Apple Heart Surgery
First off I just wanted to say hello – for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Christian. I’ve been into computer modding for almost as long as I’ve been into PC building, which is around 8 years.
The title of this project is Apple Heart Surgery. It’s built around an Apple G5 Powermac case. The idea behind the title is a mix of apple engineering crossed with the workings of the human body. It’s a transplant of hardware, moving from Apple hardware on PPC to an X86 built platform.
I wanted to incorporate a wide variety of technologies into this build (featured below) whilst trying to stay as true to the original Apple design image as possible i.e. not butchering the back in favour of an ATX motherboard tray and making cuts only where necessary.
Specific points of this build:
• The case will retain its original form and appearance, the only notable difference is the window panel rib cage which will feature on the removable side panel.
• The only incisions made are necessary cuts and/or modifications to the design. This can be seen in the rear which will feature an upgrade to dual 120mm fans, expansion of the I/O ports panel and relocation of the power input.
• Custom fabricated watercooling blocks on the CPU and RAM along with dual loop system, all to be retained within the original case with no external witnesses.
• Overhaul of system layout and design.
• True to original apple form the outside will be gloss white and the inside matt black.
This was my first preliminary drawing of my design idea. I drew this up even before the case arrived (hence a few drawing errors) – but I kept it none the less as it was the initial idea I would build upon.
Again, same drawing just from the other side.
This was my first idea for a stackable HDD cage. The cage would be constructed from 1mm stainless steel, with the sides featuring the same rib cage cut-out as the side panel to keep the theme running.
The black “crenulations” (for loss of a better term) would be cast from RTV silicone, to minimise noise from vibration. From the research I did, it’s as simple as making a mould, casting it in plaster then moulding your silicone from the die.
Although this particular design features a SSD (no vibration), ultimately I decided I wouldn’t need this design for this project.
This is the HDD cage design that superseded the previous version. This is a single bay design incorporating the logo for this project. My initial thought is that two of these will be mounted to the removable side panel. I have allocated enough room for rubber bushes between the (nylon) mounting screws for sound isolation.
The reason why I have only included 2x 2.5” HDD bays into this design is that with the way technology is moving, more people are storing data online (myself included) – this coupled with HDD GB/TB capacity that is constantly increasing leads me to only require a boot/common files drive (likely a SSD) and file storage drive (HDD ~500GB).
Here is the model I rendered for the replacement 120mm fan grill. Originally, I was trying to source 2x 120mm fan grills from a Mac Pro case (upgrade of the G5 design) which for many months proved almost impossible.
(image pulled from google)
I wanted to keep the apple theme running and was stuck on the idea of keeping the diamond mesh fan grills.
I drew this up with the idea of having it water jet cut from ABS plastic to replicate the grills I couldn’t find. Then, finally I managed to get a hold of a seller on eBay, convinced them to part with 2x 120mm fan grills for an undisclosed (somewhat large) sum of money and the rest is history. Needless to say, for what they cost, I could have almost had them water jet cut. But, it goes to show eBay is an invaluable resource.
This is one of my later concepts. This is a render of the top section of my watercooled CPU block. The bottom section which isn’t featured here, will provide the actual thermal transfer from the CPU to the radiators.
The top section, whilst functional is more for show. Both chambers of the heart will be filled and linked to opposing cooling loops – which incidentally will be dyed red and blue respectively (red for oxygenated blood, blue for deoxygenated blood) – representing how the body functions, on 2 loops.
This is my concept for the watercooled RAM blocks. I intend to have 2 of these featured within my build, one either side of the CPU block with each running a different loop.
Whilst RAM doesn’t generate enough heat output to warrant watercooling, it does make a visually interesting piece. This particular concept is designed to be spread across 3 DIMM channels. It is possible to work with 2, 4 or a bank of 6, but the design would need to be adapted and refined depending on the choice of hardware installed.
Finally, this is the radiator bracket. There isn’t a lot I can say to make a bracket seem interesting other than it will hold 2x 120mm single radiators instead of 1x 240mm radiator. The main reason for this is space limitations. The G5 Powermac case is by no means designed to house 2 watercooling loops, so I had to choose a very specific type of radiator that would conform to my size tolerances and work with the build – this bracket was rendered and fabricated to suit just that.
You can read more about it further down in the build log.
This was a DVD R/W I had to modify to extend the drive release button. I am still undecided as to where I shall place the drive release button on the case, but here’s a video of it in action.
Progress so far:
- Research and Development
So far in this build there has been a lot of thought, measuring and as you can see from the concepts, a lot of design and development work. I’m not a CAD draftsman, so please forgive the chicken scratch SketchUp drawings featured here.
