PC case using CNC router and home building products

[Reinventing Science] needed a project that he could use to test out his skills on a new CNC routing machine he recently acquire. He settled on building a PC case using easily obtained materials. What he ended up with is the clean-looking case seen above that was machined from materials you can pick up at the home store.

The bulk of the case is made from extruded PVC which is designed to perform like solid wood trim. He picked up one piece of the ‘lumber’ and cut out the front, back, top, bottom, and drive bay bezel. We expected the joints between the horizontal and vertical pieces to either be butt joints, or rabbits. But [Reinventing Science] wanted a cleaner look and managed to mill mortise and tenon joints. These are strong joints that leave a very nice finished look. Since the material is designed as a lumber replacement it shouldn’t be too surprising to see drywall screws used as the fasteners.

In addition to joinery, some other CNC tricks were used. The sides of the case were cut from clear acrylic, with a decorative bead milled in the surface. There’s also fan ports cut in the top and vents on the bottom, as well as some engraving with the name of the project just above the optical drive. The wood-grain embossing makes for an interesting final look; we’d like to see how this takes a few careful coats of paint.

If you’re interested in the CNC hardware used, take a look at the unboxing post that shares a few details.

Comments

  1. fotoflojoe says:

    I applaud the skill, but I’m not feeling the design.

  2. f8l_0e says:

    I actually sort of like the case. I just would be worried about ESD everytime you have to work inside the case.

  3. Charlie says:

    I do like the handles for easy of transportation.

  4. I/j Dee-Vo says:

    Nice, i like the side drives.

  5. Because of the materials used I was also concerned about ESD but so far its not been an issue (at assembly or when I replaced the MB due to the Intel Chipset issue)

    The mother board is mounted on a metal ATX tray, the drive bay, hard drive cage, and other components are all metal and everything is tied together and tied to the power supply ground. In addition there is also a metal strip on the back right hand corner of the case intended as a bleed for any static that might build up.

  6. Chris says:

    Does the PC case is supposed to protect others devices from some radio emission due to high frequencies involved (CPU, PSU …) ? (And therefore, that’s why it’s usually built with metal …). But I may be wrong.

  7. Eddie says:

    How much does it weight compared to the usual metal chassis? I expect the above DIY to weigh quite a bit more.

  8. Techrat says:

    I like the shot of the guy’s desk — even with all the high-tech stuff, note that he’s got a Commodore 64 under the TV set. I’m assuming this rig was built for video editing? Seems like there’s a lot of A/V equipment on that desk.

  9. CH says:

    @reinventingscience
    But the mobo isn’t encased in metal, so it still may give off, or be susceptible to ESR; and since ESR is a silent killer, there would be no simple way to determine if it was causing problems.

  10. kimg says:

    The only issue I would see is heat dissipation. To some extent, metal cases act as heat sinks for those items that are bolted to it.

  11. macw says:

    @kimg most parts are attached using standoffs, because the last thing you want is one giant metal object that all your components are connected to! The case will warm up but it’s not going to shoulder much of the thermal load.

    I’m not feeling the design very much either. Don’t like the texture on the side panels.

    oh, and HaD, it’s a “rabbet” joint, not “rabbit”.

  12. @Eddie,
    I’ve not actually weighed the case but it is definitely a bit heavier than a metal case. The PVC Lumber is less dense than the same volume of wood. I considered machining out pockets on the inside or outside of the case to reduce weight but since I don’t intend to move the PC that often I went with a cleaner design. My other thought was that with lots of pockets/details there is the potential for much higher dust collection. So as with all design decisions there are trade offs.

  13. @Chris
    Electronics can radiate noise that can cause interference in other electronic devices. However since the components in a PC are designed with this in mind they have a “Faraday Ground” that acts to absorb most unwanted radiation.

    In my PC the mother board is mounted on a metal tray thats grounded, and all other parts are also grounded.

    So far I’ve not had any problems with interference (in or out) and I have a lot of electronics in close proximity.

  14. @kimg

    The case has no problems with heat. All the sensors on the processor/motherboard/graphics-card show temps in the 80-98 F range even under moderate load.

    The case has an air space underneath with 1 inch of clearance, plus slots cut on the bottom, a vent on the back that allows cables to enter and be connected, and another vent on the front under the drive cage.

    The two fans at the top of the case added to the power supply fan (plus a lot of heat sinks on components) keep the air moving (and its really quiet even under moderate load). I’ve also got another spare fan in reserve but so far have not needed to use it. (if I add more drives or components I can expand).

    Beyond this there is a lot of air space inside the case. One problem with metal cases is that parts are crammed into a close space and all the cables and cards get in the way of air flow.

  15. @Techrat
    Thanks for noticing the C64 (tucked behind it is my old 1541 Disk Drive)

    Yes the rig was built mostly for video editing, though it serves as my main desktop for web production, graphics, audio, anything I need to do.

  16. nanomonkey says:

    I’d like to see the same project only done in aluminum…it would be a great heat sink, light and slick as all hell. Most cnc routers can handle aluminum milling.

    Drywall screws equal fail in my book. Either go with all wood or use something that won’t rust and detract from the look of the case.

    All in all, a nice build.

  17. IJ Dee-Vo says:

    nothing wrong with a guy desining his case to his liking

  18. Invader21 says:

    I love the desighn! It leaves space for soo much more like a monitor in the exess space near the psu and a few asorted wireless adapters inside the case (bluetooth, wifi,wireless keyboard adapter, exc.) A diy usb hub would fit nicely above the CD drive aswhell! it would make a verry nice fragbox aswhell as a space eficiant desktop computer for at home use.

  19. anton says:

    PVC is not exactly known for its electromagnetic shielding capacity. How does you WLAN react to operating a gigaherz processor without proper shielding? Even more so: how does your neighbour’s pacemaker react to it?

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