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"Dark Matter" featuring one off 3D printed parts

Calen Saddler

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Re-fitting Test Painted Pieces: Back Panel

Over the last few days I've been priming and painting pieces of the back panel as well as the motherboard tray. I do this so I can get an idea of what colors look best. The motherboard tray looks sharp in a flat black. Most of it wont be seen once the hardwares installed but, little bits will be seen and I want them to look good. I still need to cut part of the panel for the rear mounted PureWings 120mm fan.



Rear 120mm PureWings 2 PWM Fan:

I started working on the mount and design for the rear mounted fan. As mentioned previously there was an original 80mm fan that needed to go. I found some thick honeycomb modders mesh that would make for an awesome custom grill. I used the 120mm fan as a template to mark out the cuts.

I will also add a custom 3D printed ring around the edge which will look slick once mounted. Im also testing to see what the click in ring will look like on the inside. It required a little bit of modification to the fan to get it into place. I had to cut off the clip for the wiring in order to fit in the rings.



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PCIe Slot Covers: Test Paint

I test painted some of the PCIe slot covers I has laying around to see what they would look like. I think the color is right on but, I haven't completely decided on the style. I recently found some slot covers that are slotted at an angle. I think the angled slots fit the design style more accurately.


More Templates: Side Panels

Ive been working on the last two templates for the right side of the case. There will be two 120mm fans on this side as well as the acrylic window for the triple SSD rack I designed. The area around the large water path is also cut out and the nickel plated hardline water cooling tubes come out the side a little bit.

To me the side panels are an important part of the design. The left side has several layers to it which give it added dimension. The top part of the side panels open upward like a Delorian and the bottom panels open downward. This allows for a neat look as well as accessibility when working on the case.


Indicator lights: Ideas & Hand Made

I know that I want to use and indicator light for a couple different parts on the build. I went online and searched to find some that were original looking. I wanted something I hadn't seen used on a case mod or PC build. All of the sudden it hit me, “ why not try making one?†I hand make almost every piece on my scratch build and it didn't occur to me to make an indicator light/bezel.

I don't own a lathe which is generally what would be used to make the mount and bezel. I do however own a hand drill. The size is just barely enough to try out a few ideas. Ill have to dig threw scraps to see what else I can find.


Aluminum Strips: Passthrough

I wanted to give the passthrough a little more style so I cut some thin aluminum strips to run vertically. Its a small touch but, it added a lot of character to the passthrough. I will make the cuts for the water-cooling and PSU cabling once I get the motherboard.


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New Sponsor: OCZ

I am happy to announce that OCZ is the new SSD sponsor for the Dark Matter scratch build. They will be supplying 3 of their freshly released Vector 180 SSDs. The floating triple SSD rack will be filled with OCZs solution for hardcore gamers. I would like to thank OCZ for supporting this project.


Aluminum Top Grill:

I am custom making the grill for the top of the case using aluminum stock. I probably could of bought something pre-made and adapted it to the build but, whats the fun in that? The stock that I have will have to be cut in half to make a total of 8 slats that run almost the full length of the case. I still need to find the middle piece which will be a bit wider than the other slats in the grill. More than likely I'll need to design a mount to hold everything together. It has taken a long time to cut the aluminum into strips and sand them but, I was able to show you the first of the strips (below)


Behind the grill I will have 4–5 fans and possibly the top mounted radiator. I haven't decided how high the rad will be mounted. If its mounted lower I will mount case fans behind the grill. A custom mount for the fans will also need to be built from scratch in order to fit them in the way I want them. Ive been debating a louver style mount for the fans so that they can be used as intake or exhaust fans by simply sliding a piece on way or the other. I may save this ideas for a future build unless I have the time and space to do it.

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OCZ Custom Badge:

Ive been getting ready for the arrival of the new OCZ Vector 180 SSDs. I designed the triple SSD mount to have a plate at the bottom so I could mount the OCZ logo. The aluminum backplate had already been cut out and mounted. Now I needed to cut out the main plate. I chose thin (1mm) acrylic because it is easier to work with. My scroll saw made quick work of the acrylic panel.


I used a high resolution copy of the OCZ logo to create a cut path on my vinyl cutter. Flat white really makes the logo pop due to the background vinyl. The trickiest part of working with vinyl is always placement. Typically you only get 1 shot at placement and if its not right; you have to start all over again.


I wanted to try something different so I used a combination of flat and gloss black for the background. The gloss black was cut by hand and laid at an angle with a corner to match the ones on the acrylic panel. Even know this isn't very noticeable; to me its worth it for the few people that look up close and say, “wow!†Its also a throwback to old school automotive design.


