MICRO CENTER: COMPUTERS AND ELECTRONICS
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In The Lab
BioShock Deco Case Mod
by chris

This case mod was inspired by the art deco elements found in the underwater city of Rapture in the hit game BioShock. The world of Rapture (from the architecture, furniture, equipment and even the ambient music) creates the noirish, dystopian mood of a city trapped in time while slowly succumbing to the elements.

The case mod started with a very basic steel case. A front bezel frame, top and side panels were cut from MDF (medium-density fiberboard) and the edges rounded on a router. Layers of rounded MDF were used to create the art deco style panels, and then additional detail were added using a variety of artistic elements found in the game as one fights through the levels of Rapture.

MDF

MDF
Shaped MDF gives the case a basic form

Porthole Panel
One side panel has a circular opening that will have a Mr. Bubbles-style porthole attached. The porthole was cut from a piece of 3/4" MDF. First, a circle was cut around the outside edge with a straight router bit, then a flat shelf was cut in from the outside, and finally the inside edge was cut through with the straight bit. The inside edge was rounded on the router, and the curve smoothed out by hand and sanded smooth. "Bolt" holes were drilled around the outside shelf, and then enlarged by hand using a flexible shaft with a round metal burr to accept 7/16" ball bearings. To achieve a rough sand-cast appearance, the MDF was not sealed, but was just given a quick coat of spray primer. This was followed by several coats of gold spray paint. Once the paint was dry, the frame was aged by using black, green, and blue-green acrylic paints; dabbing the color on and then wiping the excess off with a paper towel. To create heavy-duty "rivets" ball bearings were glued into the holes with epoxy. The final step before mounting on the side panel was to install a disk of wavy green glass in the opening.

Creating a porthole

Painted porthole
Creating a porthole

An aged porthole
An aged porthole

The final installation
The final installation

Front Door
A front door was made with a curved accent of MDF and some ribbed trim detail and glued together. All panels were sealed with several coats of shellac-based primer, until a smooth surface was achieved.

Front door components
Front door components

Glass Window Panel
The system board panel had an arched opening cut and sanded smooth.

Placement of the arched opening
Placement of the arched opening

A clear glass window insert was created using the copper-foil stained glass method and common single-strength window glass. Art Deco detail was added to the central columns by soldering several lengths of round brass rod together, and tacking the sections to the foil seams.

Window insert
Arched window frame

Window with bronze accents
Brass rods added

The arched window needed small deco figures holding up the faux support columns. To create the figures, an actual size model was made in oil-based clay, then a rubber mold was made. Once the polymer rubber was set, the clay model was removed and the mold was coated with petroleum jelly as a mold release. Epoxy resin mixed with bronzing powder was poured in the mold and reinforced with fiberglass strands.

Clay model
A clay model
Rubber mold
The closed mold
Resin in the mold
The figure is ready to release

The finished statue figures are glued in place
The finished statue figures are glued in place
with a bit of silicone glue/sealer

Waterfall
The waterfall insert behind the statues was constructed from a frame of 1/4" acrylic with a layer of 1/8" impact resistant acrylic glued on either side, creating a space for the water to flow. To reinforce where the 1/8" pipe fittings attach, I cut a small circle of plastic that was centered on the upper arched window, and added three arches in clear acrylic that lined up on the columns at the base. A hole was cut and enlarged with a burr until the tapping bit could start to cut the threads for the pipe. To control the flow of water down the panel, a piece of 1/4" plastic was cut to fit inside the upper section, with small grooves cut between the input hole and the open panel. The assembly was glued together with clear model glue and allowed to set for at least a day before attaching the pipes and doing leak testing. Four brass angles hold the insert centered in the arched panel.

Input hole
Input hole

Drain hole
Drain hole
The waterfall from behind
The waterfall from behind

A small Swiftech pump was used to drive the waterfall effect, with a section of hose acting as a fill port and reservoir. The panel itself is the primary reservoir, with enough liquid added to cover the bottom and drain hole while the pump is in operation. Three blue LEDs were added to the clear plastic arches for interest, and wired into the 5v pins of the pump's Molex connector.

Water Cooling
Water cooling of the CPU is with a collection of Swiftech products, including a CPU cooler, heavy duty pump, and 120mm radiator. A Danger Den fill port mounted in the top of the case and the 5.25" drive bay reservoir complete the cooling system. Several elbow connectors help with the tight bends and add a couple of arch-like curves.

  1. Swiftech Extreme Duty Universal Water Block
  2. Swiftech MCP655-B 12v Industrial Pump
  3. Swiftech Single 120mm Radiator
  4. Danger Den Single Bay Reservoir
Water-cooling layout
Water-cooling layout

Front panel and drive bays
A 120mm fan grill was made in the fashion of one of the Neptune gates seen in the game. An image of the gate pattern was scaled to the fan size, and then glued to a piece of brass. The sunburst rays and other open detail were cut using a jeweler's saw, leaving solid areas for the central disk and fish. A dome of nickel silver was shaped and soldered in the center. Fish were cut from copper sheet and soldered to the upper corners. Details such as fins on the fish and waves were cut with burrs, and then the grill was sanded and buffed to a soft polish.

Neptune gates
Neptune gates
Finished gate
Finished gate

To mount the fan grill in the front bezel, a grid work of foil-edged white glass was created similar to the door openings in the game. On the left side of the grill, I installed the guts of a 4-port USB mini-hub. Power and the USB cable were fed back through openings in the case. The hub had a single blue LED that lights the lower square of white glass when it has power. To balance the illuminated tile, I hot glued another blue LED for HDD access behind the bottom right tile. The pattern was extended into another section that partially covers the bottom drive bay, and left open in the middle of the design. A piece of green leather was installed with a small illuminated contact switch mounted in the center for powering the system on.

Mounted Neptune gates
Neptune gate mounted within foil-edged white glass.
The USB ports are visible on the left edge of the gate.

For the top bay, the Danger Den clear acrylic cooling reservoir was installed, but with an open grid work design of the BioShock logo done in brass and nickel. For the middle bay, the DVD-RW drive bezel was painted gold, and then a rib detail of brass rod was added across the bottom. To conceal the tray, the deco-style wing was created in brass and glued to the front. In the lower drive bay, I installed a floppy drive and media card reader unit, after also painting the bezel and bay adapter gold. A couple of small brass details were added on either side to give a nice art deco appearance.

Three drive bays
Three drive bays
Top: Water cooling reservoir. Middle: DVD-RW.
Bottom: Floppy drive and media card reader.

The front door is held in place with brass "knife" hinges that were attached to the top and bottom panels. A push-release magnetic catch holds the door closed; just push it in to extend the catch and open the door.

Finished arched window
The finished BioShock case mod

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