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A clear Cube with a few differences.....

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Clear G4 Cube - Passive cooled (sort of!)



This post has been re-done today - 22 January 2012.

This project was done for a few reasons:

(1) It was a long time since I had tried to put a motherboard in a Cube and that time it was a real Mac - old Mac Mini - that got the treatment

(2) I had a laser cutter just about to arrive for part of a new business and wanted to get some experience designing and cutting different materials.

(3) I was bored with my Zotac sitting in a Silverstone case and....

(4) Most importantly I was inspired by the stuff going on in this forum with Cubes from 61mg73, NeilHart and EelHead and fancied putting a different twist on the project.

It started with this:



[I thought at the BIN price of £60 (since I had just seen an average but empty case sell for £46 at auction) I didn't really have much to lose as the power supply is worth £50 if it works (it does!) and I have a couple of old graphics cards from dead cubes lying around.]

and this my long awaited toy business venture:

The laser.JPG



From the start I was also interested to see if I can either make use of the passive cooling that the Cube had - I wanted it to do more than just take up just take up tonnes of room.

I thought about keeping the Cube power supply as it would have made the perfect partner for this: http://linitx.com/product/12004

It'd be quite cool to use an original Cube silent power brick to power a re-incarnation of it and that internal board looks like it might be able to throw out a bit more welly than one of the picopsus.

In the end though as I already had a Pico PSU and an adapter in my power supply I decided to use that.

First stage was to get designing and in the beginning I made up a template for a Mini-ITX motherboard tray and a few other bits and pieces and just did a try out:



Loved the dramatic lighting on that! This first cut on my machine was pretty satisfying and the 5mm acrylic came out really well - though it was too skinny at the left edge of the I/O plate and I felt was not up for the rigours of being pushed around inside the Cube.

Here are a few pic.s of the first version where I put the board in to the cube with my new custom backplate and working handle:





About this time I also realised just how tight things were in the cube - mounting a mini-ITX where the Cube mobo went is not feasible if you want to keep the touch switch. The front of the board interferes with it.

That means you have to re-jig things and I went for mounting the mobo where the hard drives were in the original cube as that gave some more headroom too.

However....mounting down there means the mobo front interferes with the latching mechanism for the handle:



Here the front RAM slot is blocked by the case latch and the picopsu is shoved hard against the end of the case straining the MOBO. Not good.

So I took a couple of decisions on this build (as I had now definitely decided that I was going to make the Zotac fit - incidentally the Intel thin ITX board I think would have none of these problems!!). First, the Pico PSU would be relocated as just a few mms make a difference, and second I would rethink the whole heatsink and handle thing.

I don't sleep a lot at nights, but one of the benefits is that I end up designing stuff in my head to occupy the time. The result of a sleepless night was how to passively cool the Cube, cure the space issues, have a removable core (save the world, cure cancer...).

I decided to have a different take on the old Powerlogix enclosure, which looked like this:



The Powerlogix did away with the inner case and made it all see through. It also had a different top design and more space to get more air in.

The passive cooling I went for originally had been intended to be heatpipe based, but when I saw the size of the pipes and all the hardware a different solution came to mind - why not just turn the heatsink over, and close the gap between the processor and the flat face of the heatsink with a block of conductive aluminium.

So:











The above images show the hardware I used to do the attachment to the heatsink - the processor block was a 4cm cube of aluminium from HFX with acrylic spring to attach to the motherboard and CPU with correct force. The other block was home made and used to bridge the gap between the HFX heatsink and the Cube heatsink. This upper block bolts onto the HFX one below it and then up to the heatsink above it.

In my final version, instead of the heatsink being absolutely fixed in one position I made a sliding linkage at the back of my new acrylic panel that allowed the heatsink to be raised (or lowered) by a few mm's and then be fixed in place. I did that to make sure that the weight of the heatsink did not bear down upon the processor or Mobo.

(Will post some pic.s of this linkage here later).

