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Thread: Xyvotha's Switchbay

  1. #1

    Xyvotha's Switchbay

    This worklog was originally posted in another forum, it thought someone would still find it useful

    Hello all,

    Most mods involve adding lights and fans to your case at some point, which comes along with the need to control them. Though there are many off-the-shelf controllers, living outside the us can make them unavailable for many of us, that's my case and that was the main motivation for this mod.
    Another reason to start this project was i've been checking many fanbus/switchbay guides on the net and wanted to try my very limited electronics skills here.

    Just a small note before going straight to the log: please bear with my poor english, i will gladly accept any corrections you may point me to

    Ground Zero: Objectives

    1. To make a light/fan controller for at least 2 lights and 2 fans.
    2. Make it match the looks of the pc case.
    3. Replace the regular molex connectors with something easier to plug-in.
    4. If possible use less money than the price of an off-the-shelf unit.

    First Step: Plan it before anything

    I had to read several guides to make sure everything would work and also to know which components i had to get at the electronics shop. The more detailed your schematics, the less you're risking a failure. So here's my main plan:

    Since i couldn't find rheostats at that moment, i chose to use SPDT (single pole, dual throw) switches (yeah, i had to learn this while readind tutorials), which means switches with 2 positions. For lights it's pretty straightforward: you use them for turning lights ON/OFF. For fans it was different, I wanted to be able to control 2 speeds for each fan: a)full speed 12v and b)mid speed 7v.(*)

    (How do you achieve 7v? pretty easy: you feed the fan's "live" wire with 12v, then the "ground" one with 5v)

    The Case: dead CD-ROM drive

    I had this dead CD-ROM lying around and thought it would be perfect for my purposes.
    bottom cover removed:

    using a papel clip to manually eject the tray:

    removed the tray cover:

    used a flat head scredriver to remove the front cover:

    and finally removed the top cover:

  2. #2

    Xyvotha's Switchbay

    The Case: dead CD-ROM drive (continued)

    Next step was to remove any unnecessary components including the opticals, motors, etc:

    I left the main PCB in place because it already had a male molex connector (to feed the entire unit). Nonetheless, I had to rip off any capacitor, IC, resistor, etc from it. Here you can see some useful spare parts i saved

    I also kept the plastic frame that gives structural strenght to the box. This is after trimming it a bit:

    Since I didn't like the chassis' looks, I decided to try sanding out the factory paint and get a brushed metal finish. It was just a try to see how far i could get sanding the steel. Here is my mighty home made ├╝ber sanding block
    in action:

    After like 1 hour sanding it came to this:

    ...then a few passes with rubbing compound:

    ...not bad for a couple hours huh? Well this bare metal wouldn't last long that way so i applied a few clear coats:

  3. #3

    Xyvotha's Switchbay

    Backplate: Rear Connectors
    (This was actually done before polishing the box)

    Inspired by mod giant Defyant
    I chose to use RCA plugs and jacks to feed all my case fans and lights, 3 of each.
    First had to mask and mark the holes:

    Punched guides with a 3" nail before drilling:

    let's drill those!

    before deburring/sanding:

    Got "gold plated" RCA jacks pretty cheap, this is test fitting the holes:

    Since the fan jacks shouldn't share ground with the others (remember, i'm using 5v on the GND wire for 7v feed), i had to isolate and avoid any contact between the fan jacks and the chassis, the inside was covered with isolating tape:

    This wouldn't be enough, because the inside of the holes were bare metal too. After pondering it for a while, a solution came to mind.

    This is the whole jack, including nuts and ground connector:

    I wrapped a short piece of heatshrink aroun it, and added a rubber o-ring for extra safety:

    ...trimmed the heatshrink just enough to fit the corresponding nut, and here it is finished:

    ... two more to go, fan RCA jacks ready!

    The light jacks would share common GND, so no need to isolate them.

  4. #4

    Xyvotha's Switchbay

    Backplate: Rear Connectors (continued)

    Now on to insert those jacks in place, first the fan (red) ones, check if they're well isolated from the chassis:

    Then the other 3 (lights) jacks:

    Time to solder teh wirez0r:

    ok, took a while for an apprentice solder, let's see the result:

    OMGWTFBBQ n00b, j00 soldered TWO
    black wires to teh light jackz0r!!!

    ok, after desoldering and resoldering (say that loud and fast four times) it was well done. Let's move to the front face.

  5. #5

    Xyvotha's Switchbay

    Front Face: easy way = wrong way

    My first idea was to fit a spare 5.25" plastic cover into the unit, here's me doing some measurements:

    I would have to drill rectangle holes to attach those plastic lips. First i concentrated into the control panel, here is it masked and marked for drilling:

    ...pretty well alignment huh? top holes will hold LED indicators, bottom holes are for the switches.

    Had to trim then inner side of that cover, I borrowed my gf's Xacto knife set for this:

    ...was doing pretty fine when SNAP! half the blade broke injuring Xyvotha!

