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Project: Hutch, a Qmicra v2 gets water

craigbru

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#1
Hello everyone! I've been modding for a while, and have various logs on quite a few other sites, but Mark (MKmods) finally talked me into registering here. To be honest, I had already been visiting this forum occasionally, but I'm not sure why I haven't bothered to register before now. Either way, I'm here now, and I'll attempt yo get you all up to speed on one of my ongoing projects. Since it's been underway for a while, you'll have to bear with me for a little cut and pasting... I apologize in advance if there are any inconsistencies, but I'll do my best to fill in the gaps and answer any questions you may have. So, let's begin!



Another project begins... In a change of pace however, this one isn't for me. It's for friend of mine, and since we couldn't come up with anything more creative, we'll be using his nickname "Hutch" as the project title. In true L.O.S.I.A.S. fashion, this project will fit in with everything else I've done. It won't be as extreme as my prior endeavors, but I'll still make very efficient use of space.

This time around, I'll be working with a PC Design Lab Qmicra v2. Hutch managed to procure one of these beauties after speaking with Dave Lalopa of PCDLAB. He requested one that had not yet been painted, and that's exactly what I received.

I took delivery of a surprising light and compact box...













After looking over the case inside and out, I've got to say that I'm impressed with it's engineering and build quality. The all aluminum case is also shockingly light. That doesn't mean it's flimsy, there just aren't any extraneous bits on it. Everything has a purpose... and that's exactly what I love in a case.

With the case probed and disassembled... the fun stuff is about to begin.
 

craigbru

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#2
Now that we've had a little preview of the case, it's time to go over my design goals for this case. The case comes ready for fitment of a 120mm dual radiator. That's quite a nice feature for a small form factor case. However, what do you do if you want more cooling power? Well, you add another radiator of course. That's exactly what I will be doing here. Now, this would be the first Qmicra with a pair of dual 120mm radiators, but it will be the first (to my knowledge) that doesn't make a sacrifice in doing so. Every other attempt has put a second radiator on the left side of the case, and in doing so, has sacrificed at least one slot on the motherboard. Also, when taking that approach, you immediately lose the hard drive caddy. Actually, you lose at least one caddy when adding to a radiator to the right side as well. So. you would then have lost both caddy's (4 drives), and a slot on the motherboard. That's completely unacceptable. I believe that the whole point in modding, is to add function or features, without compromising others.

So, with my inability to compromise, I've made a few basic decisions about the direction of this mod. I'm not going to lose any slots on the motherboard, I'm going to have room for 4 hard drives, there will be room for a pump and reservoir, and the interior well be kept clean and organized.

When you look at the interior of this case, there's really only one other good option for radiator placement. The front... However, in order to put a radiator there, I need to make a few changes. The stock location for the power switch simply won't do. It's time to break out the dremel...









Now that we've got the old center section and mesh out of the way, it's time to get some new mesh cut and put in place.







There we have it! We now have the area completely opened up, and can get the radiator placement figured out.
 

craigbru

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#3
With the front of the case newly revised, it's time to get a radiator mounted behind it. Looking at the area below the drive bays, you'll see that there are no provisions for mounting fans, let alone a radiator. That means we need to make a custom mount.

There are many different to ways to fabricate a mount, but I wanted something completely unobtrusive, and undeniably simple. Sometimes taking this approach is actually a little harder to plan out, than if I would simply cut out a mount and bolt it in place. However, I decided I didn't want to work around any mount, and to use what was already existing in the case to hold the radiator. So, what does that actually mean? The following pictures will tell the story...

We'll start with this. I used an extra drive bay cover to fabricate a lower radiator mount.



The radiator nicely cradled...



The mount sitting in the case.



The radiator sitting in position.



Okay, now at this point I've got a couple of issues I need to address. The radiator is sitting in place, but how do I keep it from sliding left to right? Also, after time, the mounts would wear in to the radiator casing and cause damage. Oh, and let's not forget about any possible vibration caused by the fans on the radiator... Well, we can't have any of that, can we? So, I decided to address all of the above issues with a decidedly simple solution.

