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"Dark Matter" featuring one off 3D printed parts

Calen Saddler

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Mechanical Meets Organic:

Ive put a lot of thought into the piece of acrylic that is backlit on the bottom of the case. I like to spend a lot of time making sure every piece of the build follows along with the design and theme. The design evolving from the mechanical honeycomb pattern to the more organic fits it like a glove. It looks amazing now that its cut, mounted and backlit.

I started by using the plotter so that it could be sketched out to scale. This allows me to check the sizing and come up with a game plan for, “weeding†the vinyl once its cut.


I originally planned to use regular vinyl to create a dark section on the acrylic mid panel. After a day of experimenting with some new materials and techniques I decided to use what I had been testing. I think it came out absolutely beautiful. I really like the fact that its something that hasn't been done before.


Part Arrival: DRL LEDs

I purchased a set of new DRL LED lights. These ones are blue and they are supposed to be more diffused than most LEDs. I have done a few quick tests so you can see what they look like. Ive never seen these used in a case mod or build so it would be sweet if they work like I hope they will. While testing the DRLs I noticed that they reacted with the ink in the test sheet I did on my plotter. Its kind of weird because they are not UV.



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3D Printed Grill Mounts:

You may know that I've been trying a lot of different ways to build the top grill from scratch. Its a new endeavor for me so I knew it wouldn't be without issues. I decided to design and 3D print brackets for the grill. This way I can limit the amount of issues caused by attempting to adapt something else to work.

The new Printrbot UBIS 13s hotend with a 1mm tip has made 3D printing stuff like this, much easier. My old setup took a lot longer. The resolution is higher with a smaller nozzle but, I don't need high resolution for solid brackets. The UBIS 13s also heats up faster and maintains temps while blazing through filament.



Top Grill Mock-ups:

I managed to mock up the grill but, it still needs tweaking to get it perfect. It really looks stunning with the internal LEDs on. I did a basic mount of the wider center piece thats made from acrylic. This piece will be made up of two or more pieces to give it the look I want.


3D Printed EK Grill Insert: Work Continues

Now that I'm starting to get the top grill sorted out I can mock-up the EK insert that is mounted on one end of the grill. Once I have it notched out on the bottom I can prime and paint the logo to see what it'll look like in its finished form. Due to my high standards, its taken a little longer than I had hoped to get it looking nice and smooth.


Even though the insert isn't finished I still wanted to get an idea of what it will look like when its mounted. Below is a pic of it near its final mounting location.


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Painting: EK Logo

I test painted the 3D printed EK logo that inserts into the top grill. The logo and insert is made up of a 3D printed plate and a circular piece of acrylic that is cut out around the 3d printed logo. I painted the 3D printed part black and the acrylic portion lime green.




Xbox Power LED:

Im thinking about using a power indicator from an Xbox 360 for the Dark Matter build. I already have the spare parts and I just need to figure out the rest of the wiring. I have the option to use the main ring to indicate power for the computer and the other LEDs for basic computer information. Once I have more time to explore this I will update the log.


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Test Painting: PCIe Slot Covers (Vertical Slots)

I wanted to see what the vertical PCIe slot covers might look like in black. The OC function panel for the DarkPower PSU is mounted in the first vertical slot. This panel is black so I thought it would look better if the PCIe covers matched. I also wanted to add a few bits of vinyl to give it a neat look. My style is futuristic industrial and this helps to define that.


I designed the vinyl pieces so that they signify the slot number or “sector number.†It starts to get really tricky when your working with tiny font on vinyl. I have involuntary hand jerks due to my brain injury which make the job of placing the small pieces difficult. Luckily I didn't have issues while mounting these pieces.

Update: Xbox Power LED

After some testing I found that using the Xbox's PCB is rather difficult. When I have time I will try and trace out the LEDs and switch. I was able to use it as an indicator setup by re-wiring LEDs. I also figured out how to mount the indicator of the Dark Matter build. The original mount is built into the faceplate of an Xbox 360 so this took a bit to get it correct for my use. Some super small screw and tapping a few holes helped.



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3D Printed Switch Panel:

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of using the Xbox 360 power ring. It would take a lot of work to redo the main front switch panel but, its the only way I'll be able to really see what it will look like. I decided to take some time to design a complete front panel that I could 3D print on my Printrbot Plus printer.


