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Origin PC Shows Us How To Build A Case With Project Prime

Origin PC’s Home-Grown Chassis

I’ve toured motherboard manufacturing facilities. I’ve seen memory modules assembled. And I’ve watched graphics cards pieced together. But I cannot say that I’ve ever traced the process by which computer cases are built.

A few months ago, though, boutique builder Origin PC approached me about a super-secret project it was preparing to showcase at CES. The company was in the final stages of designing its own case that would feature support for up to four-way SLI, large E-ATX motherboards, and as many as three 360 mm radiators. Flexibility was the goal—Origin PC also wanted its mid-tower chassis to convert to a functional full-tower and accommodate four different motherboard orientations for optimizing air flow and customers’ window preference. Almost three years passed between conceptualization and the launch at CES 2014.

In our discussions, representatives referred to the project by its code name, Prime. We now know the mid-tower is branded as the Millennium and the full-tower config is Genesis.

Understandably (but still unfortunately), Origin PC isn’t making these enclosures available to enthusiasts on their own, so we can’t really review them on their own merits. Rather, we’ll be looking at them housing complete PCs in the weeks to come. In the meantime, though, I wanted to give Origin PC an opportunity to show the Tom’s Hardware audience how a case goes from idea to production using its Millennium and Genesis as examples. What follows is from the Origin PC team's point of view.

--Chris Angelini

It Starts With Cardboard...

June 2011: A generic-looking cardboard mock-up was first created to represent the initial idea of a desktop that supports up to four different motherboard configurations with a lower detachable compartment to serve as the system’s base for additional cooling components or storage drives. Then, an acrylic model (pictured) was built based on the cardboard version’s dimensions as “proof of concept”.

Getting The Goals On Paper

July 2011: We represented the overall ideas into a very rough, not-to-scale sketch.

Giving Prime A Personality

August 2011: After defining some of those main features at a very early stage, we started researching and creating an ID that would fit the Origin PC brand.

Reigning It In With Something More Realistic

December 2011 to June 2012: We decided that the early concepts were too futuristic-looking, so we chose to take a different design path with a more aggressive look.

Designing With Modularity In Mind

August 2012: After landing on the preferred design concept, we continued to refine the Millennium mid-tower and Genesis full-tower. In this shot, you see the expansion bay on the bottom of Prime, which converts it from a mid- to full-tower form factor. We knew that this was going to be a big part of the system and didn’t want it to feel like it didn’t belong when it was a full tower or like it was missing when it was a mid. Making the system feel whole when it was in both its forms was a key part of the design phase.

A Functional Interior Takes Shape In 3D

November 2012: A lot of work went into turning our sketches into 3D models. At first, they didn’t look anything like what we wanted. Additional revisions helped accommodate our design goals. Once those updates started getting closer to what we needed, we were able to build the internal metal frame and plastic panels in 3D, which is what you see here.

Is It Practical To Manufacture, Though?

Next, we had to evaluate the system renders to determine whether the concept could be manufactured. We wanted an aggressive, powerful look. The forward-leaning side profile is meant to convey speed-in-motion and performance.

From Digital To Physical

February 2013: The first foam prototype design files were generated and sent to the prototyping facility...

Giving The Foam Some Color

February 2013: ...and then we added our red and black branded colors to the foam. In this shot, the foam had a different full-tower expansion bay to help us decide which style we liked the most.

Now That Looks Like A Real Case

October 2013: It turned out that multiple revisions were needed to make Project Prime something we could actually manufacture without affecting the approved industrial design. This was our first prototype.