Chapters (in progress)
0 – Resources: Things that’ll help you get started (in progress)
1 – Before we start: Few 462 words
2 – Introduction: a study about inspiration!
3 – Dreamawing = Dreaming and Drawing
4 – Components selection: A Baseline to our build
5 – Before designing: Software – Fusion 360, will you marry me?
5b- Before Designing: Resources – Gathering the online resources (soon)
Resources (in progress) !Updated
Here you’ll find many links that will improve your knowledge, all It need in exchange is your valuable time & attention…
Please, if you don’t want your work to be linked here, just PM me:
(link will be added soon)
STX160.0 – The most powerful ATX unit, in the world! (GOLDEN THREAD)
Protocase.com (well known, reliable & expensive!)
Protolabs.com : (OMG their resources are so well documented!! it’s also very friendly designed!)
Udemy prototyping story So you have a great idea – now what? (MUST WATCH, first inventor of the world smallest guitar!)
Crowdfunding example :
SENTRY: console-sized mini-ITX gaming pc case (Ho boy, that’s how we do!)
SENTRY 2.0: Evolution of console-sized gaming case (Ho Boy…Here we go again)
!nverse: The Most Versatile Small Computer Case (Many things to learn)
Not from concentrate (Golden man !)
NCASE (Top level Product website!)
W360MOD aka DAN Case (Another nice looking product website, similar: so it’s maybe a theme!)
VELKA CASE (World smallest produced PC case…until I come! )
J-Hack company (Many option on the shop)
WEEE and CE
1- Before we start:
Few 462 Words
( After almost 3 year out of this forum, and a very weird first project where I was… Well… kinda immature)
(don’t look into it)
( I’m back to give you the best out of me… )
So my first thanks go right to Joshua Sniffen for what he shared for years with us (what a cool and funny guy…), he truly is someone to be inspired of. Without him I wouldn’t even know about this forum
2 Year ago I saw his video about the STX 160 build and came back one year later to this golden thread once I really needed it: when building my case.
Obviously, BIG thanks to the staff who is doing an astonishing job, and deserve a lot.
I also thank the inactive but missed Aibohphobia who gave me some precious knowledge. Now that I’m just sharing back mine, I hope that he’s fine.
I’m actually being inspired by his thread on many point… Somehow, I’m trying to be complementary to him by covering aspects he didn’t talked about. I’ll also go beyond manufacturing… to talk about production, marketing, website, pricing, selling, shipping etc etc… all of that with you!
I won’t go as deeper as him on some point (for example screw type), because it’ll mean uselessly duplicating content and because I want to cover my own subjects, I’ll therefore fully explain my choice as I walkthrough them.
Again, please read it’s (well written) thread before continuing…
Keep in mind that I’m a newbie on some points:
I never manufactured a product, did mass shipping, created a website for it, using render to create some nice shot etc etc…
Therefore, this is why it’s exciting, it’s made by someone who start from zero, it also means that if I manage to accomplish something great (which I will), then anyone can do it… Including you!
Right now, the prototype is done and work flawlessly as I’m writing to you, I’m also working on the website, and as you saw right at the beginning, I’m pretty darn good at giving stunning render shot of the case.
So… don’t even think for a second that this thread will not go hard on the result, cuz it will
Keep in mind that it will take time for me to write it, and that I might make some mistakes, like every human being. If you spot them, be among those who just share their solution to help us get even smarter!
2 – Introduction: a study about creativity!
“Copy one idea, it’s plagiat. Copy 1000 idea… It’s inspiration “- root
Our brain is wonderful, but as wonderful as it is, it actually can’t truly imagine straight from nothing.
We basically can’t think from nothing, like matter can’t come from void.
It may sound tricky to understand but one day I came across a study (still trying to find it) where specialists have proven that the man is incapable to create something completely original. (the study was about asking volunteer to solve a special problem in an unique way, I don’t exactly remember the circumstances)
“Are you sure about that” you might ask? While I’m not certain, I felt like it was true… To sum up their conclusion:
Every idea we have is (consciously or unconsciously) inspired by what we saw, heard, thought, felt, dreamed, touched… basically by every interaction during our entire life: this is how we feel “inspired”.
It’ll be near impossible for someone borned blind to imagine a color…
interestingly , Their dream are about other working senses (Smell, touch, taste, hearing…)_______________________________
From nature to advanced high tech, every creation is a mix of other ones in the brain of the designer.
