While roaming isles of PAX East we came upon a casemod that looked very familiar. Come to find out it was one of our frequent readers and forum contributor Richard Clinton aka (8-Bit Builder). One of his latest builds that we followed “Metroid” showed a lot of interest in the community and to our surprise, it was right there in front of us in its finished form. After spending some time talking with Richard he agreed to do a short interview with us.
MI: How long have you been doing modding?
Richard: I’ve been Modding for 10 years. In that time I had a history with ASUS who have been a great sponsor to be and even had me at their booth at an NY Maker Fair. I’ve been commissioned to make two 8-Bit Tigers for Tiger Direct (before they went out of business) and won a few case mod contests along the way at PAX East and few other LANs. I actually won my first case mod contest with my first mod, 8-Bit Black Mage at my first LAN in Peoria, IL which was a Showdown LAN.
MI: Does 8-Bit Builder have a mission or is it all general modding projects?
Richard: My mission is to create pixel art with a function. Most of the time, it’s a case mod as it makes a good art piece for the room but also is used as a computer. I’ve made other small things like phone docks but mostly PCs.
MI: We have noticed that your previous works have been done with wood blocks. What made you start working with 3D printing? What inspired you to come up with a Metroid case?
Richard: I’ve been using wooden cubes for 9 years. But about 8 years ago, after I made my super mushroom PC, I knew I wanted to make a Metroid Case Mod and make it a personal computer. The key to this project was having the computer parts visible through some kind of window. A very important aspect to keep in mind was the lighting. The Metroid in my mind, back then, would have been made out of clear plastic/acrylic cubes and the colors would have been done with a light bulb in the center changing from green to red. A few issues with this idea is that plastic cubes are very expensive! Everywhere I looked I couldn’t find anything that would sell 2,000 cubes in bulk for anything even close to the cost of wood (about 8 cents a cube compared to a dollar a cube for plastic). I also disliked painting however with help of 3D printers I can just print sections in the colors I need and I don’t need to paint. 3D Printing always going to be a huge help in Modding. I don’t think I’ll be going back to wooden cubes.
MI: What were the most challenging parts of this build?
Richard: The challenging parts of this build was maintaining/keeping an eye on the printer. I use a CR10 and I was trying to print sections of the computer in 48-hour sections and I would have the unfortunate luck to have the printer fail at about 46 hours into the print. It happened about 3 times that I lost a day or two worth of time because of a printer issue. Most of the issues were either the nozzle got jammed or a layer shift would happen. A layer shift is when the print bed moves over a few mm but the printer doesn’t know and starts printing in the air. Imagine you are blindfolded and have to draw a square in the same spot 10 times. Say at the 5th time you blindly trace the square someone subtly moves the paper over an inch. You’ll keep tracing where you believe the square is. When you finish and look you’ll notice have two different squares due to the shift. That is the best way I can explain it.
MI: How long did it take to 3D print Metroid case?
Richard: Printing time took 500 hours but putting it together, designing it, and doing the lights probably took additional 35 hours.
MI: How was the internal lightning done? Challenges? What components used?
Richard: For the internal lighting I bought 45 feet of LED strips. I haven’t used led strips before so I did some research and picked up WS2812b LED strips. What’s special about these is you can tell each LED to turn on/off and be a different color from each other. Most other led strips all have to be the same color or on at the same time. It took a lot of measuring, soldering, and hot gluing to get it all in. It was a challenge because I’m not very experienced at soldering and the contact points are really small on the strips, however, I got pretty fluid at it by the end. I ended up using 2 Arduinos to run the code for the led strips. I thought I would be able to quickly learn and program the Arduino with all the guides on the internet but I learned that what I wanted (red lighting effect that randomly chases around the computer) would not be as easy to program. I had 2 of my programming buddies help me and we got it down after a couple hours of troubleshooting and coding.
For the Metroid, I contacted ASUS and inquired if they would be interested in a sponsorship. They were interested after I shot them a few rough drafts of my sketches and the plans for the build. They also connected me to Thermaltake who were really great to work with also and very professional. GeIL Memory backed me up with RAM. This was my first time getting multiple sponsorships and I’m not going to lie it feels good to have people believe in my modding ability and willing to back up my idea.
MI: Any new mods lining up?
Richard: I usually only do 1 mod a year but with now that 3d printing is easier and a little less time consuming, I think I’m going to try to do 2 mods a year. The next one will be a more simpler in design but with some cool lighting patterns that go throughout the frame. My big project the beginning of 2018 will most likely be Bahamut (a Final Fantasy dragon). I’ve always loved Final Fantasy and I’ll be able to do some cool lighting effects with it, I think.
Richard put together a video for Metroid and uploaded it to Youtube. Link
You can find more about 8-Bit Builder on his Facebook page. Link
His Build Log of Metroid case can be found right here in our forums. Link