The major function of the computer case is not only to protect the inner components of the PC, but also to emphasise its aesthetic value in home design. In general, one is guided but his/her feelings and emotions when choosing a computer case. Yet, computer cases are practically no different from each other, so one has to decide on the existent computer case stock provided by various stores, rather than personal wishes. The only way to solve this problem is to order a designer computer case produced according to one’s preferences.
The computer case is a functional element protecting inner PC components from outer mechanical hazards, upkeeping the standard temperature inside, screening electromagnetic radiation and serving as a base for the future modification of the system. Computer cases are industrially produced out of the mixture of steel, aluminium and plastic. For creative purposes one can use wood and organic glass.
The computer case is composed of:
• Motherboard with a pre-installed processor, RAM and expansion card (video card, sound card, network interface controller)
• Drive openings – hard discs, optical disc drive, etc.
• Power supply
• Front panel with switch on/off and reload buttons, battery indicators and, optionally, headphone and microphone jugs, as well as data transmission interfaces.
• Horizontal (size is indicated in millimeters):
• Desktop (533×419×152)
• FootPrint (406×406×152)
• SlimLine (406×406×101)
• UltraSlimLine (381×352×75)
• Vertical (size is indicated in millimeters):
• MiniTower (152×432×432)
• MidiTower (173×432×490)
• BigTower (190×482×820)
• SuperFullTower (different sizes)
Stone-made computer case, the «Black Diamond» project
You can find all the photographs related to the project in the Gallery section of the site.
It took quite a while to come across the idea of creating a computer case out of natural stone. Since the earliest days of my childhood I have been attracted to computers. Yet, this attraction was mainly based on the notion of computers as the highest achievement of science and technology, and not as something pertaining to the domain of the virtual world. I have been always greatly excited by the multitude of shapes that expensive computer parts could possibly take. One day I have discovered the idea of «modding».
Modding stands for the altering of the structure and design of the electronic devices for the purpose of enhacing their outer appearance, as well as their technical characteristics. In general, modding involves changing the appearance of computers and their peripheral parts. Enhancement of mobile devices is known as «mobbing».
Computer cases are most frequently used as objects of modding. Modernised computer cases are known as casemodes, or simply modes. If a computer case has been produced from the scratch, then it becomes known as a custom-case, or simply custom. Modified peripheral devices (eg. monitors, key-boards, mouses, web-cams, etc.) are known as modes.
A person who is interested in modding is known as a modder.
I was 15 when I created my first mod. It was a simple cheap case of my desk-top computer. All the enhancements that I made at that time were quite classical: four trigonal openings at the side of the case, changing its color, replacing the side panel with the one made out of organic glass, inserting new wiring, neon lighting, installing additional ventilators together with the panel regulating their speed and monitoring temperatures. My first modding experiment was completed perfectly, as I had no clear instructions to follow, or any manuals to guide my work. Unfortunately, this computer case has been sold, and I have no photographs to share.
For some time I have set modding aside. Yet, my desire to own the latest computer with the highest possible output has never left me. So, when I saved enough means to purchase the most expensive computer parts, I have seriously decided to create something unprecedented, a computer case never seen before. As my job is directly conneted with natural stone, I have realized that creating a stone-made computer case would be something really extraordinary.
One cannot normally find a computer case created out of natural stone. Yet, as it is my favourite buiding material, I decided to experiment with its qualities. I had several options for the «Black Diamond» project. At first, my choice fell on onyx because of its striking appearance. There is no doubt that onyx-made computer case would have been extraordinary looking, as its texture could have been fully due to internal lighting. At the same time, onyx is extremely fragile. This would have made it extremely difficult to cut the material.
Everything depends on the quality of hydroabrasive cutting. This is the reason why I decided not to take the risk, as the price of onyx starts from 400 euro per every square meter. Thus, I chose the second variant, which was the composite of quartz. The composite of quartz is an artificial stone made out of the mixture of natural stone, tar and different additives. Nearly 95% of this mixture consists of natural marble, quartz or granit, and only 5 % of high-quality tar, pigments and additives. The quartz composite that I chose was Aurora Nocturna, which consists not only of quartz, but also of mirror particles, which makes its appearance extremely attractive. In addition, the presence of tar in its structure makes it much more durable and harder than commonplace marble. The price of the quartz composite is 120 euro per square meter.
