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Friday, December 30, 2011

Hitch Hiker's Guide Case Mod (AKA "Mostly Harmless") - Part 2

Part 2 - Reconstruction

Work log 06-29-08

A panel is cut out of sheet steel and attached to the bottom of the case with
a length of piano hinge. Aluminum angle provides reinforcement along the cutoff
sides and provide a flat surface the panel will close against. The original
side panel of the case is cut to add an extension to the bottom on the opposite
side, and triangular sections of sheet steel added at the front and back. Aluminum
angle is riveted to the sides to provide additional support. Screw holes are
then drilled and tapped at the top edges of both panels.

The power supply was opened and mounted to the internal motherboard tray. Power
wires are run to the rear of the case and wired to the power connection and
switch. Push buttons are installed for the system board power and reset switches.
(One for power and two for reset.)

A power supply is installed in the case, with the power connection socket and on/off
switch extended to rear panel connections.

Side panels are attached with length of piano hinge anchored with pop-rivets.
An opening is cut though the interior panel for the DVD drive. The original
case panel is split for the guide panel, with the lower vented section on the

The second panel is made from a piece of galvanized steel sheet, and is also hinged for access to the system board and drives.

Work log 07-05-08

A slot is made in one side panel for DVD drive to eject through. Openings for
a Matrix Orbital MX620 LCD display and a big red button are made in the front
panel. The diameter of the red push button assembly is an odd size, so instead
of a hole saw, multiple drill holes are made, and the mounting hole is cut with
clippers before grinding it smooth.

Both the button and LCD module must be installed below the power supply, but
above the DVD drive.

After these minor modifications, I started construction of the base plate assembly.
This is made from two sections of 1/2 inch MDF with a thick acrylic core. The
clear core is made from two pieces of 0.20 inch acrylic glued together with
rough-ground edges to scatter the light. 36 yellow LEDs are hot glued into the
hole in the acrylic panel, and wired together in 12 groups of three.

Two layers of acrylic are sandwiched in between the MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard),
and illuminated by yellow LEDs.

The MDF needs to be sealed to accept paint smoothly like non-porous plastic
and metal, so a coating of epoxy is applied. The epoxy thickened with talc and
tinted with a little yellow tempera paint.

Yellow epoxy seals the MDF to create a smooth, non-porous surface for painting.

Work log 07-06-08

The guide is assembled from a small 7" LCD touchscreen and a tiny
USB thumbpad that tested fine as a basic PC keyboard. I attached the
keypad to the screen with a dab of superglue, and then trimmed a piece
of PVC sheet to round out the lower section. A plastic floor protector
is attached to hold one of the HHG badges. An on-off button (yellow)
and momentary-contact button (red) are installed for the LED base and
DVD tray. Gaps are filled with epoxy colored with aluminum powder.

The Guide -- before and after touchup with silver paint. A magnet from an old
hard drive is hot glued into the disk to hold the badge in place without glue
or physical alteration of the back.

Work log 07-13-08

Drive preparation: The switch and LED are removed from the optical drive and
wires attached to connect to the button on the guide. Although two standard
drives could be wedged inside the chassis, I elected to install a pair of 2.5
inch notebook drives. The drives are mounted slightly offset to keep the cable
connector spacing close. To prepare the case for detailing, thin sheets of plastic
are attached to the sides and front of the case with epoxy.

Wires are attached to the DVD-RW drive and will be connected to an LED and button
assembled into the guide.

Two 40GB notebook drives are mounted with an air gap for improved cooling and
a slight offset to keep the cable connectors closer.

(The two IDE drives were later replaced with dual SATA drives for better performance
and more space.)

Epoxy is used to hold styrene sheet to the metal panels of the case. Openings
can be traced and cut before positioning the sheet, or after it has been attached
to the case, by drilling through the openings from inside the case. Detail will
be added to the plastic surface using plastic cements that will not bond to
metal securely.

Epoxy does not adhere particularly well to sheet metal and some plastics (or
any non-porous material that has a very smooth or polished surface.) Roughing
the metal and plastic surfaces with a grinding wheel creates a texture that
helps, and cuts through the beige paint of my reused case panel.

Work log 07-20-08

Kit bashing and other stuff: Using cutout pieces of white styrene sheet,
printer parts, and assorted pieces of plastic stuff in one of my scrap
boxes, I built up some patterns and symbolism from the Hitchhiker books
and game. Additional parts were used from some Walthers Cornerstone
Series kits (933-3114 - piping kit and 933-3126 - transformer kit.)
Douglas Adams fans know the ultimate answer is "42" so this
was used for the first layer. Other variations such as patterns of four
and two, and even a binary version appear on this side of the case.

