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Monday, December 5, 2011

Stark IMD Case Mod, Part 1

Maximum PC "Comic Challenge" Case Mod: The Stark IMD

This case mod was an entry in Maximum PC's "Comic Challenge" contest.
About the only criteria for the contest was that the computer case mod be based
on some form of comic (AKA "graphic novel".) The new Iron Man movie
was all the rage, but I remember some of the Iron Man comic books from my youth.
Alas, I no longer have these in my possession, and most of us back then had
no real idea that the value of those issues would do nothing but increase. On
the helpful side, marvelcomics.com has a selection of artwork and digital comics
available for entertainment, and in this case, reference. I also found a DVD
(The Invincible Iron Man: The Complete Collection by GIT Corp)
containing a comic book archive of 43 years of Iron Man, from Tales of Suspense
in 1963 through the Iron Man comics and graphic novels of December of 2006.
Between the Marvel web site and the DVD, I pulled out a couple of images to
incorporate in my design.







Iron Man's armor changed dramatically between 1963 and 2005










I decided on a design that would reflect the change in his armor from the basic
riveted steel to a stylized red and gold.

Why the case mod name "Stark IMD"?

Here's the creative thought that suggested a design: what if Tony Stark had
to troubleshoot something? From that, I came up with the concept of an Iron
Man Diagnostic unit. Since Tony no longer keeps his identity secret, it means
we need to identify that the unit came from Stark Industries. Letters were cut
from sheet brass, then dots drilled, edges filed, and lines chiseled. The background
was printed on a laser printer, then glued between two sheets of 1/8" high
impact plastic. The brass letters received a soft satin finish, then were glued
to the plastic. Four small magnets (Tony has always been big on magnets, although
his are usually transistor-powered) glued to the back allow placement of the
plaque on any flat ferrous surface. (I was going to stick this on the top of
the CPU heat sink, but there wasn't enough clearance between it and the side
panel.) So that became the title - Stark IMD. So Stark Labs and "IMD"
(for Iron Man Diagnostic), and a subset of features that are used as a sub-theme
to the armor design.



The case for this project is a simple steel case that has no windows and a removable
plastic front panel.




Simulated body armor:

I wanted the case to incorporate aspects of several types of iron man armor,
starting with his original dull gray steel. Although rivets were not always
evident, these would add to the effect of heavy plate on the panels. Starting
with the case itself, I anchored short lengths of aluminum angle to the top
and front edges of the chassis. These were used as anchor points to attach two
curved steel panels at the bottom front and top rear of the case. To strengthen
the sheet metal, I riveted ribs of aluminum bar stock to the outer edges, using
two rows of heavy nickel wire for the pins.

To create a layered articulated armor on the top, sections of PVC plastic were
cut and then anchored to the aluminum angle with sheet metal screws. A final
PVC panel was attached to the front and a piece of foam rubber trimmed to fill
the gap between the sections. The foam was trimmed to a smooth shape with a
razor blade and then covered with a layer of epoxy thickened with powdered talc.

Sheet steel is bent and fitted to the aluminum angle strips that have been
riveted to the front of the steel case. Aluminum straps are bent and positioned
to support the steel sheet and the curved front PVC panel section. Once everything
is in place, holes are drilled through the aluminum strap and angle, and pop-rivets
are used to anchor everything in place.












Several layers of shredded fiberglass-reinforced epoxy are built up over the
surface of the PVC, with only a light sanding in between. I wanted a ripple
effect to simulate hammered metal. I like to add pigment to the epoxy so that
if the surface gets scratched, there is a solid color exposed. The color layers
also make it easier to visualize the final effect and in some cases, can be
used as the final finish instead of paint. Aluminum powder added to the epoxy
mix gives the metallic silver appearance to the coating.












For the drive bay section, I wanted the effect of the cutouts seen in some
of the more recent iron man comics. To start, a section of thin PVC was fitted
in the opening between the upper panel and the lower steel one. Thick, reinforced
epoxy paste is spread over the surface. After the layer has cured, it is sanded,
and another thick layer applied.

After another sanding, a hole is cut for access to the drives. An adapter frame
is installed in the upper bay to give me an idea of width and position of the
drives when mounted.












A brass insert is created to fit the opening, and two cross-plates solder on
the back to cover the unused bays. Plugs for the openings on either side of
the 3.5" bay are made with a USB header installed in the one on the right.
With the drives in place, the insert is positioned and centered properly, and
then more epoxy is used to smooth fill the gap around the insert and secure
it in place.












After removing the drives, the edge is ground level, everything is sanded smooth
and several thin layers of epoxy added to reduce most of the surface imperfections.

Face plates, wood ribs, and the lower steel panel are painted gold. I later
changed my mind about the gold on the lower panel and coated it with a "hammered
silver" paint. (Like metal-flake and other textured paints, hammered silver
develops a random ripple pattern as it dries, giving the surface a light planished

Half-round wood ribs are cut to fit the drive bay opening. Two at the top are
glued in place to the brass backplate. A third rib is attached to the front
of the DVD tray with epoxy, and the fourth rib down is attached to the front
of the DVD drive using foam mounting tape (this allows the rib to move; pressing
on the right edge opens the drive tray.) Two strong magnets are glued to the
surface of the insert, to hold the last section of ribs tightly in place.

For the bottom four ribs that conceal the floppy/card reader, I elected for
simplicity over some sort of fancy hinge system. The ribs are backed with a
piece of the steel sheet from the side panel, with a strip curled up as a handle.
The magnets hold the steel backing firmly in place when the drive, reader, or
front USB openings are not in use.

Next time: Side panels and an Iron Man mask.

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