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Tardis PC Build

Started by mcglsr2, Apr 03, 2016, 05:54 am

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Apr 03, 2016, 05:54 am Last Edit: Sep 10, 2018, 06:56 am by mcglsr2
Updating this from the future.  This thread was originally intended to introduce my build which was slated to start around November-ish of 2016.  Well, it didn't really work out that way.  However, the Tardis is done so I'm coming back to update this thread and post some finished pics.  But to introduce the project, back to 2016...

In 2007 I built my dad a new PC.  I made a custom case for him, a Bobber caboose (my dad is into trains) - it turned out way better than I expected and he used it for quite sometime.  Anyway, the hardware is getting long in the tooth, the caboose is starting to show signs of wear and tear and I'm itching to build something new.  I decided to retire the Bobber and make a new case...

...a Tardis!!!


Apr 03, 2016, 05:58 am #1 Last Edit: Sep 10, 2018, 06:25 am by mcglsr2
The plan is to model the build in Sketchup and convey that to wood.  I wasn't really sure which style of Tardis to go with.  I found some plans by Bill Rudloff listing out dimensions which was incredibly helpful.  So I started laying things out in Sketchup to get an idea how things would place and fit together...






Apr 03, 2016, 06:03 am #2 Last Edit: Apr 03, 2016, 06:06 am by galacticprobe
Nice graphics, MC. (Did you see my post here,;topicseen#msg83021, and was it of any help?)

"What's wrong with being childish?! I like being childish." -3rd Doctor, "Terror of the Autons"


Quote from: galacticprobe on Apr 03, 2016, 06:03 am
Nice graphics, MC. (Did you see my post here,;topicseen#msg83021, and was it of any help?)


I did, thanks!  (And I replied there.)  I'm happy with how the 3D model turned out, very useful for making sure everything will fit, getting my final dimensions (the model is to scale), and using it as an assembly guide.


Sep 10, 2018, 05:04 am #4 Last Edit: Sep 10, 2018, 06:30 am by mcglsr2
Alright, fast forward to today.  Quite the delay between posts, but well, life and all that ;)

I initially planned to build the Tardis out of wood, similar to how I built the Bobber caboose.  I got so far as even ordering the wood and planing/preparing what would be the base.  And that was as far as I got.  Stuff just always seemed to get in the way plus on top of that the amount of woodworking ahead was a bit daunting: all the routing I would need to do (I have a Dremel and attachment for routing which was perfect for the little amount I needed to do on the caboose but less than ideal for the amount I would need to do with the Tardis), I didn't have the proper bits for cutting the correct angle on the top of the base part, blah blah excuses excuses.  So it sat for a bit.

Towards the beginning of 2017 I got a 3D printer.  Used it for a bunch of stuff.  Had a blast with it.  Then one day I got the bright idea (why it took me so long I'm not sure) to print out the Tardis rather than make it from wood.  All of a sudden, the intricate bits of wood carving I would need to do that I didn't have proper tools for...I no longer needed to do.  All I had to do was design the parts the way I wanted them and just print it.  Easy enough.  With renewed vigor, I set about re-designing the Tardis in Sketchup from scratch.  I knew where things were going to go, I just needed to figure out how to design the components such that they could be 3D printed and assembled to provide a strong, rigid foundation for the PC bits.

As for the Tardis style, I landed on the David Tennant box.  Both my dad and I enjoyed him as a Dr (though our favorite is Tom Baker) and it was easiest enough to find many sample images online.  And it's a good looking Tardis.  So why not.

The only real constraints I had now were making sure the parts were designed such that they would print correctly with as little support material as possible and I had to design the size of my components around the maximum size of my print bed.  Here are two shots of the updated model, with all kinds of lines and stuff on all the parts where I had to divide things to fit.  Added bonus, I could easily print windows, the top signs and the lantern "glass" using transparent material.




Sep 10, 2018, 05:54 am #5 Last Edit: Sep 10, 2018, 06:34 am by mcglsr2
The Tardis was completed and given to my dad for Christmas 2017.  It's been working great until a lightning strike took out the USB ports on the motherboard essentially rendering it useless as no peripherals (e.g. keyboard and mouse) would work.

While I had the Tardis back to get a new motherboard and CPU I decided to snap some shots and finally update/complete this post.  The hardware components are a bit overkill for the type of user my dad is however I expect he'll be using for many, many years to come so I leaned a bit towards future-proofing.  And also making sure lightning strikes won't be an issue anymore.

Apparently I didn't take any pictures during construction - too focused and forgot I suppose.  The build consisted of me printing parts in ABS plastic and assembling them - I used a "slurry" to glue the parts together.  The slurry is a mixture of acetone and bits of ABS plastic.  The acetone melts the ABS.  When applied like a glue, it literally melts the two separate pieces of ABS together, as if they were solid from the start.  It worked fantastically.  The case is remarkably strong and sturdy.  The case is comprised of a little over 120 printed pieces...not sure about the total print time.  My guess is maybe 200 hours of actual print time.  Once all the ABS parts were assembled, I then cut some really thin hobby railroad wood and applied it to the surfaces to get the wood texture.

I'll list out the features as I go through the images (the PC is on in all of these pictures):

This is a frontal shot of the Tardis.  For a size comparison, the overall height is about 19" from the desk to the top of the lantern.  The base of the Tardis is ~9" square.  The signs at the top are all lit when the PC is on, they are on 3 sides, just not the back.  The lantern on the top is the HDD activity light - it flashes when the HDD is being read, so lots of materializing and de-materializing going on ;)

The "back" side of the Tardis is where the computer connections are - the section of roof behind the lantern is actually a wire mesh.  This allows the hot air from the components inside to funnel up and out of the Tardis; it's set it in a "chimney" fashion.  Fresh air is drawn in from the bottom (there are some rubber foot pads which lift the base a bit off the floor making space for air ingress), passes through the fans and CPU cooler and then up out the top.  Any hot air generated from the PSU is added to this and also goes out up the top.