The venting hole from the top of a coolermaster stryker might have been inspired to its designer by the body venting hole of an old ferrari 275 gtb
(it’s probably not true, but you get the idea )
You’ll certainly realize it with the following example:
Currently, my “organically shaped” case vent you saw up there were inspired by the idea I had of cells:
Those cell are from an onion… the last time I saw them was inside a microscope…. I was in high school, many many year ago…
I eventually found out that It does also look like a Voronoi diagram, which Is a known pattern we see in house interior object design:
and just like in the onion flar… Nature !
I’m absolutely sure that this venting hole pattern idea came from those objects, which one exactly?
I don’t know, as it’s probably a mix of them by my brain. But what do amaze me is that I’m figuring that out while I’m writing this thread, I actually didn’t needed to look at those images while designing my case, I was inspired by them because I saw them during my life.
Before that I was going with a more classical pattern which look like the one from the well-known Skyreach S4 mini
yeah, I know, I wasn’t original… but I didn’t know from where to start and this one was both beautiful and effective for me, nice job Josh (cf Free Area Ratio).
Then after few dreamawing (you’ll understand this word in the next part) I came out with a unique pattern, check this out!
Now It feel way better to not look like someone else anymore… Isn’t it J.
Dear reader, I want to ask you a question:
Did you saw this kind of pattern in a case somewhere else? If yes can you give me a link to it? I’m not sure, but I might be the first one to make a case with this kind of hole…
Anyway, I’m pretty happy about the originality and look of it… for cooling airflow performance, I don’t even worry about , I should calculate the Ratio for fun, maybe in the next update if don’t forget to. But I’m sure to nail it:
if you can put your thumb in the hole, then you’re good to go with airflow
(eventually, this is not good for safety…)
Now… I’m sure that many of you are already thinking about how many fingers you can put in there, but hey:
Isn’t that a surprising extra for carrying this case? It also gives me an idea for a funny quote on my future website…
“ There’s 1000 way to carry this case, As much as reasons to buy it” – ONE
Now let’s get back to our “inspiration/creativity” theory: why am I Insisting on that?
Well… While this study hurt the felling of people who tend to be original (like me), It also tell us the key to creativity, basically:
Anyway, here’s an advice to sum it up:Take inspiration everywhere, not only from others PC case but also from a lamp, a machine, a toy, a shop entrance, a train, a fish…. from nature, food or everyday object…. Everywhere.
Your incredible brain will mix that up and one day, in front of a problem, while your wonder about how to solve it, your neurons will ignite and from that, a spark might spring…
This is your idea,
– Catch it –
And move with me to the next step:
3- Dreamawing = Dreaming and Drawing
Dreamawing is a word I’ve just invented while writing this title, I kinda like it, especially when English isn’t my main language, anyway:
It’s easy to dream, cost nothing but breathing! (Did I just invented a valid byword ?)
So here you have it: This famous idea that your inner creator spirit won’t let go for days and nights!
You start thinking about your idea, dreaming about your concept, your case, your mod or anything like that.
So it’s the right moment to write down and draw your idea on paper: I want you to sketch it out everywhere, even on the palm of your hand if necessary. The more you do that, the more engraved your idea will be.
When enough thoughts have been allowed to your idea, you’ll start to automaticaly add new concepts and improve it through time.
(You’ll see that in detail when I’ll talk about the different design of the case)
I don’t want to hear a single one of you saying “but i don’t know how to draw… “, cuz:
You don’t need to be a master in our case, what you need is just 8:20 min to understand how to greatly improve your perspective skill (2 points perspectives), If you’re a fast thinker, you’ll get the concept within the 12 first seconds:
(thank me later)Actually, I’m in fact asking you to sketch, which is different than drawing; one doesn’t need to be beautiful to look at
Once you get the idea, you’ll be amazed of beautiful your cube will be…. Because yes, at the end we are just drawing box right? I’m mean seriously, a flat 17cm² square with a short cube on it is an ITX with an NH-L9i
A long rectangle is a GPU, a short one is an ITX GPU…. You got it, it’s not that hard to draw components!
Thanks for the thread Sir!
Let’s take a look at my first concept:
(on the left, The very first sketch of this adventure, years ago)
It was about flattening a powerfull build in a very very very thin case, and watercooling both gpu & cpu. I wanted the case to be so thin that waterblocks fittings are out of the case,
it’s not the moment for CAD but this is just a shot of the idea when I started to conceive it before hitting a wall:
…Wait a minute….
The case panel is LOWER than the component Bracket/IO
Does that mean… That we are having a shot at the very first NEGATIVE volume case ?!!?
