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Superdense mITX build - 3d printed chassis

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sinusoid View Drop Down
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    Posted: 22 May 2015 at 3:49am
Hi all!

I accidentally found this forum while looking for info on the new 2011v3 mITX boards, and decided to post my build progress thread here :)

The Background
I am a big fan of the mITX factor for a very long time, and was planning this build for at least two years now.
What prompted me to start it was the fact that FINALLY someone started supporting the 2011 socket in the mITX factor! :D I thought this would't happen for years, but here we have ASRock (whose earlier board I own) delivering TWO boards in a very short timeline! WOHOO!

You guys rock :D

However, when reading reviews, I was surprised to read a lot of sceptical and negative comments on those boards. It seems that a lot of people cannot see the awesome potential of these, and, unfortunately, are extremely vocal about this.

So I decided to gather my toys and start drafting a build I've been planning for quite a while now, to prove a few things to all those naysayers :)

Since I am using an oldish board I'm not (very) afraid to risk damaging, I don't want to put max available time+money+effort into the build, so I will take a lot of shortcuts from the original idea. So, no custom PCBs, no port desoldering - i'll keep the mods of the actual components to a necessary minumum.

The Plan
The plan is to take an ordinary ATX PSU, a mITX board (Z77 with i7 2600k, 16GB RAM) + a GPU and try to push it to the density limit, while still maintaining decent OC abilities.

I want to maintain as much portability as possible, and build a rough, tough machine that can be carried in a backpack.

There are going to be surprises and bonuses, but you'll see that later :)

Now, onwards to the build!
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sinusoid View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote sinusoid Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 May 2015 at 4:05am
001

So, these are the components I'll be using in the build. Don't mind the GPU, it's an old placeholder GPU I bought to replace the weak integrated Intels. I'm kind of waiting for the right opportunity to get a decent card, and keep postponing purchase, waiting for AMD to catch up to NVidia... Well, nevermind XD The mod is going to be modular enough to hold something more powerful.






First let's take a measure of the board and the distribution of mounting holes...






And then, let's 3d print a quick draft matching template to see if the measurements are correct.
It turned out they weren't, so I made corrections, and 3d printed a more complete version below:



This is how it looks like in assembly:


As you can see below, there is still a slight misalignment of holes (taking measures on those boards is hard due to components sticking out, I actually expected that would happen, that's why I'm making draft prints first)





Though the general outline of the board (below), matched to my reference point. The borders of the 3d print are evenly distanced (around 1mm. I could push that to 0.1 or less, so the board would slide into the case with a slight resistance. I've done that before with other electronic parts, but it would take several hours, so let's just skip it for the time being :P)

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sinusoid View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote sinusoid Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 May 2015 at 4:14am
I'll remove the heatsink now, to check for the heatsink holes alignment measures. I'm making a holes for these in the chassis as well, it will let me do interesting things with it later :)



I actually broke off the original Intel pins when I mounted and dismantled the heatsink several times prior, so I mounted it with inox screws instead. Made me feel safer, cause I could screw the heatsink to the processor really tightly, while maintaining even force. Anyway, this heatsink will soon be a thing of the past. i2600K can run stable at over 4GHz, and I want exactly that, to get a lot of single-thread performance for 3d graphics. So I'm gonna make a... something. You'll see later ;)


Here is the board, naked as the manufacturer intended it to be.  You can see hole misalignments clearly. I measured these, and made a proper version later.


In perspective. Kinda blurry, but you get the idea.


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sinusoid View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote sinusoid Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 May 2015 at 4:24am
Now let's do the same thing to the PSU!

Drafted out the measurements. This one is gonna be more tricky, the layout doesn't allow such clear mapping of mounting points. I could have used the original chassis, but it's been long dismantled and gone. Don't ask me how I didn't fry the machine yet XD
I've found some missoldered points on the PSU, will be fixing them later.


Aaand here we have a 3dprinted draft of the hole measurements. Misaligned awfully, just as expected :D Let's fix, and see how it looks like.


This is how the prepared mounting plate looks like next to the PSU


And the PSU fits! Let's check the details now:


There is a slight overshoot in the outline in this one point. I'm not gonna fix that, it's fine for now. The mounting holes have some misalignments, but I'm gonna fix that in the next step.



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote sinusoid Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 May 2015 at 4:54am
NOW LET'S MERGE THESE TOGETHER!
Here is the ready plate to mount the mobo and PSU next to one another.
It's a 3 piece print glued together. Good thing about 3d prints is that you can glue them without losing structural parameters. Still, I wanted to avoid having to glue these together on the line between components.
The elements are pretty thin for now, because there's gonna be a structure for HDDs below that will stiffen the whole thing significantly, and at the same time allow for a nice RAID setup using 2.5" HDDs.