This project has been a long time in the making. Part of that reason, as stated above was spent working out whether or not this build would be feasible. Then more time was spent trying to source components from every corner of the earth – to which my bookmarks folder is now testament to hundreds of saved webpages I’ve come across in my plunder for exotic items and hardware.
As you’ll see below in my build log (and as it continues) construction is well under way. Some components you will see featured I will work on, and then come back to at a later date to finish developing. The reason for this is lack of other existing parts required for measurements in order to finish the first component. So if it looks unfinished, the likelihood is that it is.
In the works:
- Donor Case
Running with the human body theme, you’ll notice some items in my build are pulled from another G5 Powermac case. This is my donor case i.e. the one I’m cannibalising for core parts and existing items that require modification (see 120mm rear fan upgrade and the PSU shelf). With that said, I’m currently relocating the power inlet socket (with parts taken from my donor case).
- Subcontracted Components
At the time of writing this I am about to outsource my XL-ATX inner and outer motherboard trays, radiator bracket, hard drive brackets and I/O rear panel sections for laser cutting. The reason for this is that I only have limited access to sheet metal fabrication tools. Typically, the two I need and don’t have are a laser cutter and a press brake. So, with that in mind there are a few things I needed to get done elsewhere.
Yet to come:
- Upon receiving my laser cut parts, I can begin installing and building the systems core components around this and move onto finer details further down the line.
- Begin machining custom waterblocks. The RAM blocks will relatively straight forward – the CPU waterblock (the main feature of this build) will be another story and a project log in itself.
- Tweaks and Minor Fabrications
- Final Touches
- System Testing
Ok, now that’s out of the way, I can show you some of the pictures so far.
For those of you who have had an opportunity to disassemble any apple product, you will know from experience how intimate it is. Saying that reverse engineering a G5 Powermac case is difficult is an understatement as once you’re at the core, a lot of base parts are spot welded into position. These had to be broken off and either filled with weld or body filler – I happened to choose a mix of both depending on the need at the time.
Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of my disassembled case, but this image is from my preliminary layout.
As you can see from this image, the motherboard is central with standard orientation and the HDD caddies are still present along with the DVD drive.
I had originally planned to use Apples 6” DVI extenders to forward the graphics card DVI output and panel mount the motherboard I/O ports.
The two boxes in the bottom right of the case represent the radiators and fans. I had always planned on having them placed here. I have seen several designs of watercooling within this case, all placing the radiator at the front or on the side – I wanted to try something different.
The box in the top left is the PSU. I originally thought of mounting it here so it would have direct access to cold airflow, however, since my design has developed and moved on I have since had to relocate it.
This design would lay the foundation of what was later to come.
This image illustrates how the back of the case would look if the dual 92mm fan holes were bored out to 120mm. As you can see there are gaps in the case that would need filling.
I mentioned previously the donor case I had bought, using the front panel from this; I cut and shaped sections to suit the missing portions before using epoxy to glue the in, body filler to hide the join and a rubbing block to blend the bodywork back together.
The rear of the modified chassis featuring dual 120mm fan holes compared to the regular G5 case with dual 92mm fan holes.
Here is one of the 120mm diamond mesh fan grills from the Mac Pro I managed to get hold of. I had to modify the original register to accommodate for the modified rear panel (where I had to glue sections in, I had the brace the back with more mesh) – variation in step height. The standoffs are there to screw into from the outside of the panel.
The same 120mm grill from the rear with countersunk M3 allen bolts recessed into the plastic. Interestingly enough I found that these grills contain a thin layer of copper beneath the plastic when I was rubbing them down for priming. Whether it’s for bracing purposes I’m not sure.
This is how I orientated the 120mm fan grills to be in-line with the rest of the case. I placed 4 drill shanks/drill blanks in the holes (approximately 7.1mm fit) - 2 in each grill. Then using a straight edge, rotated the grills until all 4 points touched. I then clamped them in position, drilled down through the desired mounting hole, through the plastic and fixed the standoff accordingly.
All bolted in. The M3 allen bolts are stainless steel. I turned the edges of them to suit the diameter of the holes in the mesh (3.1mm) and to look like titanium allen bolts.
This is a shot from the back with both the grills mounted.
Another shot from the back at a different angle. This time you can see the grills head on without the fixed back plate.
And with it.
Image of one of the standoffs and turned down M3 allen bolt. Excuse the dirty mitts.
After the fixed side panel of the case had its original standoff mounts plugged with filler/weld, it was sanded and primed to ensure flat surface. I then re-machined the new locations of my standoffs.
An image of one of the motherboard tray standoffs I made.
Pictured here is the 7mm dovetail cutter I used to plot my holes and another stainless steel standoff I made previously.
Standoffs in position and just completing the final bits of machining.
I had to make 2 cut-outs on the main body of the case in order to accommodate the standoffs for my motherboard tray.
