Small Form Factor PC Case

During this project, I designed and built my own custom small form factor (SFF) mini-itx PC case. The main machines used were the OMAX waterjet cutter and the Denford CNC router.

It is made up of:

  • 8 x 3mm sheets of aluminium – for the individual layers.
  • 2 x 1mm sheets of aluminium – for the motherboard and power supply brackets.
  • 28 x 20mm standoffs – to separate out the brackets.
  • Various parts of clear/frosted acrylic – for the front panel and feet.

The total cost of this project was approximately £90 including the screws spacers and USB ports not listed above.

 

I’ve been interested in computers for a while and I built my first PC in 2013. One of my favourite designs has long been that of the open stacked-metal style of the Inwin H-Frame mini (right) and one of my first PC cases was the Phanteks Enthoo Evolv (left). These two cases were the design inspiration.

Starting in Autodesk Fusion 360, I used CAD files that I found online to start mocking up the orientation of the components. I then constrained myself to the bed size of the waterjet cutter. I started off with 270mm to give myself room to clamp the material.

From there, I created eight layers which would encapsulate the components and started working on spacings and other details. I worked through all the layers whilst adding in the bent metal pieces using the sheet metal workspace in Fusion.

Along the way I made use of Fusion’s rendering capabilities to get a better idea of what the case would look like. Below you can see some of the renders at various stages of the design process.

Once I was happy with the design, I began building the case using prototyping materials. I used 3mm MDF as it was cheap and fairly fast to cut. By this point, the materials and other hardware I was going to use in the final design had arrived, so I was able to test the fit using some older PC components that I had on hand. I then continued to tweak my design until everything fitted and looked right.

The next step was to cut the case out of the final material. I used the waterjet cutter for the metal pieces and the CNC router for the acrylic pieces. I used several pieces of acrylic to get the USB ports to fit correctly.

After drying, I assembled the case for the first time.

For finishing, I used 400 grit wet/dry sand paper to give the panels a brushed look and to take away the sand-blasted appearance of the edges.

And finally, I built the PC with the final components:

And some bonus photos of my complete setup: