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Monday, June 20, 2011

The Borg Cube Case Mod, Part 4

Case top with coolant reservoir and temperature gauge
The top of the case is enhanced in a similar fashion, but it already has a plastic sheath over the metal. Drive bay mounting brackets are used to anchor the drive bay water reservoir to the top of the case. Holes drilled in the top allow the heavy vinyl tubing to enter the case, and the vinyl hose is protected from the sharp metal with more split tubing.

[caption id="attachment_124" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The water reservoir is the white box in the upper right, with two sections of hose feeding through the case to the water pump."]Case with accessories[/caption]

Plastic parts are attached to the top using general purpose plastic glue (from the local plumbing section of the hardware store.) Double-sided carpet tape is used to anchor the ribbon cable and also to mount some plastic parts on the surface of the water tank. (Drilling holes in the water reservoir is not a good idea, and I found that most glue won't stick to the polypropylene plastic tank.)

System Board Side Panel - (What can I say? Plasma cutters rock!)

[caption id="attachment_125" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Take this outside! Molten metal sprays out the back of the panel during cutting."]Plasma cutter setup[/caption]

To cut several interesting openings in the motherboard side panel of the case, I got try out a plasma cutter - cool! My results from cutting free-hand lines are not very straight and are going to need grinding to look good. Cutting with a plasma cutter goes very quick, and does little damage or distortion to the case panel. Apparently, you can safely create guides to rest the tip against when cutting, since it remains relatively "cool", unlike oxy-acetylene cutting which would have a very hot flame that can spread out.

Panel with partial cut

[caption id="attachment_127" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Freehand cutting goes very fast, but will require some grinding to smooth out the wiggly edges. "]Panel with all openings cut[/caption]

On the system board side of the case, I used a plasma cutter to easily pierce three holes through the side panel. No distortion, just a really wavy cut when done free-hand. As a result, I had to grind the holes square and take the resulting burrs off with a 4" angle grinder (under $25 at Harbor Freight Tools.) You could probably use cut-off wheels with this type of grinder and do a quick and decent job, but the rounded corners are tricky no matter how you do it.

Safety Tip: Be sure to use both safety goggles and ear protection - grinders throw a lot of grit and metal, and are really loud!

For the window on the second panel, I took a sheet of 1/8" DuraPlex, a brand of "impact modified acrylic" safety plastic used for window replacement. You could also use Lexan or polycarbonate plastic if it is available, since both are more flexible and resistant to breaking than plain acrylic or Plexiglas.

Duraplex plastic panel applied

[caption id="attachment_133" align="alignnone" width="300" caption=" This side window is screwed directly over the plasma-cut openings and then finished out with more assorted plastic and printer parts."]Finished side panel[/caption]

After sketching the general shape of the window, I used a steel square to make the edges as close to uniform as possible, then cut the shape out with a scroll saw. There is no rubber gasket on this window, just file the edges, drill some small holes and screw it directly to the side panel with small sheet-metal screws. To decorate, wires, jewelry boxes, toy and printer parts are glued, or screw-mounted to the window, or to the sheet metal panel.

Next: Finishing touches and FX

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