Question Question to Get Started on Building Own PC Case

IDProG

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I love SFF cases. Unfortunately, none of the available-to-buy cases fit my taste.

I'm interested in creating my own PC case model and 3D printing it.

For anybody who tried this, please tell me:

  1. How much does 3D printing a Mini ITX case usually cost?
  2. What is the best software to use to create the model?
  3. Are there any free 3D model for PC parts that I can use as reference in creating my design?
Thank you.
 

IDProG

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I'm designing a case from scratch. The case is a Mini ITX console form factor case.

I'm in the process of making the graphics card's area. As for all console form factor cases, the graphics card is rotated 90°.

Just something to consider, graphics card's width is added by a 6 or 8-pin PCIe cable from the PSU (not entirely, but the part before the cable gets bent and routed)

So, I want to ask 2 questions:
  1. How long is the connector of the cable (not the entire cable. If you buy CableMod's white cable, it's the black part of the cable)? No need for the exact length, just the estimates.
  2. How wide the graphics card's place needs to be if the graphics card is around 115-120mm? Let's say that the graphics card is connected by a PCIe riser card (CARD, not CABLE) like this.
Thank you for your help.
 

IDProG

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I'm in a process of building my own PC case. I ran into a big problem: How to make the case happen.

There are two choices I'm currently considering;

1. Protocase
Protocase is probably the best custom PC case manufacturer. They can make you a case, even from sketches. Their quality is great, they provide things other than the case (like SSD bracket), and most importantly, they actually make sure that the case works first before manufacturing it. This means that you will only need to pay once, and you will be guaranteed a working case with all the compatibilities that you wished.

However, the convenience comes at a price, and it's heavy. As long as the files and descriptions that you give them are not 3D print-ready, they will charge you for extra adjustments on the CAD or the sketch-to-CAD conversion itself. I haven't tried quoting my incomplete CAD file, but from other experiences, the CAD adjustment service might cost around $100 per hour (depending on how long the designers work to fix the CAD). That's pretty expensive. It might turn your supposed-to-be $250 case to $500-$600. And I just can't spend more than $400 for a small case. I don't think I can do that.

2. 3D print
The advantage of 3D printing is that it's not very expensive. My PC will have 445mm x 305mm x 64mm dimensions. Let's say that the material has a thickness of 2mm, the outer panels (top, bottom, left, right, front, back) will have a total weight of around 0.7 kg. There is a 3D printing service that only charges 8 cents per gram using PLA or ABS. This means that one almost complete case will only cost $56. This is good, because the money that you lose if there are design errors or you want to change the design will not be too much and if you don't succeed, you can try, try again. Having a case in plastic also means that you don't need standoffs to mount your motherboard and you can have maximum clearance for CPU air cooler height.

However, ABS is weaker than steel and requires more thickness to be as rigid. I'm not even sure if 2mm is enough for a PC case. There's also the matter of 3D printer's accuracy. A PC case can only tolerate little errors in printing. And, the biggest disadvantage of 3D printing, you have to make sure that your CAD file is as detailed as the real case itself, and I definitely can't do that. I don't really know someone who can do that, either. The service cost isn't a problem, because I'm certain that it will be a cheaper than Protocase's, but finding someone who can do it will be very hard.

What do you think should I choose?
Are there any better options for this?

Your answer will be highly appreciated.
 

USAFRet

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3D print.
Do you already have a 3D printer? Which one?

If you're using some other printing place, it will be far more than "$56".
You will spend dozens (hundreds) of hours in design and refinement.
What CAD programs do you use?

This guy has done several cases from his printer.
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxdkyVeb_QQ
 

IDProG

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3D print.
Do you already have a 3D printer? Which one?

If you're using some other printing place, it will be far more than "$56".
You will spend dozens (hundreds) of hours in design and refinement.
What CAD programs do you use?

This guy has done several cases from his printer.
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxdkyVeb_QQ
No, I don't have a 3D printer.

