Harris Educational’s New Computer

With the purchase of my new CNC Router added to the fact that my old workstation had developed a mother board problem and the fact that I want to create and edit more video for Harris Educational it was clear that it was time to build a new workstation. To that end I’ve created a new computer from scratch including the custom case and component selection. I’ll use this new computer to help design and produce new Reinventing Science Kits as well as new video and other creative projects. (I’m writing this blog with it right now!) Stay tuned for another blog related to this custom PC showing how I built it and the CNC and Design lessons I learned. In the mean while here is my new creation the “Ingenematic Visitron” by Bennett M. Harris of Harris Educational.

Front View of the Ingenematic Visitron our new custom PC

The Ingenematic Visitron designed and built by Harris Educational

Specifications:

  • Processor: Intel i7 2600K (unlocked) 3.4Ghz Quad Core (hyperthreading) Sandy Bridge LGA1155 with stock Intel cooler
  • Motherboard: Asus P8P67 Deluxe with EFI Bios, DIGI VRM Voltage Control, 4 USB 3.0, 8 USB 2.0, 4 6 GB/s SATA 4 3 GB/s SATA, Dual Ethernet, 4 memory slots, built in bluetooth, and on board diagnostic LED display.
  • Memory: 8 GB (2x4GB) Corsair Dominator Dual Channel DDR3 PC12800 1600Mhz (includes heat sinks)
  • Power Supply: 850 Watt Corsair HX850W Modular Power Supply
  • Video Card: Asus GeForce 560 Ti overclocked with 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 Memory dual DVI output and HDMI out (Nvidia Graphics with CUDA engine, with cooling block and dual fans)
  • Monitors: 2 Asus VE247H Black 23.6” 16:9 Widescreen LED Backlit Monitors (with Splendid)
  • Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB 7200 RPM 6GB/s 64MB cache SATA
  • Optical Drive: Asus 24X DVDRW Multi-format SATA
  • Card Reader/Front Ports: Ultra USB2.0 MD3 Multi Function Panel (with LCD and Fan Control) with Multi Card Reader, 2 USB 2.0 ports, 1 Firewire port, 2 powered eSATA ports, and headphone/microphone jacks. Also: Asus front panel USB 3.0 with 2 ports (part of the mother board package)
  • Sound: On-board Sound via Realtek Adapter, Speakers are recycled Boston Acoustics Digital 2.1 with sub-woofer.
  • Cooling: Air Cooled, 2 80mm blue-led lit top cooling fans (controlled via the Multi-Function panel), Power Supply Fan, and backup 80mm bottom fan. Ultra Hard Drive Aluminium Cooler.
  • Keyboard: Microsoft Natural Ergonomic (USB 2.0)
  • Mouse: Logitech Cordless Optical Trackman
  • Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit dual boot along with Ubuntu Linux 10.10
  • Spare Bays: 1 full size drive bay, 1 mid size drive bay, 3 HD slots, and extra room for expansion.
  • Case: Custom Case built with my CNC machine, metal work by hand, and some recycled ATX case parts, Aquarium style with transparent front and rear panels. Front/Side facing drive bays and custom power controls and power/hd light. 1 inch bottom air gap and bottom air vents, top mounted fans with custom cutout grills, and built in carry handles. Dimensions: 24” wide x 9.75” thick x 21” tall.
  • Software: Mostly Open Source (Open Office, The Gimp, Inkscape, Audacity, Notepad ++, VLC, and many more) Closed Source includes SwishMax, Microsoft Visio, and Sony Vegas.

Closeup of the PC Installed on my desk

Closeup of the PC Installed on my desk

The Intel Chipset Problem

Literally two days after I ordered my motherboard online news came out that the first revision Intel chipset used for the new Sandybridge processors has a design flaw. Data corruption was likely over time on the 3GB/s SATA ports. I ordered my motherboard via Newegg and I was very pleased with their reaction to this problem. They gave the option of returning the motherboard with no questions asked for a full refund OR keeping the motherboard and then replacing it with a revised model once they were available via RMA. Initial assumptions were that new boards wouldn’t be available until April (maybe late April) however I got word late last week that mine was available. This weekend I’ll be installing the board that just came via UPS this afternoon! (all in all great customer service from Newegg, great reaction time, and good options to fix a problem that wasn’t really of their making)

Closeup view of the inside of the case

Closeup view of the inside of the case

About the Case

The Case is constructed from one piece of high density solid core extruded PVC Lumber (8 feet long by 3/4” thick by 9-1/2” wide) {available via most home centers}. Its a material that is meant for replacing wood trim lumber in exterior home applications. I’ve checked with the manufacturer and the plastic does not contain softening agents or plasticizers that include lead or lead compounds. The front and back panels are made from 24” x 18” x 0.080” clear plexiglass also machined with the CNC Router.