These are silicon bumpers...



I cut a small slit in each one, and mounted them to the radiator.



With the bumpers in place, the radiator is mounted securely, and it's vibration is isolated from the rest of the case.



That takes care of the bottom of the radiator, but what about the top? I still need a similar method for attaching it as well. So, I break out the dremel again and cut notches in to the drive bay support.



Like a glove!



Finally, here is a shot with the radiator fully mounted. It looks like it belongs there. It's also isolated, yet completely secure. It also can be removed completely at a later date, and the case remains almost completely stock.



With the radiator out of the way, I'll work on mounting the pump next. Well, actually, I do have something else to finish up first... Look for the return of a little basement modding. I'm getting a new workshop!
 

craigbru

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#4
Okay guys, I've got a big non-update update for you. In case you are wondering why there's been no real mod updates, this is it. I've been trying to get some more work done in my basement. A new bathroom is part of it, but of more importance to me, is my new workshop. I'll finally have a decent place to get my work done!

So, here is a pic of my work area before construction started. Classy, isn't it?



I've started some framing work...













Starting to hang some sheetrock...











This weekend I think I'll be ready for primer and paint. Then I can concentrate on getting some workbenches in place. Stay tuned!
 

craigbru

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#5
Time flies when you're having fun, right? If that's true, then I've been having the time of my life. I finally have an update to show you, and it's been a long time coming. Although construction is finished, I still have some major organization to do in the new workshop. That will come soon enough, but the most important thing, is that I'm able get some modding done!

So, without another moments delay, let's get to those pics.









Now for a few pics of the workshop itself. I've got a nice big area for parts layout and cutting, but I'm only getting started with the details. I'll have plenty of storage, and everything will finally have a place. I've definitely taken a step up from the card table I was working on...







Finally, here are a few pictures of the new bathroom. I never did show any progress pics from the start, but I thought I'd show it to you anyway.







So, pending some final details with the shop, I'm finally back on track. Stay tuned!
 

craigbru

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#6
The last update left off with the mounting of the front radiator. The second radiator will be covered in a bit, but I need to get the pump mounting figured out first. The picture below represents the location where the pump will be mounted. It's up and out of the way, and should allow easy filling and maintenance. Just because the case is small, doesn't mean it needs to be difficult to work on. I'll be fabricating a new aluminum mount in the next day or two...



Next up... I've got to get placement of the second radiator figured out. The stock location won't work as it is. The case was never meant to have a radiator mounted up front, so a little revision is needed. I've got to move the mount about 2cm to the rear. Here you can see the tight clearances.





Now finally, as part of getting my shop in order, I've dug a little something out of retirement. It's my old Fisher stereo receiver. Granted, it may be 20 years old, but when purchased, it was an amazing piece of equipment. In fact, if you could judge an items worth by the number of buttons alone, then this thing is a king! I've got it attached to some cheap Philips speakers from an old home-theater-in-a-box, and wow... they never sounded so good. Certainly not audiophile quality, but dang nice for a shop. I can now listen to podcasts and watch Hulu loudly enough to drown out a dremel...



There's much more to come, including actual construction, so check back soon...
 

craigbru

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#7
Um... pay no attention to the amount of time that has passed between now and my last post... The date's are a lie, or the cake is, or something like that... :D

Part of the goal in modding this case was to ensure plenty of airflow. The radiators are only as good as the amount of airflow that moves through them. Once that air moves through them, it needs to have someplace to go. That led me to what you are about to see next. I'm going to cut out the sides of the case, and prepare to put mesh in it's place.

I'll be using the same mesh as the front, and have even copied the front's pattern for a fairly consistent look and feel.

Here is the first side taped out and ready for the dremel. The stock mesh will soon be history...




A little bit later, I'm left with the rough opening in the side of the case.