Wiring: Through The Frame

When I designed this case I wanted the wiring to be perfect. All of the case fans, led wiring and similar wiring will run inside the frames tubing. I have started marking some of the inlet and outlet sections to run everything. I will 3D print passthroughs so the inlets look clean. As far as all the wiring from the PSU; it will be sleeved and ran through a custom cable management system that I designed. I plan on sleeving it in lime green, black, white and grey or silver.


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Prepping Fan Wiring:

Im starting to test run the cables from the case fans to the PSU. I am running a rather complex setup for cooling the entire case. There will be at least 7 X 120mm BeQuiet PureWings PWM fans on the case itself. These fans will be connected to the Dark Power Pro 11 PSU (1,200watts.) It has a built in thermistor that monitors the cases internal temperature for hardware protection. If the internal case temps get too high it will automatically speed the fans up to quickly cool the internals back down.

As previously mentioned I am running the fans wiring through the frame. I purchased some cable glands that I will mount directly behind the PSU. This will allow the fans wiring to go through the bottom of the PSUs mount, into the lower frame rails and to the fans. Inside the frame rails I have click in cable organizers that will keep the wiring neat. I will sleeve the fan cables even though you'll only see a small part of the wiring.


Parts Ordered:

Voltage Meter:

I recently ordered a few small parts for the build. The first item is a green LED voltage meter. This will allow me to easily see the main voltage coming out of the PSU. The color was kind of hard to find but, luckily I was able to snag this one.



I also bought some DRL LEDs. Typically these are used for high end vehicle (Daytime Running Lights.) I haven't decided where or if I will use them but, they are definitely worth trying out as I've never seen them used in a case mod or scratch build.

Wireless LED Controller:Arrived

I ordered a wireless LED controller that works for single colored LEDs. It has a much smaller remote that looks like a key fob for your car. It has the ability to turn ON/OFF or dim the LEDs. The main feature for me is the ability to dim the LEDs as they're typically too bright. To my amazement these have already made it to the shop.


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Continued Work: Top Grill

I had to come up with a new way of cutting the aluminum strips for the hand made top grill. I used a cheap fake dremel for the first two and it took forever. I guess I will have to break out the air cutoff tool.

If you plan on doing a lot of cuts in metal; the air cutoff tool will be your best friend. The cutting disks last a long time and it will chew threw almost any kind of metal. I use the air cutoff tool in conjunction with my bench grinding wheels for most metals.


After I had my strips cut I needed to figure out how I was going to mount them. Originally I was going to 3D print a mount but, I came up with a neat system using extruded aluminum. The extruded aluminum is U channel so I need to make a notch for each strip. This will allow for a tight fit as well as give me the ability to make adjustments if I need to.

I decided to go with 10mm spacing from the center of one slat to the center of the ones next to it. For the middle I will use a strip that is wider than the rest of the strips. The center piece will have a larger spacing due to its added width. Once its all together it'll look slick.

Backlight For Mid-Plate:

As mentioned before I left a space under the PSUs mount at the bottom. This space will allow for easier wiring and running LEDs to light up the mid-plate. I plan to cut some vinyl which will ho over the frosted acrylic. That way the acrylic will glow except the spaces where theres vinyl. It already looks pretty sweet and I haven't even modified it yet.


Reservoir Mounts: New Ideas

I haven't decided exactly what I want to do for the reservoir but, I came up with a sweet idea. It'll have to be built before I know if it'll look right. Im using a old reservoir to mock everything up as I had this one available and its about the same size. I started by making templates to cut out of some really thick Lexan. Im hoping this idea comes out like I think it will because Lexan in this thickness isn't cheap.


It'll have two thick Lexan brackets with nickel plated tubes running the length of the reservoir. The brackets will serve as a mount as well as hold the tubes in place. They all kind of work together to work as an extensive mounting system. Once I finish the mock-ups ill update the log with what it looks like. As of now I only have the first rough cut Lexan bracket. I was able to start doing some fine sanding on the outer edge but I still have a few more different grits of sandpaper to go through. Up next I'll finish the rod mounts and the center ring that the reservoir will go through.


LED Control Box:

This box will more than likely go under the floor panel where it'll be completely covered but, I couldn't help myself. I decided to add a little style to it so it'll fit in with the build. No one else will know it's there but, you all will.


