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My case mod will take us to the world of ST:TNG and the Enterprise's most fearsome enemy introduced in the second season of the series.  The case I'll be modding is the Cooler Master Elite 110.  The inside components will comprise a modest gaming rig, with a nod to the era that ST:TNG was new on the air by using the 20th anniversary Intel Pentium processor.  Providing I don't run out of time and energy, my case mod will even include a "frickin' laser beam" in eerie Borg green of course.

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The components that will be used in my case mod are:

  • Cooler Master Elite 110 Case
  • Cooler Master 550W Power Supply
  • Gigabyte GA-Z97N-Gaming 5 Mini-ITX Motherboard
  • Intel Pentium 20th Anniversary G3258 LGA1150 Processor
  • G.Skill Sniper 8GB DDR3-1333 Memory
  • Samsung 850 EVO 250GB SSD
  • EVGA GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB GDDR5 Video Card

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Cooler Master Elite 110 Case

 

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Cooler Master 550W Power Supply

 

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Gigabyte GA-Z97N-Gaming 5 Mini-ITX Motherboard

 

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Intel Pentium 20th Anniversary G3258 LGA1150 Processor

 

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G.Skill Sniper 8GB DDR3-1333 Memory

 

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Samsung 850 EVO 250GB SSD

 

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EVGA GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB GDDR5 Video Card

 

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I finally got back to my mod and made a little progress today.  I'm not going to keep the stock Cooler Master front cover, which has the power and reset swtiches, speaker and microphone jacks, hard drive and power LEDs, and a couple of USB ports on the side.  It'll just be in my way and not needed since I envision the Borg Cube skin will attach directly to the metal frame of the case beneath where the front cover used to be.  (By the way Cooler Master, it seems a little silly to me to have those jacks and ports on the front cover for such a small case as all the same jacks and ports are available a short distance away at the back of the computer.)  Doing away with the front cover, and the cooling fan behind it, does bring up a few of challenges.  First, will doing away with the front cooling fan be a concern for overheating?  I don't think so, as the CPU, video card, and power supply all have fans generating plenty of air circulation, plus I envision the Borg Cube skin that I'm going to use will allow for plenty of airflow between the outside and inside of the case.  Second, how am I going to power on/off the computer and reset it as needed when the power and reset switches are part of the stock Cooler Master front cover that I'm not going to use?  To solve this second challenge, I custom built power and reset cables soldered to momentary on/off switches that I mounted at the back of the case.  I had to dust off my rusty soldering skills and drill a couple holes in the back of the case to mount the switches, but I believe the end result was successful.  Third, what do I do about the loss of the hard drive and power LEDs that were part of the stock Cooler Master front cover?  I'm not quite sure yet, but I'm thinking that at least one of those jumpers from the motherboard will be driving my eerie green Borg lighting effect when I get to that point.  The other thing I did today was to strip the case down to as bare of a frame as I could get to prepare it for the Borg Cube skin.  Until next time, following are a few photos of what I got done today.  Remember, resistance is futile!

 

Case with stock Cooler Master front cover:

 

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Same, but with focus on the switches, jacks, LEDs, USB ports, and cooling fan that are all going away:

 

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Custom built power and reset cables:

 

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Inside case view of the mounted power and reset cables:

 

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Rear case view of the mounted power and reset cables:

 

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After searching high and low through every hobby, model train, plastic modelers, and second-hand store in my local area (and even a few while I was out of state on vacation), I finally found some hard plastic panels with the look and texture that seem ideal for my case's Borg Cube skin.  The problem is the panels are too small, and a little too thin and flimsy.  The Cooler Master Elite 110 Case is about 10" at its widest point.  So, in order to make a cube I need my panels to be about 10" square and I need at least four of them.  (I know a cube has six sides, but I won't need a panel for the bottom and I won't need to cover most of the back because the rear of the computer must remain accessible.)  The panels I found are only about 8" square, which is about 2" too short on each side.  I wrestled with a lot of different ideas on how to solve this dilemma, and I finally settled upon molding and casting.  This is brand new ground for me, but after much research I found a company with some molding and casting materials and techniques that looked promising.  So, I bought the materials and set about making a template for the mold from which I would make at least four castings of a panel that is 10" square.  To do so, I had to take a couple of the 8" square panels and cut, sand, and glue them together to make a 10" square panel that served as my template.  From this template I made a mold, and from the mold I successfully made four 10" square panels and a partial panel for the back.  It was a very long and tedious process, but in the end I am very pleased with the results.  We have engaged the Borg!

