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  1. #1
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    The Difference Engine: Design Log

    This is a mirror of my primary design log, which is on blogger

    The History
    Since my first water cooled computer in 2004, I've been unhappy with the computer cases which are available. It's fairly simple: either the radiators are very obtrusive, the case is very cluttered or the most elegant parts of the build are hidden from sight. In recent times, I've seen a few builds which solve all of these problems with some heavy modifications to the original case. I decided a while ago that if I were going to have to make such massive changes, I might as well just start from scratch.

    I like working with metal and with wood, but I have far readier access to woodworking equipment than I do metalworking equipment and I find wood more forgiving, so I'll make this case primarily from wood. The combination of wood and water cooling led me to consider doing a steampunk build. I think that steampunk done well can have a really good aesthetic--see this amazing build for an example of how beautiful well executed steampunk can be. On the other hand, just pasting gears to everything not the kind of aesthetic I want.

    This build will go together in a few stages, since several of the points are going to require me to design some intense electronics. I'm doing the design in ske
    tchup and, over the next few weeks, I'll be putting my design up here as I get it together.

    The Design
    The specifications of the computer aren't here because this is going to be a long-running project--I likely won't buy the actual computer hardware until 8-10 months from now.

    Here's a rough sketch of the overall configuration; where components will go, etc.



    Very rough. I already know that the drive bays are the wrong size.

    The water cooling in this build will be on every component which might even fractionally benefit from it. I plan water cool the CPU(s), GPU(s), RAM, chipset, and MOSFETS. The disk drives will be in a separate chamber, and will not be water cooled. One unique feature of this build is the piping: I intend to do virtually all my tubing in copper pipe.

    I'm still undecided on a few important points, such as whether to build, scrounge, or purchase the drive bays.

    Stay tuned, I'll be updating with component designs as I go.
    That's a sweet rig in your sig, but does it fold?



    DRM 'manages access' in the same way that jail 'manages freedom.'

  2. #2
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    Mountain Mods beat me to it.

    So there I am, designing the drive bays that I'll use when, while searching for information on correct sizing of 5.25" bays, I find that MountainMods has almost the exact same design

    Here's what they did:

    Here's my design:

    The seem almost the same to me. Well, I guess that part's done. I just wish they didn't charge $34.99 for one drive bay..
    That's a sweet rig in your sig, but does it fold?



    DRM 'manages access' in the same way that jail 'manages freedom.'

  3. #3
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    The Difference Engine: Part 2, Drive bays

    Since I found the MountainMods optical drive rack, I've managed to track down a sketchup model for it. I built the case front around it, and here's the result:


    The door on the front of this rack is because I intend this cage for a 3.5" HDD rack. Now, this seems a little redundant to me, using one rack to hold another, but there are some significant reasons behind this choice.

    First, because of the structure of this level of the case, there will not be easy access to the back of the rack without first removing it. Second, all of the mounting holes on 3.5" HDD racks are on the sides since most of them are intended to be mounted in 5.25" bays.

    I haven't been able to track down a better way of mounting the 3.5" HDD rack because of those points. Any ideas are appreciated.
    That's a sweet rig in your sig, but does it fold?



    DRM 'manages access' in the same way that jail 'manages freedom.'

  4. #4
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    The Difference Engine: Part 3, Motherboard Tray

    For the motherboard tray, I figured I'd make sure I could support the largest motherboard that's likely to come out in the near future. To do that, I need to support HPTX, the monstrous 15"x14" format. I'm planning to use DangerDen's 10-slot I/O shield as the back-plate since I don't want to try and machine that out of wood. I managed to find a model for a 7-slot I/O shield and expand it.

    The tray will be supported by 1" x 1" x 1/2" blocks, with a 3/8" hole through the middle to allow bolting the tray in place. The size of the bolts is more for the aesthetic than for practical need. The whole tray should slide out the back of the case once disconnected.