    Don't you guys wear safety glasses? Ok think about this blade flying towards your eyes instead of your hand!

    At this point i realised the cover wouldn't work. There wasn't a way to attach it to the unit firmly enough for constant switch manipulation
    I decided to research an option while soldering the switches/LEDs. The hard worked plastic cover served as a mockup :evil:

    You know why you need to print your schematics? Because YOU'LL NEED IT AT HAND! Believe me, wiring this simple switchbay was very confusing for an electronics n00b like me.

    First had to solder short wires to the fan switches:

    ok, common wires soldered, now detach those switches from the mockup and work each one independently...

  6. #6

    Xyvotha's Switchbay

    Some Serious Soldering

    As shown in the schematics, each switch will have an LED indicator. Since I'm feeding the switches with 12v a resistor for each LED is needed. I used an LED resistor calculator to know what was the desired resistor value.

    Applying soldering paste:

    ... then soldering:

    Had to make sure the LEDs were working, that's what a Test PSU is for!

    After applying heatshrink to the resistor, i soldered the switch wires to the LED:

    Alll seemed ok about the switches, I also had to do some prepping for the chassis frame.
    As mentioned before, I kept the CD-ROM's PCB as support for the molex connector. Since I wanted to avoid any shorts I chose to use a piece of high density foam:

    Don't mind the colour since this ain't gonna be exposed :P Now let me tell you something about this material, microporous or high density foam is pretty cheap (got a 1m x 1m x 4mm sheet for $1.75) and useful for mechanical and audio dampening, as well for electrical isolation.
    Here you have the foam cut and glued with contact adhesive to the PCB:

    The molex connector was hardwired to the PCB, after soldering new wires I marked them according to the original plan:

  7. #7

    Xyvotha's Switchbay

    Front Face: Plan B

    I've been willing to play with metal mesh for a while, it's a nice material for that industrial/techno look. Recently i grabbed a couple discarded case doors that had a small strip of mesh on them. But before cutting the precious good i tested how it would look like.

    Here I'm trying two back linings: black plastic tape and alu tape, on a small spare piece:

    close ups:

    I liked the way alu tape reflected light according to incidence angle, this is the tape roll for anyone interested:

    This is the piece of mesh before being cut:

    Got to even it flat:

    ...then measure, mask and mark it for cut:

    ...used a nibbler (thx Orlando!) to cut, drilled the holes and did a test fit:

    Starting to look good huh? A drawback was I discovered that drilling perfectly aligned holes on steel mesh is very hard to achieve.

    On to the vice for 90 degree bending:

    ...then I sanded the surface (the original paint was totally scratched at this point) and applied a few coats of matte black spray paint.

    When the paint was totally dry I carefully applied the aluminum tape and cut the holes with an xacto knife:

  8. #8

    Xyvotha's Switchbay

    Front Face: Plan B (continued)

    Now to definitely replace the switches and LEDs in place, final soldering was done


    Front Face: Final assembly

    Before replacing the control panel, final wiring was done:

    Looks confusing huh? It is! That's why you need to plan it right before starting anything!

    Holes were drilled to attach the front face:

    I used a 3mm drill but the rivets i was gonna use are standard 3.2mm (why those weird sizes? dunno). To achieve this I attached a needle file to the drill.

    Almost done!

    Now, I got this nice idea from TribalOverkill's great worklogs.
    Don't like the looks of standard rivets?

    No problem! cover them with tape:

    ...and file until they look flat!

    Sweet! and now before the eye-candy shots, we gotta test everything!

  9. #9

    Xyvotha's Switchbay

    Testing circuitry: Fan prepping

    As you know at this point, I won't use standard fan connectors. I gotta solder RCA plugs on every device controlled by this switchbay.
    92mm fan ready to get hacked!

    Cut the power wires:

    At first i chose audio (rg-59) cables because of the looks, this the soldering process:

    While it looked pretty nice I found the cable was too bulky and stiff, wasn't of any help here. Sooo... yeah, gotta desolder that connector
    I chose AWG18 trasparent cable, the kind you use for small speakers.
    This time I wanted to solder them directly to the fan's connections. So the label goes off:

    I only left in place the sensor, which should be connected to the MB anyway: you can see how the unused pins were removed with the help of a needle:

    New wires were soldered:

    Fan is ready! Let's try this controller!


    Final Tests

    I hooked the switchbay to my trusty Test PSU.

    Fan @7v:


    different positions:

    w00t it wErkZ!! I really was afraid I would either blow the PSU or see smoke coming out of the box, but everything was fine!
    Let's go to the gallery!

  10. #10

    Xyvotha's Switchbay

    Eye Candy



    This is the longest and most demanding mod I've done so far. I've learned a lot from it, many times through mistakes. The unit works pretty nice and has helped quiet down my home PC. Hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did.


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