Friday, November 8, 2019

3D Printed Stands for Google Home Minis (Andy & ED209 Mech from RoboCop)

We have a few Google Home units spread throughout the house.  A few with screens, and in the kids bedrooms the smaller "Mini" speakers.  The kiddos love to play music on them, and set their alarms for school. As a family, we also use them for an intercom system to get everyone's attention in the house, no matter what room they are in.

The units themselves are pretty simple.  Basically a speaker + mic, with a touch sensitive surface to control playback and volume if not using your voice. Although they look just fine sitting on a nightstand or dresser, my kids wanted an upgrade.  Time to start up the 3D Printer!

Found 2 files on Thingaverse that would work perfectly. For my oldest daughter, Andy the Android giving a cute wave.  She actually picked this one out, and the end result looks great. The other file was a bit more complicated both the print and assemble (not to mention paint). My son loves Legos and robots, so when we saw the ED209 Mech from the 1980s RoboCop movie, it was the perfect fit for his bedroom.  I very much underestimated just how large this model was... but 48 hours later, all the parts had been printed out.

As can be seen below, there is a mix of colors here... since I was going to paint this model, decided I would use up a few random spools of filament that were taking up space and almost on their way out.

I did have to split a few of the larger parts in half when printing, otherwise there would have been far too many supports to deal with.  After printing those parts, just glued the halves together, and then started the priming process. 

Small woodworking clamps come in really handy at this stage.  For the glue, I go with E6000 Craft Adhesive for these types of projects.  It takes a bet to set, but once it does, locks in very tight, and is semi-flexible which is really nice since kids might be playing with this stand. Get glue that is too rigid, and you will find your parts coming apart with even the slightest bend.  E6000 is the way to go.  Here is an Amazon Link for a 3.7oz bottle.

With everything assembled, it is time to start priming. This is a very important step for two reasons.
1) Primier will help cover up any small imperfections that may result from difficult areas to print
2) Painting directly on top of PLA or PETG will result in poor adhesion and the paint will eventually start to flake off.  Get some good primer and go to town. 

You can use any sand-able primer found at your local hardware store for a print of this size, and probably be OK.  I personally like to use primer from "Army Painter" as is goes on very thin, and covers really well.  A thinner coat will ensure that you don't cover up any detail on the model while still prepping the surface for the paint. 

The Army Painter spray on primers are primarily made for tabletop miniatures (which is what I originally purchased it for), but is did really well with this larger model as well.  I highly recommend it for these types of applications. Here is an Amazon link if you want to give it a try.

With the priming complete, I brought out the Airbrush and began to lay down some nice base coats.  With the base applied, I switched over to my brushes and started some of the detail work and accent coloring.  After the colors were all applied, went back over the entire model again with a matte clear coat to protect the paint.  Really pleased with how it turned out, and my son was super excited when he saw it looking over he bed from the dresser.

After these 2 stands were completed, my youngest 2 daughters were not going to be left out of the fun!  They wanted the "Andy" as well, but went with a transparent purple for the body color. Looks great in their room,, but its going to be a challenge for them to keep from touching this little guy!

These were a lot of fun to print out and paint.  My kids really enjoy them, and hope fully they will have them for a long time (if they can keep their hands off).

Here is a quick video I put together that shows much of what I explained above. Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

TableTop Arcade - Video Walk through

Project Index

Video Walk Through

Video that will walk through the primary parts of the system, and show the operation of the Arcade Cabinet.  Coming Soon...

Review - HP Spectre USB-C 20100mAh Laptop Battery Power Pack

I have been looking at a battery pack for my laptop to use while traveling on work trips, and with this unit advertising 20,100mAh and 60w charging rate via USB-C (Power Delivery Spec), I decided to give it a try. This is not the first "Laptop" capable Power Pack I have tried, and up until now the ones I have tested have been a disappointment.   Here is a link to this product if you would like to give it a try.

HP Spectre USB-C 20100mAh Laptop Battery Power Pack - $139 (as of 12/20178)

I have 2 laptops that I tested this with, 1) HP Spectre x360 15t w/ Dedicated GPU, 2) Lenovo T570 ThinkPad 15.6in.  The look and feel of the power pack is top notch, as would be expected from a “Spectre” accessory which in my opinion are the best looking laptops on the market right now.

