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8 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
This has been and on again, off again project for several years now but this time I'm gonna finish it. Dammit!
All acrylic scratch build, custom water cooling and more.

Components (Updated March 2016)
Motherboard - Asus Z-170 Maximus VIII Formula
CPU - I7-6700K
GPU - GTX 980 Ti
Storage: Samsung 950 Pro PCIe in

Water-cooling Components
3 - Aquacomputer 120 Modularity Radiators
Koolance CPU Block
EK Full Cover GPU Block
MCP35X Pump

After finishing up my practice cube to learn a bit about working with acrylic, I jumped in to the real thing. It was definitely a good idea to start on a practice piece first before I started hacking up expensive sheets of 3/8" acrylic. I learned a lot and will hopefully avoid some of the same mistakes. Here is as far as I took the practice piece:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6387064857/
IMG_0394 by andym2712, on Flickr

It gave me a very good idea of what the materials will look like on the real thing and I was very pleased with how it turned out (for being just a practice piece). The real case is proving to be much more challenging! My previous PC was a Banchetto 101 rack and I really liked the look of the glass-like plexi panels. But I wanted an enclosed case and more room for water-cooling. The plan is to build a cube out of 3/8" clear acrylic, with 1/8" black INSIDE the clear to hold things together and mount what needs mounting. Having the clear on the outside gives it a great, floating, bubble look. The difference is not that evident in the photos, but the difference between black on clear and clear on black is HUGE. Clear on black looks so much more polished but it is also much harder to build that way since every hole and cut is exposed - there are no trim pieces to cover anything up.

I also wanted to do away with drive cages all together. No optical drive and just 2 or 3 SSDs mounted in something other than a cage. I also really wanted to try out some of the new Aquacomputer Modularity radiators. I ordered 3 of the 240mm ones and waited patiently. The rest of the gear is mostly recycled from my previous system. Everything is watercooled except the VRAM (I've just never liked a video card enough to invest in a full cover block.

So far I like the new radiators - if for no other reason than they look different - they have 6 (!) ports for all sorts of configurations. But I'm not sure that the "modular-less" of them is really all that useful for most people.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6541079845/
IMG_0516 by andym2712, on Flickr

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6541073673/
IMG_0515 by andym2712, on Flickr

I also wanted to try some new fans and a controller. I wanted a controller that could control fan speed and pump speed and display flow and water temps on an LCD. The Koolance was the only one that I found that would do all of that. I really wanted to like the aquaero, but I couldn't get passed the need to use LCD Hype (Bleh!) and add on an expansion card to handle the pump. Maybe I'm wrong about it, but that's the best info I could find.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6541070465/
IMG_0519 by andym2712, on Flickr

My plan is to have only 2 fans running when at idle, then have the other 4 come on as water temperature increases and maybe increase the flow rate. It should be totally silent at idle and close to silent at full load, but we'll see how that goes.

But anyway - I messed around in sketch up enough to determine that an 18" cube was a good fit and once I got the radiators in I played around with various layouts and ultimately ended up back where I started - 3 radiators in a "U" with the PSU in the back and a horizontal mobo tray. Sorta like this:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6541068997/
IMG_0521 by andym2712, on Flickr

I started out much like I did on the practice piece. I cut out the 4 posts and put in the brass inserts. (Thanks Phinix for the idea). Just drill a hole (using a specialized acrylic bit!) then just heat them up with a soldering iron and they slide right in and are super solid! I had to cut a bunch of the inserts in half in order for them to fit in the same place on opposite sides.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6541078645/
IMG_0536 by andym2712, on Flickr

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6541081387/
IMG_0578 by andym2712, on Flickr

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6387064001/
IMG_0392 by andym2712, on Flickr

Then I stared following my golden rule when working with thick acrylic. Thick acrylic is not easy to cut. Go too slow and it melts, too fast and it chips, use the wrong blade or drill bit or even drop it and you might be hosed. BUT - it's super easy to cut with a flush-cut router bit on a router table. So I make every piece out of wood first, tape it to the wood and route away. I'm using mdf which is about perfect. It's cheap and easy to cut with a table saw or a scroll saw. And I get the added bonus of test fitting each piece before its committed to plastic. If its not right or I change my mind (often) I haven't wasted $30+ on a piece of plastic.

