need suggestions on material thickness for case

Hi, I want to build a couple of pc cases and a few trays. The front/back panels I will probably have done on a cnc machine. And the top/side cover I'll probably have done by a shop. What I will want to build is the base/internal box and support structures for the mother board, drives, power supply, and such.

This could be aluminum or steel. My concern is of which material would be the easiset/cheapest to produce. While I would like to buy some nice equipment to do this work with, I don't really think I would use the machines that much to warrant the expense.

I have a Jet table saw, and I've seen a few posts about cutting aluminum on a table saw, but don't know what the minimum thickness would be that could safely be cut on a table saw. And, cutting on a table saw seems a bit scary.

I've seen these power cutters that look like a hand drill that cut 18 ga sheet. I thought that I might mount one of these on an arm and make a sliding table to get straight edges with. Not sure if this is 18 ga steel or aluminum. And I don't know if 18 ga is thick enough for drive cages or the bottom pan/mother board tray. I do have to mount the power supply to the back panel and these weigh a good chunk.

So, I guess I need a suggestion as to: 1. What material and at what thickness do I need to use? 2. A means of cutting this material safely and cheaply?


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Have you made sure that you can't in fact obtain what you want? For example, go to

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and peruse the case list.

Reply to
Ian Stirling

For thin stuff on the table saw use a piece of plywood, particle board, or somesuch to back up the alum.


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The structures you're talking about are normally sheared and brake bent. So you need a bench shear to cut the material, and a bench brake to bend it.

Not highly recommended for heavy use, but Harbor Freight sells a 30 inch shear/brake/roll combo machine which would suffice for this project. It is much cheaper than anything else you could find which could handle the job (currently on sale for about $270).

Most of the case makers use sheet steel for the substructure, I would too. It doesn't carry a lot of load, so it doesn't have to be very thick. 20 gage would be fine, 18 gage is probably overkill. The bends, and sometimes beads, give it the required stiffness.

Note, if you don't care if it looks like a conventional PC, you could use rack and panel construction. That can be done with ordinary hand tools (ie hacksaw, hand drill, etc).

As a final note, case design is not a trivial exercise. Computer cases go through an elaborate thermal design process to make sure the electronics doesn't suffer from hot spots in the case due to stagnated air flows. There are also EMI/RFI considerations. So if you are trying for a conventional PC case, follow a proven design very carefully. Even small deviations from the design can cause radically different internal air flows.


Reply to
Gary Coffman

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