The unit comes with a nice carry pouch, and a USB C to USB C cable with one end at a 90 degree angle.  This cable supports at least 60w, but is limited to USB 2.0 speeds.

This Power Pack has 3 ports:
  • USB C - 60w Output / 45w Input (Power Delivery Spec for more wattage hungry devices)
  • USB C - 10w Output
  • USB A - 10w Output

The top is a faceted matte plastic and the bottom has a rubberized foot so it won’t slide around. There are also marking on the rubber showing the functions of the various ports.

My Lenovo ThinkPad uses a 65w AC Adapter, and took a charge from this unit without issues. My HP Spectre comes with a larger AC Adapter (90w) as it has a dedicated GPU and Quadcore Processor. I was pleased to see this power pack charge my Spectre without issue and even kept increasing the battery percentage while under heavy system loads like video editing, gaming, and synthetic benchmarking. Impressive.

This Power Pack can be charged to full capacity in just over 2 hours.

I fully drained the battery in my HP Spectre 15t, and this plugged this unit in.  It was able to get my battery from 0 to 70%, which took about 1.5 hours. Interestingly, it actually outputs a higher wattage if the connected laptop is powered down, 62w vs 56w based on my earlier testing.

The other 2 ports performed as expected, and are great for charging phones and tablets.

The only negatives I can find is that it is a bit pricey, but as I have found very few Power Packs that can actually deliver on the 60w promise, not going to hold the price against it. The other thing that is more of an annoyance than an issue, is that when you are fully discharging the battery, after about an hour the unit begins to get a bit hot (around 60c) and you can hear a slight coil whine. It’s not very loud and probably can’t be heard over the laptop fans, but is noticeable in a quiet environment with the laptop turned off.  This doesn’t seem to hinder the devices operation at all, but is something to be aware of.

In my testing, here are the maximum Discharge Rates for each port.
USB C (Power Delivery) – 62w  (19.5v X 3.18A)
USB C – 10w  (4.89v X 2.03A)
USB A – 9.7W  (4.80v X 2.03A)

Charging Rate, USB C (PD) – 47w  (20.3v X 2.35A)

  • 20,100mAh capacity (TSA Approved)
  • Build Quality looks excellent 
  • Can charge larger laptops via USB C (PD)
  • Can charge 3 devices at the same time (Laptop, tablet, phone) 

  • Coil whine after extended use
  • Housing heats up to around 60C after about an hour of use 
  • No Pass-through charging 

Overall it’s the only Power Pack I have found that can actually charge larger laptops with a Dedicated GPU like the HP Spectre 15t. The price is on the higher side for a Power Pack of this capacity, but it performs well, and looks really nice so I am ok with the pricing for now. The unit comes with a 1yr warranty, and I will update this review if the coil whine or heat become an issue.

HP Spectre USB-C 20100mAh Laptop Battery Power Pack  (Amazon Link)

Hit me up with any questions you might have in the comments.  Thanks for stopping by!

Project Ecthelion: Project Index

This is simply a "bookend" for the project to help with faster navigation between the project posts.

Project Index

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Project Ecthelion: Fluid Color Additive

Leak testing... Completed
Benchmarks... Completed
Stress Tests... Completed

Now its time to add pretty colors to the fluid loops!

Sticking with Mayhem's Pastel additives, as I used the Pastel Blue in my current rig, and after 1 year, it still looks great.  Haven't experienced the particulate settling issues some have reported, possibly because of the speed my pumps run.  Whatever the reason, it has been great for me, and I'm excited to see how it looks in this build.

The fill process is pretty basic, but be sure to keep paper towels handy, as this stuff can stain if it makes contact with a wood counter top, clothing, or other porous material.  I used a little funnel to help keep things from spilling and make it easier to fill the reservoirs.

If the system is running while you are pouring the color additive, it will quickly move through the loops as the pumps whip it around pretty fast.  The loops were fully mixed within just a minute or two after adding the colors.