Beauty shot above :P

And this is how both components look together:


In perspective. I hope you like picture floods? ;D


Below is a comparison with a 12" Thinkpad x201s. This thing is getting pretty darn small without even trying too  hard!
Do keep in mind that there are better and more compact PSU solutions (like PicoPSU. I had concerns about the future GPU power drain though, would have to build a full custom PSU, and that would take a lot of time. And moneys. That's the reason I decided to go with stock PSU for now. Done is better than perfect!)


Time to screw it all together and see if the 3d print can hold it together for now:


I bought longer screws on purpose, so I can start working on the other side of the chassis and mount other components into the build more easily. Will replace them with properly measured screws later.


That's how it looks from the other side:


Aaand we're done assembling both boards!


Backside view. One screw is missing from PSU, since the hole was slightly misaligned still. Later I punched it through with a hot wire, will have to correct the 3d model too.



PSU connected to the mobo.


The connectors are extremely close, just as I wanted them to be:


Mmmmaybe slightly too close? -_- But I'm not gonna give it more space, it has to fit, and if it won't, I'll make it :)


I trimmed off the protective net from the PSu cable to see what I can do to remove the excess of wires.
There is a lot.
Also, those protective nets are awful, they get everywhere if you're not careful and are a hell of a hassle to remove.


CHOP CHOP?
Have some space here, and I really don't want to desolder the cables from the PSU... There are, like, oceans of solder and copper there. No way am I going to touch that with a solder iron. Nor pay an exorbitant amount of money for an ATX connector clamp tool.
Sooo... I think I'll go with these. Though I'm not really happy about it, it's not an elegant solution, and will put strain on PSU cables...


That's where I will leave it off for now. Will probably get some more work on that during the weekend, will trim the cables and plan out the work for other components.

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Xaltar View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Xaltar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 May 2015 at 1:55pm
This looks interesting, looking forward to more :)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ASRock_Official Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 May 2015 at 4:20pm
Nice Work sinusoid!
a project definitely worth follow, keep on coming my friend:)

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote parsec Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 May 2015 at 12:49pm
sinusoid, your idea of using those two wire connection blocks for the PSU cable is not bad at all IMO.

If you keep those connectors on the PSU side of your chassis, it won't look anywhere near as bad as having the original cable in plain sight.

Regarding the PSU wires being stressed when using those connectors, you just need to plan which wires will go to which specific connector on the connection block (which you must do anyway.) Whatever wires will go to the connectors the farthest from the middle of the block just need to be longer than the others.

Your alternative is cutting, trimming, and spicing the wires together, soldering for the best connections. Then hiding the splice with heat shrink tubing.

You could also get a 24 pin PSU extension cable that will become part of the new cable you will be using.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Illegalseagull Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 May 2015 at 2:48pm
very cool build..never seen anyone modding a psu before like this...I like it..will be following along, keep the pics coming


Also, I want to say that I agree about so many people bashing the itx form factor...I really don't understand it.  As much as SLI and having so many HDD bay expandability can be good things, the vast vast majority of people just don't need 4 dimm slots, 6 sata ports, 3 pcie slots, etc.  So many people could enjoy a decent itx build, and I'm happy to see that mfgs are starting to turn out good cases that actually support larger psus and gpus for people that aren't hardcore modders...I'm interested to see how far you can pack it all down  good luck!


Edited by Illegalseagull - 25 May 2015 at 2:54pm
ASROCK Z97M OC Formula
Intel i5 - 4690K @ 4.5ghz
Stable Overclock
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote sinusoid2 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 May 2015 at 6:11am
OK, so I apparently lost my password to the forum, and retrieval emails failed to arrive... and I can't see any email address for inquiries anywhere. Registered second account, waiting for the problem to be resolved.

Anyway!

@Xaltar - There will be more :) Still got a few surprises up my sleeve. Stay tuned!

@ASRock-Official - Hey, thanks for making such awesome small-format boards in the first place!
:D

@parsec - re: connectors - I went the solder + heatshrink path over the weekend. Update in a sec. Would still have to solder the ends of those cables to use the connectors effectively, and this way I saved a lot of space.
I initially wanted to desolder the ATX port and desolder the cables from the PSU, then match the two with a custom etched PCB board. But the height of surrounding elements (heatsinks on PSU and RAMs on the mobo) made me reconsider. I wouldn't be able to use the resulting space anyway.
I wish I could find small factor PSU in the 600watt range, something like these:
http://www.aliexpress.com/item/PICO-BOX-X3-ATX-300-DC-ATX-PSU-Power-Supply-300W-2-Port-DC-Input-12V/1920946905.html
I could really cut down the size then.

@Illegalseagull - Agreed. Though I'm not a big fan of SLI, you get compatibility issues with virtualizaiton (Xen), etc. Imvho it's better to get a top shelf card, or wait a few years :P.
I like extreme processing power to density ratios. This thing here already has a better ratio than commercial blade servers AFAIK, and it's intended for 4.5GHz stable :) I'll be posting a comparison to a commercial dual-processor blade soon-ish, with photos and some volume calculations. At least that's the plan :)

Now, the update!
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