I started by mounting the PSU to the bottom sheet of acrylic. I had to do a little modding to the PSU because of the way I wanted to mount it which I described here. I wanted the fan mount to be the main structural attachment.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6541078229/
IMG_0518 by andym2712, on Flickr

Once I had the base started and the 4 posts in place, I cut out the 5 main panels out of MDF and fitted them.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6541072485/
IMG_0531 by andym2712, on Flickr

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6541070865/
IMG_0556 by andym2712, on Flickr

Now I can start working on each side one a time going from the bottom up and inside out. 3 of the bottom side panels all have radiators and are the same. So I made one template and just copied it onto the 1/8" black acrylic.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6541075877/
IMG_0612 by andym2712, on Flickr

Then I started trying to figure out what I wanted to do for radiator grills. I got some awesome mesh from a Hot Rod shop called Kris Kustoms that looks great and makes killer grills:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6415799953/
small oval perf by andym2712, on Flickr

small oval perf by andym2712, on Flickr

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6541070085/
IMG_0597 by andym2712, on Flickr

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6547044135/
IMG_0586 by andym2712, on Flickr

The Mobo tray was pretty simple. I just drew a 14" radius on 3 sides and marked the holes for the stand offs, then copy onto acrylic.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6541076691/
IMG_0568 by andym2712, on Flickr

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6541079035/
IMG_0573 by andym2712, on Flickr

Mounting the tray was a little tricky. I wanted to notch the legs at a 45 so the tray would sit in there flush. I don't have any photos of how I did it, but it involved several passes on the table saw (with the legs propped up 45) and lots of filing. But it turned out nice.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6541079461/
IMG_0582 by andym2712, on Flickr

Here is a picture of how I did the grills. I just sandwiched the mesh between pieces of acrylic. I'm really happy with how clean it looks from the front and back.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6541073293/
IMG_0580 by andym2712, on Flickr

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6541071679/
IMG_0584 by andym2712, on Flickr

Next up I had to work out how to handle the water flow. I wanted to use as little hose as possible and keep it as clean as possible. Even though those rads have 6(!) ports each, it still took forever to figure out an efficient way to route it all. It gave me a headache staring at it but I had to figure it out before I could commit to mounting the radiators. I'm going to end up mounting the pump upside down to the bottom of the mobo tray. I also got to plug the fans in and see how quiet they are. (about the same as a yate-loon IMO)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6547045931/
IMG_0616 by andym2712, on Flickr

Next up I decided to tackle the back panel. I drilled the holes for the PSU and decided to put the fan controller right there on top of it. It fit nice and I didn't really have a place in mind for it since I have no drive bays. Shockingly all the holes lined up. Anyone who's ever tried anything like this can probably relate. No matter how carefully I measure and drill, when I'm drilling this many holes in this many pieces that all have to line up with one another it's a really good feeling when it lines up the first time. More often, there will be one damn hole off by 1/8" for no good reason!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6547047275/

IMG_0621 by andym2712, on Flickr

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6547046589/
IMG_0617 by andym2712, on Flickr

The next piece would probably be the hardest of all. The 3/8" thick clear back piece. It had to take into account: the PSU and fan controller openings, the I/O panel and the PCI slots.

I started by offsetting the opening for the PSU and fan controller and drilling the holes for the screw heads that hold on the piece under it. Then cut outs for the I/O panel and the PCI slots. I have an idea for holding in the PCI cards and filling the black spaces but I'm not sure it will work yet.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6547043773/
IMG_0618 by andym2712, on Flickr

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/6547044515/
IMG_0622 by andym2712, on Flickr

So far so good, but this is still wood. Next up I'll copy it onto the clear acrylic and see if it all still works.

8 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
After cleaning up the acrylic panels, I added an intake fan to the bottom. Then the radiator fans can all blow out.


Here is one of the side panels mounted

I need to take a file and some sandpaper to the routed edges.

