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NeXT Cube reworking project

 
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cray



Joined: 05 May 2012
Posts: 8
Location: Munich, Germany

PostPosted: Mon Mar 11, 2013 8:34 am    Post subject: NeXT Cube reworking project Reply with quote

Hello together,

I've been working with NeXT in the 90's and liked the system very much - of course also the cool looking black hardware (which was so nicer than the standard beige or dirty-yellow of all other manufacturers (even Apple at that time). However I assume all of us here know the fate of NeXT and so my Colorturbo went into the cabinet since it was used very seldom (and a virtual NeXT was quite more handy). So far it seems like a sad story, but in 2006 an empty cube fell into my hands and NeXT came "back to life" - at least in my thoughts.
I wanted to make something out of this case, even if it wouldn't be a real NeXT machine anymore. But I also wanted to touch as little as possible on the outside. Ok, a new coating was evident but there was one real hitch which made it very hard to find a solution at that time: the media bay. Since the Cube had it's boards on the left and right side in the middle there was the power supply and the optical drives, hard drives and floppy.
This wouldn't be looking all to good and also I couldn't use the place for the optical drive - right in the center I would get into trouble with coolers etc. But a solution was possible. Since the geniuses at NeXT hat made this part interchangeable you could take it out an replace it by another one. Sadly - there was no other one and so I tried to figure out how to redesign and then "create" this part.
I refer to this:


At that time rapid-prototyping (the so-called 3D-printing) wasn't available for the public or you would have to have one of these machines at your work place (and still it would have been quite difficult to use them for private stuff). An alternative was milling but unfortunately I didn't know anybody who owned or worked at a CNC milling machine and after asking for a quote I was struck with a 3k Euro offer (yes, reads three thousand). As one could imagine I wouldn't want to spent so much money on one part only (which I didn't also have at that time) and also the reverse engineering of the measurements also had to be done yet.
After this disappointment I put the Cube back in the cabinet (next to my Turbocolor Wink ) and tried to figure out another possibility (reads: waiting for an idea or technology to evolve).
In 2010 I was playing with Google Sketchup, which is quite a nice simple tool for designing in 3D. At the same time I stumbled over companies which offered "printing in 3D" and also in different materials. The quality level seemed acceptable and also the price.
And that was the moment I realised I could finally start the work on my Cube. Very Happy

So I started with the reengineering process of gathering the measurements of all necessary points. At first, I also wanted an optical drive in the machine so I designed a cover plate with an inlet and a mounting slot - and gave it a try. The printed version was just white ABS-plastic and cost around 150 EUR that time at i.materialse.com (down below I will post all URLs which might be necessary if someone wants to take up a try).
The first impression was good, but there had some measurement corrections to be done (since I don't own a measure lab some points were a bit tricky to get together and so some went faulty).

This is what it looked like:


After some thinking about thermal problems (I wanted a high-end machine in a case like this not an office pc), I disgarded the optical drive. But also after having looked at my current machine and thinking "how many dvd's have you used/written during the last three years?" I came to the conclusion that an external DVD (USB) might be suitable (for that I used an old SUN drive case . Wink ). Thus the final version had no drive slots only the switch to power the machine on and two USB-ports and a head phone connector.

If somebody is interested in the construction of the bezel, one can find the two versions here (since it was painstaking to get the measurements I'd like to provide the files so that wouldn't have to do this twice):

- with optical bay: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/98655041/NeXTCube_Front_v5.5.skp
- without optical bay: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/98655041/NeXTCube_Front_driveless_v1.1.skp

Remark: For the optical bay there is no bezel for the drive tray itself - I would have used the magnesium cover which was in the bezel of my Cube, if one needs that separate it may be created with Sketchup as well (dimensions of the triangular structure can be copied).

The final version looks like this (already installed the switch and the USB-connectors):
Front:


Back:


I looked for a nice switch and USB-3.0-ports. First one I found in a modding shop, a so-called vandalism-proof, black switch, with a blue glowing ring when switched on (other colors are of course available, too). The latter I found in an additional bay insert for PC's at a local electronic shop. They were screwed in and so they fitted nicely in the bezel and were easy to attach.

After this step, I had to come up with the Cube internals. Since the "floor" was not even and I wanted to mount the power supply on the side I decided to cover it with a perforated metal plate.