Down shot of the case showing the top air vents and carry handles
Down shot of the case showing the top air vents and carry handles

The PVC Lumber was cut to length (two side pieces, two cross beams, and one remaining piece used for the front drive bay bezel) on an ordinary sliding miter saw. Each piece was then machined via my CNC Router based on designs I created on my old workstation. The top and bottom cross beams fit as mortise and tenon joints that extend half way into each side piece. I did this instead of a rabbit joint to maintain some of the structural integrity of the plastic lumber and also for aesthetics so that from the front/back the joints look more like butt-joints.

Front 3/4 view of the Custom PC case

Front 3/4 view of the Custom PC case

The ATX Motherboard Tray and the Drive Cage for the Optical Drive were salvaged from an old ATX computer case. Harvesting them simply required drilling out the rivets that held them in place. The drive cage for the hard drive(s) was made from a piece of recycled galvanized sheet metal. I didn’t have a bending brake so instead I used two clamps, my bench-top, and a 2×4 to bend all hand-made metal components. These also included the strap that holds the power supply, a bracket that holds the drive bezel, and a trim piece on one corner of the exterior of the case. Holes in the sheet metal were done with a step bit in my drill press. The drill press was also used for a few other hand-drilling operations.

Rear View of the custom PC Case showing the ATX MB Tray

Rear View of the custom PC Case showing the ATX MB Tray

Left side view of the case showing the Power Supply

Left side view of the case showing the Power Supply

The CNC Router was capable of doing quite detailed work and so I created a slot to hold the power supply on the left top side of the case. The slot is machined down leaving less than 1/8” of material as a lip for mounting the supply. The back side of the supply is supported by a sheet metal strap. The power supply vents hot air out of the left side of the case. For additional cooling (and for case lighting) I included two additional 80mm LED lit fans in the top of the case. One is centered in the case and the other is set above the hard drive cage to assist with hard drive cooling. Each fan is mounted inside a pocket and has custom grills machined into the cross beams.

Closeup of the Top Fan Vent Detail

Closeup of the Top Fan Vent Detail

Fans Lit in Operation, sorry for the blurry photo

Fans Lit in Operation, sorry for the blurry photo

I knew my computer project needed a name, and that I had to use the CNC Machine’s capabilities to engrave that name. I also wanted it to have a retro style to it. I finally settled upon “Ingenematic Visitron” for “Ingenious Ideas made Automatic” and Vision/Video – tron (as vacuum tubes often in in “tron” names) since it will be used for a lot of video editing.

Closeup of the Name Plaque: Ingenematic Visitron

Closeup of the Name Plaque: Ingenematic Visitron

Closeup of the Drive Bay Bezel with name Plaque

Closeup of the Drive Bay Bezel with name Plaque

The Power and Reset Switch are simple momentary contact push buttons from Radio Shack (they were actually recycled from an old science project). They are mounted into recessed holes. The front bezel was machined on both sides in order to accomplish this. The Hard Drive and Power Lights are mounted behind a Fresnel style lens that was scavenged from a Sylvania Console radio from the late 1960’s (the radio and its case had too much water damage to be salvageable otherwise). I really like the effect of having multiple lights behind this one lens.

Closeup of the user controls

Closeup of the user controls

Overall I’m very pleased with my new PC and its design. Creating the case was a great way to learn the capabilities and quirks of my CNC machine and its related software. If you would like to see more photographs of the PC (including photographs of the CNC machine in operation) check out our fan page on Facebook and check out the photos section. Feel free to become a fan while you are at it, or leave comments or questions. Here are a few more shots of the PC in action.

A view of the custom PC In operation above my desk

A view of the custom PC In operation above my desk

The Whole Computer Desk with PC on Display (I built the desk too)

The Whole Computer Desk with PC on Display (I built the desk too)

A closeup of the front of the case showing the piping detail in plexiglass

A closeup of the front of the case showing the piping detail in plexiglass

Stay Tuned for more CNC Router Information in a future Blog.

Thanks for reading!

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3 responses to “Harris Educational’s New Computer

  1. Looks pretty sweet Ben! I was going to say Ive found a nice alternative to visio (which I actually love) called Dia.
    Joel

    • Dia is ok as a diagramming program, i.e. a specialized drawing program that focuses on flow chart like diagrams… but visio is so much more than that… I use it a lot as a cad package (for dimensional drawings). Its also a matter of workflow. Open Office Draw and/or Inkscape can work too but again its all about the dimensioning, the workflow, etc.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Pingback: PC case using CNC router and home building products - Hack a Day

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