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Thread: Popcorn HTPC

  1. #1

    Popcorn HTPC

    I am starting a new mod that will be a fun project. I have a home theater in my house but don't yet have a HTPC. So I am going to use my popcorn maker and with a little modding I will have a computer that makes popcorn.

    This will be on display at the Zotac booth during PAX.

    I would also like to announce as a sponsor. They will be sending me a motherboard for this project. Special thanks to Cherry .

    The plan is to make it look like it was made from the factory this way. I will basically be extending the base of it about 9 inches taller. I will incorporate a window into the front that will wrap around the sides. I'll use tinted acrylic so that it will be blacked out when powered off but when the lights are on you will be able to see the components inside. The biggest challenge will be space planning. I'll need room for the motherboard, HDD, PSU, and a DVD unit. That's a lot of stuff.

    I am considering not using a DVD player and sticking with USB. With the size of USB drives these days you can get a lot on them. That would save me a little room as well.

    I am starting with a stock 300W popcorn machine -

    Here is a quick and dirty drawing of the basic concept -

    I have gathered up a few pieces of material to get started. I only have a couple weeks, so I better get cooking! I started the tear down and did a lot of head scratching.

    I cut the piece to make my base walls. This is clear .250 acrylic. I marked where I will router out for the window.

    I'm using a piece of .500" acrylic for the bottom. I will be drilling and tapping a lot of holes in this for standoffs, case feet, psu fan hole, etc. so I thought it couldn't hurt to have something beefy!

    So that's all I've got for you right now. I will be getting the tinted acrylic soon. I wanted to use red acrylic for the base but they don't make a red that matches the plastic top of the machine. So I will be using something really cool to make this thing pop ( no pun intended ).


  2. #2

    Popcorn HTPC

    okay definitely looking forward to this mod if the popcorn popper works as well as the PC, and how you're going to handle heat issues with it.

    Would be interesting to see if you could fit a pico/micro projector in there along with the other hardware to make it kind of like a portable theater system.

  3. #3

    Popcorn HTPC

    okay definitely looking forward to this mod if the popcorn popper works as well as the PC, and how you're going to handle heat issues with it.

    Would be interesting to see if you could fit a pico/micro projector in there along with the other hardware to make it kind of like a portable theater system.
    Heat won't be an issue at all since the popcorn is heated in the kettle up top. There isn't a heater to keep it warm once popped so it will be fine.

    The projector idea is cool. Good thinking. I wil be keeping this pretty simple though. I only have 2 weeks to get it done.

  4. #4

    Popcorn HTPC

    You could probably use the heat from the projector to pop the popcorn! :P

  5. #5

    Popcorn HTPC

    You could probably use the heat from the projector to pop the popcorn! :P
    Or warm some butter at least..

  6. #6

    Popcorn HTPC

    The first thing I need to do on this is get the walls made.
    I am using the acrylic to make a 1 piece base for the front and sides. It will include the window too so I need to cut everything and install the window before I bend it to size/shape. I'll be making a close to flush tinted window for a reason that will show up later.

    I want the window corners to have a radius so I will be using a router and a template. This all could be done very easy with a laser or water jet cutting but I don't have those in my shop. :cry: So I will show you how to make a template.

    The first thing I did was get a piece of material that is a little larger than my acrylic. I marked it so that I would cut out a piece the same size as the window I want.

    To cut a perfect hole using a table saw here is the process -

    I set up my table saw and start with the blade all the way down.

    Next, lay the piece on the table with the finish side up. Turn on the saw and start raising the blade into the material slowly. You will start seeing it cutting through. Just move the material so that it cuts right up to your line then lower the blade back down.

    Repeat this process for all sides and you will end up with a perfectly cut square hole.

    Now that the template is made I just needed to place it directly over my marks on the acrylic and clamp it down. Drill a starter hole for the bit and I'm ready to rock.

    The bearing on the router bit follows the edge of the template and rolls along making a nice clean cut in the acrylic.

    One trick here you may want to consider when trying this - Take some tape and stick it along the edge of the template where the bearing will ride. It builds the template out a little so that you can make a rough cut on the first pass, then peel the tape off and you will make a finish cut that's only taking off a hair of material so it will come out cleaner.

    So here is the cut piece and you can see the radius in the corners.

    The next thing I will have to do on this is rout out some material so that I can make a window that sits flush on the inside but will have a little edge on the outer side. ( You'll see why soon ) This is the tinted material I'll be using.

