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[Work log] Corsair Air 240 - Replacing grills with windows

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
TL;DR - I have replaced side grills with polycarbonate windows in Corsair Air 240 case.

It all started when I saw Corsair Air 240 on sale, totaling around $40 after rebate, so I followed my impulse and bought it. I do not really have any plans for this case, so it sat idle for a few months. I like the looks of cases with horizontal motherboard tray and windows on both sides - CaseLabs S5 is the best example, however I already own CL TH10A for my main rig, Fractal Design ARC XL for another one, as well as Fractal Design Core 1000, so I could not justify buying yet another case, let alone an expensive one like CL. So it eventually occurred to me - what if I place Air 240 horizontally, remove the grills on both left and right sides, and install acrylic windows in there? Wouldn't that be cool?

Left - design sketch
Mid - shot of the first completed side panel
Right - work completed!

Jump to the last post - case is assembled!
Edited by cmpxchg8b - 10/20/15 at 8:47pm
post #2 of 19
Thread Starter 
I began by taking the case apart, and examining its internals. I must admit that I am really impressed by the engineering quality. The layout and the features are thought through really well. All 5 panels are removable; dedicated cage for 2.5" drives is super cute; sliding mounts for fans/radiators. The case is actually smaller than it looks in the pictures.

Disassembly gallery (Click to show)

Taking a closer look at the inner surface of a side panel:

It definitely helps to have the grill screw-mounted, however holes for screws are not level with the surface of the grill, which will make fitting the flat acrylic sheet cumbersome.

Side view with grill removed gives a glimpse of what clear window may look like:

I am still debating whether to remove the plastic grill bars, or to keep them. They do obscure the view through the window, however I am not sure whether I will be able to achieve clean look if I cut them away. Maybe fine sandpaper would help.

I also need to figure out what acrylic panel thickness would work the best. Do thick panels look good?
Edited by cmpxchg8b - 10/2/15 at 8:00pm
post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 
More inspection, design and planning. Inner surface of side panels has lots of protruding elements which would interfere with windows.

I set my mind on cutting the bars as cleanly as I can, leaving one rectangular opening.
Next problem is that mounting holes are not level with the surface, so I will either end up having 2 mm gap between the window and the panel, or I will have to trim these protrusions so that they are 2 mm shorter. Still deciding on this one.

There are two hooks that hold the stock mesh in place, 3.5 mm tall. I may use them to further secure windows in place.

At this point I went ahead and ordered 1/8" thick 24 x 12" clear acrylic sheet. If everything works right, it should be enough for both left and right windows - or at least I will have plenty of material to train on. I also ordered some tools for cutting acrylic and plastic.

Finally, for the lack of more substantial progress, I hooked up one of the fans that came along with the case to my toy mini-rig:

The fan is pretty quiet, and airflow seems decent. This looks like AF120 LED fan without the LEDs. I do feel a little bit of imbalance though when I hold the spinning fan in hand. It seems like a good value to get 3 of those fans along with the case.
post #4 of 19
Thread Starter 
Alright, that was enough talking. Let's do some irreparable damage modding, shall we?
I put on my robe and wizard hat...

I decided to give the rotary tool a try - while not the best tool for cutting plastic, it allowed me to do bulk of work with little effort. I actually destroyed two discs within the first minute, but then I got the right moves, and finished this part of the job using third one.

Removing most portion of the bars gives me clean right angle access to the remaining stubs - I left them on purpose as I am still figuring out what is the cleanest method for the final cut.

Not the cleanest cut possible - there is a fair amount of plastic melting, but with careful approach it is manageable and does not jam the disc. With some filing and buffing I hope to be able to achieve decent final look.
post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
New toys arrive! lmaosmiley.gif

EZ lock mandrel is day and night compared to the screw-based one. The new cut-off disc is of larger diameter and is more robust, which makes cutting plastic grill bars a lot easier.
Final cuts to remove the bars:

This is close enough, but needs more work for cleaner look.
Using file seems slow and tedious after the power tool, but gives enough control and precision.

This is not over yet though - back side of the door has 9 stand-offs, which are 2 mm above the surface of the door due to the shape of the stock grill. They need to be made level with the surface.
Before and after shot - the remaining depth of the screw hole is just barely enough, but seems to still hold the screw well.

I decide to call that a day and save the other 8 stand-offs for later.
Finally a glimpse of what the newly cut window will look like - I will need to remove part of metal frame originally designed as fans mounting location.

In the mean time, acrylic sheet has been shipped, and is on its way. More updates to follow!
post #6 of 19
This should be interesting. What will be your method of cooling as you are killing of the majority air intake.
post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 
I am keeping the front panel intact which has two 120 mm fans; rear has two fans as well, although those are only 80 mm. Back (bottom) door has vents around where the PSU's intake is. That's not a whole lot, but should be sufficient for a simple build.
post #8 of 19
Thread Starter 
Moving on - the rest of 8 mounting points are now trimmed level with the inner surface of the frame on which the window will rest - before and after shots:

One of the two panels is now complete, minus the window itself, of course:

12 x 24" 3 mm thick polycarbonate panel is en route, but will only arrive next week - in the meantime I have plenty of work on the second panel, as well as on the case frame.
post #9 of 19
Thread Starter 
Plastic sheet arrived today, earlier than expected! I realized only today that I actually ordered polycarbonate, not acrylic - which are two separate things. Polycarbonate is more durable, very hard to crack, and is also harder to cut. I had to score it multiple times and very deep in order to get a clean line. Less cracking will be helpful since I will need to drill holes close to the edge.

Stock grills have complex shape, and I will have to replicate it for the windows to fit mounting holes.

That's it for this mini-update, stay tuned, and I hope to make some progress over the weekend, and maybe finish the first panel!
post #10 of 19
Thread Starter 
Weekend was great, but I had almost no time to work on this project. Today I caught up, however, and the first window panel is nearly finished! I trimmed the rectangular piece of polycarbonate to fit the intricate shape of the side panel of the case. What remains is to drill 9 holes for screws, and assemble the panel. I am saving this for tomorrow, to double-check everything and maybe do a bit more of final trimming.

Polycarbonate turned out to be a great material to work with - it responds wonderfully to cutting, filing, drilling. It is very sturdy, so it may take more time to shape it right - but it is nearly impossible to crack it, even if I wanted to. I drilled holes literally less than a millimeter away from the edge, and there was zero cracking. Granted that I don't have experience with acrylic, I think it was fortunate that I ended up buying polycarbonate instead.
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