Custom Front Panel USB Type-C Port
I ordered this case with the USB 3.0 and Audio panel option, which gives you four USB 3 ports along with headphone and microphone jacks. When CaseLabs announced the new Magnum SMA8-A Revision case it was going to have an updated I/O panel with a USB Type-C port, and they would eventually be made available separately if you wanted to update an existing CaseLabs case.
This sounded good to me, might as well have the latest port available, and my motherboard has a USB Type-C header. Someone posted a picture of the new I/O panel on the CaseLabs owners club thread, here it is.
First off, I do not need or want the HDMI port in front, I’m sure it’ll be handy for people using it for VR, but I plan to run four monitors which is the maximum number of monitors that Nvidia cards can use, so I would have to cut the cable off the back of the I/O panel, or leave an HDMI cable hanging inside the case. Plus I did not realize that the Type-C port also eliminated two of the regular USB 3 ports. I often use three of the front ports on my main rig at the same time, so I did not want to lose two front USB 3 ports.
Looking for alternatives I found this USB Type-C Cable made by Lian Li. I like the 90° bend on the motherboard end. Here’s the cable out of the box.
It has some heat shrink over this end of the cable. I’m not sure why it’s there, but I took off the heat shrink to see what was under there, maybe there was a way to lengthen or shorten the cable. As I suspected, there is special shielding on the wires, and any attempt to change the length of the wires will certainly degrade the signal quality. I do not understand why there is heat shrink there instead of the outer cable covering running the length of the cable.
Here’s a test fit of the cable. There’s an unused reservoir mount screw hole I can use to screw a clip on the middle of the cable.
My plan is to cut a hole in the single flex bay cover that goes on top. Due to cable length it will have to go in this area.
Here you can better see the inside of the cable where the heat shrink is removed.
First thing is to somehow sleeve this cable. I could almost get MDPC-X sata sleeving over the cable, except for the 90° bend end of the cable is square, and the corners are just big enough to not let the sleeve go over it. I took a file and filed the square edges round. I wasn’t sure if I would get into the actual connector portion or not, and did risk ruining the cable. This picture shows after I have one corner rounded off.
This allowed me to just barely get the sata sleeve over the cable. I wrapped the bare wire section where the heat shrink was with with electrical tape and sleeved the cable.
Next I marked the spot and drilled three holes where I want the port to be in the flex bay cover. I then used very small round and flat files to get the opening just the right size to barely get the port end through. I do have an extra single flex bay cover powder coated red just in case this does not turn out how I like it.
Nice fit, but it sticks a little too far out the front.
Before this I did use a piece of scrape sheet metal to make a test mounting. My test piece had a perfect hole already, so I cut a small square out of that sheet metal and glued it to the end of the cable. That should make it fit more flush in front.
I could have just drilled two more holes in the flex bay cover and put two small machine screws through to secure the cable to the flex bay cover, but I really wanted to make it a cleaner look, with just the port and no screws. On my test mounting I attempted to epoxy nuts to the inside, so that I could unscrew the cable if I ever wanted to, but it was just not strong enough.
I decided to use JB Weld two part epoxy and just epoxy the cable into place from the back side. The back side won’t show so it will be ok. The JB Weld sets up in about five minutes which can be good or bad. I did several practice runs with these two clamps before I mixed up the epoxy.
The practice went perfect, but once I was working with the actual epoxy and putting the clamps on… of course the whole thing explodes and snaps apart, the cable comes out, epoxy is dripping everywhere, I realized that I did not put any masking tape back on the front of the flex bay cover, and there is epoxy on there now, so I wipe it off put it together, and again it snaps apart! Now I also have epoxy on the clamp surfaces too
I’m working in my garage because the fumes from this epoxy last for over a week, I have a bag of these clamps in my work shop, so rather than try to clean the clamps, I decide run around to the work shop on the other side of the house, get more clamps, meanwhile I’m running out of time before the epoxy sets up and ruins everything if it’s not in place properly, or I end up with epoxy on the uncovered front of the flex bay! I was so mad at myself for not putting masking tape on the front.
I just barely got the front wiped off and it all together properly when the epoxy started to harden. I got it done just in time, although I did have to make a second batch of epoxy to add a little more on.
Let’s see how the finished project looks installed.
Here’s the front view. Notice the port is similar size and shape to the front ventilation slots. I would have loved to put this in the middle of the flex bay, but the cable was just not long enough.
Here’s a slick little USB drive. It has a USB Type-C connector on one end, and the slider on the side slides out to a standard USB 3.1 on the other side, so you can use this drive in either type of port.
Here’s a look with the hard drive cage installed.