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Monday, May 14, 2012

TRON Case Mod: Part 1

I once mentioned that for a unique one-of-a kind case, you will have to build or modify it yourself. If you have read some of my other case mod articles, you know that some of the modifications you can do can be very simple, such as adding a window, installing case lighting, or replacing air cooling with water cooling. You also probably noticed that some of my case mods have been very elaborate shells over a standard frame or chassis - everything from carved wood with stained-glass inserts like the Art Nouveau Case, to engraved and bejeweled limestone in the EgyptMod Case. My latest case mod project is inspired by the Disney movie "TRON" and the computer game "Tron 2.0." As a change of pace, I decided to build one that requires a bit more conservative alterations for those of you that can't run out to buy all sorts of specialized tools to play with.

Build 1.0 - The Shell

[System User: TRaceON]

For a TRON-themed case mod, I started with a Silverstone Kublai case and disassembled
the front bezel and side panels for modification. The case is steel except for
the solid aluminum front cover.

The Logo Panel:

The Silverstone Kublai Case, the TRON movie poster and one version of the TRON 2.0 game box.

The solid side panel is prepared for the addition of a back-lit TRON logo,
based on the original TRON movie poster, but updated with the TRON 2.0 game
characters. To start, the original poster design was scaled to fit the panel,
and the outline transferred to the inside of the steel panel. Using a plasma
cutter, I quickly lopped out the irregular-shaped opening. The sharp edges were
ground down and the large circle outline smoothed out with the grinder. A piece
of 1/8" polycarbonate sheet is cut to fit inside the side panel.

The logo-shaped hole is cut in the solid side panel. A piece of scrap 1/4"
acrylic is clamped to the inside to trace the opening.

Next, a piece of 1/4" acrylic is clamped inside the logo hole and the
edge of the hole is traced onto the plastic with a colored marker. The outlined
shape was cut out on a scroll saw, and then rough-finished with some cutting
burrs. The game characters are cut out of another piece of 1/4" acrylic
and rough-shaped using a Dremel tool with a router bit and cutting burrs in
the flexible shaft. The concentric rings the figures stand on are cut from a
third piece of acrylic which was ground down to taper from thick in the front
to a thin edge behind the figures. The "TRON" letters are shaped from
1/4" UV-reactive acrylic. All of the shapes are then glued together. Once
the glue on the figures has set, the entire logo is glued to the polycarbonate
sheet. The surface of the figures is then coated with several coats of black
paint; carving through the paint coating will expose the clear plastic, allowing
the back-lights to shine through.

1) The rough-cut pieces. 2) Gluing the figures together. 3) The assembled insert.

4) Painting the insert black. 5) Panel before detail carving and final assembly.

The Top Panel:

The front bezel assembly has a "cap" that contains the power and
reset buttons, and an opening for USB, 1394, and front panel audio ports. There
is a clear lens through the center section, illuminated by 3 blue LEDs. A single
red LED flashes with disk activity. I removed the blue LEDs and created a small
oval board with 16 blue LEDs radiating out from the center. I then enlarged
a center hole in the clear lens to accept the assembly.

My original idea for the top surface was to create a geometric pattern of plastic
shapes out of UV-reactive plastic sheet, but my free-hand sawing and sanding
skill just aren't up to it. After wasting most of a 2 square-foot sheet, I ordered
a selection of glass tiles and attached these with epoxy to the surface. More
tiles will be placed on the side panels and inside the case to carry the theme
throughout the project.

Glass tile being glued to the top panel (left) and the nearly-completed pattern (right).

Testing tile clearance with the front bezel in position. Close up of LED assembly.

The Window Panel:

The side window panel had the factory acrylic window removed and the opening
enlarged to expose the drive bays. Two holes are drilled with a small hole saw,
and shears used to cut the straight lines. A single piece of acrylic sheet is
trimmed to fit over the entire panel and held in place with plastic locking
rivets. Glass tile will be attached after some paint touch up from the drilling.

The window panel hole in the process of being enlarged (left).
Playing with glass tiles on the un-mounted acrylic window (right).

[System User: TRaceOFF]

(to be continued...)

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