How to install case window?

Eureka

Diamond Member
Sep 6, 2005
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Ok, so I want to install a case window into my RC-690. I want to do a full-profile window, the ones that fill almost all of the side panel. I just have a few questions before I start poking around:

I have a jigsaw, will that be enough to cut through the panel?

I assume I can get a sheet of acrylic through home depot or lowes. How much should this run me? The sheet will probably be no bigger than 2'x1'.

What is the best way to mount the window? Screws on the corners? Adhesive? Using the rubber gasket border?

How about adding a fan into the window? Can I drill a hole through acrylic reliably? Or is that not recommended?

I assume it'll be as easy as cutting the hole and sticking on the window. Anything else I'm missing?

Any help will be appreciated!
 

JasonSix78

Platinum Member
Mar 5, 2005
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Be sure not to cut the window hole too far towards the back of the panel if you're going to use edge molding to hold the window in. I did this to my 690 and had a hell of time getting the side panel on it.

A jigsaw will do just fine. Just be sure to !!take your time!! and check what will be seen on the other side of the panel when the hole is cut and that you're not too close to the edges of the panel. I don't know how much plexi goes for these days but it shouldn't be too much at all.
 

wkwong11

Junior Member
May 28, 2009
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Don't start with the actual outline of the window. Try cutting somewhere in the middle that's going to be scrap anyways. This way you can see how the cut will turn out and and you can adjust accordingly or maybe go buy a new blade in yours isn't working well. It you have a coarse blade meant for wood I would definitely get a new blade first.

If you plan to put molding around the edges, then it won't matter as much, but if you weren't planning to, then i would cut it with maybe .5-1mm less than the outline and sand it down to size to it's nice and smooth.

You can drill through acrylic. No problem. Just keep it slow and don't put too much pressure as that can cause something to crack.

The cleanest way (as far as viewing it form the outside) would be to use adhesive such as a hot glue gun. Getting a clean cut and being able to mount the window closer to the panel will make it look better.

If you use screws, make sure to use some rubber grommets to prevent annoying vibrations from fans later on.
 

daw123

Platinum Member
Aug 30, 2008
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You can route the hole for the window in the side panel using a table router or you can pay for someone to cut it on a CNC machine (this is what I did - cost about $40).

Anyway, I used the table router method for cutting a hole in my top panel for a rad and rad grille, but the same principle can be adopted for a side panel window.

Here is how you do it:

1. Remove the side panel from the case.

2. Draw out the design you want for the window opening on a piece of A3 paper (i.e. the template).

3. Copy the design over to a piece of ply / MDF (which needs to be large enough obviously). Ideally it should be about 5mm thick.

4. Cut out the design in the ply / MDF jig using a jigsaw (stay slightly inside the hole you want to cut). Use a fine file to tidy up the edges. How good your jig is will affect how good the final cuts are to the side panel.

5. Cover the side panel completely in heavy duty masking tape and thick paper to protect the side panel finish from scratches.

6. Drill a couple holes in the side panel. These holes will be the same as the holes you to bolt the acrylic window to the side panel so they must be in the correct position. Essentially the holes stop the jig from moving on the side panel whilst you cut it.

7. Correctly locate the jig on the side panel and screw the jig through the holes you drilled in the panel into another sacrificial ply / MDF on the back side. Therefore, your side panel should be sandwiched between the ply / MDF jig and the sacrificial ply / MDF. Note that if you are using a table router then the jig should be on the top. For a handheld router the jig should be on the bottom (the jig needs to be wherever the ball bearing on the router bit is, because the bearing on the bit follows the edges of the jig).

8. Drill a couple of holes through the jig / side panel / sacrificial panel in the middle of the hole you want to route out.

9. Route the hole using a straight cutting bit with the same diameter ball bearing. You need to set the depth on the router bit so that the ball bearing rides around the inside edges of you jig.

10. Un-screw everything and remove the protective paper and masking tape.

11. Then drill a couple of holes (again the right locations) in the acrylic window (cut to the right size).

12. Bolt the acrylic panel to the side panel; using a couple of nuts and bolts at opposing corners. This will 'locate' the acrylic to the side panel.