(of course not)
Let’s add the Radiator:
So yeah… As I said, at one moment… I hit a wall, I just realized that this idea might require a lot of work and will not be that accessible to all since not everyone can or want to build a custom water-cooling system.
I also didn’t have enough to purchase a specific heatsink for the gpu, or bother finding a way to cool the vram with a gpu waterblock next to it (which was the problem on the upper CAD picture, there was just a waterblock for the gpu ship, but nothing to cool the vram = bad idea for a tiny but powerful 1070).
But don’t worry, I never give up an idea! What I did instead is something to learn:
I duplicated this idea: on one side, called it the Flat Boy, zipped every files had about it (like the 3 pic above & CAD files) and archived it… which mean… more adventures to come for the next year
On the other side, I made it much simpler & accessible for all:
Let’s instead build the smallest possible case using common ITX component with their original heatsink!
While this sketch was made right now (after the prototype) to illustrate this thread, it’s still a good thing to add it. Therefore, back in the time were I didn’t even start to 3D model it, I did NOT knew that it’ll look like this:
Warning: I repeat that at this moment of the process, I didn’t had a single idea of what it’ll look like, So again, this sketch is POST process, just for the thread.
I’m insisting on that, because many of you think that creators need to perfectly now what to design to start, Which is FALSE
– We often go without blueprint, and let our creativity drive us to our destiny. –
Hey! Just like the Venting hole, They were found and AT THE VERY END:
If you look clooosely at the left side of my case, in the Josh’s s4m & nature inspired hole comparison, you’ll notice that the GPU venting zone is EMPTY!
Thanks Colinreay: Thread (he’s working on the filter)
Indeed, I had to make some dreamawing to find the venting hole pattern ‘ll try 3D modeling:
Huuhh…. it’s already 1:40 AM here…
After enough sketch, you should be able to narrow your choices and define a more specific goal, for me:
Fair enough, It’s a simple guideline to follow, I’ll end with this wonderful quote that my sleepy brain found:
“We often go without blueprint, and let our creativity drive us to our destiny. “
I’m insisting on that because… I lost so many year thinking that I needed to be a graduated 20years+ experienced engineer to invent something…
Okeyyy , See u in few days to move onto the next step: 4 – Component selection: A baseline for our build
4- Component selection: A baseline for our build
Boboom Tadam, here I am!
So after a sleepless night recovered from 13h to 20h, I felt like !
So I came uploading the next post to feel better!
While sketching is fun, there’s something I like to do but don’t always recommend: purchasing the components.
Why? Because thoses are some fixed variables: which might constrain you in the future to what you bought. Think about the fact that your idea might evolve but your hardware will not.
For example, what if you bought a full-length GPU but actually want a short case? Or A short GPU but in the end, as you’ll use An SFX PSU, you then have plenty of room for a longer one?
Therefore, I’ve done that 3x time for my builds, and I found it easier for newbies to start with actual component in their hand. It will allow them to touch their component, measure and understand their size, feel the space around them, and the best of it: play at positioning them, And that’s way faster than moving an object in CAD.
Just BE careful to not drop and break them and BE careful of static electricity, as you might know: it can kill your component.
Also, going this way does often extend the time between the moment you buy your component and the moment you actually use them.
Almost a year has passed while my components where relaxing in a box. It might have been even longer if I didn’t knew how to use a CAD software, that said, I could have had them for cheaper if I purchased them more recently.
Another thing, They bring you something valuable: Motivation.
Anyway, If you are here, that mean you probably know enough about PC components.
We all agree that what unify us at SFF.net is that more a build is small, more it’s cute! Even more if it’s powerfull.
And as I’m building the smallest case possible, I’ll go with the smallest nevertheless most common components:
Obviously an ITX sized motherboard and Graphic Card,
(I did purchased all of them used, as I feel like the market is “overdosed” by us, consumer, please think about giving a chance to buy used component, and no: they will not burn out one month later)
What I had first was the MSI Z270i pro carbon AC with an i7-7700k, but those were the best component I already put on my main build (along an “used” 1080ti brand new I got for 260€!).
But this build was experimental and I….kinda didn’t want to fry my main build (+ that’s an overpowered/kill cpu for it’s choosen cooler/gaming)
(What’s funny though is that at my first time powering on the Tiny Boy, It SMOKED!!! After weeks of work and hours of build, I Just felt deadly dead at this moment. but this story is for another chapter. it ended well )
Then I remembered that I also had an i7-6700k laying around! So I decided to buy an affordable motherboard for this build, which I did by purchasing for 75€ an Asus z170i Pro gaming on ebay.