Here is the same side after being filed and sanded.



With one side cut, I can begin marking out the second side. Notice it's slightly different in layout than the first. The protrusion on the far side, will have a cut out for power and reset switches, as well as a USB port. The preceding items will be mounted to a panel on the case itself. That will allow the cover to be removed without the need to disconnect any cabling.



Up next will be the finished cutting on the second side, and some mesh placement. That also means I'm about to bring a new technique to the table. Stay tuned for the debut of the 'torch'...
 
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#8
OMG!!!! A basement for modding!

I WANT YOUR HOUSE!!!!

Great looking mod too, like the Rad idea :D
 

craigbru

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#9
The last update left off with me about to cut the second side of the case cover. So, that's where we'll pick up now. In the following picture, I've cut the hole, filed, and sanded it to a finished state. You can see the cutout behind which the power and reset buttons will find their new home.



Next up is to get the AC Ryan mesh cut down to size. Let the sparks fly!



All we need now is a little filing... I thought I'd show you something else as well. These slots are cut in to the top of my workbench with a few specific purposes in mind. It makes cutting and filing a breeze. All work is well supported, and there's even a tray underneath to catch all the filings and cuttings. This has made a world of difference compared to hanging work off the side of a bench.





With the mesh cut to shape, I now need to bend it to match the angles in the case cover. So, I pull out my little bending brake that proved it's worth during Project: Rogue's construction.



Finally I've got the mesh sitting in place. It fits well, so no further modifying is needed.



With the mesh all ready to go, the next update will find it attached to the cover a little more permanently...
 

craigbru

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#10
Brazing... A sound idea, with execution caveats. I've talked about the technique in past posts, and have been really looking forward to putting it to use in my modding. So, with a few sticks of HTS-2000 and my torch, I made a few practice runs with great success. However, with the reality of using the actual case cover, things turned out a little differently...

I was having problems with getting the aluminum hot enough without causing warping. Originally, I didn't think this would have been an issue, as the HTS-2000's melting temperature is 500 degrees below that of the aluminum. Well, there's a big difference between melting point and the metal simply becoming more flexible as heat was applied. Not one to give up, I thought it might be a mounting and support issue. I tried several different methods, before ultimately deciding that maybe brazing wasn't the best course of action at the moment.

So what went wrong? It was really quite simple in the end. The area I was trying to braze was a relatively narrow piece of aluminum. It was a little over 16 mm in width. The torch was applying a lot of heat in small area, and with insufficient supporting material, it was softening the metal before getting hot enough to melt the rod. It's something that I didn't come across in all my practice, as I was using larger pieces of aluminum. There was more metal to dissipate the heat, prevent warping, and still allow the aluminum to reach the HTS-2000's melting temperature.

While I may not have been able to use the brazing technique in this particular instance, the method still has it's place. I'll definitely use it again in the future, under more ideal conditions.

Now that brazing is off the table, I fall back to good ol' JB Weld. It will still do an outstanding job, and that brings us to the following pics...





Up next will be the the finished cover, and then I'm back to case details...
 

craigbru

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#11
Finally, after a few delays, and a much busier than anticipated summer, I've got the case cover finished. It just needs a little finish sanding, and it's ready for primer and paint.

Here I've got the mesh marked out and ready for cutting. I always mark my cut lines with masking tape. It makes it much easier to see during cutting. It also makes it pretty easy to file straight after the cutting is done. I just file right up to the edge of the tape, pull it off, and then sand the edges.



After a little JB Weld, the mesh is in place.



Let's get it on the case!





With the case cover done, I'm moving on to the PSU extension...
 

craigbru

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#12
So, how about another update?

Of all the things I really like about the Qmicra case, there is one thing I don't... If you want to use a higher wattage power supply, you are limited to around 18 cm in length. Unfortunately, at that length, you run the risk of interference with any optical devices put in the bays. Well, that's exactly what has happened here. One quick fix would be to drop the drive to the lowest bay, but it's not an option I have with the radiator placed where it is. So, the decision was made to add an extension to the case.