This is the back side.  There's a couple of LEDs towards the top that sort of light up the connectors in case they need to be fiddled with in the dark.  The fan at the top is for the PSU (it has a dust filter over it) - it's not spinning because the PSU is a highly efficient/low noise model - the fan only comes on when the load on the PSU reaches a certain threshold, which it pretty much never does.  It says off like 99% of the time so the PSU is silent.

The bottom has a removable dust filter for easy cleaning.  The only way for air to get in (apart from the very minimal gaps in certain areas of the case) is predominately from the bottom (through that dust filter) or towards the top where the PSU fan is (also through a dust filter).

I've got various lights on the inside of the Tardis (which you'll see in some later pictures) that add to the "mystique" of the goings-on inside.  Who knows what the Doctor is up to...


Sep 10, 2018, 06:03 am #6 Last Edit: Sep 10, 2018, 06:36 am by mcglsr2
Continuing with the tour...

The is the phone access label with a slight variation in wording - note the last line.  It usually says "PULL TO OPEN."  This is the power button for the PC.  Pressing this sign turns on the PC, thus the meaning behind the last line ;)

The "left" side panel is removable to gain access to the motherboard/CPU area of the case.

Here's a a side shot of the inside.  The PSU is located at the top left.  There's a "ledge" that runs along the sides and bottom supported the PSU in place and also creating a seal so that air enters only through the fan.  The bottom section houses the motherboard and CPU cooler.  The cooler is blue with black endcaps and is set up with a push/pull fan configuration.  These fans draw the air up through the bottom hole, move it through the massive CPU cooler, and then push it up and out the top mesh.

A closer shot of the CPU cooler and fans.  Also, the bottom dust filter has been pulled most of the way out.

A "dark" shot showing some of the lights inside.


In this shot I have removed the roof section and set it on top.  This is how the PSU is accessed.  There are rails holding it in place, after removing the rails the PSU lifts up and out.

There are some orange "mood" lights on the underside of the lid, you can also clearly see the mesh.  The wires that connect the lantern and mood LEDs have a connector that is easily undone so the roof can be completely removed.  The only thing holding the roof is a pressure fit with some foam strips that provide just enough friction so the lid doesn't go anywhere but is still easily removable.

Here you can see the rails that hold the PSU in place and the connectors I mentioned in the previous picture for the roof LEDs and lantern.

A view from the top down to the CPU cooler and fans.  The CPU cooler is massive and takes up pretty much the entire lower volume of the case - intentional, as I want the Tardis to be quiet.  It sits on the my dad's desk so if the fans were loud or noisy he would be able to hear them.  With the way I've set it up, they do not need to spin fast at all to keep the CPU running cool - and of course if for some reason the CPU temps start climbing the fans will automatically spin up to compensate.  But this rarely happens, even when the CPU is doing work.

Obligatory Doctor Who logo-esque shot with the side panel removed.

And this last picture shows the removable panel next to the Tardis.  If I didn't mention it earlier, my dad and I are fans of the Tom Baker Doctor, so I placed this guy on the inside panel.  Even though it's a Tennant Tardis, there's still a little Baker in there ;)


Once the Tardis was assembled I painted the inside white, the outside as close to Tennant Tardis blue as I could get my hands on, and weathered it appropriately.  I won't say it is an exact replica because it isn't, but I do think I came pretty close, and certainly nailed the "general Tardis vibe."  I'm sure an expert on Tardis' can point out some scaling issues or errors in reproduction but I'm happy with how it turned out  ;D

So that's the end of it.  The motherboard and CPU replacement are done and the Tardis will go back to my dad.  I had a lot of fun building it, it was the first time I made something that large and complex using 3D printed components.  I learned a ton and would probably make a few tweaks were I to make another Tardis ;) 

I don't know for sure what my next project will be though I suspect it will relate to the clock tower from Myst (not sure if there are any Myst fans out there).


It's come together really well! I bet he was well pleased.
And thanks for coming back to bring us up to date.
We have one or two other people here using 3D printers to produce amazing models, so take a look around...




Sep 11, 2018, 02:53 pm #11 Last Edit: Sep 11, 2018, 02:57 pm by mcglsr2
Quote from: Scarfwearer on Sep 11, 2018, 07:55 am
It's come together really well! I bet he was well pleased.
And thanks for coming back to bring us up to date.
We have one or two other people here using 3D printers to produce amazing models, so take a look around...

He was and thanks!  This thing would have taken forever if I tried to stay with doing it in wood.  It also would have been incredibly heavy.  As it is now, it has a comfortable heft and the PC components add the majority of the weight, it weighs about the same as a commercially available case of equivalent size.  So thanks to the 3D printing and 15-20% infills for that ;)

I'll have a look around at the other 3D printed objects; it's such a great tool.  I've printed fun projects as well as useful-in-real-life items and I'm always looking for ideas for other uses :)


Quote from: sector281411 on Sep 11, 2018, 02:03 pm

Thank you so much!  I'm very pleased with how it turned out!


Brilliant project well done. Really good practical use for a Tardis.



Talk about your bigger computing power on the inside.

Small on the outside, bigger ram on the inside.  ;D