Bottom fan: A small 80 mm fan is added on the bottom, positioned in
the opening that was left in the MDF and acrylic base. Power still needs
to be run for the lights and fan, but it's one more thing out of the
way. The DVD drive is mounted in the base of the case and the light
assembly reattached. The DVD tray is shimmed out to the level and angle
of the side panel. Kit bashing continues on the Guide side of the case...

Plastic parts from old printers, toys, and other scrap parts add surface detail
to the case panels. Sheet styrene is used to form geometric shapes and simple
patterns. A visit to the local hobby store turned up a variety of scale-model
parts and textured sheet used for creating buildings and industrial settings
for model train layouts.

Evolution of the 42 side panel. Yes, that's a big "42"
across the surface. Some of the shapes are just to add interest and texture
to the panel, but other arrangements include at least two groups of four large
bars with two small bars, a stylized "6x9?", and the number
42 in binary ("00101010").

Work log 07-22-08

Well, that's not going to work... While I was working on adding detail
to the sides, I realized that the large cover on the optical drive would
prevent opening that side panel of the case. Ripping off the cover plate,
I modified it with two pairs of magnets and a strip of plastic to keep
the panel aligned. The drive cover can now be removed to access that
side of the case or to get to the tray-ejection hole in the drive.

More printer parts and flat shapes fill the Guide's side panel with patterns.
I built up several layers of styrene on the DVD tray to match the angle of the
case, and to extend the strip slightly above the surface.

Problem: The drive cover was glued directly to the tray, until
I realized I wouldn't be able to open that side panel with it there.

Solution: A couple of rare-earth magnets hot glued to the tray and to the cover
allows the DVD tray cover to pop on and off as needed.

Work log 07-24-08

Prime Coat: I finished up the panel detailing during the week and masked out
the openings and any embedded hardware (i.e. The Guide, DVD tray, etc.) to prepare
for painting. A gray printer went on first, followed by a single coat of yellow.
Since I will be aging / weathering the case detail next, I deliberately used
only a single coat of yellow, creating a slightly uneven, shaded appearance.
Some final touchup and dry-brush work should finish off the shell.

I took the HHG Case outside for painting, with the buttons, guide openings masked.

After primer-coating the case panels. The two MDF base panels have been removed
for priming and painting separately.

A single coat of yellow goes on over the primer coat.

A view of the front and rear after coating with yellow paint.

The base panels receive a coat of yellow. The uneven shading is very noticeable
without the distracting patterns and shapes.

Next, the panels are masked and a coat of metallic gold paint is added to reflect
the light from the LEDs.

Maximum PC Mod Shop Games Challenge:

Create your best mod featuring a brand,
character (or characters), or theme from a game of your choice.

Green Guy: The front of the case (with the red button and Matrix display)
will have the round, green, grinning character logo near the top. I considered
a couple of different approaches to his creation, and decided to do one in clear
acrylic with LED backlighting. Three layers of 0.20 in. acrylic were glued together.
A printout of the logo was taped to the back, and the shape rough-cut on the
band saw. This was then rough-shaped using metal burrs, and then detail added
and smoothed with fine burrs. A good rubbing with brass brushes results in a
soft, frosted finish that will diffuse the LED lighting better. Paint over the
rear gives the acrylic color when the LEDs are off, and some black and white
paint accent the mouth and teeth.

A matching hollow opening behind the mouth is carved to embed the LEDs in.
A 3 mm Red LED is embedded in the base of the tongue, and three wide-angle,
green LEDs are positioned in the opening. Hot glue fills the opening, holding
the LEDs in place and insulating the contacts. A Molex connector is attached
to feed 12 volts to the three green LEDs (connected in series) and the 5 volts
connects to the red LED. I toyed with the idea of connecting the red LED to
the hard drive LED pins, and could still do this at a later time by wiring
things separate.

I don't have any 1/2" acrylic to carve, so three layers of .20" are glued
together. After gluing a copy of the character to the back, the shape is rough
cut on the band saw.

Using metal burrs and a flexible shaft, the 3-D version of the character takes
shape. The paper pattern is removed, and the back of the carving is painted
green, the tongue red, teeth white, and the open mouth black. Green and red
LEDs with their current-limiting resistors are hot-glued into the rear.

Power-testing the final carving. The green LEDs are connected to the 12 volt
(yellow) wire, and the red LED is connected to the 5 volt wire (red). (The red
LED could be connected to the Hard Drive panel connection if desired.)

Next time: construction wrap-up, screen savers, and LCD panel programming.

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