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  #11 (permalink)  
Old September 19, 2010, 11:34 AM
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@martin_metal_88 - Thanks a lot man. The design is in the creative commons - please feel free to build your own or revise how you see fit.

@Toyoracer - Thanks mate - I see no issue there in regards to heat on the GPUs. I did consider the orientation you've proposed but I want the sides to be perfectly smooth. Also by having all the air vent into the main cavity I'll be creating a high-pressure air zone there, preventing dust build-up on the exposed components.
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  #12 (permalink)  
Old December 30, 2010, 01:01 PM
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I've been diligently plugging away.
I decided to trade in the project log for a big bang at the end.

Many issues arose when fabricating the 8mm thick panels - there was a great numbers of unsuccessful trials before arriving at the solution seen in the images below. A total of 64 layers were required to achieve the thickness and rigidity of my specifications.

As planned:
There are three small 1/8" pins sticking out 2.5mm from each mated edge. These more than hold it together, there are no visible fasteners. (I've not yet inserted the pins holding the side panels in place - this will be the last step.

All that remains now is to give the panels a final surface finish.
A final clean of the edges.
Dilling of a few remaining holes for mounting things like the motherboard.
Then a light hammering to seat all the pins into their final positions.

That's all I have to say for now, I'll let the images do the rest.

Presenting HELIOS:
Side-View w/ Side Panel


Opened Top


Reverse Side and back of Motherboard

Detail Shot

Tune in soon for final pics, the fabrication story, technical specifics, hardware selection and some pretty badass motion graphics.

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  #13 (permalink)  
Old January 18, 2011, 02:51 PM
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Whats next?
1) Resurfacing the panels - this will be done by squeezing each piece for a few seconds at ~200,000lbs in a press heated to ~400degress. The pieces will be pressed between a textured sheet of teflon, the texture will be transferred to the surface of the composite panels. The result will be a flat, even surface with a slight texture to it; just to add a bit of character.

2) Final assembly - this will be where the panels are fixed together using small press-fit steel pins. You wont be able to see these pins once assembly is complete and they will offer more than enough structural stability to hold the chassis together.

3) Aerogel (Frozen Smoke) pieces - I've decided to manufacture the remaining parts of this case from a material known as Aerogel. This material is just... remarkable... it looks just like frozen smoke, it weighs almost nothing, it's the least dense solid on the planet... and it can withstand ~4000 times its weight in compression. I'll leave you with a video discussing it's properties:

4) Install the hardware - I still haven't settled on the hardware for this build... but I think something over-the-top and epically powerful is in order. I'll start gathering the remaining pieces over the next month or so.

I've been asked some questions regarding the struggles in creating the panels used to construct Helios... so here is goes.

I will elaborate with a photo walkthrough when I can find the opportunity in the next few weeks.

Material Composition:
Base Materials:
- Carbon
- Nickel
- Lithium
- Teflon
- Aramid (Kevlar)
- Polypropylene
- Glass
The resin used is the highest performance material currently available on earth:
"PEEK™ polymer is regarded as one of the highest performing materials in the world. Its product portfolio is the broadest range of polyaryletherketones on the market today and helps customers improve application performance, realize greater design freedom and achieve systems cost savings."
As a small qualifier to the performance of this material; combining PEEK with a something like Fiberglass will result in a material stronger than carbon fiber (albeit not as light).

The process of manufacturing is as such:
1 - Fibers are grouped 25,000 at a time, in this case, and wound onto rovings.

2 - The rovings, like big spools of thread, contain about 2.5KM of fiber and weigh only about 1KG (depending on the material).

3 - The rovings are fed into a machine, 64 at a time, and impregnated with plastic resin

4 - The result is called "tape" and it's 6inches wide, it's cross section would reveal 1.6million individual fibers held together with resin.

5 - The tape is then fed into a machine which melts as many as 7 spools together.

6 - The result is a continuous sheet 42" wide and composed of 11.2million individual fibers across.

7 - This 42" wide sheet is then sliced into 42"x42" squares called "unidirectional sheets".

8 - These "unidirectional sheets" are then stacked one atop another, following a strict pattern called a lay-up. For the panels used in Helios the lay-up called for 64 specific layers of materials in the form of unidirectional sheets and woven fabric.

9 - The sheets are then stacked 0degrees -> 90degrees -> 0degrees -> 90degrees -> etc. This is to alternate the direction of the fibers and ensure rigidity in both directions

10 - Every few layers the lay-up calls for a sheet of resin film to be added, this film will melt and help further adhere the layers.

11 - This stack of sheets, fabrics, and resins is now sandwiched between some sheets of teflon fabric and topped off with 1/8" aluminum panels. The aluminum keeps the panel surface straight and the teflon stops everything from sticking to the aluminum (sometimes textured teflon is used for effect).

12 - This 'sandwich', now over 6" tall, goes into a GIANT press heated upwards of 500degrees and capable of exerting several million pounds of force under tens of thousands of PSI.