This is the MOBO tray. Is sits in the grooves you can see in the 4 "legs".

8 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Finally making some progress (and changes).

New pieces: 980ti with an EK waterblock. This is the first EK block I've ever purchased and I thought the finishing would be better. Machining marks are clearly visible.

But I'm sure it will work great. (I'm trying to include water-cooling components from every major manufacturer - I've got aqucomputer radiators, swiftech pump, koolance CPU block, EK GPU block and Bitspower fittings (along with lots of others).

Here is the new 980ti.

Replacing the old HD-7970 (an antique!)

Old and busted, meet New Hotness

I also finished cleaning up the side acrylic panels.
1) Start with rough saw-cut edges.

2) add sand paper - I used, 220 then 600.

3) add flame


and viola

I also got the motherboard. Asus Maximus VIII Formula with built in water block. I wasn't going to watercool the mobo but what the hell.


The one thing I don't like about it is that the m.2 slot is under a cover. I was going to slap some heat sinks on that thing. But it does make for a very clean board. I'll have no visible storage at all. Just the samsung 950 nvme.

Starting to get a better idea of what it will look like:

I have the water loop figured out too. Just waiting on the rad mounts.


3,148 Posts

8 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
Small update:

Got a package yesterday which (I think) had everything else I need to finish this thing... until I figure out what I forgot or change my mind and decide to turn it into a mini-keg cooler. Hmmm.... A mini-keg cooler made out of plexiglass would be pretty sweet. Anyway.

I got the radiator mounting brackets which had been holding up progress.

And I got the nvme ssd drive. Ive never used one before and I'm oddly disappointed in how unimpressive it looks. Soooo small. I better go ahead and mount it or else I'll lose it!

I'd love to put a heat sink on it, but this motherboard has a cover that goes over it.

I also got PSU cables from Corsair but because I have an older PSU (an AX-850) the full set of pre-sleeved cables (not extensions) was only $40!!! They were only available in blue, but thats what I wanted anyway. Awesome! Best $40 I've ever spent I will never sleeve another PSU again. My fingers would like to thank Corsair for this tremendous advance in enabling lazy modders to have sleeved cables. :clap: The only downside is that they used heat shrink with white writing on it. :wall bash: *** A sharpie will fix that though.

I also have a CPU around here somewhere.

Next steps are to mount the radiators to the bottom of the case, do all the plumbing, then install the case legs and mobo tray. I also have a bunch of LED lights to figure out what to do with.

I may have a functional PC before my Oculus arrives! (although it looks like I have plenty of time for that)

One last thing to work out is some type of front panel. I have some sweet vandal buttons and would like a couple of USB ports on the front. I'd like to mount them to big thick piece of brushed aluminum (or aluminium if you're on the other side of the pond) but I'm not sure where to find the appropriate hunk of metal. Hmmm... my wife's desk has nice brushed aluminum sides.... no - better not.

8 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
To mount the radiators I did the same insert sinking trick. Drill, heat, press, repeat. Works great and that part is solid.

The other thing I did at this point was drill holes under 2 of the radiators. The nice thing about these is that they have 6 in/out ports including one on the top and bottom.

The only thing that would be better is if they had an "in" on one and and an "out" on the other, but I've never seen a radiator like that. In this case it allowed me to run a tube under the bottom of the case to connect them together.

I connected the rest of the tubing, then the legs and mobo tray.

I'll put on a side just to see what it looks like.

I got the pump connected, filled it up with water and now its sitting there leak testing and I'm trying to get all of the air bubbles out.

Still have to work out a front panel of sorts, do some clean up and decide what to do with the PCI slots on the back. I have a aluminum frame I could put in, but I kind of like the plexi there.


1 Posts
Would be quite cool if you painted the inside edge of all the cutouts black to match the supports. Anyway, cool build so far:eek:

773 Posts
awesome looking! really like the idea of heating up the inserts and installing them in the acrylic.. ive done that with some 3d printed enclosures at work. subbed!!

also, is that an alpine white e46 m3 i spy in the driveway?!
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