My Aluminium case

Discussion in 'Completed HTPC Projects' started by Marcus Venturi, April 2, 2013.

  1. Marcus Venturi
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    Marcus Venturi Super User

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    After 8 years with my old Media Center PC – a Siemens Fujisu Activy 350 - it was time for something new. After some search in the Web, I decided to setup a custom media center with MediaPortal. It should also contain a digital amplifier to be able to drive 2 stereo speakers.

    Then I started to look for a case and that’s where my problems began. The self-made wooden shelf in my living room that I had built around the Fujitsu Activy had a depth of 350mm and the available height for the media center was 110mm.

    As the current media center stood really on the edge of the shelf, I decided to search for a low profile case that had a depth of 330mm and maximum height of 100mm.

    Well I searched for 2 months and found nothing. There were a lot of cases but none of them was able to cover all my needs. Some were very flat, but their depth was always more than 330mm.

    At that point I decided to construct a case by myself. It wasn't just the idea of designing a HTPC case but to design a MediaPortal case.

    Most of the parts I constructed with the front panel design software from a German company called “Schaeffer-AG” (http://www.schaeffer-ag.de or http://www.frontpanelexpress.com for international customers). They offer production services for milling/drilling front panels for business and home users. Despite of the name of the software, it is possible to design rear panels with it ;)

    For the front display plexiglas I ordered some samples from Evonik Industries (http://www.plexiglas.de) to find one that was not too dark.



    Milling of the Plexiglas was again made by Schaffer-AG, because the also provide their services for custom materials.

    Some of the parts I did with my own tools. Especially the placement of some of the threads inside the case for the amplifier and the relay-board were not 100% clear, therefore I made them with a tap and die set.

    Most dimensions for the micro-ATX board I took out of the ATX specification that is free available on the internet. The rest I measured with a caliper from existing PC cases.

    The list of my hardware components:

    - MSI H61 MA – E35 Mainboard (micro-ATX)
    - MSI GT 610 ( Low Profile Graphics)
    -
    Intel Core i3-2100
    -
    GeminII M4 low profile fan (CoolerMaster)
    -
    16 GB (2x8) DDR3 DIMM (time-shift on ram-disk!)
    -
    be quiet! SFX Power 300W SFX (PSU)
    -
    Sony BC-5640H (Slot-In) Blu-Ray drive
    -
    Agility3 2,5" SSD 240GB
    -
    Atric IR receiver (www.atric.de) / CIR2-01 (www.cohaus-berlin.de)
    -
    Cine S2 V6 DVBS Card (http://www.digitaldevices.de)
    -
    Cine S2 CI
    -
    Sure Electronics 2x100W 4Ω TK2050 Class D amplifier (http://www.sureelectronics.net)
    -
    DC-DC boost converter (12V -> 24V)
    -
    Sinus Live ground loop isolator
    -
    5” LCD TFT module 16:9 (848x480) (Dalian Good Display Co., Ltd.)
    -
    USB – relay board (http://www.denkovi.com/)

    One week after my order, I received my parts and started with the setup of the case. Some parts were still to file, because I forgot some notches in the self-carrying barrier (nobody is perfect ;) ) – you can see them on the first two pictures.

    Overview1.jpg

    I mounted the board and the sockets for the speakers at the rear panel. The plexiglas for the front panel display and the IR-receiver was I glued with silicone.


    The mounting of the slot-in Blu-Ray drive was one of the hardest parts, because I had to re-solder the connection for eject button on a flexible printed circuit board which was very small. I didn’t want to use the existing eject button, because it was too small and would somehow break the design of the case.

    For the speaker protection I used a relay-board from a Bulgarian company Denkovi, which I found on eBay (http://www.denkovi.com).

    The speaker protection is controlled with a Windows-service I wrote. This service turns the speakers on after starting / resuming and turns the speakers off before suspending.

    Without speaker protection, there is always danger of damaging the connected speakers, with high voltage peaks that happen when turning on / off the power for the amplifier (mostly can hear a loud click).

    The relay-board is also used for turning on / off the internal display. This avoids a “no sync” display - which looks somehow unprofessional - when going into suspend because it turns of display power before the system is sent to standby.

    The first approach to address the USB relay failed, because I always tried to access the board via serial communication until I found out that I had to use the so called bit bang mode of the Intersil FTDI controller.

    Searching for a small digital amplifier I found on offer from Sure Electronics on eBay that sounded good. On their homepage (http://www.sureelectronics.net) they offer a lot of digital amplifiers for DIY projects. I decided for a model with 2x100W 4Ω TK2050.

    As the amp won’t provide its full power at 12V it used a DC-DC boost converter to bring the internal 12V from the PC power supply to 24V.