For the cooler it’s (again…) the king of SFF: the Noctua NH-L9i !
I picked that one for it’s height, which perfectly fit to my assembly solution (more on that in CAD chapters)
(Hey noctua, allow me to manufacture my prototype: The tiny cooler !)
For those who want an old but relevant summary of the small cooler out there, c
onfucius Confusis gave a nice graph:
Hooo: We are building a powerfull machine right? To play Apex right? So we need a freaking powerfull GPU!
Well, I already purchased one year ago an used but like new Gigabyte GTX 1070 ITX for around 200€ (that was a nice deal at this time).
Another nice link to look at, As it’s a list of available ITX GPU on the market: https://graphicscardhub.com/best-small-form-factor-graphics-card/
It did was helpfull for me to check the usual lenght of an ITX GPU (generally less than 182mm)
For the drive now, I didn’t want to bother with 2.5” drive as:
- I might not have enough place for them (even if at the end there might be a chance)
- The wire are gonna be a challenge on this case, so let’s not add those ugly sata/HDD rail
- nvme take way less place and are so much faster
So I waited for a deal on dealabs and took an NVME SSD: Crucial P1 2280 of 500gb for around 50€ (On Rakuten)
For the PSU, As I wanted this build to be the smallest possible, I decided to go with an external PSU solution
I contacted the great Larry from HDPLEX, I Had an old revision of the card and he accepted to give me a discount to purchase the new one for my prototype , Then I sold the older one on ebay… everything is going well !
And Ho God… The quality of this card, it really feel German. Hope I’ll match this in the future.
(Here’s the next paragraph)
Yeah Okey I know… I know that many of you don’t like carying a power brick and instead want an SFX/flex PSU. That’s legitimate and I can understand that. but remember that my goal was to make the smallest build I can, I really want to take the smallest volume possible on your desk, along with lowering as much as possible the case noise level. Now, don’t worry, I have a wonderfull news:
I do think that I’ll be more accessible to other if I make a case that support this alternative PSU solution…
Well guess what? I’m actually thinking of not one, not two…
But + 4x freaking more version of this case!
So stick with me to the end of this adventure to discover them:
You’ll learn how easy it is to go from one finalized design to another in no time, Hell Yeah!
Let’s get back to our main goal, shall we?
While this was sticking in my head, I took plenty of time to twist my brain on playing Lego with my components & trying to figure out how to position them to get the smallest volume ever…
Yet nothing new here, but it’s still something interesting as:
(And this matter a lot)
All right so let’s sum up:
We now have our idea, our sketches, our components And an overall simple & defined layout.
While this can be fun for a moment, it start to be….somehow… too rudimentary.
This is where I recommend you to do something fairly simple:
( yeah I’ve invented that one too )
But what is a “Bare minimum skeleton”?
Well the bad news here is that it’s on the CAD designing chapter
The good news is that we are 3 chapter away from this one.
Humm… I actually don’t know which one is the good or bad news, or if they are both good or bad…
Anyway, That’s enough for today, hope you’re having fun.
See you in few day for the chapter 5 – Before designing: Software – Fusion 360, will you marry me?
Ps: We are at 995 view of the thread as i’m writing this part, I’ll click on it 5 time to reach the 1K views
PPS: It doesn’t work from my account
5 – Before designing: Software – Fusion 360, will you marry me?
Allright, before desigining we need a software right?
I won’t write a lot on this part: Aibohphobia already did it here:, and just like him: I don’t recommend you to use sketchUp for modeling your case, it’s just not compatible at all with production standard workflow.
It might look easier, but trust me, you’ll regret it and you better learn a real CAD software… Which one then?
Well this is where Fusion 360 join our adventure!
Autodesk F360 is definitely the one I recommend you to go with, I used it for so many projects, it’s definitely more accessible than solid works, It has a great learning curve, community forum that help each other, free for students, hobbyists, and startups, very beautiful + doesn’t look like a windows XP software.
One MAJOR tips: DISABLE design history
As it gives you a lot of constraint through your operation, just remove it and you’ll be free to modify any part without having spaghetti timeline repercussion on your work (how HERE)
For example: if you extrude a part from a shape, and delete this same shape, then all of what’s made from it, like the part, will be deleted too… it was a nightmare to me, until I finally found out this solution.
It might be interesting back again when you’ll master the software, for example when designing with variable parameter (for example a same part with different sheet thickness), here’s some way to use it.