13. With the side panel and window temporarily bolted together, drill the rest of the holes.

14. Then bolt it all together and bingo you are done.

Here's a pictorial process of what I did to cut the hole in the top panel so that you understand:
Paper template and piece of 5mm ply for the jig: http://i429.photobucket.com/al...wilson123/IMG_0819.jpg

Completed ply jig: http://i429.photobucket.com/al...wilson123/IMG_0831.jpg

The whole lot clamped together:
http://i429.photobucket.com/al...wilson123/IMG_0824.jpg

In addition, a long straight piece of stainless steel was screwed to the main straight cuts on the ply jig as an additional guide for the router.

A photograph after the panel was cut, but whilst it's still in the jig:
http://i429.photobucket.com/al...wilson123/IMG_0827.jpg

The finished article (and this was a reasonably complicated shape to cut):
http://i429.photobucket.com/al...wilson123/IMG_0830.jpg

Note that the cuts are perfect. You would be hard pushed to get a better cut with a jigsaw and metal file. The problem with this method is that it is sightly lengthy and the corners are rounded to the radius of the router bit. You could always file the rounded corners afterward if you want.

btw here's a photograph of my side panel with the window cut out on a CNC machine.
http://i429.photobucket.com/al...wilson123/IMG_0930.jpg

Try and cut these shapes using a drill, jigsaw and metal file :D

EDIT: Is your side panel steel or aluminium? If its steel then the router may have problems cutting it. It may be okay if its thin enough. Try a test piece first on a scrap of steel of the same thickness as the panel, before you go through the effort of making the jig.
 

Eureka

Diamond Member
Sep 6, 2005
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It is a SECC case. I like the idea of the template, but I've never used a router before. Wikipedia says it's a woodworking tool, so it seems like it may be a bit weak for a metal case. Either way, I like the idea of the router, and the smooth cuts.

However, right now I'm only planning on doing a straight square window (I know boring). I also want to make the acrylic flush or near flush to the side panel. What extra work would that require?
 

daw123

Platinum Member
Aug 30, 2008
2,593
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Yes, the router is for wood, but it will quite happily cut thin aluminium (2mm ish thick). As I said before it may struggle with steel.

I'm not sure how you would mount the acrylic flush with the outside surface of the side panel. I'm guessing that there must be rubber trims or something that you coud use.

It also means that the hole you cut has to be within finer tolerances of the acrylic; i.e. the cuts to the acrylic and side panel must be near perfectly 'square' or you will get uneven gaps between the two pieces.

The method that I used means that the acrylic is rebated the thickness of the aluminium from the outside surface of the panel.
 

daw123

Platinum Member
Aug 30, 2008
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Originally posted by: JasonSix78
Check this video tutorial out Eureka:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpZoE-zj0-k

Using that plastic U-channel on the cut edges is useful for hiding any rough edges or cock ups. The acrylic still isn't mounted flush with the side panel though.

I would also be slightly concerned about using the double sided tape for a long period of time, since acrylic has a thermal expansion co-efficient, which is a lot greater than steel or aluminium. Hence, the expansion and contraction could cause the panel to fall off.

Linear Thermal Co-efficient Table for A List of Materials

In my side panel, I drilled the holes in the acrylic over-sized to cater for this expansion / contraction. If I hadn't done this then the acrylic could crack when it thermally expands differentially to the aluminium side panel.
 

Eureka

Diamond Member
Sep 6, 2005
3,822
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Well, personally I don't like to have screws, I think it looks a bit tacky. But screws do seem a lot more secure.

Also, for those of you with painting experience, I want to spray paint the inside black. Is it recommendable that I strip the current paint off? Or can I just spray paint on a few coats?
 

JasonSix78

Platinum Member
Mar 5, 2005
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The inside isn't painted on the 690. Buy some self-etching primer for your base and then what ever color you want. Follow the surface-prep info on the can.

