Modding & Electronics
Modification - Introduction
Modification of computers started when a simple case or component did not look or do what the end-user required. Often linked with air-cooling, modification, also known as and fondly called "modding" has become a vital part to many air-cooler's tactics. Modding brought the ability to modify the case to the needs of the user, to add, or remove hard drive bays, fans, grills, slots for Optical drives, floppy drives and various other things. It has allowed for creative minds to add and remove things to cases. For examples of modification, see the Modification section of the OCAU forum.
While it is true, that electronics can be involved in computer modding (ie Fan Controllers, shutdown fan timers, etc). Electronics goes beyond the scale of the aforementioned computer modification. One can even develop their own electronic devices, based on their expertise on the subject.
Major custom electronics projects that are popular on ocau include:
- Amplifers (headphone, stereo and home cinema amplifiers)
This can be a great way to start in electronics, if you only have basic knowledge. You could build from a kit, or from plans found on many websites, from there, you can perform your own modifications. Amplifiers are a common project, as part of the Electronics Trade Certificate 3 Course in NSW TAFE.
Some amplifiers are VERY simple to make, with devices called "Op Amps", or "Operational amplifiers". These are simple integrated circuits, which, with a few extra components, will amplify a signal such as sound, video, or other signals.
- Microcontroller Projects
Microcontrollers, are great pieces of equipment, where a chip's functions can be controlled by programming that is uploaded from a PC. Some can also be considered as a "Computer on a chip", because some chips have all the essential devices, such as a CPU, RAM and Storage to name a few, all on the same chip!
Forum Member Bradrogers is beginning with Microcontrollers such as PIC micros, and has a beginners insight guide on this Wiki under this link: Brad_Pic.
- To all people thinking of playing with 240V
- Where to get help with electrical safety
- Information about electric shocks
See "Case Modding Tools" section for case modding specific safety advice.
Case Modding Tools
SAFETY FIRST -despite being a fun and productive hobby, case modding has various degrees of dangers associated it, and must be understood and dealt with accordingly:
- ALWAYS wear safety glasses/goggles when using any tools that may release/shoot shrapnel into your eyes (ESPECIALLY when using rotary tools).
- Wear ear-muffs when doing any cutting etc that is noisy. Exposure to loud noise can permanently damage hearing, cause tinnitus and more.
- ALWAYS paint and cut plastics in a well-ventilated workspace, and if doing large amounts of painting/plastic cutting, wear an appropriate mask/respirator. Fumes are carcinogenic (cancerous!) and generally not good for you, so wear a mask!
- If dealing with electricity, cables etc, make sure you 100% know what you are doing and dealing with. DO NOT modify or interfere with 240v.
-If in doubt, ASK first in the appropriate forum or consult a trained professional.
- The most commonly used, and revered, tool is the Dremel. The Dremel is simply a rotary tool. While there are various other versions (Ozito, Black and Decker etc.) of the tool, but they have all taken on the alias of "Dremel" The rotary tool is a multipurpose tool with a spinning action similar to a drill. It can be used to cut holes, grind, sand, buff, polish and engrave/etch. This swiss-army knife of tools is used by most modders avidly. Reinforced cutting disks are suggested for all cutting tasks as they last a lot longer. Dremel compatible cutting disks can be bought on eBay for prices much lower than general hardware stores.
- The Jigsaw is another of the common tools. Used on larger cuts than the dremel, it is usually used on a window.
- The Drill - The drill is a common power tool owned by most households. Its use is simply to put holes in things. Keep in mind that a drill can have attachments such as Hole-saws, that allow 80mm, 92mm and 120mm holes to be put into a case in a single drilling action. They are also important to many modders.
- The Nibbler - The nibbler is a tool that "nibbles" small chunks of metal away at a time. While it slowly wears out the user, it is useful for places where its not worth pulling out the dremel. There are also nibbler attachments available to use with electric drills for those larger jobs.
- Hacksaw - For use when a jigsaw isn't worth getting out.
- Masking Tape - This is VITAL if you are using any tools on a case. Unless you like a scratched up case, think about grabbing some tape. Use plenty of masking tape on any surface that will be cut in anyway, e.g. window mods etc.
- Bondo and Hardener - Whatever you call it, bondo,bog,spak,filler etc, added with hardener can be used as a strong adhesive for filling large areas (although there should be mesh or some other material (perspex/plexiglass is often favoured) to be bound into place. It can also be used to modify the surface, shape and size of various parts of the case. An example of this is "blowhole" mods on cases, using a large amount of filler.
- Hot Glue Gun and Glue - Used for seal areas where Bondo isn't used.
- Araldite - For those bonds that need to stay together
- 3M Heavy duty double sided adhesive tape part #4010 aka "The tape of Gods!" - This is extremely strong double sided "tape" of sorts that you can use to fix items to each other, but you can also remove the item with a sharp tool on a side angle. This is the preferred adhesive for many modders for case window mods. It costs around $11.50 at Bunnings and is normally found in the mounting section, along with adhesive wall hooks etc, NOT in the tape section. If you can't find it ask the front service desk and quote the part number. Part #4011 is a similar product for outdoor use and is weather resistant and a little more expensive.
Additional tools such as Pliers, Cable Ties, Electrical Tape, Soldering Iron, metal files, heat guns (for shrink wrapping and bending acrylic) and others are also used, but the basics above are what is used on a standard case mod.
A list of OCAU featured modifications can be found here.
Australian Modding Suppliers
- Altronics- Very similar to Jaycar / Dick Smith / Tandy. