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.



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.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Project Ecthelion: Pumps & Tubing

Now that all the waterblocks and radiators have been installed, its time to get the tubing runs completed. This build will have a combination of hard and soft tubing. We are using 2x Thermaltake Pacific PR22-D5 Res/Pump Combos for power our loops. These are supposed to be fairly silent, so hoping for good results here.



For the Hardline parts, we are using standard PETG Tubing 1/2" ID, 5/8" OD (16mm). To connect to these tube, we will be utilizing Monsoon Hardline Economy fittings v2.  I have used Monsoon fittings before with good success, but this was my first time using the v2 fittings.



There was very little in the way of documentation with these fittings, and I didn't notice that there were 2 "channels" where O-rings needed to be inserted (the v1 fittings only had 1 O-ring).  Luckily I was able to find a YouTube video that showed a cut-away of the fitting and where the o-rings needed to be installed.



With that, just a quick note on cutting the tubing for these particular fittings.  There is exactly 10mm of distance between the top rim of the fitting and the base of where the tubing will sit.  It is important to have the tubing pass both o-rings inside the fitting for a secure fit, so make sure to cut long enough for that to happen.



As is standard, here is a quick shot of all the tools involved in making hardline bends. The Barrow Bending Jig is a new addition, and makes multi-angle bends a bit easier.  Also shown is my pipe cutter, heat gun, and various bending mandrels.



We also had to cut holes in the acrylic backing for the tubing to pass through.  Measured, taped, and drilled them out.



The hardline runs for this particular system are pretty simple, a few 90 degree bends is all, so the process didn't take long at all. Being that we have a few lines that are parallel to each other, I wanted to make sure everything was level.  Used a small level to ensure we are lined up where needed.



Here is a shot of the tubing passing through the acrylic backing and transitioning to the soft tubing with compression fittings. I toyed with the idea of wrapping the tubing behind the acrylic with LED strips so they would glow, but decided against it as the opaque fluid we will be using doesn't transmit light well.
















I used some weather stripping and zip-ties to secure the tubing so it won't move around, and ruin my nice level tubing runs in the front.  Should also prevent any possible leaks from occuring since they are nice and snug.



Now we connect the soft tubing for the remainder of the loops, going to the radiators and drain ports. Here you can see a T-Block that will allow us to have a temperature sensor and drain port coming out of the radiators.



And here is the completed soft tubing portion of the loops.  I did kind of a"X" design with the loops, and it should look pretty neat once the different color fluids are crossing each other back there. Using a basic Ball Valve and stop plug to seal the drain port when not needed.



Here is the drain hose for the system.  It will thread into the ball valve, and allow for easy fluid maintenance when needed.



And here is a quick shot showing the drain hose installed to give you an idea of what it will look like during that particular operation.



My Custom PSU cables from CableMod have finally arrived... and although they look great, we have some major issues. More on that soon.

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Project Ecthelion: Radiators & Fans

This will be a fairly quick update at there isn't much to this part of the build, but there are some important steps that I didn't want to skip over. As seen in the earlier loop diagram, this build will have 2 loops, and dual Radiators.  We will be using XSPC EX360 Radiators that have been painted white. For the fans, Corsair ML120 Magnetic Levitation Static Pressure x6.



Before we started installing the actual radiators, we flushed them with white vinegar to remove any particulates. These particular radiators weren't that bad, but still had some floaties to deal with (zoom in to see).



With that done, we flushed again with distilled water, and set out to install them on the case. The Tower 900 has 2 dedicated areas for the Radiators, situated so the fans are on one side of the mounting bracket, the radiators on the other.



We decided to not go with any LED fans for the radiators, as they are not visible when the case is fully assembled. Going with a push configuration with the fans, and the hot air going into the case after passing through the radiators will be vented out via the top 140mm exhaust fan.



I have been waiting for a few random parts to get in, but should be able to make some good progress towards finishing up in the coming days.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Project Ecthelion: Custom RGB LEDs Strips


With all the waterblocks assembled, its time to get our block lighting squared away.  The case lights will be RBG, but will most likely stay a soft white glow to allow the case components to we lit well. The waterblocks on the other-hand will take full advantage of the RGB elements of their own LED strips.  The EK Monoblock has its own RGB strip, so we are going to make 2x additional ones for the waterblocks.



Heatkiller apparently has a RGB strip  for these blocks, but I didn't know that when I started making these, and its not really that difficult to make your own. I measured the length we wanted to cut the strip, and did some basic sleeving to cover up the color wires. There was a bit of soldering involved to attach the 4pin adapter to the wires, then applied some heat shrink to keep things secure. Here I am testing my strips to make sure they light up and change colors before installing them on the GPUs.