Here's a few half-decent pics of mine:

Text
Text
 

Eureka

Diamond Member
Sep 6, 2005
3,822
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Well ,right now I'm repainting the case and waiting for it to dry. I tried cutting open the top grille as a test to see how it cuts... and the answer is not very well. I broke two blades doing it.

Also, anyone mount a second front intake fan? I got one of those rifle coolers now and I want to reuse the fan that it blocks. And is it recommendable to use the two top fans as intakes? I'm thinking of keeping up positive pressure.
 

Eureka

Diamond Member
Sep 6, 2005
3,822
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Well, I ended up zip-tying it to the front of the case. And everything is done and painted:
http://i43.tinypic.com/j17ixh.jpg

Now the cooler fan doesn't work. D:

But next up is to do the actual case window. I haven't had a chance to ask but I don't think the local home depot has acrylic.
 

daw123

Platinum Member
Aug 30, 2008
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Originally posted by: Eureka
Well, I ended up zip-tying it to the front of the case. And everything is done and painted:
http://i43.tinypic.com/j17ixh.jpg

Now the cooler fan doesn't work. D:

But next up is to do the actual case window. I haven't had a chance to ask but I don't think the local home depot has acrylic.

Which fan are you talking about; the one on the HSF?
 

Eureka

Diamond Member
Sep 6, 2005
3,822
1
81
Originally posted by: daw123
Originally posted by: Eureka
Well, I ended up zip-tying it to the front of the case. And everything is done and painted:
http://i43.tinypic.com/j17ixh.jpg

Now the cooler fan doesn't work. D:

But next up is to do the actual case window. I haven't had a chance to ask but I don't think the local home depot has acrylic.

Which fan are you talking about; the one on the HSF?

Yep. I think it might be a dud fan, the fan tries to spin every few seconds or so, but it just moves a few mm and then pops back in place. I can spin it freely with my finger, so not sure what the problem is.
 

Zepper

Elite Member
May 1, 2001
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"I broke two blades" Well, I hope you went out and got some good brand and fairly fine-toothed, metal cutting blades (very similar teeth to a hacksaw blade). As most jig-saw blades are for wood and don't do diddly for cutting steel...On making the plastic flush with the side panel metal: that is very difficult as you can't hide any cutting errors - so if you're doing that, then doing your own cutting (unless you are very skilled and have an extensive kit of cutting tools) is probably out of the question. Having it done by someone with professional tools would be the best idea (as mentioned above). Most DIYers, use the black or silver silicone gasket which can hide many errors and still look decent. If I wanted a side window, I'd have bought a case with a window...

Doing It Yourself often seems like a good idea until deep into the project when one realizes s/he is in over his/her head...

.bh.
 

JasonSix78

Platinum Member
Mar 5, 2005
2,050
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Originally posted by: Eureka
Well, I ended up zip-tying it to the front of the case. And everything is done and painted:
http://i43.tinypic.com/j17ixh.jpg

Now the cooler fan doesn't work. D:

But next up is to do the actual case window. I haven't had a chance to ask but I don't think the local home depot has acrylic.

Looking good!

You can buy from here:
Text
 

Eureka

Diamond Member
Sep 6, 2005
3,822
1
81
Originally posted by: JasonSix78
Originally posted by: Eureka
Well, I ended up zip-tying it to the front of the case. And everything is done and painted:
http://i43.tinypic.com/j17ixh.jpg

Now the cooler fan doesn't work. D:

But next up is to do the actual case window. I haven't had a chance to ask but I don't think the local home depot has acrylic.

Looking good!

You can buy from here:
Text

I looked at that before but I got lost in the options. The one sheet I got was 12"x12" for $30... which seems a little high.
 

BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
15,709
1,450
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You have too many good bits of advice here, so I'm not compelled to give my full, verbose tutorial.

As to your choice of materials -- I'd pick Lexan over Acrylic for several reasons, although it likely costs more.