The "floor":


The plate:


However, there seemed to be insufficient holes thus I drilled some more into it to guarantee the air flow:



The next thing was how to fix it - as mentioned I didn't want to touch the Cube case from the outside (i.e. drilling holes into it etc.). So glueing seemed to be the only solution. But if I wanted to change something this might be a problem in the future. But then I discovered this:




These welding nuts have a flat surface and were ideal - i glued them on an could screw the metal plate in place but still having the opportunity to unscrew it.

For the glue: I used an epoxy combination glue which can hold up to 25 N/mm^2, which should be quite durable for the job. The one I used is called Pattex Stabilit by Henkel, but since I'm located in Germany I'm not sure what equivalents there are in other countries. I used it throughout the whole construction and it never let me down.

For the screws: All the screws I used on the Cube, I used V2 stainless-steel screws. Fortunately (at least for the ones in Europe) the guys at NeXT used metric screws all over the case (e.g. the screws for holding the bezel are M4x12). A good source for buying screws in a special amount were these places

- http://www.normschrauben.de
- http://www.tme.eu/

So for attaching the metal plate to the welding nuts I used M5x12 (the welding nuts were M5 as well)

After having done this I turned to the mainboard attachment. The Cube is big enough to fit a µATX-board. So this was no problem, but how to install it, so one can remove it, when it's time for a technology renewal?
I came up with this solution: In the kitchen field there are telescopic slides for drawers which open, when you push them in. They lock when pushed back in place. They're also available in 25 cm length so they fit well into the Cube.
Since the Cube inside is also not even on the "walls" (which is of course due to its construction in three parts) I had to level somehow the wall. For this I used aluminum plates, 4,5 mm thick, turned from a 40 mm (diameter) piece of massive round aluminum (got it for 5 Euros at a fitter, the lathe owned my neighbor so this was no problem).
On two of these plates I glued the welding nuts. Then I fixed the welding nuts to the slides using M5x10 screws. The extractable part of the slides were fixed to the mainboard carrier, a 2 mm thick aluminum plate.
To make the holes for the distance screws of the mainboard I used a damaged mainbord (1 Euro at eBay) as a stencil.



The back part came in handy from an old PC and was connected with M5 screws as well.



Here's the back side with the mounted slides



After this I build the rest for the power supply for which I used an extender for power supplies (made by Lian-Li) as starting point. This gave me the correct positions for the holes to attache the power supply to. I put two 1,5 mm thick aluminum sheets together and fitted the extender in. Then six holes were drilled (as you can see in a long shape, for better adjusting the rest to the back cover).
The rest was put on six distance screws, size M8, so that it could take the weight on the one hand and to put some cables underneath on the other.





Then the slides were glued in



So far so good. But what about hard-drives? First, I wanted to use standard 3,5" HDD, but then I figured out, that then I could only fit a maximum of two in the cube and that there there still might be a space problem. Since I wanted to use SSD's I switched to 2,5" drives. There are currently up to 2 TB available which is quite enough for me…
So I decided to get a screwless carrier. In each of these fit two 2,5" drives. I bought three of them an "connected" them together like this:




Attachement was made with the welding nuts as well. Here you can also see the aluminum plates for leveling.

Then the back cover. Unfortunately I couldn't use the original back cover due to the openings for the boards and the old power supply. So I decided to cut all the stuff out and just leave the frame with the screws. The cover itself was made out of carbon fiber (since I liked the looks and it's very light).



This plate was then fitted in and the openings were dremeld in. Unfortunaltely, by dremeling the opening for the fan (the last opening) I made a false movement and the pattern I had cut in to cover most of the fan was ruined. So I cut the whole complete for the fan since I would have to start all over with the plate and since it is the backside… Wink



The frame:


The whole Cube was cleaned from the old colour and powder coated in a shiny black colour (RAL 9005). I went to a special company for that which is specialized in restoration of vintage cars. However the coating was not that perfect as I expected since there were some bladders and it was not perfectly even - but I think (since I'm not taking part in modding competitions) it's a nice impression.

Empty Cube with the old inlay:


And here's the machine ready and with the internals:





I hope it's no offense to the former 040- or 030-Cube, and I tried to keep as close to the original as possible (at least not by touching the outside too much - and since I couldn't get the original NeXT Black (I even had the Lab*-values for it, but they wouldn't mix it) I decided to make it shiny and the bezel matte (as contrast)).
Opinions welcome.