Huzzah!  Kind of looks like "Whole Milk" next to "Blue Milk" from StarWars.  Really pleased with how these 2 colors look together, and how well they complement the case and hardware.

Its taken a while to get this far, but next up... FINAL BUILD PICS!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Project Ecthelion: Leak Testing, Benchmarks, and Temps

After a lot of frustration, the cables are done and its time to move on to the more fun parts of finishing up the build.  Now that everything is in place, we can begin to make sure our connections are sound and start filling up the loops.  Being that we are dealing with 2 loops here, leak testing is going to take a while. Bring on the distilled water!

In the picture above on the left is the rig ready to be filled. The the right we have gone through that process, and have booted up for the first time with liquid. I basically let it sit like this for a few hours, with paper towels placed in a few leak prone locations to see what would happen. Thankfully, we had zero leaks!  Now that we are verified to be leak free at ambient temperatures, I also want to begin stress testing to make sure it holds true when loop temps increase.

While I have a few stress tests running for the CPU and GPUs, lets play with the case lighting. Below you can can the standard White LED output using the NZXT hardware in the system. To the left is a cool blue alteration.  Thinking I will stick with the clean white look for this build.

Here is a shot of the back of the case to showcase the cable management and "hidden" tubing. Not going to win any prizes for inconspicuous cable runs here, but it works and is easy enough to manage.

I let the stress tests run for around 2 hours, and am happy to report there are no leaks, and temperatures are really looking good, as they should with this much cooling hardware. CPU stays around 42C when stressed and the GPUs never went above 47C.  That being said, these numbers are reported at stock clocks, so I would expect the temps to climb a bit once overclocks are applied. 

When at idle and during "regular" computing, temperatures sit at around 30C. Again, this is without overclocks applied and in my basement, so the ambient temperature is a tad lower than normal.  But still... really happy with the temperatures shown below to the left.   On the right is a quick run of 3DMark's Time Spy to get a general idea of system performance. Score of 17,042 at stock settings, better than 99% of all systems tested. Not bad!

Link to the Time Spy test:

Now that we are verified to be leak free and all the hardware is working as it should, we can move on to adding some color to our loops.

Will be showing that in the next post.  Almost done!

To jump to other parts of this build log, head over to the Project Index.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Project Ecthelion: Sleeved Cables... CableMod sucks

Been a while between my last post and this one.  During that time we sold our home and moved, had various work trips, and went on a family vacation.  Back from all that, and ready to finish this build!

With the tubing done, and the small stats display screen involved, it is time to run all the various power cables to the components in the case. In the past I have always made my own sleeved cables and they came out really well. For this build, the owner wanted cables from CableMod, so we took to the configuration tool to get the length and colors he wanted. The tool works really well, and the cables were ordered.  Unfortunately, the ordering process was the ONLY positive experience we had using CableMod cables. More on that farther down the post. 

Once the cables finally arrived (a few weeks as they came from Hong Kong), they looked pretty good.  I was a bit disappointed to how thin they were compared to the custom cables I have made on my own builds (my cables on top, CableMod below), but the colors look great and should work fine despite how thin the cables / sleeving are.

In addition to the PSU cables, I needed to make a custom fan splitter for the 2x 140mm exhaust fans in the case, so that can run off the same motherboard header, and spin at the same speeds with minimal configuration.  Could have ordered these as well, but had all the parts to make them, so did that instead.

With the fan cables done I moved on to routing the cables from the various components, through the case, and back to the PSU. The process was fairly easy with this case, but despite how large the case is, running this many cables can still be a lot of work.

During the cable routing process, I ran into my first issue with CableMod.  Even though I specified which Power Supply we were using during the ordering / configuration process, the 8pin CPU Power cable had the wrong head installed, wouldn't fit in the power supply as can be seen in the picture below. 

I was hoping with the 8pin head swap out of the way, I could quickly move along with the system....
I was wrong. This is where the issues with our CableMod order really came to light.  Their quality control is horrible.  Turns out every single cable we purchased from them had to be re-wired.  Huge waste of time. I'm not exactly sure what they did to screw this up so bad, but I think they wired these cables as you would extension cables, not ones that go directly from the PSU to your components.