    For this window I will need a router table and I just remembered the router for that blew up the last time I used it. So I modded my router table to fit my Makita offset router. But, that's another build log in itself. :?

    I just ordered the rest of my hardware. This won't take a lot since the mobo has an integrated proc, no GPU needed, and I don't think I'll use an optical drive.

  7. #7

    Popcorn HTPC

    I routed out the edge of the window area on the table. It came out pretty good and left a nice ledge for the window to sit in.

    The marks from the router do not matter since this is the back side of the window. You can see the tinted acrylic will sit flush. Turns out I don't have the right stuff so I need to go back to my plastic supplier.

    Next up is getting the tinted acrylic, cutting it to fit, gluing it in and then bending the whole thing as one piece so it makes the walls.

  8. #8

    Popcorn HTPC

    I picked up the material for the window and got it installed.

    I'm using 2064 gray - It's a nice mild tint

    It's 1/8" and will fit flush in the back and will leave a little edge around the front for some lighting effects.

    Cut to fit, sanded corners, and dropped in -

    It's a perfect fit.

    The original base needs a bit of modification. I need to get rid of these feet sticking down. So out comes the tools.

    Pretty easy stuff.

    The adhesive for the window is curing and I will be bending that whole panel into a "U" shape to make the new base. Then add the floor and a top.

  9. #9

    Popcorn HTPC

    I finally got more done on this. Parts are piling up and now I just about have everything I need so no more excuses for not getting it done.

    I started bench testing hardware and ran into a small issue but that is past me so off I go....

    The first thing I needed to get done right now was the main piece that is the front and walls. It needed bent in 2 places and I can happily report that it came out perfectly!

    It was a little risky since I had 2 different sizes of acrylic that needed bent after it was glued together. The adhesive can liquify when heat is applied so it was a little scary. There was a chance that the area of the window that was getting bent could do something weird.

    I cut the back. the top, and the bottom pieces and set them in place to make sure everything lined up nice.

    After considering placement of hardware this is what I came up with. The Mobo will be centered on the bottom and the power supply will be centered at the top. You will mostly only see the motherboard when you look in the window.

    Keep in mind you can see through the whole thing right now but it will be painted and it will have a really cool exterior. Still waiting on some "special stuff".

    Here you can see the popcorn maker base sitting on the top of the computer portion. The popcorn maker will then be mounted on top. Hopefully you can now see it coming together.

    Next up I have to cut the I/O area out, Drill holes for fan locations, Mount SSD bracket, re-wire psu to shorten all cables, blah blah blah

    Oh and, did I mention this has to be completely finished and up and running by next Wednesday? 1 week!!!

    It's going to PAX for the Zotac booth. Stop by and check it out!

    Oh boy.

  10. #10

    Popcorn HTPC

    It's about time I got serious about finishing this thing. Especially since I only have 3 days left!

    I had to shorten all the psu cables so that they are only about 6" long. Chop Chop. I still have to sleeve them all but they are the right length for now. I also cut off anything that I didn't need like extra molex and sata.

    The inside of the case will be all white so I also sprayed the psu case white.

    I found some plastic primer I've never used so I'm going to try it out. I sprayed several of the panels with it.

    After masking off the window, I primed the main section and put some spot putty on the edges where the window wasn't exactly perfect. This will get 2 more primer coats with wet sanding in between and more spot putty.

    While that was drying I jumped back to the wiring. I had to daisy chain 2 fans together so that they will plug right into the mobo. The wires will be hidden along the lower front edge. These are huge fans aren't they? The psu also pulls air so it will help the flow.

    I found some cool rubber things with threaded inserts that will work great as feet for this thing.

    As if I don't have enough to do already I decided to make a nice shield that fits in the psu opening. I still have to cut the holes for the cord and power switch but it's going to be a nice touch. I think? I used some perforated aluminum and cut it, then started to bend the edges in so it will fit snug in the opening. The real reason I am doing this is because I screwed up on a cut.

    I have these metal blocks I use for hammering the edges square.

    And there it is -

    It will get painted white too.

    I am working at a crazy pace and I can see my quality slipping away. It really bothers me but I can't buy more time. So it will have to be good enough. I've already had a couple near disasters. A broken tap inside the main piece that I was very lucky to get out, a tiny chip in the clear walls of the popcorn maker itself that is luckily hidden, and a mis-cut on the rear panel. Argh.

    But that's part of modding.

    I'm not doing a very good job on the work log itself either because I really have no spare time right now. But you'll see the finished project soon enough so hang around.

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