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Running Cables From The PSU:

I couldn't decide exactly how I wanted to run the bulk of the cables from the PSU up to the motherboard trays backplate. Once it gets to the backplate it has a mapped out route to go. I decided to do some custom metal work mixed with some 3D printed parts. I did all the metal fabrication first so that I could design the 3D printed bits to fit perfectly. The piece that I made has 4 slots cut into the side of it so that the sleeved cables are kept nice and tidy on their way to the motherboard + SSD rack.


This method was chose over a PSU shroud because I want to show off the PSU and the sleeved cables. Covering everything up is the easy route and I'm all about making the hardware part of the show. Ive seen a few good builds that make the portion right behind the PSU part of the show. When done correctly it looks great. I love showing off every bit of hardware because, the hardware is an important part.



PSU Customization: Dark Power Pro 11 (BeQuiet)

This build fits perfectly with the Dark Power Pro 11 PSU. The grill is very originally looking and you know what it is right after you see it. The PSU really doesn't need much customization to fit the build but, I prefer to put my touch on as much as possible.

Some of the things I will do include sprucing up the bottom; which faces put the left side of the case. I might also customize the PSUs fan. Paint matching it to the build will help bring it all together.


Custom Reservoir Mount: Update

Today I spent a good deal of time on the Lexan reservoir mount. As previously mentioned I decided to free-hand draw and cut a mount out of Lexan. This mount will more than likely evolve throughout the build but, I am very happy with how it came out. Ive been playing with the idea of adding two more pieces of thinner Lexan to the overall mount. The combination of thicker and thinner Lexan will contrast nicely. I still need to cut the nickel plated tubes to fit exactly and I haven't had the chance to finish the mount for its final location.



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Reservoir Mount: Mock-ups

I have a couple different places I could mount the tube styled reservoir. I really like the first place I tried which was vertically next to the motherboard tray. More than likely the pumps will go below this location so it seems like a good fit.

The hard mount that I made is cut out of aluminum and has a couple simple bends in order to place the reservoir far enough forward. I still need to adjust the brackets so its perfect but, it already looks good. I wont be using this exact reservoir but, it is the same style as the final one. It will look even better once I make a couple more changes to the mount as well as prep the other water-cooling parts.



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Arrival: 3 – OCZ Vector 180s SSDs

My package from OCZ arrived at the shop today. As you can imagine I was very excited to see that they showed up. Ive heard all kinds of great things about the new Vector 180 SSDs. I didn't waste anytime prepping the triple SSD rack. When I cut the brackets I left a little space so that I could cut out a small portion for the sata and power cables


I went with a few bends on the mounts so the SSDs have a slight angle when they are in place. This is a big improvement over the flat mount I had originally designed. The OCZ logo plate has also been mounted to the bottom of the rack. I custom made this piece as well and it really brings it all together.



The OCZ SSDs look great how they are but, I always have a need to make it mine. The main color found throughout the Dark Matter build is green. It will also have some small bits of blue but, I thought it would be neat to change out the blue stripes on the SSDs to a green that matches.


Using a pair of calipers I measured very accurately in order to get the exact size of the stripes on the SSDs. I took these measurements to adjust the size in my vinyl cut software. Once I had that figured out I started by having the vinyl cutter plot on paper using a pen so I could see if the scale was right. Everything looked correct so it was time to throw in the green vinyl and give it a test.


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Finishing Front Panel Cutout:

About a week ago I finished the inner section of the top, front part of the case. I didn't cut out the spot where the main switches are located. I had some free time so I decided to cut and file the section so it could be remounted.



Peripherals: RantoPad USA

Im lucky enough to have RantoPad sponsor all of the peripherals for the Dark Matter scratch build. They provided a Mechanical MXX Gaming keyboard, optical gaming mouse and an aluminum gaming mousepad. I have to say that I was very impressed when they arrived. The packaging and quality of their products are top notch.




RantoPad Parts: Mods Planned

Im planning on doing a couple minor mods to the aluminum gaming mousepad. It is absolutely beautiful and matches the build style right out of its package. The MXX Mechanical Keyboard will need to be modded to match the build. It will be painted and customized to match the cases design cues. The plan is to cut vinyl masks so that I can use my airbrush to custom paint it. I might 3D print a few custom keys as well. I will need to customize the optical gaming mouse as well.


Reservoir LED Tests:

Ive been trying out different kinds of LEDs for the reservoir. The first set I tried were some really bright blue ones that do a scan pattern. I like the patterns but, the LEDs were way to bright and I still had a set of white to try. Below is a flip pic which shows the cycle of the white LEDs. I think that these best fit the area due to the downward scan cycle that they do. It follows the flow of the water in the cooling system which is pretty sweet. The white LEDs are also not as bright which is a better fit.


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