power/reset switches!)
-A case made from cardboard and,
-The LEGO case earlier in this thread.

It was a nice case, just not a $1,500 case, even if it is a one-off.
January 31, 2007 1:30:48 PM

Quote:

no offense, but judging by Don Woligroki's first design and happiness with the outcome i'd have to say he has no style...


I'll keep the opinion I have more style than you, unless you have done something better... :) 
January 31, 2007 1:42:46 PM

Quote:
this smacks of PAID ADVERTISEMENT
nearly 1500.00 for not much more than two big round pieces of metal stuck onto a case? and the author says this is a good deal?


:sigh:

I've been on vacation so I wasn't here to defend the article originally. I can see alot of you guys are missing the big picture.

This article isn't about designing the ultimate, pimpingest PC case around. If that's what you're looking for, this article is not for you. It's not the point.

The point is, taking little more than a sketch or idea and making it reality. The specific case design we used is almost irrelevant, except that it showed how close they can get a product out that fits the specifications you send them.

Who thinks their final product is that far off the specs I gave them? It looks pretty close to me, so I think it's fair to say they did a good job.

As far as price... jesus, you guys. Is your time worth nothing? Would you sit around, spend hours with a client just turning an idea into a viable CAD file, and then manufacture it, powder coat it and charge them - what - a couple hundred bucks? If you are, come work for me, because I'd love to take advantage of your work ethic.

Too many of you are judging the case itself. The final product is almost irrelevant, as an ATX case goes of course noone is going to pay $1500 compared to other PC cases.

What IS worth $1500 is having a custom design made real. You're not paying for the metal the case is made of, you're paying for the custom design process and work. It could have been the shape of a pyramid, custom designed to fit in a corner of your livingroom or something. It could have been designed for a specific business purpose, say to fit in a hot-dog cart. It could have been anything that you need, specifically, that nobody offers and you couldn't otherwise buy at ANY price, because nobody makes it.

The price reflects customization and flexibility, complete customization of whatever you can imagine... not my little sketch of an ATX design.

If you guys can't see that, you really don't get it.
January 31, 2007 2:29:26 PM

Quote:
Cleeve - What IS worth $1500 is having a custom design made real. You're not paying for the metal the case is made of, you're paying for the custom design process and work. It could have been the shape of a pyramid, custom designed to fit in a corner of your livingroom or something. It could have been designed for a specific business purpose, say to fit in a hot-dog cart. It could have been anything that you need, specifically, that nobody offers and you couldn't otherwise buy at ANY price, because nobody makes it.


that's the talk of a Marketing person. the only people who would think this is a good idea is the marketing department who dont know any better. they're happy to go out and spend a few grand on something while the tech's in the back room laugh at them as they build their OWN masterpieces. for a fraction of the cost.

and i'm sure that's who this service is designed for. want a cool lil widget case to go into your booth at comdex? here you go! just ignore the snickers of the computer tech's as they're actually putting the thing together for you...

Valis
CEO
Valis Enterprises
Http://www.valissoft.com
January 31, 2007 2:52:14 PM

I have to say I'm with cleeve on this one. Can you make your own case? Sure. Can everyone muster the time and skill level needed to make a case that you could potentially have made for you at Protocase? Not in a million years.

Sure there are some nice custom cases floating around, but we all know there are people willing to spend almost any amount of money to have something they want or to be unique. Isn't that how the computer industry works? Nobody really needs two 8800GTX's in SLI but people buy it anyway.

Even my lame ass rig is overpowered for the majority of what I do, sure it's nice to be able to play games with decent settings but it's just that, games.

If you are so against being able to tell someone much more knowledgeable than yourself what you want in a PC case and having them build it for you EXACTLY how you want it for a price that isn't too unfair, don't do it! The option is available though if you ever justify spending that much money on a case, if you can talk yourself into 8800GTX's and a QX6700 I think you can talk yourself into having a case that only you have.
January 31, 2007 3:22:10 PM

Good idea, nice working but a bunch of $$$.. :( 

Also may have mistakes lol but maybe next one will go better (another bunch of $$ tho :p  )
January 31, 2007 3:34:07 PM

Quote:

that's the talk of a Marketing person.


No, it's the talk of a writer who is impressed with the service. Protocase hasn't paid me a damn thing, I don't even get the case, so what's my incentive to whore myself? You're not making any sense, dude.

Quote:
the only people who would think this is a good idea is the marketing department who dont know any better. they're happy to go out and spend a few grand on something while the tech's in the back room laugh at them as they build their OWN masterpieces. for a fraction of the cost.


You're still not getting it.

If you can make your own case, more power to you. I'm sure it'll be very cool and much more cost effective.

But if you don't have the technical knowhow and you're not interested in learning the finer points of bending sheetmetal, you have a unique need and design idea, and you have the money, why the hell not?

That's not marketing speak Vialis, it's plain sense. If you want to make custom designs for people for $600, you start a company and I'll be happy to review your case. I'll even compare it to Protocase's if you like and slam theirs for being comparitively expensive.

But unless you can find me an identical service with a much lower price, what the hell are you complaining about?
!