Enclosure for Mini-ITX board

Customized computer cases are an interesting area to explore for 3D printing. The home-built desktop PC market is blessed with the luxury of choice, with a wide selection of components a builder can choose from. As a result of this, most desktop PC cases are wide-open designs capable of taking most combinations of components. This directly proves the old adage: “Jack of all trades, master of none.” In contrast, someone with a home 3D printer can custom design for a specific need built around specific components on hand. The result would be a master of one.

Before I can embark on some grandiose vision, I started with a small project built around the MSI AM1I motherboard. It is an inexpensive and highly integrated PC motherboard on the Mini-ITX standard. It had been installed in a Mini-ITX case that, though smaller than most desktop PC cases, still had a lot of wasted volume present to accommodate for components that I never installed.

fullcase
Mini-ITX computer with a great deal of wasted volume.

The Mini-ITX standard restricted the motherboard size to 17cm squared, which is convenient because my 3D printer can print up to 20cm squared. This meant I could print something encompassing the ITX dimension in one piece. I pushed for full minimalism resulting in this design available as OnShape public document “Mini-ITX enclosure“.

emptycase
3D printed Mini-ITX enclosure.

It has screw holes for only the mainboard and the power supply. The large hole on top is tailored for the specific power supply I had on hand, positioning its fan immediately above the motherboard. This allowed removal of the noisy CPU fan as the large power supply fan can pull double duty cooling the whole works resulting in a small neat compact setup.

When I assembled the parts, though, things didn’t look as neat as I imagined:

minimalist
My, what a tangled nest you have.

I had underestimated the chaotic bundle of wires coming out of the power supply. Most of the wires were completely unnecessary and could be cut if this were the final product, but I didn’t want to do that just for an experiment. The remaining wires could be shortened for such a compact layout, but again I didn’t want to break out the wire clipper and soldering iron for sake of the experiment.

The other item I didn’t account for was the storage device, in this case an old SSD in 2.5″ form factor, awkwardly wedged into a slot. (See the red SATA cable in the picture.) I justified this oversight by the fact that most modern ITX boards have on-board M.2 SSD slots, making a separate mounting bracket unnecessary. Truthfully, though, I forgot.

I had fun building this proof-of-concept with old expendable components in case something went wrong. Next custom PC project will be bigger, with more powerful components, and hopefully the wires will be better managed as well!

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