To attach the LED strips to the Acrylic part of the GPUs, I am using transparent electronics tape. This stuff is commonly found in phones and tablets, holding the back of the device to the body. Its pretty adhesive, and holds up well to heat.  Given that its transparent, it doesn't hurt the light transmission as the LEDs shine through the acrylic. Prepped the surface with an alcohol swap, then applied the tape.



Here we have the LED strips attached to the GPU Waterblocks.  I have the cables set to route directly through the gromet holes beneath the GPUs and Motherboard.

 

Now its time to see how the look with the lights turned on...

Lights ON



Lights OFF



GPUs installed on the MoBo again, and full RGB action is in effect! 



Below is most likely the color that we will end up going with on the blocks, kid of a blueish white, but we will finalize the decision once we have color liquid flowing through the loops.



Another side shot of the GPU block, with the cool blue glow in action.



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

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Project Ecthelion: Acrylic Divider MOD

Although I really like the Thermaltake Tower 900, there are a few things that visually I want to change. It has some large cavities towards that back that are made to route cables and tubing.  In function is is fine, but I don't like the way its looks, along with the extra row of holes and grommets. So I decided to use a section of white acrylic to cover up the areas that I find unsightly. Here is a rough sketch of what I planned to do.



In addition to wrapping the acrylic around the central storage area, I will also drill out holes for the hardline tubing to pass through.  Those holes will be cut down the road once I get the tubing bends situated and measured.

Here we have the prep tape and measurements to begin cutting the acrylic.



I opted to cut in the garage as acrylic is messy to deal with. Using some claps and a T-Square I secured everything down, and made my cuts using a jigsaw with a blade made to cut Plexiglas / acrylic.



Here we have it installed in the case. I kind of wish I would have used a matte white finish instead of glossy, but the end result will still work out.



As mentioned before, this will have to come out to drill a few more holes later in the project. Should be an easy modification.

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Friday, May 4, 2018

Project Ecthelion: RAM Heatsink Color MOD

Continuing with the color theme we have going for the case, GPUs and Motherboard, we need to modify the 64GB of GSkill Trident Z RAM we have going into this system.  The actual heatsinks are great, with a gunmetal finish, but the red plastic highlights have to go.



Bring on the Spray Paint!  These were a bit trickier than larger components as I wasn't able to hang them from a wire like I normally do when painting. Having them propped up a bit worked, and I let them dry overnight to ensure the paint wouldn't easily rub or scratch off.



Once installed on the RAM, they look great.  Glad they were pretty easy to take on and off, otherwise I probably would have scratch a bit of paint in the process.



Here are a few shots of the RAM installed next to the white motherboard shroud and Monoblock.



Here we have them next to the modified GPU waterblocks.  Really liking how these components are coming together.



Installed, and very impressive.



Next up, going to make an acrylic backing for the case to hide some of the holes and openings for a cleaner look.

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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Project Ecthelion: GPU Acrylic Backplates / SLI Bridge

Now that we have some really nice looking white GPU Waterblocks, we needed some backplates to match. Originally we were going to purchase metal backplates, and just paint them as we did the waterblock shrouds.  Luckily we came across another option that allowed for further customization and required no additional painting!  A company called V1 Tech offers a lot of different design options for both the “logo” and colors.

Install of these backplates is pretty easy, and there are 2 options you can choose. You can use small rare earth magnets to secure the backplate to the GPU mounting screws, or double sided adhesive tape.  We had to use the tape, as the screws in the Heatkiller block are not magnetic. Here you can see the double sided tape on top of the screws.



We removed the tabs on the other side of the tape, and lowered the backplate in to place. It lined up perfectly with our GPU, and although can be taken off if needed, it is secured very well.



Here you can see why we went with this particular backplate. Not only does it have the white the primary theme of the case will feature, but also has a great “Titan X” graphic featuring the secondary color of our theme.



Here is a side view of one of these plates installed. Obviously these will provide no cooling benefits, but even metal backplates are said to not really provide any benefits in that regard.



In addition to the GPU backplates, we also found a plate to cover the generic HB SLI Bridge for this setup. Also installed with double sided tape.



Here we have the plates installed along with the waterblock, sitting next to the motherboard.  Really liking how the colors are coming together, and the Titan X graphic looks great.  Excited to see these installed, and with some custom RGB LEDs backing them up.



Next up, painting our RAM heatsinks to match the color theme we have going with the GPUs and Motherboard.

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