I had 2 months to build a PC based on cheapskates conceptual design. Even though we didn't win, I'm confident the Nvidia Cube PC will continue to inspire future PC builders and modders for years to come.
I have more progress to share that my time didn't allow for during the contest.
"The mind of cheapskate must be a very wild and strange place."
The first time I looked at cheapskate's drawing, my head just spun "How will I find TIME to build it?" I started to mentally edit the design to save time, without compromising it. The biggest revision would be the huge multi-layered acrylic base. We can save time by emulating it in aluminum instead of multiple acrylic pieces.
Before I start showing you everything, please understand that I'm a professional PC modder.
I have the resources to build cheapskate's design efficiently, but don't let this deter you from building your own case. There is multiple online communities like this one with members who can help you get started with PC scratch building and modding.
There is also online services and communities of Skilled Trade Professionals that can help you with Laser Cutting, and CNC Machining for Hobbyists
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Online community forum of cnc machinists, laser/waterjet cutting specialists, and CAD Designers that allow you to post "RFQs" (Requests For Quotes) How to submit to RFQWork
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This laser cutting service will work with PC modders.
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The concept reminded me of when LEGOS started incorporating UV Green parts into their "Space" sets in the late 70s and continue to today.
LEGO Cyber Saucer kit, 1997
The Zotac Nvidia ION 330 ITX A-U Motherboard is nearly ready-to-run out of the box. All you add is memory, hard drive and O.S. This makes it less intimidating to first time PC builders and more affordable to d-i-y enthusiasts. If you're planning to build a HTPC. It produces a crisp picture @ 1080p HDMI. It has 1.3 output support, optional dual monitor, 7.1 channel uncompressed audio output. Coaxial and optical audio output and Blu-ray decode acceleration. Yes!! If you're PC Modder, the ION 330's small size opens the door to your own creativity.. You don't have to be a professional modder to imagine multiple ideas for your own PC. The 6.7" x 6.7' motherboard allows you to mount it in something fun like an R/C car body or a toolbox. I've seen people install ITX computers in their car.
You can find a large variety of ITX computer cases on the market ranging from $39 - and higher at Logic Supply
The ION is low power. Our ION PC is very simple. A 90 watt power brick powers the Zotac 330 ION motherboard, LG DVD optical drive, Corsair x64 SSD HD, Logisys 120mm cooling fan
, and four 4" cold cathode lights. The lights are not a necessity, but they look cool! You don't need to add anything else. Check out the specs below, you've got six USB 2.0 ports
, eSATA, PS2 port, Gigabit Ethernet port. Plus, our pedestal design allows you to rotate the cube 360 degrees, so you can access all of these ports easily. We're using the 5-pin molex connector on the board to power the Corsair x64 SSD drive and lighting.
Here is the specification list of ION ITX-A-U Motherboard
ION ITX-A-U Specifications
Processor 1.6 GHz Intel Atom 330
533 MHz FSB
Chipset NVIDIA MCP7A-ION
System Memory, Dual channel DDR2 667 DIMM slots
Up to 4 GB of memory
VGA Integrated NVIDIA GeForce 9400M Graphics
Supported Resolution 1920 x 1440 (VGA)
Expansion Slots PCI Express Mini Card (wireless card pre-installed)
Onboard IDE None
Onboard Serial ATA 3 SATA (3 Gb/sec.) connectors (RAID 0, 1, 0+1)
Onboard USB 10 USB 2.0
Onboard LAN Realtek RTL8211C GbE 10/100/1000
Onboard Audio Realtek ALC662 5.1 channel HD codec
Back Panel I/O 6 USB 2.0 ports
1 VGA port
1 DVI-I port
1 HDMI port
1 eSATA port
1 LAN port
1 PS2 keyboard port
2 S/PDIF-out ports (coaxial/optical)
3 Audio jacks: line-out, line-in, mic-in
1 DC jack
Onboard I/O Connectors 3 SATA connectors
4 USB 2.0 via 2 pin headers
1 RS-232 COM pin header
1 Front panel audio pin header
1 Front panel pin header
2 Fan pin headers
4-pin Molex connector (for peripheral power)
BIOS AMI BIOS 8 Mb flash memory
System Monitoring & Management: System power management, RTC timer
Operating Temperature 0ºC ~ 50ºC
Power DC 19 V @ 4.74 A
Form Factor: Mini-ITX (17 x 17 cm)
Includes Driver CD
90 W AC adapter & cord
3 SATA cables
1 SATA power cable
I apologize for not showing more in-progress photos. I simply didn't have the time to drop what I was doing and take photos. However I do feel that I caught the best highlights.