Here is a quick idea of where the extension will be placed.



After a little bit of filing, I clamped the extension in place, and drilled the holes.





Once drilled, it will be held in place with socket cap screws.



With the extension done, I'll be moving on to the fan controller. Stay tuned!
 

craigbru

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#13
OMG!!!! A basement for modding!

I WANT YOUR HOUSE!!!!

Great looking mod too, like the Rad idea :D
Haha, even though I don't have the log posted here, there was quite a bit of basement modding that took place during my Rogue mod. I just now finally finished it. :)

Thanks man!
 

MKmods

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#14
Its hard for people to imagine all the work involved in posting multiple logs. Im really glad ur here Craig, you have so many amazing ideas/skills to share with the community.:respect:
 
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#15
Hey another Qmicra builder.:respect:

What do you think about those heavy scratches it ships with? That was my only complaint.

Love what you did with the sides.
 

MKmods

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#16
speaking of amazing skills;)
 

craigbru

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#17
Its hard for people to imagine all the work involved in posting multiple logs. Im really glad ur here Craig, you have so many amazing ideas/skills to share with the community.:respect:
It's so true. I'm actually pretty glad I didn't have the Rogue log spread over as many forums as I do with this project. I don't think I could have kept up. I always make a point to address every comment though. I figure if people are taking the time to comment in the first place, they deserve a response.

I am glad to be here Mark. There seems to be a pretty strong sense of community, and that's always something I can appreciate!

Hey another Qmicra builder.:respect:

What do you think about those heavy scratches it ships with? That was my only complaint.

Love what you did with the sides.
Wow, that's a pretty cool project you did. Your daughter is very lucky!

I'm definitely not a fan of the scratches. It's going to take a decent amount of surface prep before paint. Although, I really don't have much of the original case left... :D
 
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#18
Thanks Craig for allowing us to see these logs! Something sweet... CD... Hands down I never like pink, but I'd sport that case! :D
 

craigbru

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#19
Thanks Craig for allowing us to see these logs! Something sweet... CD... Hands down I never like pink, but I'd sport that case! :D

Thanks man! It's my pleasure.


As a sidenote, since I'm new here, can anyone tell me where the best place to post a planning thread would be? I've not started much in the way of work, but have quite a few renders, and CAD screenshots of my next project, and I'd like to get everyone up to speed on it.
 
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#20
Thanks man! It's my pleasure.


As a sidenote, since I'm new here, can anyone tell me where the best place to post a planning thread would be? I've not started much in the way of work, but have quite a few renders, and CAD screenshots of my next project, and I'd like to get everyone up to speed on it.
Just throw it in the Project logs.. We need to start a thread in Software on CAD/Google Sketch projects... But, I'd do it in Project logs for next project. That way you have everything going on.
 

craigbru

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#21
Just throw it in the Project logs.. We need to start a thread in Software on CAD/Google Sketch projects... But, I'd do it in Project logs for next project. That way you have everything going on.
Thanks for the input. I'll get it posted after I get back from lunch. :D
 
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#22
nice to see your posting your worklog here too!
 
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#23
Craig, I know it's too late for this project, but did you ever consider clamping some wood to the piece you wanted to braze to give it some temporary structural support? Burnt wood is not too bad a smell, and it shouldn't steal too much heat from the piece.
 

craigbru

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#24
nice to see your posting your worklog here too!
Thanks!

Craig, I know it's too late for this project, but did you ever consider clamping some wood to the piece you wanted to braze to give it some temporary structural support? Burnt wood is not too bad a smell, and it shouldn't steal too much heat from the piece.
I had considered using some sort of clampage, but hadn't put much thought in to using wood. That's a good idea, and I'll have to experiment with scrap at a later date. I do think the process has value, I just couldn't get the kinks worked out with the time I had.