 

One of the original 8" square hard plastic panels laid against a carpenter's square for size reference:

 

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Underside view of the 10" square panel template that was cut and pasted together from a couple of the 8" square panels:

 

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Topside view of the 10" square panel template:

 

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Another topside view of the 10" square panel template laid against a carpenter's square for size reference:

 

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Underside view of the 10" square panel template being prepped for molding.  Clay was built up around the edge to give the mold more depth (and hence a thicker casting), and to prevent the template from floating and the molding material from seeping underneath.

 

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Topside view of the 10" square panel template placed in the molding pan:

 

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Pouring the molding material over the 10" square panel template:

 

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The successful mold!

 

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Pouring the casting material into the mold:

 

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One of four successful castings of a 10" square panel!

 

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The next phase was obviously assembling the panels into a cube.  I first had to do some clean up of the castings to ensure each panel had straight and clean edges to mate up to its neighbor, as well as opening up some of the little windows on each panel that may have filled in during the casting process.  The windows are important because they will allow for airflow to the computer components as well as being integral to the Borg lighting effects I have planned.  I glued the panels together with contact adhesive, which seemed to hold well, but I also enhanced each joint with a bead of hot melt glue.  This, coupled with making the castings a little thicker than the original panels, resulted in a surprisingly sturdy cube.  I performed a fit test, followed by a lighting test, and I couldn't have been happier with the results.  Everything fit together nicely and the lighting test gave me the eerie green Borg effect that this build requires.  For the lighting effect, I plan to line the interior of the cube with LED color strips.  These strips are easy to install with their self-adhesive backing, they're extremely flexible for tight areas, they generate little heat, they allow me to vary the light intensity, and they even allow me to change the color to something other than Borg green if I so desired.  We are the Borg!

 

Gluing a couple of panels together:

 

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Prepping a third panel to add to the two existing:

 

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An almost complete cube:

 

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Rear view of the completed cube:

 

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Fit test:

 

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Front view of the completed cube:

 

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Lighting test:

 

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LED color strip for interior lighting:

 

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Close-up of the LED color strip:

 

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Getting closer to the end, it's time to paint!  For my reference paint scheme, I went back and watched some ST:TNG where the Borg Cube ship was present and searched online through the multitude of Borg Cube images and compared/contrasted the many artist interpretations.  I finally settled upon my own interpretation which will use flat black as the base coat, metallic silver as a highlight to add some contrast and depth, and finally some touches of fluorescent green around the windows to add that eerie Borg green effect.  In between coats of paint, I built the computer that will be encased in its new Borg Cube skin.  As a reminder, the case I'm modding is the Cooler Master Elite 110.  I completely stripped the original outside components from this case so only the internal skeletal frame remains, to which the Borg Cube skin will be attached.  The inside components will comprise a modest gaming rig, with a nod to the era that ST:TNG was new on the air by using the 20th anniversary Intel Pentium processor.  (For the record, I'm also using three Cooler Master components in my build:  1) Cooler Master Elite 110 Case, 2) Cooler Master 550W Power Supply, and 3) Cooler Master Case Fan.)  I was originally going to forgo the case fan thinking that it would be in the way.  However, I was able to move the front case fan from it's original factory installed location that was between the skeletal frame and front cover to the front inside of the skeletal frame with the rest of the inside components.  I'm happy this solution worked because it will help ensure all of the inside components receive plenty of air flow, as I'm sure Cooler Master had originally intended.  The funny thing is that building the computer was actually the quickest and easiest part of this whole project!  You will be assimilated.

 

Cube painted with flat black as the base coat:

 

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Cube painted with metallic silver as a highlight to add some contrast and depth:

 

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Rear view of completed computer:

 

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Top view of completed computer:

 

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Front view of completed computer, clearly showing a Cooler Master 550W power supply:

 

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Inside view of completed computer, also clearly showing a Cooler Master 550W power supply:

 

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Beginning another test fit of Borg Cube skin on completed computer, being very careful as the paint is still wet:

 

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Rear view of Borg Cube skin on completed computer:

 

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Front view of Borg Cube skin on completed computer.  Yes, there's a computer inside although you can't tell from this angle:

 

post-97332-0-71193700-1430058236_thumb.jpg

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Painting finished!  The last step is to finish up the lighting effects by lining the interior of the cube with LED color strips, and installing a "frickin' laser beam" (thank you Dr. Evil) in eerie Borg green.  I bought a diffractive laser beam splitter with a fan pattern which should add a nice effect, similar to the illustration below courtesy of www.gamutofgeek.com.  Finally, instead of these camera photos, I'll get some decent photos taken with a real camera and submitted to Cooler Master before Thursday's deadline.  Thank you to Cooler Master and all of the sponsors for this opportunity.  It's been fun!  May the force be with you!  (Oh wait, wrong movie...)

 

Finished painted cube:

 

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Illustration of the diffractive laser beam splitter with a fan pattern:

 

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