I moved the Xbox ring to the center of the panel and offset the Vandal switch to one side. Since I was taking the time to design and print a front panel I figured I might as well inset the switches like I had originally planned. Once I sand the print and get the dimensions exact I will start applying filler/primer to make it smooth.


Update: Vertical PCIe Slot Covers & Bezels

While working on the front switch panel I decided to start working on a few pieces I'm printing for the back panel as well. I want to do a few surrounds or bezels for the vertical PCIe slots. I'm also planing on doing a bezel for the PSU mount and another piece on the back. These help to add dimension to the panel as well as give it a polished look once painted.


The bezel I printed for the vertical PCIe slots took about 7 minutes using my new UBIS 13s hotend with a 1mm tip. Using my old setup it would take about 20 or so minutes to print the sane thing. The time consuming part is the finish work needed to make 3D printed parts look manufactured. You won't be able to tell the difference between 3D printed parts and other parts on the case when they are finished. As of now I just have it rough sanded but, I will be painting tomorrow.

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Freestyle Modding: Top Panels

From time to time I like to do some true freestyle modding. I have been playing with an idea to add dimen sion on the front panel. Once I first cut the pieces of acrylic they were too tall. I had to slightly modify them a couple of times to get the height correct.


Now that the acrylic pieces are the correct size they need to be sanded smooth. Its extremely important that the bottoms of the acrylic are perfectly flat. Having them nice and flat will allow them to bond better when I weld the pieces of acrylic together. I haven't welded or painted them yet but, I will soon to see what it'll look like.


Part Arrival: Voltmeter

I was happy to see that my green LED voltmeter arrived safely. Ive always wanted to have an easy way to monitor the voltage coming out of the PSU. The green matches the build perfectly and I managed to snag it for a killer price. Soon I'll mount it somewhere in the build. More than likely I will build a custom mount out of acrylic near the PSU.


Update: 3D Printed Bezel For Vertical PCIe Slots

I had a quick update to add on the 3D printed bezel I made for the vertical PCIe slots. I was able to finish priming and painting the bezel so I thought I'd post an update on it. I'm very happy with how it came out and it will look even better once I finish the other bezels for the back of the case.


OCZ St. Patrick Day:

I thought I would share the St. Patrick day post by OCZ that was inspired by this build. I was very excited to hear that they wanted to use my modded Vector 180 SSDs for their post.


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Update: Prepping 3D Printed Switch Panel & Mock-up

I filed and sanded the 3D printed pieces before applying a filler primer called, “Under Cover.†I've tried a lot of different techniques for prepping 3D printed parts for paint. Im very particular with the finish I want on my 3D printed parts.

Below you can see the printed panel in its raw form.



I don't want any remnants on layer lines or uneven tops. Filing allows me to get the layers pretty close. The filler primer fills the low levels making everything very even. Once I have them even I use 200–550 grit sandpaper to smooth it for paint.

This is the process of making the prints smooth.



I made a custom insert that fits into the inlay on the switch panel. Originally I was going to go with brushed aluminum but, I had some circle mesh that I wanted to test out first. Im still planning on cutting a piece of aluminum to see which one I like best.


Update: New Top Acrylic

I really like the way the new pieces of acrylic look on top of the case. However I feel like it could still be better. Im going to cut a couple pieces of thinner acrylic to add to the center piece. Once I have these pieces cut and prepped I'm going to paint them lime green. The rest of the pieces will be black so it will really make it pop. I just finished cutting them out and I need to sand them to match the middle piece.


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Update: Painting New Top Acrylic

I managed to have a couple days of decent weather so I could paint. The temperature fluctuations have been crazy lately. Most of the pieces are painted flat black with the two new additions in lime green.


I like the way the new panel look but, I think it would look better if I switched the colors of the center pieces. That way it would be green in the middle, sandwiched by flat black. I don't want to overdue the green on the outside of the case because I think hints of color make a bigger statement.


Update: Xbox 360 Power Ring

After doing a lot of research and testing I think I came up with a great solution to using the xbox power ring. I found some individually addressable LEDs that will allow me to adjust all of the light colors and settings. This also means that I can make it, “red ring†whenever I want but, have it match the themed colors at other times. These LEDs give me the ability to used each of the 4 ring LEDs as indicator lights. I already have a small tactile switch that I can use for the rings power switch in the middle.


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