|MICRO CENTER: COMPUTERS AND ELECTRONICS|
|In The Lab
TRON Case Mod Part 2
Last month I started a case modification project inspired by the movie "TRON" and the "TRON 2.0" game. I covered modification of the side panels, added glass tile to the top, and installed a brighter LED ring in the front panel assembly. Since then, I have moved on to the inside features and finished up the drive bay door.
Build 1.1 - The Core
To create a similar effect inside the case, I did something really nasty to a motherboard - I painted it black. (Because I was not sure if this would work, I pulled a system board out of one of my previous units that I was using a couple of years ago. I was not going to do this to a new, high-end system board.) My reasoning was that flat-black paint needs a high pigment content to achieve the appearance when dry. If the manufacturer used a plastic-based pigment, there should be no issues. However, if the pigment was an inexpensive carbon-based material (i.e. "lamp black"), then the resulting paint could be slightly conductive. It seems to me that the idea of spraying a conductive paint over the complex electronics of a system board would probably be a bad thing.
If you examine most circuit boards, you may see a protective lacquer over the surface of the copper traces. However, there are usually many exposed solder pads, diagnostic points, and exposed circuit pins that could still short out. Before painting the board, I used masking tape to cover all open sockets, card slots, and pin headers. As an added precaution, I first coated the circuit board with a couple of coats of clear, non-conductive paint, and then I applied the flat back paint.
The next step to recreate the appearance is to coat each of the chips on the board with UV reactive paint. I used some AC Ryan reactive paints, although about any day-glow paint should work. The water-based paints tend to dry slightly translucent, allowing the black undercoating to show through. Several coats had to be applied to get a reasonably uniform coating. For viewing in normal light, a base coat of white or silver would probably be recommended. Under ultraviolet lighting, the paint appears much more uniform then in daylight. A dry-brush approach was used to lightly coat the tips of the heat sink fins. All of the chips were coated and many of the small surface-mount components also received a tiny dot of paint. Blue for the rear connector shields, green for the larger chips, and orange for the surface mount components or other enhancements like the parallel printer port and corners of the system board heatsink.
For the PCI slots, I picked up a black slot protector kit and ripped apart some LED night lights for the clear acrylic diffuser. The diffusers had three indentions in the base, so I soldered three blue LEDs in series, and added a 150 ohm resistor. Hot glue held the LEDs in place. An opening for the diffuser was cut out of the slot cover using a jeweler's saw and then the LED assembly was inserted in the opening. Hot glue prevented the assembly from getting knocked out, and anchored the wire for power in place.
At this point, the system board looked pretty - but was it still operational? A quick POST (Power On Self Test) determined this. With the CPU installed, and the CPU cooler attached (with thermal compound applied!), memory and a video card were installed to give us the minimal configuration necessary for POST. (Drives are not required just to test the electronic portions of the system.) The 24-pin power connector and 4-pin auxiliary power connector werettached. The BFG Geforce 9800 GTX OC used a single 6-pin PCI-E power connection, so this was attached as well. For a POST test, the system board does not need to be installed into the case, and if there is a problem, you would just have to remove it anyway. I placed the system board on a non-conductive surface, such as the cardboard box that it came in. With power connected to all necessary parts, I shorted the two front panel power switch pins to power on. (A few system board manufacturers have a tiny board-mounted power and reset button near the front panel connections; these are very handy for this type of pre-test.) If you want to verify the different stages using system beeps instead of a display, you can do a POST without memory installed (usually resulting in a long beep followed by two short beeps or a series of long beeps), and then test without video (beeps can vary by vendor, but you should get something for a "no video" condition).
The Silverstone Kublai case included a hinged dual fan assembly along the bottom of the window panel. The pierced openings reminded me of a control-room scene in the movie, and of the transfer gates that appear in the game. Since I replaced the side panel with a solid acrylic window, the fan bracket was not going to be used. I made two disks from UV reactive Plexiglas and attached them to the fan grids. There was not enough clearance between the disks and the side of the case, so they had to be moved to the inside of the bracket.
The circuit board pattern (a common theme throughout the movie and the game) on the power supply was made from a piece of "neon" (AKA Day-Glo) paper with the pattern scaled and printed using a laser printer. It was then attached to the side of the power supply with some contact cement. A similar method was used on the top surface of the video card (slightly visible through the lower-left disk).
Still more LED lighting: After building the TRON logo out of layers of acrylic and painting it black, small burrs were used to cut trough the paint to allow light to shine through. To illuminate the logo panel, I mounted a series of LEDs behind the figures and lettering. Starting with the letters, three sets of three ultraviolet LEDs were assembled and hot glued into some shallow channels cut in the back of the panel. I mounted these at an angle to cause the UV-blue letters to glow slightly brighter at the bottom, and to diffuse the light more. Two sets of red LEDs are placed behind the rings, but more had to be added to illuminate the rings across the width of the panel.
Channels were cut in the back of the logo, and groups of LEDs were hot-glued in place. Once all LEDs are positioned, the +/- power connections were made to each group connecting all groups to a single power cable.
Groups of LEDs were formed by connecting three LEDs in series. Two groups of three were joined by the negative connections, and a current-limiting resistor attached to each of the positive connections. The resistor leads were twisted together, soldered, and then clipped to place the connections close together for wiring. Since there was very little clearance between the LEDs and the steel mounting plate for the system board, I covered the entire back of the assembly with hot glue as an insulator. (The pale-white glue also happens to be glow-in-the-dark hot glue, which provides a subtle glow to the carving after it "charges up".
The final LED count for the logo panel:
Because the bay door was extruded aluminum and had a curved surface, attaching tiles or other shapes did not seem practical. I finally settled on carving a design into the surface of the aluminum and then adding some surface-mount LED "ribbon". The hexagonal Silverstone snowflake logo was removed and a piece of blue Plexiglas was cut to fill the shallow hole. Masking tape was applied over the surface of the door, and a pattern drawn on the tape. Using a cylinder-shaped burr, I cut through the tape into the aluminum to transfer the pattern. The tape was then removed, and the traced lines were carved deeper and wider. Small holes were drilled to feed power wires through from the inside of the door to the LED strip. The LED strip had a yellow-orange pattern, so I gave it a coat of clear red enamel paint, and then cleaned the tops of the LEDs with acetone.
Two dual-tube, 12-inch ultraviolet CCFT (cold cathode fluorescent lamps) lighting kits were installed to make things glow. The tubes were installed below the side window on the base of the case, at the top edge of the side fan bracket, behind the horizontal support brace, and a fourth tube inside the top edge of the case. Putting it all together involved many power connections for the LEDs and other lighting. Two power distribution blocks were installed inside the case and the different connections made. Drives were installed in the front bays and connections made to power and the system board. Once everything was in place, the power cables were bundled and strapped down with wire ties. After everything was strapped, glued, bolted, or tied down, it was on to the pre-boot and OS install...
[System User: TRaceOFF]
[System User: Logoff]
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