The «Black Diamond» project is based on the computer case Corsair Obsidian Series 800D, which is widely used by modders all over the world. Yet, despite the fact that «Black Diamond» is based on the major elements of Corsair, it is not its mere copy, but a completely separate project conducted from the scratch.
As far as planning is concerned, every part of the case has been designed on paper in its real-life dimensions. It might seem to be quite an outdated way of design, however I had to make sure that every part of the case would fit together with the elements of water cooling system. I had no chance to make a mistake, so as not to waste natural stone materials in the process of cutting.
It is evident that paper-based plans could not be used in the process of hydroabrasive cutting. So, they had to be transformed into the AutoCad format, which was used by the stone-cutting machine.
Cutting of the quartz composite for the «Black Diamond» project underwent 2 stages. To begin with, all the elements of the computer case had to be cut out of stone with the help of the stone-cutting machine. It was not very difficult as this type of cutting is quite simple in its nature.
The second stage involved hydroabrasive cutting, which presupposes the use of water or water-based liquids together with abrasive materials at high speed and high preassure. In nature this process is known as water erosion.
Hydroabrasive cutting was used to create all inner and outer openings in the body of the computer case. The extreme precision of this method of cutting allowed to achieve the necessary size of the opennings down to every millimeter. The only risk that I had to keep in mind was that the stone plate could be broken in places where the water stream was too close to its edge at the moment of water discharge. However, this did not happen due to the high quality of the material.
Industrial polishing is present only at one side of the stone plate. However, the side parts of the computer case were designed to be made out of glass, which allowed to see all the inner elements of the case. This is the major reason why I had to polish the back sides of all stone plates used for the construction of the case. This is quite difficult as quartz composite can be only polished with water, bacause dry polishing can cause the melting of tar in its structure. Polishing is conducted with the help of various polishing heads of different granulation.
There are several points one has to keep in mind when polishing stone with water. It is very difficult to guess the quality of a polishing head. The stone changes its colour when it becomes submereged
in water. So, one has to dry out the stone after using every single polishing head to detect the faults of polishing. The results may be quite tragic if one just changes the heads without inspecting the stone after polishing.
The other task to complete, was to polish the edges of stone plates. This is not so difficult, as the relative size of edges is not so big. What is more, the result can be reached much faster.
After all the elements had been polished, I decided to apply polishing wax to the surface of every stone plate to make their outer appearance even more striking.
For drilling I have used PROXXON drilling machine with diamond heads. It took quite a long time to complete this procedure. Most of the openings had to be through in their nature, as all ventilators and radiators had to be screwed to the body of the case. The only exception was the opening for the mother card. Its pillars had to be glued to the wall of the case.
As far as mother card pillars are concerned, the drilling has been successfully completed thanks to the paper-based plans designed on the one to one scale. I fixed the pillars to the motherboard and applied it to the paper-based plan. This allowed me to adjust it in accordance with the other elements of the computer case and to mark the pillars on the plan. As a result, this allowed me to get the real imprints of the pillars and to fix them to the inner wall of the case. The mother card has been glued with the help of the Soudal Fix All adhesive, which is ideal for such like purposes.
When polishing and drilling had been finished, it was natural to put all the constituent parts together. A two-component adhesive for stone is an unsubstitutable element used by every mason. I used the colourless glue GENERAL for vertical surfaces. This adhesive is based on polyester tar, which is suitable for gluing together all kinds of stone (marble, onyx, granit, artificial stone, etc.). It is known for its high speed of adhesion and extreme durability. Also, I used the special black pigment for changing the original colour of the adhesive.
It was of paramount importance not to break the 90° angle when gluing all the components together, which, otherwise, could not have fit together. In addition, it would have been impossible to fix this problem.