    The next problem was noise on the speakers caused by the mainboard. This is mostly a problem for internal audio as a PC produces a lot of interferences that might cause various kinds of noise on the audio output.

    I could solve these problems with a ground loop isolator.

    Overview2.jpg

    Here is a side view of the final case. You can see the DVB-S card and the CI module on the left side. There are 3 screw holes for the upper and lower cover of the case in the side barrier.


    Case1.jpg

    The big 120mm fan is very quiet. The PSU is in SFX format is much smaller than the normal ATX power supplies. You can also see the ground loop isolator mounted on top of the BD-ROM drive.

    Case2.jpg

    On this view from top back you can see the four speaker sockets. The sound over the speakers is very good. It’s not comparable with a separate high end amplifier, but for my purpose it’s enough. And it has a higher WAF-factor, because there is only one device in the living room that is used for TV, Music and Radio.


    Case2a.jpg

    Here you can see the case with the cover. There is not much free space in the case, but that was my goal. Being as small a possible but having all in one case.


    Case3.jpg
    After one month of work - in the cold cellar ;) - it was time to move to my home office and start with the software part. First I installed MediaPortal and did a basic channel setup for DVB-S.


    Then I connected it to my home network to be able to access the shared folders on my media server.

    I installed the following optional components:

    - Maya HD Skin
    - LAV-Filters
    - MPDisplay++
    - Experimental TS-Reader noStopMod70
    - PowerScheduler++
    - WebGrab++
    - Auto3D (a self written plugin for 3D movies)

    The aluminium case has a very polished look.

    Case4.jpg
    On the next picture you can see the LCD screen behind the plexiglas. You can also see the illuminated power switch (I used a “vandalism safe” switch which has a very flat design).


    Case5.jpg

    The eject button is the same as the power button, but it has a blue illumination.

    Right of MediaPortal logo you can see the Plexiglas where the IR-Receiver sits behind. After some problems with WinLirc and the serial port – it sometimes didn’t work after resume – I replaced the IR-receiver with a MCE compatible USB solution. Now all problems with suspend, resume and away mode have gone. The MediaPortal logo looks really cool on the aluminium :cool:

    Case6.jpg

    Ready for the living room…


    Case7.jpg

    I attached the parts I constructed with the front panel designer software in a ZIP-file. There are some production hints in the files, that are in german. If needed I can translate them into english. Most files are in fpd-format and can be opened with the free front panel designer software mentioned above.

    And one final notice:

    There are still many parts - for example the BD-ROM holders - that I did by myself without any plans or drawings. And there are additional holes and threads that have to be made, because the front panel designer software is not a full 3D construction software.

    My drawings can only be a basical inspiration for anyone who wants to do something comparable. If you don't know what a tap and die set is for, or never have filed any metal by hand this is not for you.

    06.04.2013
    I updated the ZIP file and added a file "Rückseitenplatte2.fdp" which has 3 additional millings that I had to do by hand later. Otherwise my CI-Slot card wouldn't fit into the case. And the HDMI slot of my graphics adapter would have the same problem, if I wouldn't use the DVI out with a DVI-HDMI converter.

    06.05.2013
    Some additional Pictures of the case I made for Lyfesaver74:

    Case1x.jpg
    Case2x.jpg

    Case3x.jpg

    Case4x.jpg

    Case5x.jpg

    Case6x.jpg

    Case7x.jpg

    Case8x.jpg
    Case9x.jpg
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: September 24, 2014
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  3. JackTramiel
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    JackTramiel MP Donator

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    Respect. Not only the best own build case i ve ever Seen but could easily compete against most commercial ones.
    I love the integrated amp solution.
     
  4. JiRo
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    JiRo MP Donator

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    Respect. It is the best HTPC I have ever seen. From the inside and outside. Really!
     
  5. TommySharp
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    Now that is some nice work!
     
  6. azzuro
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    I like really your Custom Case, i think is the best because is really basic.
    Question : How are you wrote MP on Aluminium ? (Society or yourself)

    Auto-reply :
     
  7. Marcus Venturi
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    Marcus Venturi Super User

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    Last edited: April 3, 2013
  8. azzuro
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  9. Marcus Venturi
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    Marcus Venturi Super User

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    Yes I can do that in the evening when I'm at home again.
     
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  10. kiwijunglist
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    Last edited: April 5, 2013
  11. azzuro
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    i like the "Designed by Marcus Venturi", you don't want your name as profesionnal Designer ? :p
    Your screen 5" has touchsrceen ?
    Your button eject is connected direclty to BD drive, for LEd on when disc is inserted ?
     
    Last edited: April 3, 2013
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