Oliver
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grendel



Joined: 28 Oct 2007
Posts: 9

PostPosted: Mon Mar 11, 2013 3:22 pm    Post subject: Phenomenal! Reply with quote

Absolutely phenomenal.
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barcher174



Joined: 07 Dec 2012
Posts: 545

PostPosted: Mon Mar 11, 2013 9:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is absolutely the best mod of a cube I've seen. Truly amazing work!

Also thank you for releasing the drawings for your front bezel. I certainly will be using them in the future.
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cray



Joined: 05 May 2012
Posts: 8
Location: Munich, Germany

PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2013 2:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

barcher174 wrote:
This is absolutely the best mod of a cube I've seen. Truly amazing work!

Also thank you for releasing the drawings for your front bezel. I certainly will be using them in the future.


Thank you very much and you're welcome. I always think it's a pity if somebody does the work of reengineering of things which aren't around anymore and doesn't share it (or at least how he did it) - other people might have use for them as well (and to gather the measurements was sometimes quite painful) Smile
BTW if you want to use the drawings, I used an extension for Sketchup called "RoundCorner" - this was necessary to smoothen the edges on the bezel.
Looking forward to your post, when you used it and made a mod out of it Smile
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eagle



Joined: 29 Mar 2006
Posts: 377

PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2013 3:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, this is an excellent mod.
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pentium



Joined: 23 Jun 2006
Posts: 1138
Location: Kamloops, BC

PostPosted: Tue Mar 12, 2013 9:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

THAT is f****ng slick.
No nasty butchering of the front bezel (because you custom made your own), no ugly back panel, no additional drilling for ventilation and the most badass pull-out system I ahve ever seen. Makes servicing a total breeze.
The repaint seems a touch too glossy but you did a good job repainting it to get it there.

Your work will widely accepted considering the effort to detail. This is a cube worthy of the conversion.
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cray



Joined: 05 May 2012
Posts: 8
Location: Munich, Germany

PostPosted: Wed Mar 13, 2013 2:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

pentium wrote:
THAT is f****ng slick.


Thank you Smile

Quote:

The repaint seems a touch too glossy but you did a good job repainting it to get it there.


Well, first I wanted it matte black like the original, but since I wanted a powder coating (more scratch-resistant) there is no real matte. They couldn't show me how semigloss looked like, so I decided to go for brillant Wink

Quote:

Your work will widely accepted considering the effort to detail. This is a cube worthy of the conversion.


Thank you again. As already written, I wanted it to touch as little as possible from the outside since it is so easy to ruin the Cube's design. The only design change I made in the front bezel were the switch to turn it on and off and the USB-Ports (which today is still somewhat important). But I think it's quite acceptable.
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NeXT_Newbie



Joined: 02 Feb 2006
Posts: 12
Location: Rhode Island, USA

PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2014 10:21 am    Post subject: WOW! Reply with quote

This is the first time I've seen a cube mod and I am totally impressed! I have an empty cube case, complete with front and back plates and have always wanted to fit a 'modern' PC in there. Now, with yours for inspiration, I might have to try it now!

I had to add...I also took one of my cube cases to auto body shop and they sandblasted it and powder coated it black. Its matte and textured. I had the center strip in silver. I think for my other case, I'll restore it to the original look...semigloss.
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cray



Joined: 05 May 2012
Posts: 8
Location: Munich, Germany

PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2014 8:12 am    Post subject: Re: WOW! Reply with quote

NeXT_Newbie wrote:
This is the first time I've seen a cube mod and I am totally impressed! I have an empty cube case, complete with front and back plates and have always wanted to fit a 'modern' PC in there. Now, with yours for inspiration, I might have to try it now!


Go ahead! I'm looking forward to see your result - I'm always curious what other people have in mind Smile

NeXT_Newbie wrote:

I had to add...I also took one of my cube cases to auto body shop and they sandblasted it and powder coated it black. Its matte and textured. I had the center strip in silver. I think for my other case, I'll restore it to the original look...semigloss.


Actually the sandblasting is a good way to get the colour of, even in small corners, however I figured out, that a bit of reworking after the colour removing isnt' that bad. Sandblasting leaves behind some traces. So to get it absolutely plain, the next colouring I will not sandblast ist, but use a grinder and for painting PUR-colour. It's more scratch resistant...
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Rob Blessin Black Hole
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Joined: 05 Sep 2006
Posts: 541
Location: Ft. Collins, Colorado

PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 1:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't know how I missed this one before but incredibly awesome CUBE mod!
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