MICRO CENTER: COMPUTERS AND ELECTRONICS
Random Access   chris, kp & rob
In The Lab
TRON Case Mod Part 1
by chris

At the end of my article in February's In The Lab, I mentioned that for a unique one-of-a kind case, you will have to build or modify it yourself. If you have read some of our other case mod articles, you know that some of the modifications you can do can be very simple, such as adding a window, installing case lighting, or replacing air cooling with water cooling. You also probably noticed that some of my case mods have been very elaborate shells over a standard frame or chassis - everything from carved wood with stained-glass inserts like the Art Nouveau Case (Part 1 & Part 2), to engraved and bejeweled limestone in the EgyptMod Case. My latest case mod project is inspired by the Disney movie "TRON" and the computer game "Tron 2.0." As change of pace, I decided to build one that requires a bit more conservative alterations for those of you that can't run out to buy all sorts of specialized tools to play with.

Build 1.0 - The Shell
[System User: TRaceON]

For a TRON-themed case mod, I started with a Silverstone Kublai case and disassembled the front bezel and side panels for modification. The case is steel except for the solid aluminum front cover.

The Logo Panel

Silverstone Kublai Case TRON movie poster TRON 2.0 game box
The Silverstone Kublai Case, the TRON movie poster and one version of the TRON 2.0 game box.

The solid side panel was prepared for the addition of a back-lit TRON logo, based on the original TRON movie poster, but updated with the TRON 2.0 game characters. To start, the original poster design was scaled to fit the panel, and the outline transferred to the inside of the steel panel. Using a plasma cutter, I quickly cut out the irregular-shaped opening. The sharp edges were ground down and the large circle outline smoothed out with the grinder. A piece of 1/8" polycarbonate sheet was cut to fit inside the side panel.

logo-shaped hole is cut in the solid side panel clamped to the inside to trace the opening
The logo-shaped hole was cut in the solid side panel. A piece of scrap 1/4" acrylic was clamped to the inside to trace the opening.

Next, a piece of 1/4" acrylic was clamped inside the logo hole, and the edge of the hole was traced onto the plastic with a colored marker. The outlined shape was cut out on a scroll saw, and then rough-finished with some cutting burrs. The game characters were cut out of another piece of 1/4" acrylic and rough-shaped using a Dremel tool with a router bit and cutting burrs in the flexible shaft. The concentric rings the figures stand on were cut from a third piece of acrylic which was ground down to taper from thick in the front to a thin edge behind the figures. The "TRON" letters were shaped from 1/4" UV-reactive acrylic. All of the shapes were then glued together. Once the glue on the figures had set, the entire logo was glued to the polycarbonate sheet. The surface of the figures was then coated with several coats of black paint; carving through the paint coating exposed the clear plastic, allowing the back-lights to shine through.

The rough-cut pieces Gluing the figures together The assembled insert
1) The rough-cut pieces. 2) Gluing the figures together. 3) The assembled insert.
Painting the insert black Panel before detail carving and final assembly
4) Painting the insert black. 5) Panel before detail carving and final assembly.

The Top Panel
The front bezel assembly had a "cap" that contains the power and reset buttons, and an opening for USB, 1394, and front panel audio ports. There was a clear lens through the center section, illuminated by 3 blue LEDs. A single red LED flashed with disk activity. I removed the blue LEDs and created a small oval board with 16 blue LEDs radiating out from the center. I then enlarged a center hole in the clear lens to accept the assembly.

My original idea for the top surface was to create a geometric pattern of plastic shapes out of UV-reactive plastic sheet, but my free-hand sawing and sanding skill just weren't up to it. After wasting most of a 2 square-foot sheet, I ordered a selection of glass tiles and attached these with epoxy to the surface. More tiles will be placed on the side panels and inside the case to carry the theme throughout the project.

Glass tile being glued to the top panel the nearly-completed pattern
Glass tile being glued to the top panel (left) and the nearly-completed pattern (right).
Testing tile clearance with the front bezel in position Close up of LED assembly
Testing tile clearance with the front bezel in position. Close up of LED assembly.

The Window Panel
I removed the factory-installed acrylic side window panel and I enlarged the opening to expose the drive bays. Two holes were drilled with a small hole saw, and shears were used to cut the straight lines. A single piece of acrylic sheet was trimmed to fit over the entire panel and held in place with plastic locking rivets. Glass tile was attached after some paint touch up from the drilling.

The window panel hole in the process of being enlarged Playing with glass tiles on the un-mounted acrylic window
The window panel hole in the process of being enlarged (left). Playing with glass tiles on the un-mounted acrylic window (right).

[System User: TRaceOFF]
(to be continued next month...)

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