Of course, there are ways to unglue any stone object. For this purpose one would need an industrial dryer that creates a stream of hot air, which, in its turn, heats up the stone and the layer of glue holding it together. As a result of intensive heating, glue
loses its active characteristics and starts peeling off the surface. However, this is not the best method to use when working with the quartz composite, as it is composed of similar tars. No doubt, it would be impossible to break the structure of the quartz composite, yet one can easily deform long and thin component parts as a result of intensive heating.
I succeeded in gluing together all the components of the computer case from the first try. The final stage in the process of gluing, preceeding the installation of the water cooling system, was applying special wax to its surface, which added special luster and filled in micro cracks and openings. The black colour of the case became even more intensive.
Finally, after finishing all the work on the computer case itself, the time has come to install the water cooling system and the remaining components. Just a quick notice: the computer case has been planned in such a way that the position, size and nature of its inner elements have no difference from the industrially manufactured ones. Therefore, all the outdated components can be easily substituted any time.
I have used the following components for the computer case:
Motherboard: Asus Rampage III Extreme
Processor: Intel Core i7 990 Extreme Edition
RAM: Corsair Dominator GT (CMT12GX3M6A1866C9)
Graphics Card: ASUS ENGTX 580 DCII/2DIS/1536MD5 (2 шт.)
Sound Card: ASUS Xonar Xense
Оptical disc drive: ASUS BW-12B1LT
Power supply: Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold 1200ATX
1. Corsair Force Series 120Gb SATA 6Gb/s
2. Western Digital Caviar Black 2Tb SATA 6Gb/s
3. Western Digital Caviar Green 3Tb SATA 6Gb/s (3 items)
I. First of all, I fixed the motherboard together with the pillars for the expansion card. This was my starting point. I fixed the water block EK-FB RE3 onto the surface of the mother card in advance. The same was true of the processor water block EK-SUPREME HF and the operational memory water block EK RAM Dominator. The installation of the mother card was followed by the installation of the video card with the water block EK-FC580 DCII installed by the manufacturer.
II. The second step was to install the power supply and all the necessary wiring, which I had enhanced beforehand. I had dressed all the wires coming out of the battery into special braiding, which not only protected the wires, but also added additional aesthetic colouring. The brand that I used for braiding was Bitspower, which shines in neon lighting.
I had also added braiding to all other wires present in the computer case. It was quite a tiring process as braiding had to be installed with the help of shrink sleeving. Beforehand, I had to take out every contact out of the connector and not to forget the position of the slot that they initially belonged to. For this purpose I used Modding Tool Kit produced by Lamptron, as well as Dremel VersaTip gas soldering-iron.
III. After finishing all the work with the wiring, I turned to the installation of the water cooling system, namely its radiators, ventilators, and air filters, as well as its reservoir, hoses and other controlling and monitoring components.
It took very little time to install all the elements due to the standard size of the computer case and its inner components. The process was no different from installing the elements into the industrially manufactured computer case.
IV. The final task was to install inner lighiting and to fill it up with a refrigerant.
Another reason that motivated me to embark on this project was the competition held by Cooler Master and named Case Mod Competition 2012. It began in August 2012 and finished on December 10, 2012. I had to complete the project until this deadline, which I ultimately failed to do. I could not manage to finish the side doors of the computer case, as well as its inner lighting. So, I registered it for the competition without fully finishing the project. Yet, it was accepted as it was. I did not manage to win the main prize, however, as we all know it, it is not the winning, but the participation that does really matter. After that, I had no time limitations and could complete the body of the case.
The major difficulty in the “Black Diamond” project was the stone work and planning. Yet, this is my daily occupation, so I was not overburdened by that. I have not written much about the installation of the water cooling system and other computer parts, as I just had to follow the manual provided by the manufacturer.
Below, you can watch a video about the «Black Diamond» project. In addition, to talk about modding is one thing, but to become involved in real-life projects is quite different. I have spent just one evening for writing this article. However, it took me about one year to finish the project. I have given «Black Diamond» a part of my soul. So, it is not a mere soulless box, but a creation which resembles my spirit.