12 - The Helios panels went into the press for 11mins 400,000lbs @ 420degrees, then another 6mins in a cooled press at 120,000lbs. These unimaginable forces turned the 6" tall lay-up unto an incredibly rigid panel 8mm thick.

13 - In the case of Helios, I've added another step: a second pressing using textured teflon to add a surface texture to the panels. This is because when the panels were made using smooth teflon and I want a more unique look than just plain "shiny".

RESULT - Each of the 6panels used to construct Helios contains 718,800,000 individual 42" long fibers - each approximately 1/50,000th the width of a human hair and each with a strength of about 48,000 kNmkg−1 (High carbon steel is rated about 154 kNmkg−1). The panels are as close to the physical embodiment of indestructible that any man could ever hope to see.

In Short:
Fiber is wound, injected with plastic, grouped into tape, melted together into sheets, which are stacked together with resin film, which is pressed and cooled... this is how you get thermoplastic panels.

As you can imagine (even moreso once I get some photos up) there are about a million things which can go wrong during this process... and I think every possible problem showed it's face during this project.

I hope that illuminates things a bit.

Thanks for the comments and support everyone.
I look forward to sharing my current progress with you soon.

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  #14 (permalink)  
Old January 19, 2011, 05:08 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Calgary
Posts: 492

Hey, thanks for sharing, this is awesome.

I saw this over at hardocp, hadn't realized you were a member here too.
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  #15 (permalink)  
Old January 20, 2011, 10:46 AM
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@Mars - Thanks for stopping by man. ;)

I've been asked quite a bit about it, so I've uploaded some images of the surface of the panels.

It's very hard to capture... but the 'woodgrain' effect you see on pieces labeled "current" is still very much visible through the "final" texture, but the camera has a hard time picking it up.

That's all for now, I'll be back soon with progress updates.
Stay classy.

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  #16 (permalink)  
Old April 30, 2011, 07:51 AM
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SO it turns out making large aerogel monoliths is an incredible challenge in engineering, patience, and chemistry.

I can make little beads and small pieces all day long... I'd even go so far as to say I have the 'gel' making process down to an art. BUT, Manufacturing the large chunks I envision is proving somewhat unobtainable... but I'm getting through it.

The process of making Aerogel with any level of precision or clarity requires a pressure vessel (called a supercritical dryer) which can handle about 75bar, or about 1000psi. And if you know anything about pressure tanks, a 1000psi is one hell-of-a feat.

This has not phased me however... I've been endeavorering to acquire the necessary materials to build my own "supercritical dryer". My design features an internal area large enough to allow the creation of parts 26"x10"x2". Bare with me on that front as it needs extreme care and caution - else it will become a very impressive bomb.

Also, I've gone through about a grand worth of chemicals now, and I'm awaiting another delivery of the base elements which go-into creating this magnificent material.

i'll quote a section from my recipe so you can get a better idea of the process:
Originally Posted by Aerogel Recipe
9) Once gel has set, soak under ethanol for 24hrs.

10) Replace ethanol and allow to soak for 5-7days, changing ethanol every 36hrs

11) Supercritically dry the gel.
a) Transfer gel into the super critical dryer (at your own risk).
b) Replace the atmosphere with CO2 (at your own risk, lol).
c) Begin to heat the atmosphere in the dryer. (you're not reading this are you?)
d) Heat the CO2 past its critical point (31.1C and 72.9 bars) to ~45C . (goodluck)
e) Maintaining a pressure of ~100 bars. (???)
f) Depressurize at ~7 bar h-1. (profit)

12) If you're still alive, remove gel from the supercritical dryer and machine to spec.

As a poit of reference the tiny dryer I have now with a chamber just 0.8"x0.8"x1" (made from a high-pressure pipe X joint) ran about $800 with all the valves, fittings, gauges, and such.

The dryer I'm currently using is based off this reference:


The big dryer I'm working on is seeing some extreme manufacturing, redundancy, composites, and fittings... I wont be blowing it - I'n fact I plan to start selling Aerogel monoliths (nomenclature for big pieces of this stuff) to offset the incredible project costs.

Since the Aerogel is taking longer than expected...
I'll let you in on the next step
...LEDs are so 2010.

I decree that 2011 be the year of radioactive isotope case lighting!

Various pieces of custom formed Tritium as well as off the shelf tritium inserts will be the illumination feature for Helios.

Tritium requires no "charging" and glows entirely passively without the need for power or electricity of any kind.

Gun buffs may have seen this stuff before in high-end tactical sights.

Read more on the stuff here: mb-microtec
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  #17 (permalink)  
Old May 5, 2011, 11:07 PM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: millarville, ab
Posts: 9

My System Specs


this is going to be work of art not a pc case! i've only read about aerogel in kim stanley robinson's mars books. funny how science fiction sooner or later ceases being fiction...
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