I don't think experienced designers need to spend dozens, let alone hundreds, of hours just to turn a sketch into a CAD. They probably only need 3 to 6 hours to convert your sketchs into a 3D print-ready CAD.

I'm using Google Sketchup (for the components' compatibility) and Protocase Designer (to generate the case size) as my software.

Actually, I only need to find someone to turn my incomplete CAD into a more complete, 3D print-ready CAD if I choose 3D print.
 

USAFRet

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No, I don't have a 3D printer.

I don't think experienced designers need to spend dozens, let alone hundreds, of hours just to turn a sketch into a CAD. They probably only need 3 to 6 hours to convert your sketchs into a 3D print-ready CAD.

I'm using Google Sketchup (for the components' compatibility) and Protocase Designer (to generate the case size) as my software.

Actually, I only need to find someone to turn my incomplete CAD into a more complete, 3D print-ready CAD if I choose 3D print.
An experienced designer, no. But an experienced designer wants to get paid..;)
$50/hour to finalize a one off design....3 hours = $150.

Not raining on your parade...but be prepared to spend a bit more than just $0.08/gram.
 

gondo

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Q - "What do you think should I choose?"
A - A good case from newegg

Q - "Are there any better options for this?"
A - A nice case from Fractal Design or some other of dozens of manufacturers. They have the bugs worked out including the capability to sell it for under $100 in a fancy cardboard box, with manuals and all FCC regulatory requirements and patents.

If you just want to build a case for the hobby of it, try wood or lexan.
 

IDProG

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Q - "What do you think should I choose?"
A - A good case from newegg

Q - "Are there any better options for this?"
A - A nice case from Fractal Design or some other of dozens of manufacturers. They have the bugs worked out including the capability to sell it for under $100 in a fancy cardboard box, with manuals and all FCC regulatory requirements and patents.

If you just want to build a case for the hobby of it, try wood or lexan.
My case will be a 9.2L console form factor case that will support a full 240mm AIO water cooler and a full-sized graphics card at the same time.

Try finding one on Newegg. I'll wait.

No, I'm not building a case myself because it's a hobby. I am doing that because the case that fits my taste is not available anywhere.
 

IDProG

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What are your 'questions'?

"What do you think should I choose?"
No one can make that choice for you.

"Are there any better options for this?"
Wood, metal, Lexan...
Q - "What do you think should I choose?"
A - A good case from newegg

Q - "Are there any better options for this?"
A - A nice case from Fractal Design or some other of dozens of manufacturers. They have the bugs worked out including the capability to sell it for under $100 in a fancy cardboard box, with manuals and all FCC regulatory requirements and patents.

If you just want to build a case for the hobby of it, try wood or lexan.
Alright, I looked at the replies once again.

Both of you mentioned wood and lexan. What do you mean by this?

Are you suggesting that I build my case with wood or lexan insteadd?

Where can I do that? Is it cheaper than Protocase's steel case?
 

IDProG

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No. RVZ03 (which is stated by the company itself to be the successor of RVZ01) is miles better, and I still think that it's not my taste.

Cases made by companies are designed to have a lot of compatibilities, which can benefit lots of buyers. However, that comes at a cost of volume waste. For example, if someone doesn't care about a 330mm graphics card and only buys reference-sized one, the extra length available will be a waste of space.

And that shows. You can only put a standard motherboard, PSU, and graphics card, while having the case at 14L.

There's a reason you don't see cases much smaller than this that do what you're trying to do: they're absolute thermal nightmares. You'll have a fairly cool CPU while the rest of your motherboard, GPU, and other components slowly cook in a sauna.
Well, I managed to design a 9.2L case that supports a 240mm radiator and graphics cards up to 300mm in length.

And yes, all of the parts needed to be cooled are adequately cooled.

I have the mockup CAD of the case, and I can show it to you if you want and when I can.
 

DSzymborski

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And yes, all of the parts needed to be cooled are adequately cooled.
Wow, good thing that's all cleared up!