For a visual example, to the left is the stock EVGA PSU cables for the 24pin motherboard connection, and I am holding together the two cables that connect on the PSU and Motherboard connectors. On the right are the connecting cables from the ones purchased at CableMod. Notice they are not the same, and the Motherboad will not power on in this configuration. The Graphics Cards also didn't power up until I fixed the cables.

This held true for every individual cable,with every cable.  So I went to task re-wiring every... single... cable.  At this point I was really regretting the decision to order sleeved cables instead of making them myself as I usually do.  Pretty sure I could have made my own set faster than the time spent taking apart the CabeMod ones, and wiring them back together correctly.

With that daunting task out of the way I set out to run the cables through the case again.  But this time I tested each component before running the cables through the grommets just in case. Luckily, my work is better than CableMods, and everything powered on as it should.

Cables and Sleeving is always a time consuming process, but this particular instance was especially frustrating as we purchased these cables to avoid the typical time suck, only to spend MORE time fixing them than what had been required had I just built my own from scratch.  I will never purchase from CableMod again, and will be contacting them to let them know their quality control is non existent.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Project Ecthelion: Stats Screen & Case Lighting

Now that the bulk of the components have been installed in the system, I wanted to add a small display screen to the case to show loads and temps at a glance using NZXT CAM as a dashboard. Same idea that I used on my current build, Project Open Core as seen below, although the display on that case is larger than what we will be using with the Tower 900.

We are also using NZXT HUE+ to control the exhaust fans and RGB LED strips on the case, so it will all tie together nicely.  I wasn't sure what size screen to go with at first.  A 5.8in photography display would have fit the space perfectly, but I couldn't find one that had the display inputs located in an ideal place to mount the screen, and I was also worried about it being too small to be useful unless directly in front of the screen. After careful measurements, I decided on a 7in display, which is a tad larger than the space it would be mounted on the case, but should still look great. Here is the link to the screen I am using. (Togaurd 7in LCD Display)

As mentioned before, I didn't want any cables showing for the display, so I needed a right angle HDMI input, and had to make a 12v, 5pin Molex Plug to Barrel Plug (Rt Angle) converter as well. The process is pretty simple, and allows for the display to turn on with the PC, so there aren't any additional button presses needed.

Now that the power and display signal has been addressed, time to mod the look of the screen to better match the overall build theme... and hide the ugly buttons on the bezel. Before I started "modding" the display, figured I should probably test it out to verify it was in working order. Plugged it in to one of my RetroPie systems, and everything came up just fine.

Picked up a matte white vinyl with adhesive backing that should do the trick. Measured the dimensions of the outer display and screen, and transferred the measurements to the back of the vinyl. Then carefully used a hobby knife and metal ruler to cut where needed.

With the cutouts made, I started to slowly wrap the vinyl around the display, being extra careful around the edges. This particular wrap is pretty flexible, and was easy to work with.  Seems to have good adhesion as well, which is plus.

With the wrap installed, I worked any lingering bubbles out and then mounted the display to the case using some extremely strong double-sided tape. It feels really secure, so going to leave it like that for now.  Here is a sneak-peak at what CAM will look like as a dashboard on this display.

With the Stats Screen up, moving on to the Case Lighting.  In most of my builds, I prefer to leverage the built in RGB LED motherboard headers to control all aspects of system lighting, to get consistent colors and brightness. With this build, the user will be working in a multi-OS environment, and didn't want the RGB elements to be dependent on an OS specific application, such as ASUS Aura in Windows. That is the reason for using the HUE+ unit. Once the colors have been selected, they will stay as-is, even when booting into a different Operating System. In addition to controlling the fans, the HUE kits also have some pretty nice RGB LED strips, so it should work out really well once everything is installed and configured.

In the picture to the right, just showing as a reminder to always line up the small arrow with the voltage input on these strips. Usually it will be 12v, but in the case of the NZXT Strips, 5v is used.

With that completed, here is a quick shot of the the case lighting in effect!

Still have a lot of work to do with the power cables, and verifying the loops are leak-proof, then adding the color to the liquid, but getting closer to being done.