Standoffs mounted to fixed side panel – shot taken through PCI slots.
This picture is of the two feser 120mm radiators I have with Noctua NF-P12’s mounted to them. I specifically chose these radiators because of their size. They’re the smallest 120mm radiators I could find available at the time, and they fitted the project perfectly.
They took me some time to track down, but eventually I managed to get hold of 2 through eBay and 1 from a German company who had old stock.
An internal shot of both the fan grills mounted.
Here’s the first rough mock-up of what it was going to look like when they were in position.
And from the other side – thanks again to Jim Morrison and Bill Bryson for helping me out with the position of these.
Next, I bought some heavy weight card/construction paper to mock up the motherboard inner and outer trays.
I always find this is the best way to do things in a project as there is always something you need to adjust, whether it’s as simple as moving something a few millimetres one way or another, or whether you had forgotten to allow for bolt clearance/bracket mounting/switch clearance. It’s always better to start with the basics, refine them and then build from there.
Radiator bracket all marked up and ready to be cut out.
Here it is with the radiators and fans mounted to it.
And from the fan side.
This is the design I settled on for my XL-ATX motherboard tray – inner and outer assemblies. The odd shape of the outer (reverse C shape) is to accommodate for the internal shape of the G5 case, whilst the inner tray is fairly self-explanatory.
The rubber grommets I’m using for cable through-holes are from the Corsair Obsidian case if anyone was wondering.
Here is an internal shot of the inner/outer motherboard tray and radiator bracket positioned within the case. As you can see the bracket is a little off centre due to the clearance hole for the rubber grommet being out of position.
It’s always easier to start in construction paper than steel.
And again here with an old DFi Lanparty board in there for the mock-up.
This is a shot of the case with a motherboard mock-up. The radiator bracket has been removed and is being redrafted at this point.
At this point, I decided to remove the case shelf and begin working on how the PSU was to be mounted.
I previously decided that the best place to mount the PSU would be where the original HDD cage was located. I had seen the relocation of the PSU on Mac Pro design and thought it seemed a good place to house it. After a quick measure-up for clearance, the shelf was removed and hole locations drawn in.
The first thing I wanted to do was to fill any unnecessary cut-outs that were present in the shelf. I filed the radius’ square into the shelf and cut pieces of steel to fill the holes.
This part was definitely one of the most challenging so far. Using a selection of aluminium plate positioned underneath and around all 5 sides (4 edges and internal) to act as a heat sink, I MIG welded the plates into the shelf.
You’ll notice the welds didn’t fully penetrate throughout. This is in part due to me only tacking the piece in opposite corners and then filling the gaps with more tacks, part due to the massive block of aluminium that was drawing all the heat away from the weld. Regardless, it’s welded in and not coming out.
In spite of the massive heat sinks arranged around the welded area the steel will naturally distort after being welded. To cover the small amount of distortion I skimmed bodyfiller across the surface once the weld metal had been linished to hide any rippling.
This was then sanded with a block with 120gritt paper and primed to prevent oxidisation. You wouldn’t know any different, right.
Next, I had to bore a hole for the PSU fan into the shelf. This was done on ProTrak 3axis mill. A little over-kill, but I wanted it to be perfectly circular.
You can watch a small clip of it here:
Here’s the shelf with rubber U-channel trim fitted to finish off the item.
Mocked up with 120mm fan.
After staring at it for about a week I decided I still wasn’t quite happy with it. There were still small imperfections visible on the surface where the plates had been welded in. With a can of filler primer and 4-5 coats later, I went over it with a DA sander ~240gritt to flat it off.
Image doesn’t do it justice, but it’s perfectly flat now with no signs of any modification, which means no imperfections in the paint work to come.
This was one of the most frustrating items to source on the build so far. I was very specific with the type of DVI cable I was going to be running through the case. As the motherboard is positioned 90° counter-clockwise I needed something that would run from the graphics card (located under the DVD drive) to the PCI ports on the back of the case.
They’re mounted to a stock PCI dual DVI + HDMI back plate.
Like I said, I was very specific about these cables, they are:
2ft long DVI-I Male to DVI-I Female, dual link extension cables with black facias and nickel plated connections.
There are similar cables available in DVI-D flavours, which would have worked fine, and definitely cost a lot less. They even had black facias too (something I was very particular about) – but they had gold plated connections. And even though this was the back of the case, it would clash with the rest of the theme – so, it was a no go.
Here’s a reasonably recent shot of the shelf back in the case and the construction paper inner/outer tray mock-up with the radiator bracket holding the radiators and fans in place
Again from a different angle.
And from a lowered perspective.
Once the laser cut pieces come in I can begin to assemble the core parts of the system and build upon it from there. The next part will be machining the side panel window and waterblocks, so stay tuned.
- FatPandas (MitD)