Best of luck to you on your project! I have no confidence you've seriously considered the very real issues here in any kind of scientific way, but the world can always use a few more dreamers. Sometimes, failing at something is the best way we learn to succeed.
 

IDProG

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Wow, good thing that's all cleared up!

Best of luck to you on your project! I have no confidence you've seriously considered the very real issues here in any kind of scientific way, but the world can always use a few more dreamers. Sometimes, failing at something is the best way we learn to succeed.
I absolutely hate sarcasm in serious discussions.

If you don't want to help, please don't reply.

You're a moderator, act like one.
 

DSzymborski

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I absolutely hate sarcasm in serious discussions.

If you don't want to help, please don't reply.

You're a moderator, act like one.
I absolutely hate sarcasm in serious discussions.

If you don't want to help, please don't reply.

You're a moderator, act like one.
What sarcasm? I do wish you well during what will be a long learning experience.

I'm well-acquainted with people who design cases. The thermals on tiny, tiny cases like this are a nightmare. Teams of engineers with long track records in the market struggle with these questions.

So yes, I'm highly skeptical you've adequately considered these questions, with no prototype, no model, no tests. Good advice is not necessarily advice that you want to hear.
 

IDProG

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What sarcasm? I do wish you well during what will be a long learning experience.

I'm well-acquainted with people who design cases. The thermals on tiny, tiny cases like this are a nightmare. Teams of engineers with long track records in the market struggle with these questions.

So yes, I'm highly skeptical you've adequately considered these questions, with no prototype, no model, no tests. Good advice is not necessarily advice that you want to hear.
It's not like what you say is true, anyway.

It was proven to be wrong before you even said it. So, basically, it's DOA.

Let's see.
Now, since the RVZ01 (or RVZ03) doesn't really have a water cooling capability (with full-sized graphics card), I think it's fair to compare to cases that don't, as well.

NCase M1 (12.7 L): Nope, great thermals.
FormD T1 (10-ish L): Great thermals.
Dan A4 SFX (7-ish L): Great thermals for the size
Dr. Zaber Sentry (7-ish L): Decent thermals for air cooling
Velkase Velka 5 (5.7 L): Surprisingly great thermals for case that size

Watch Optimum Tech's video on YouTube. Every single case that he recommended has good airflow.

So, like I said, your statement is DOA.

To be honest, if your statement were true (and I couldn't refute it), I wouldn't be offended as much by your sarcasm.
 

DSzymborski

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It's not like what you say is true, anyway.

It was proven to be wrong before you even said it. So, basically, it's DOA.

Let's see.
Now, since the RVZ01 (or RVZ03) doesn't really have a water cooling capability (with full-sized graphics card), I think it's fair to compare to cases that don't, as well.

NCase M1 (12.7 L): Nope, great thermals.
FormD T1 (10-ish L): Great thermals.
Dan A4 SFX (7-ish L): Great thermals for the size
Dr. Zaber Sentry (7-ish L): Decent thermals for air cooling
Velkase Velka 5 (5.7 L): Surprisingly great thermals for case that size

Watch Optimum Tech's video on YouTube. Every single case that he recommended has good airflow.

So, like I said, your statement is DOA.

To be honest, if your statement were true (and I couldn't refute it), I wouldn't be offended as much by your sarcasm.
No, I'm not saying small cases can't have good thermals. I'm saying it's a problem with your specific needs inside a small case. We're not talking about these other cases, we're talking about this crazy one you're just going to slap together for $400, without knowledge of design or thermodynamics, that's gonna put all these other cases to shame.

But hey, good luck with all that.
 

IDProG

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I'm saying it's a problem with your specific needs inside a small case. We're not talking about these other cases, we're talking about this crazy one you're just going to slap together for $400, without knowledge of design or thermodynamics, that's gonna put all these other cases to shame.
That's a very bold assumption you got there.

Like I said, I can show you the mockup CAD file and let you decide for yourself if I actually know about "knowledge of design or thermodynamics" or not.
 

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