Introduction: Laser Cut Mini-ITX Haiku-OS.org Computer Case

Picture of Laser Cut Mini-ITX Haiku-OS.org Computer Case

This Instructable is designed to show you how to make your own Laser cut Mini-ITX computer case.

This is dedicated to Haiku, inc (check them out at www.haiku-os.org) , I'll implement a USB based quad or octal blinkenlights later... for now it's almost perfect, other than two panels need to be changed to make it a usable case (the bottom panel has two extra cut lines where the vents are, and the backplane needs the mounting holes for the motherboard to be reversed... oops!), also the kerf is a little larger now, so I might need to move some cut pieces so they can fit together more snugly... the material thicknesses have changed a little for bamboo... nothing that won't be fixed by leaving some of the tape on a few joining areas.

Yes I am a VW nut... service poster on my wall and everything!

There is a nice low cost service that can cut this computer case for you called www.ponoko.com and we use them regularly for doing custom computer cases.

Computer case will be:
Screwless, minus mounting of the 2.5" hard drive, Slimline DVD/BR drive, and an externally powered Mini ITX Motherboard
Laser cut power button
Two front mounted USB connections
All parts small enough to fit on an Epilog Zing table
Optimized to reduce plastic waste
Made of Bamboo
Micro-Tower
Fanless, Cooled by convection (but you can use fans)
No commercial use of this design or any derivative work unless you previously license it from me.

Step 1: Holes Holes Everywhere...

Picture of Holes Holes Everywhere...

First thing is to find where all of these lovely holes go... and realize that I'm not the best sketcher in the world (give me time and I can do works of art... this is a sketch... gotta get it down on paper somehow)

You've got:
Holes on the back for the motherboard, power supply input, Expansion Card
Holes on the front for the power button, LED, USB, and DVD Drive
Holes on the backplane for the Motherboard Mounting, and expansion card
Holes for Mounting the Hard Drive
Holes for Mounting the DVD drive

There are also clearance issues to account for, every motherboard form factor has lots of mechanical specifications. Luckily there's a website for this: http://www.formfactors.org/ . They will have every measurement you will need to make your own case from scratch, if you don't have access to the internet (for whatever reason) you can also measure your parts with a micrometer.

Where to go from here:
I always start with the design, and look of the case first, then work on the motherboard dimensions and mounting points since it's the largest part, then to the hard drive and dvd.

I'm going to be making this as a fairly standard form factor case, motherboard vertical, cdrom and hard drive up top, mini tower look.

The Motherboard is very small in comparison to an ATX or uATX form factor, it's only 170mm x 170mm, or about 7"x7" and was created by Via in Taiwan. I won seventh place in an international design competition way back in 2001 by via arena using this motherboard, so it's still has a soft spot in my heart. The mounting points used from the ATX specification are C,F,H, and J, I use about a 1/4" standoff in this design (see the next page...)

I will be using a Slimline DVD drive, and 2.5" hard drive (you can even use a SSD if you want)

I'm lucky to have designed hundreds of computer cases, so you will probably have to read a little between the lines, and figure a few things out, but if you comment on the page you have an issue with, I will make sure to improve the instructable for future people.

Start with the design
I start with the base, make sure there are points where air can flow, I make an accounting for a flat bottom with vent holes in it. I also try to make the base integrate with the sides of the computer case, giving it a nice top to bottom flow... a very eastern look... to save time since I am trying to make the deadline, I'm just going to use some simple shapes, nothing fancy, and there will be some screws visible on the side where the motherboard is, but I can make an adjustment to the design as I've accounted for extra material needed for a nice cover. The cables will come out the back as expected in most tower configurations.

I have included the specifications for both ATX and Mini-ITX so you can have the precise measurements.

Step 2: Putting It Down in CAD

Picture of Putting It Down in CAD

I use a variety of CAD software, in this example I'm using AUTOCAD, I have used Pro-E, and Solidworks when I need to make a metal shell for FCC reasons, but since we're making something that can be laser cut... 2d panels, it's easy enough to do it in cad.

Start with a blank slate

Draw the dimensions of the motherboard, hard drive, dvd drive and all screw holes, keep all of the boundary lines in a separate layer so they can be hidden when you cut.

If you haven't ever tried to make a box out of paper, now's the time.
Measure four equal size boxes next to each other.
Add two boxes onto the third box above and below, it should look something like a cross when you are done.
Cut the outline only, and fold the pieces together.
It's a simple paper box, and a basic idea of what we are doing in a single plane on auto-cad.

Now down to the meat!

The material thickness is .118" and with acrylic I usually don't make too many holes closer than 1/2" using this thickness of material.. it's not nearly as robust as a poly carbonate like Lexan, however Lexan doesn't cut well with a CO2 Laser. Another material I like to use is Bamboo Plywood, and it's also available in .118"

Lay out where the motherboard, hard drive, and cdrom go, then make allowances for the material between them.

Then start figuring out how you want it to go together... I'm making this from the bottom up, it won't be very serviceable, but it will look very good.

I have designed:
1) 4 Feet, that slot together
2) 4 sides that lock the feet
3) 1 hard drive/DVD drive holder
4) 2 DVD drive mounts
5) 1 Bottom Plate
6) 1 top Plate
7) 4 Locking pieces above the top plate

The image attatched to this step shows how many lines go into just the prototype. At this stage you can cut this out in paper and it should slot together fairly easily with a bit of imagination...

Now let's add some slotting, Power Button and some ventilation and it should be fairly complete. most of this is just basic engineering, and I won't go into flow theory or volume of a computer case.

Send this off to the laser cutter, and then you get to assemble it... Still working on the 3d junk for ease of assembly...

Since this is the first revision, and I'm still waiting for me to win the Zing Laser (or I'll just submit it to ponoko, it's not 100% ready for consumption by everyone, but as Porsche Engineers love to say "im CAD Hat's Passt" or "It fits in CAD"
your mileage may vary at this time!

Step 3: Assembly

3D Exploded Model
Okay, so I'm still working on the 3d stuff... maybe I should have just sketched it in Pro-e...

Completed Example Parts List
Still Working on this as well.. but it'll be good... I swear!

Comments

zazenergy (author)2011-10-31

very thorough! do you have some photos of the final product you could share?

alphaseinor (author)zazenergy2012-10-09

Photos are up!

playful-geometer (author)2011-11-02

I thought this was a pretty nifty entry for the contest so I voted for it. I've found there are so few entries that actually exhibit creativity using a laser cutter so kudos for putting together something relevant. You can see my entry here if you like:Quasicrystal Star Lantern

Hey I like th quasicrystal star, it would look great in a bamboo veneer. voted on yours as well... thanks for the vote!

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