EDIT: I choose a Dremel with 2.5" dia. cutoff wheel to cut my hole in the case side-panel. It takes longer, requires some patience and a steady hand, but it's not as noisy, may make cleaner cuts.

I also choose to buy the rubber-grommet material from Frozen-CPU or other reseller. You can also find a video presentation at MNPC Tech, which shows a method without the use of a grommet employing double-sided adhesive tape (Home Depot) with the Lexan (or acrylic) window cut larger than the hole and affixed from the interior.

With the rubber-grommet, the window has to be cut precisely, as does the hole in the metal panel. Just takes a bit more time and patience.
 

Eureka

Diamond Member
Sep 6, 2005
3,822
1
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Originally posted by: BonzaiDuck
You have too many good bits of advice here, so I'm not compelled to give my full, verbose tutorial.

As to your choice of materials -- I'd pick Lexan over Acrylic for several reasons, although it likely costs more.

EDIT: I choose a Dremel with 2.5" dia. cutoff wheel to cut my hole in the case side-panel. It takes longer, requires some patience and a steady hand, but it's not as noisy, may make cleaner cuts.

I also choose to buy the rubber-grommet material from Frozen-CPU or other reseller. You can also find a video presentation at MNPC Tech, which shows a method without the use of a grommet employing double-sided adhesive tape (Home Depot) with the Lexan (or acrylic) window cut larger than the hole and affixed from the interior.

With the rubber-grommet, the window has to be cut precisely, as does the hole in the metal panel. Just takes a bit more time and patience.

Is there a benefit to using 2.5" wheels over 1.25" wheels? The dremel I got came with a pack of about 20 1" wheels and 5 1.25" wheels. Also how many wheels should I expect to go through? (Cutting the top fan grilles cost me 2 wheels and a shank).

Also, what thickness should the acrylic/lexan be? 1.25 inch?
 

JasonSix78

Platinum Member
Mar 5, 2005
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I used my dremel to cut open the rear and one of the top fan mounts on mine. Don't use the little cut-off wheels that comes with the Dremel, use reinforced cut-off wheels like these: http://www.toolbarn.com/product/dremel/426/ You can find them at Wal-Mart, Home Depot, etc.

Also, 1.25" is way too thick for a side window. An 1/8" will do just fine.

Edit: I'll add that when you're using any type of cut-off wheel with the Dremel, make passes back and forth to slowly take away the metal. If you try and cut through the metal in one area and then follow that line the cut-off wheel will only last a minute or two.

Edit 2: Here's a whole 12"x12" kit with cut-out for a fan for $12.95 plus shipping: http://www.frozencpu.com/produ...le_12_x_12.html?tl=g42 The locking strip molding this kit comes with is exactly how I have my window installed.
 

Eureka

Diamond Member
Sep 6, 2005
3,822
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Oops, I meant .25", not 1.25". 1.25" I can make my computer case bulletproof!

That makes sense, I tried to push through with the dremel and I lost a wheel. I also destroyed the shank (well not the shank, but the screw that holds the wheel to the shank snapped, with most of the screw still inside).

I like the idea of the window kit, but its not really my taste. I want a full sized window (maybe 1-2" margin) and I don't like rounded corners. Just a taste thing.
 

JasonSix78

Platinum Member
Mar 5, 2005
2,050
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Whoa, I'm glad that was a typo on the thickness. Had me worried there for a second.

How big of a window are you looking to install? 12"x12" is a good size for the 690 side cover. Do you want to be able to see just the motherboard area or both the motherboard and drive bays? The 12"x12" window like I have in mine is the perfect size to see the motherboard area and bottom.

If you need any reference pics from mine let me know and I'll post them.
 

Eureka

Diamond Member
Sep 6, 2005
3,822
1
81
Oh, I want to show everything... one of those double check to make sure you have a side panel on kind of things. Although if I can't get good acrylic cut to size I may just settle for the 12"x12". Like this:
http://kentheroller.com/images/SP%20ON%20NEW.JPG

But then if I do that I need to work on wire management a bit more... looking at my pics it seems to be a bit cluttered still.