When I tested this out with some video encoding and benchmarking and no other cooling the CPU coped very well but temp.s climbed to a max in the low 70 C's. While that was coped with well and was truely silent I decided that for a better life expectancy I should add a bit of airflow - so I used the same principle Apple had planned for more powerful Cubes (sadly never produced!) and added a base fan. However, as I had lots of room I could add a Noctua 92mm fan and have it on slow ultra low noise speed - incredibly this single change brought about a 25 degree drop in temp across the whole operating range!!!! And it is still silent (unless you put your ear to it).



Having decided I wanted to avoid the problems with the handle and go the powerlogix style I ditched the handle and was able to use the space where the handle was to route a ATX extension cable meaning I could mount the PicoPSU somewhere else.





I had already figured out how to wire up the Cube proximity switch a few years ago and wrote an online guide to it, here is a pic from it:

Cube Switch.jpg

Basically, the picture says how to do it. You must use the 5Vstandby voltage from the PSU, you must keep to the polarity of the power switch mentioned and the three connections labelled by me as 1,4 and 5 (for Mac Mini switch just substitute Power_sw outputs from mobo) are all you need to get the switch working. The trick to get the LED working as a power LED indicator is to use the light green power_on signal from the mobo and connect that via a suitable resistor to the LED on the cube switch like I show here:





Though the two pic.s here are not very clear, basically what I am doing is soldering a wire to the cathode of the led (the leg closest to the large central gap in the metal cube top plate), connecting that to a resistor of around 500 Ohms and then connecting the other side of that resistor to the Power_On light green wire. In the pic.s I do that by actually soldering the end of the resistor to the unused terminal "2" of the switch board so I can use the plug from that connector for all my switch connections.

This way of connecting means you get the LED to glow all the time the Cube is on and you get it to glow more strongly when it senses your finger near it....cool eh?

So finally, I come to the finished (well nearly) product.

These last photos show what I did today. The top of my old cube enclosure has been lasered off (actually things got a bit messy and tense for a while doing that!), and a new top lasered. I also made a plastic mesh cover - which i will be replacing with a lasered blue mirrored plate - and used some old handles I have.



















So, that's pretty much it. Hope you like it.

As you can see, it works in the case and outside of it too. I think it is different in many ways to other mod.s - pretty much silent like the original, cool (cruises at 30 degrees) and being removeable from the top of the enclosure makes it more versatile than the powerlogix enclosure which had to have nuts and bolts unscrewed.

Be happy for your comments!
 

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Re: Yep, another Cube!

It must be a disease going around ... don't forget to post pix ( of both the build and the laser cutter so we can be jealous)
 

beelzebozo

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Re: Yep, another Cube!

minihack said:
Well, I finally cracked.

This one came up yesterday in the UK: http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=110806056141#ht_907wt_1321.



I thought at this price (since I had just seen an average but empty case sell for £46 at auction) I didn't really have much to lose as the power supply is worth £50 if it works (it does!) and I have a couple of old graphics cards from dead cubes lying around.

Best scenario then was if I replaced the video card and all booted well then I can save another Cube and sell it all on quickly. Looked that that was going to happen as booting from firewire on one of my cards got it up and running. However, random KPs tell me there is something more and that I don't want to risk selling it on faulty.

So I guess I get the chance to join Neil, Eel and 61mg73.

Once I have got started I'll post my ideas on this one. But, as I have lots of dead bits from other cubes around in my parts bin you can probably expect some slightly different results to turn one Cube and some bits into two or three finished projects in the end.

As my long awaited toy business venture is arriving tomorrow (laser cutter) you can expect this to involve some new acrylic bits and pieces. I'm also interested to see if I can either make use of the passive cooling that the Cube had or, if that looks like getting too hot then getting rid of the heatsink all together. I reckon if it is there then I want it to do something instead of just take up tonnes of room.

Think I will probably sell on the PSU, though it does occur to me that it could be the perfect partner for this: http://linitx.com/product/12004

It'd be quite cool to use an original Cube silent power brick to power a re-incarnation of it and that internal board looks like it might be able to throw out a bit more welly than one of the picopsus. Hmmm, some thinking to be done.
That Pico PSU just might work with the Apple PSU as the Apple brick is rated at 28v, however you will need to make sure that you have an adapter that can mediate the connection between that and the Pico PSU; it would need to be a CAB- 4pin miniDIN -> miniFIT-JR adapter.

