Among the many uses for 3D printing, PC modding would seem like a natural one. Just in the last few years there has been a growing use of additive manufacturing to customize PC setups.
This growing interest has caused some PC brands to start looking more closely at 3D printing. For example, ASUS and Thermaltake are currently trying to encourage more users to share 3D creations by first offering theirs; Thermaltake created a whole website dedicated for this purpose, while ASUS in the spirit of the PC modding community began the conversation in their forum where they have shared .stl files.
However, most of the focus so far is around aesthetic enhancements such as 3D printed covers, leaving a great space for more practical solutions to be developed such as internal structural supports for PC components. For example, to prevent weighty components sagging and potentially damaging expensive hardware. This article will look at some of the current options available, also we encourage readers to share their own projects or ideas.
Asus recently introduced the one possibility, and owners can now modify the appearance of their motherboard with 3D printable parts. Specifically, their ROG Strix X99 Gaming and ROG Rampage V motherboards, now offer swappable parts to further customize user’s computers. They achieved this by sharing a series of .stl files in their forum where people can share their specific modifications. They have codenamed this effort: The ASUS 3D Printing Project.
The customized pieces include tags, motherboard holders, fan holders and even cable combs. You can find the files and the response generated by ASUS users here.
The Modders Themselves
Complx, an overclockers.com forum user, recently developed a 3D printed computer case named Node. Complx has documented the development of the case, together with an explanation of the key hurdles he encountered. For instance, when 3D printing his design he faced two particular challenges; laying out the right structures to avoid deformation while printing, as well as working with the size limitations of the 3D printer available.
To overcome the size limitation, Complx decided to break up his design into separate sections, using laser cut acrylic to make the panels that cover the case.
Complx’s design has been highly celebrated for its clean polished look. You can learn how he managed to develop his case and perhaps venture into building your own here.
Another interesting PC case, Aetos, was developed by Bit-Tech forum user Maki role and completed in July. The Aetos project features a more organic, semi-minimalist aesthetic using a 3D printed exterior. It was commissioned by AMD in order to create a small but powerful PC using their graphics card, the R9 Nano.
Hurdles and Opportunities
The ongoing advance of additive manufacturing technology continues to bring a new world of modding possibilities to the PC building experience. Certainly, there are potentially some very interesting collaborations that might arise. For instance, a deeper relationship could develop between the community and PC part manufacturers creating a valuable feedback loop that might improve products, or video game studios might begin sharing their custom .stl files featuring characters or themed designs so they can be printed by fans.
As mentioned, currently 3D printing has been used mainly to develop whole PC cases, and for aesthetic customization. However, there are still a number of areas where 3D printing might improve PC modding by helping solve some common problems. Here are some ideas:
- Cable management
- Water cooling structures
- GPU supports
- Angled GPU holders
- Extra supports for GPU cooler sets
- LED plates
- Fake RAM Sticks* and Covers
- Heatsink supports
The Big Picture
As emerging economic models such as Circular Economy illustrate, it is easy to see the relevance of expanding the use of additive manufacturing technology into a wider range of products. Computer modification is a perfect example since it showcases that 3D printing in consumer products allows high levels of customization, low waste generation and continually decreasing costs.
Tell us if you have used 3D printing to improve your PC modding or if you can think of a PC modding issue that could easily be solved with additive technology.
Featured image shows Aetos custom PC case, via Maki role