Prism lighting!

posted Feb 25, 2013, 12:13 AM by Andrew Stock

Been a little while since a full update, but I've certainly been busy! Lots of little things here and there, but bit by bit I'm getting closer to putting everything together! 

First, I worked out how I want to handle my cable routing. You'll recall that I pluged all the cable pass-throughs on my midplate, leaving no place for cables to reach the motherboard... One of my personal goals is to keep the cabling completely hidden wherever possible. This includes fan wires, motherboard power, sata cables, etc etc. To do so with the Lian Li PC-v2000 is a tricky thing... this case was made back before case windows were a big thing... and people didn't care about cable placement. None of those fancy cable management systems here... so, time to make some!

There's a very small gap behind my motherboard plate and the left hand case wall... no more than 10mm. That should be enough to accomplish what I am thinking, though! I marked off a few areas that I'll be passing cables from the bottom compartment (you can see the PSU there) along the back of the motherboard plate and up to the top compartment. An hour or two with the Dremel, a little bit of sanding, and...

... there we go! Cable pass through ports along with built in cable retention arms! 

Next, I cut out a few matching holes in the motherboard tray, along with a few passthrough ports that will be hidden behind the motherboard when it's mounted on the tray:

Put the two together, and...

There we go! Now, when the motherboard is mounted on the tray, these passthrough ports will be completely invisible. 

The back area will be hidden as well, as this area is out of sight of the window on this side of the case. I'll route the CPU power cables and fan RPM monitor cables up through the left port, which will come out underneath the bottom of the motherboard. The cables will make a sharp u-turn and plug into the motherboard. With some careful cable stitching and placement, it should end up looking very clean. The ATX power and GPU power cables will go through the right port, be tacked flat along the back of the motherboard plate, pass through the large oval, come out under the motherboard, make a sharp U-turn and plug into the motherboard power ports etc (which are conveniently turned 90 degrees on the EVGA z77 FTW motherboard). 

Anyway, back to something more... colorful! I picked up some higher-density LED strips from the same manufacturer as my old strip, Adafruit. Lots of good improvements here... no black CPU chip (it's actually that microscopic black dot on each LED now!), the strip is a much more unobtrusive white instead of copper, and of course there are now 60 LED's per meter instead of 32. 

As such, I pretty much started over at square one with all of my LED/Acrylic testing. Here's a few shots of various layouts I tried. All of them still show banding or individual LED's, which I am trying to avoid... the goal is a smooth transition of color where the individual lights are indistinguishable. 

Trial 1, with the LED facing up into the prism:

Trial 2, with a sanded groove and extra piece of acrylic between the LED strip and the prism:

A little closer on that second one, but not quite there. 

Trial 3, LED strip upside down, facing into a second prism underneath the top one (so an acrylic diamond with the LED strip in the middle):

The light is much better in this one... almost perfect, but as you can see in these dark shots, the LED strip is visible through the prism as a black bar... which kinda ruins the effect. 

Trial 4, I also tried putting the LED strip sideways shining into the bottom of the acrylic 'diamond', hoping that the light would reflect a bit and hide the source... but you can still faintly make out the individual lights:

Putting other materials, hot glue, paper, and other materials also had no effect on dispersing the light any better:

So, I slept on it a bit. The problem I was having was that the light coming out of the LED's was still to focused... they formed small cones of light that hadn't completely merged by the time they exited the prism, no matter which way I faced them. What I needed was for the light to travel a greater distance, allowing it to scatter more. The downward facing strip worked pretty close, but it was a bit too dim and you could see the strip. What combination of materials and shapes will increase the travel distance of the light, face the strip downward, AND keep the strip hidden? Smoke and mirrors!  Or more specifically, cloudy acrylic and mirrors!

First, I made a "V" shape out of some 2mm clear mirrored acrylic. This will act as a 'basin' to face the LED strip into, reflecting all of that light back up. I glued that V into the bottom of my reservoir housing:

I then glued the LED strip to a trapezoid of acrylic that I passed through my drum sander a few times, clouding up all the edges to obscure the LED strip.

I glued the LED strip face down into the mirrored V...

Powered it up, and voila!

And with the lights off and the tube reservoir in place (albeit empty...)


Sooo good to have this piece finally done. It's been bothering me forever! Now on to the next task... finishing up some of the repairs on my mid-plate. Until next time!