Take a look at the manual:

http://resources.mini-box.com/online/PWR-M4-ATX/PWR-M4-ATX-manual.pdf
 

neilhart

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Re: Yep, another Cube!

Yea for you. I am on the trail of a reasonably priced cube and should have it late tomorrow if all goes well. My intent is to install the Intel low profile motherboard.

neil
 
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Re: Yep, another Cube!

I was just going to suggest what you thought of Neil. The board you have been working with would be perfect for this type of application. If you wanted to keep the "stock" look you could enclose the new power supply inside the existing Cube power supply. I'd imagine there would be some light modding involved when it came to the back where the rest of the ports are though, which is always the course of events when customizing inside an original Mac case. I wish you the best of luck with that project.
 
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Re: Yep, another Cube!

61mg73 said:
It must be a disease going around ... don't forget to post pix ( of both the build and the laser cutter so we can be jealous)
The fun begins...

The laser.JPG
 

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Re: Yep, another Cube!

How great is that?!?!?!!! I feel a serious case of gear envy coming on ..... Does it cut aluminum as well as plywood/plastic , how thick will it cut? What software are you going to use to generate your patterns ( I'm assuming it needs STL files )?
 
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Re: Yep, another Cube!

61mg73 said:
How great is that?!?!?!!! I feel a serious case of gear envy coming on ..... Does it cut aluminum as well as plywood/plastic , how thick will it cut? What software are you going to use to generate your patterns ( I'm assuming it needs STL files )?
Aluminium cutters are serious money, so no it's plastics, woods, cloth, engraves slates, marks aluminium and metals. With anodised the laser is used to selectively remove the anodised layer and with other metals you can get stuff you paint on, the laser fuses it in place and the rest is washed off later.

Cutting depth for acrylic is 15mm with the tube I have on it, but if I went higher power then can go 20mm or so.

Software I use is Coreldraw, but anything that can output a dxf file will work and can be imported then into the cutter program. My first projects are mobo trays and an internal screen for the G5 that fits where the air deflector for original G5s went.

I have promised to do my day job tomorrow ( :thumbdown: ) but after that it'll be full speed ahead in getting the stuff out of my head and on to plastic.
 

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Re: Yep, another Cube!

Questions about your new laser machine. What is the maximum panel size? And can you control the depth of cut in a given material?

And we are all looking for some example output in your projects.

neil
 
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Re: Yep, another Cube!

neilhart said:
Questions about your new laser machine. What is the maximum panel size? And can you control the depth of cut in a given material?

And we are all looking for some example output in your projects.

neil
Panel size maximum that will fit completely onto the cutting bed is 400mm x 600mm - a decent size but not huge. You can though flip the sides down and put a larger panel through as long as max width is 600mm.

Controlling depth of cut is not easy, it operates in two modes "cut" and "engrave". You could repeatedly engrave to get deeper and deeper but it'd take take a lot of experimentation and in the end for making a channel I think you are better off milling. Basically you have two variables: laser power and laser speed. Cutting is a straight single pass at high power that is geared to go all the way through and engrave is a rastering motion at a lower power to give texture. The best thing of course is it'll cut any complex shapes you want and the finish to the cut is automatically a great "flame polished" finish.

You also have to be material aware and pick for the job in hand - e.g. cast perspex and extruded may look the same but only cast acrylic will engrave nicely, extruded perspex (the cheaper stuff) will not, extruded perspex though has a more uniform thickness.

It's fun, but a little bit stinky - by that I mean that while all cutters come with a fume extraction system there is still inevitably a very distinctive smell that lingers from the acrylic residue when you open up the machine to get your cut materials out. So my office where I have this is now a workshop and I am thankful it is detached from the house. You wouldn't want it in your living space.

I am looking at this as a business so will be doing all sorts of stuff from cutting out wooden patterns for Eukeleles (is that spelt right??) to working with local crafts people who need cloth cut or marked. My passion though obviously will be in modding.

For the moment it is play time while I get used to the machine and the programs and test out what it will and won't do.

And of course, I'll post up stuff here as it comes off the machine for the Mac projects.
 

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