Aluminum/3D Printed Main Board Enclosure

I got an 11th gen mainboard for use as a stand-alone small form factor PC, but didn’t think the provided 3D printed enclosure was rigid enough. So, I designed an enclosure using 2 laser cut 1/8” 6061 aluminum plates with 3D printed filling around the mainboard. The result is (obviously) much more rigid than 3D printing alone. I used thermal tape on top of the heat sink with the hope of using the enclosure to help cool the CPU, but there is a gap between the top of the case and the heat sink. Any thoughts?

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Wow this really looks cool. This is an enclosure I would want to house my existing mainboard when I upgrade the Framework mainboard (hopefully to at least 14th Gen or later Intel).

You can get thermal pads, the same ones used for RAM and VRMs on GPUs.

Another idea would be to get heatpipes but welding them to the case would be very difficult.

A crazy idea would be to make a copper/aluminium block and add thermal paste on both ends between the top and bottom but not sure how bad the thermal conductivity and what are the risk of shorting.

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Thanks for the feedback, then next thing I plan to try is using thicker thermal pads. I plan to post the design files once I have most problems worked out. Also, here are more pictures:



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Looks really good!

Let’s hope you can turbo boost more with the better cooling :smiley:

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@Darius_Lukas It looks great! Thanks for sharing it. I am curious to know if you have uploaded the CAD (?) file to 3d-print this somewhere such as Printables.com or GitHub?

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@junaruga Haven’t yet, but I plan to do so. I was going to make improvements to the 3d printed parts (fix tolerances) and I would still like to make a new revision with mounting location for the speakers and maybe the battery. But, then this machine became my daily driver and I didn’t want to keep taking it apart :sweat_smile: .

As an unrelated follow up, I did get new thermal pads that contact the chassis, but I did not see any performance uplift. To check if there is potential for more performance with increased thermal headroom I put some ice on top of the case and that improved the performance. So, this warrants further testing.

Edit: I found the Geekbench results. With no thermal tape I got 1575 single core, 4446 multicore; with thermal tape I got 1580 single core and 4452 multicore; with thermal tape and a supply of ice I got 1614 single core, 4700 multicore. From those I’m guessing the potential performance uplift from better cooling is ~2-6% (not sure if anyone else has numbers on this). I would be interested if there would be a better performance uplift for the 12th gen boards.

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How are you handling the power button?
LOVE the idea of an aluminum case!

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All right. Thanks for explaining the context. I am looking forward to seeing the improved 3d-printing files! :grin:

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I have uploaded the design files here: GitHub - dariusjlukas/aluminum-and-3d-printed-Framework-Case: A case for the Framework mainboard made from laser cut aluminum and 3d printed components. , along with some additional instructions and links in the readme.

@Alex_Van_de_Putte The Framework mainboard has a small button on it which acts as the power button. There is a hole in the top plate with a 3D printed “button cap” sticking through.

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Did you tap threads in the bottom plate for the screws? Also, what are the lengths of the M3 and M4 screws?

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@Alex_Van_de_Putte Yes, I tapped the holes on the bottom plate. The M4 and M3 screws are both 12mm long. I should note that the screws are a bit short in this design. The challenge is the next size up I have protrudes through the bottom.

Thanks!!

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Thankyou so much for sharing, i’ve been looking for something like this… I’m tempted to cover the entire PC with thermal pad tbh… (though I wonder if a different aluminium would have slightly better properties)

are there any UK (maybe even London based) people here who’d be interested in getting the plates cut? the place I’ve found seems to be optimized on 5 pieces (randomly is cheaper than 1!)

@Darius_Lukas is it possible to make a version with holes in the top and bottom plate - I see the coolermaster case has vents on both sides