The is the core of the cube. It looks very simple, but it's actually a very detailed design. It's constructed from 10, individually laser cut 1/4" thick acrylic pieces. Anyone besides cheapskate and myself will need to call OnStar in order to open this PC...lol, j/k.
1/8" cast acrylic used for the exterior pieces
I chose to cnc mill a 1' x 1', 3/4" thick sheet of aluminum, purchased for $50 locally. I want to take cheap's ideas even further, I want the channels between the squares illuminated Green. My first plan was to mount 5mm Green leds around the inside of the base, but CC lights disperse more light. You need power inverters, 1 per 2x CC lights. We have a total of four 4" cold cathode lights. I had already purchased the 3/4" thick sheet, so the inverters would be relocated inside the cube.
Heres is the base 99% finished, after it was anodized Black, assembled with center pedestal and 1/4" thick sheet of UV green acrylic base plate. It's glowing from the ambient light coming in from the window. Notice the NVIDIA logo silhouette, this was the last detail to be covered with illuminated 1/4" thick UV Green NVIDIA logo.
Our pedestal design allows you to rotate the cube 360 degrees. You can turn the PC for a different look and easily access all of the rear ports.
NVIDIA ION CUBE heat sink inspired case badge
Cheapskate designed a heat sink style plate on the rear of the NVIDIA Cube, it's highlighted Green in photo below.
I thought it would be cool to create a real heat sink from 6061 aluminum, with the NVIDIA logo engraved on it.
An interesting way to create and display a case badge of the NVIDIA Cube.
NVIDIA's iconic logo engraved in 6061 aluminum.
SEM self etching primer, Black. matches type II anodize black perfectly.
Beneath the base, the power brick cord and sleeved cold cathode wiring.
1/4" UV Green acrylic under aluminum base
4" cold cathode light illuminates the NVIDIA logo from beneath.
The core of the NVIDIA cube is constructed from 1/4" thick cast acrylic pieces that were laser cut.
The NVIDIA cube's core is mounted to the top of the pedestal base.
Laser cutting 12" x 24" , 1/4" UV Green acrylic sheet. The file is a pre-outlined lay up of each part, like a model kit.
After peeling off paper backing.
I am ION man!
Assembling 5.25 optical drive & 2.5" SSD tray with Weld-On #3
MB tray installed, Corsair SSD and DVD fit beneath it.
2x cold cathode power invertors
MB tray inside the Nvidia ION cube
Trim piece on the rear of the Nvidia ION cube
Assembly of some the cool exterior features of the Nvidia ION cube.
This is the wheel located on the corner of the shell.
I use scotch green tape 233+ to temporary prop acrylic pieces together as the Weld-On #3 acrylic cement cures. I use this syringe applicator.
Spider-like blades are the grill for the top 120mm fan
It has to be the single coolest feature of the entire PC.
Installing acrylic switch plate for 22mm Lamptron vandal switch
Black anodized aluminum pedestal rod for Nvidia ION Cube
Installing left front exterior trim for optical drive
MB tray for Zotac 330 ION, power switch wiring was shortly after, out of necessity!
1.6 GHz dual core Intel Atom 330 processor with NVIDIA MCP7A-ION chipset and GeForce 9400M graphics.
I love all of the included features on this ITX motherboard.
This is our 120mm anodized black machined aluminum fan grill
. This is the first product that Mnpctech started manufacturing in 2001. So for sentimental reasons, it was important that I utilized a part of our product history in this build :D