Custom Case Build - Planning

Hey all,

I just joined up to the forum to get some feedback and advice for a new project I am planning. I have always built my desktop systems, but have up until now used regular "store-bought" cases. For my next system, I'd really like to build the case itself, and tailor it to my particular tastes.

So the design specification is thus:

System to be built: 2009
Materials: Clear Acrylic/Other suitable plastic
Size: Custom (see below)
Hardware: Mid-to highish end
Design notes: Must run at stables temperatures/voltage, must be quiet, keep out dust as much as possible.

OK, i'm going to stick to a fairly simple cuboid shape, but with an a-typical volume (ie. non-ATX). Here's my basic design concept:

Basic ATX case

My modified volume.

So I want to chop off about 40% of the case where most of the dead (but also cool) space is. I will be re-positioning the HDD to lay on the bottom (by this perspective) of the case just above where the PCI slots are. I will not be including an optical drive as I rarely use CDs or DVDs anymore.

Here's a top down view of the case (forgive the 'mspaint' job) with a rough (not to scale) placement of components:

Ok, to begin with I'd really like to hear your thoughs on the volume change and position of the HDD, will this cause thermal issues?
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  1. A better way to go about this would be to get the actual components and lay them out. Drawing it up is fine as a start, but until you have the actual components, you generally do not see the "gotcha's". One of these, in your case, may be the cabling.

    As far as thermal goes, as long as you have at least a 120mm fan blowing exhaust, and some sort of fresh air inlet, you should be fine. You can get a small filter for the inlet to keep out dust.

    Keep in mind, the the trend in new components is "greener", which means lower power and heat. I would also count on mounting the PSU at the bottom back, and move the remaining lighter components upwards. Many high end cases have gone to this design. You could mount the HD immediately forward of this, also at the bottom.

    A good source of the plastic would be a home center such as Home Depot. They sell replacement plastic window panes which work well. They also sell the sealing tape and epoxy for this type of construction. I have use this to do clear side panel case mods. If you can afford it, Lexan is even a better choice, although a bit harder to work with. Lexan can be bent "carefully" at right angles.
  2. Thanks very much for your response, good to hear someone else's thoughts on my idea. I will probably run the box as a desktop rather than tower, if you catch my drift (ie. the Mobo is parallel to the desk and the GPU perpendicular to it).

    This should eliminate any weight issues, but it does mean I'd ideally like the PSU to run on its side. Any forseable problems with this concept?

    I definitely think that the cabling will be one of the major issues, particularly the power for my HDD. I may need to employ an extension for this cable.

    As far as cooling goes, i'm planning on trying to limit it to 2-3 120mm fans for the entire system and no water. One for the PSU, one case fan and possibly a third either on the CPU cooler (currently planning on using a Scythe Ninja) or as a second system fan depending on how it runs.

    I live in the UK and so don't have access to Home Depot, but I did find a website that sells acrylic. Looks like its going to run me approx. £43 without adhesive. I'll see if I can find somewhere local though and discuss a deal and maybe ask if I can get the six-eight main panels cut for me.
  3. I have run power supplies on their side when troubleshooting tower boxes with no problems. You might visit sites that sell media center type desktop cases/machines to get layout ideas.

    Additional plastics shopping options I thought of are picture framing and hobby shops.

    Whenever you get it done, post some pictures so all can see.
  4. Hey thanks for the advice again, I have just been looking at some images of really nice media center PCs. They do indeed have a similar lay out to what I'm aiming for, though again are bloated by excessive drive bays.

    Though I still want to try and fit my HDD in, side-on, where the superfluous PCI slots are. I'm still probably going to go for no optical drive, but I did consider one of these:

    Unfortunately I haven't been able to find a SATA version though, and I really want to avoid IDE cables.

    I'll probably try and do a mock up version first, maybe just a fast cardboard one, to try and see how it looks on the desk.
  5. If you could find a slim SATA burner that would be great. Over here they are hard to find and tend to be twice as expensive as IDE. You can always do an external USB burner. Plug and play when you need it.

    Round IDE cables are also a good option. I prefer the kind with the black mesh sleeving as opposed to the solid plastic. More flexible and generally smaller in diameter. Really only slightly more intrusive than SATA.
  6. You want an acrylic case?

    maybe this is something for you

    I know you want to built it yourself, but you can get an idea with this case
  7. @tlmck: An external USB optical drive would probably be my first choice, to keep the insides as simple and therefore cool as possible. It also cheaper than a slimline SATA drive, but the slot loading would be interesting.

    @ramo: Thanks for the link, its was very helpful. I have seen quite a few acrylic cases, but none in as much detail as that one.

    Does anyone know of anywhere I can get something like this:

    I could custom build some switches, but this would be much easier and I would prefer to have some front loading audio sockets if possible.
  8. Looks like that was fabricated by the people who made the case. You will most likely have to do the same.
  9. I have been looking around and haven't really been able to find anything similar to what is seen in the image. I think, in all likeliness I will probably try and salvage something from another case and modify it where needs be.
  10. Newegg is not a shopping option for you, but here is a good idea I found there.

    Surely there is something similar over there.
  11. I have been able to find a few of these on UK sites, though I must say they are far more ugly than the one on Newegg you linked to.

    I'll keep looking.
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