    I'd like to seal the compartment, but that requires a variety of connectors to be built into the motherboard tray. Until I get those figured out, the tray has some slots for power delivery and data connections.

    Without further ado, here it is!




    I'm not especially happy with the way that the support block at the bottom of the tray is covered by the last slot of the I/O shield. I could widen the tray, but that will make the case somewhat a-symmetrical unless I widen each edge, which adds up to a lot of extra space. Another option would be to just move the support block away from the I/O shield by an inch.
    That's a sweet rig in your sig, but does it fold?



    DRM 'manages access' in the same way that jail 'manages freedom.'

  5. #5
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    DVD-RW mod

    I'm a little stuck on the DVD-RW side of things. I have four options on how to make the DVD-RW:
    • Leave the DVD-RW out completely, use a USB/eSATA adaptor when needed
    • Use a tray-load DVD-RW, mod the tray to fit the look of the case.
    • Use a slot-load DVD-RW, conceal it behind a wall
    • Mod a DVD-RW to make it more suitable for the look of the case

    I like the last one; I like the idea of doing a top-load DVD-RW, but I have no idea how to make that work. Does anyone have a link to a top-load mod?
    That's a sweet rig in your sig, but does it fold?



    DRM 'manages access' in the same way that jail 'manages freedom.'

  6. #6
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    The Difference Engine, Part 4: Case Body Design

    I've put all the parts together now. The next step will be some detail work.

    Here's the case when everything is closed:

    I'm thinking of putting the temperature/flowrate monitoring beneath the front panel. In keeping
    with the aesthetic, I think that analog gauges are the way to go.

    Here's the open case:

    I'm not completely happy with the placement of the HDD tray. I also still need to decide what kind of DVD drive to use, how to mod it, and where to place the SSDs. I'm considering window-modding a couple of HDDs.

    Here's a shot of the MB area:
    That's a sweet rig in your sig, but does it fold?



    DRM 'manages access' in the same way that jail 'manages freedom.'

  7. #7
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    Re: The Difference Engine: Design Log

    I think that fan holes in the MB compartment would spoil the look, so I want to incorporate an air cooler into water loop. Rather than just connecting a radiator, I've been considering using a waterblock and a heatsink, since this would allow me to convert it to an air chiller/dehumidifier later on in the process. I have an old silverprop cyclone HE in my box and, given silverprop's use of brass styling, I think it would look just right. The problem is that silverprop put integrated hosebarbs into the cyclone, so I may have to use a small stretch of tubing to connect it.
    That's a sweet rig in your sig, but does it fold?



    DRM 'manages access' in the same way that jail 'manages freedom.'

  8. #8
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    A change is brewing.

    I've been working on how to implement a suitable temperature/flow monitoring system. The problem is that all the controllers I've seen work with a very non-steampunky display; typically LCD or VFD. This just won't do. I need something that fits with the rest of the design I've been putting together.

    Originally, I wanted to use analogue panel meters, but looking at the ones that are available, none of them really have the look I was going for. So I started looking into other options.

    I came across a link for a nixie tube bar-graph recently, and that just seems right. Obviously, you won't be able to read a precise value from these tubes, but I think that's okay. The monitoring system will allow for reading that data into a GUI. I could also provide a button for each monitored value, which would cause the corresponding measurement to be displayed on a set of numeric nixie tubes as well as the bar-graph.

    The values that I plan to measure are:
    HSF temperatures for: CPU1, (CPU2?), GPU1, (GPU2?), motherboard
    Water temperature at: Radiator outlet, Radiator inlet.
    Air temperatures: MB chamber, air chiller inlet, outlet
    Flow rate through the loop
    Humidity of MB chamber

    I won't display fan speed/pump RPM monitoring, though those will be accessible through a GUI.

    Am I missing anything?
    That's a sweet rig in your sig, but does it fold?



    DRM 'manages access' in the same way that jail 'manages freedom.'

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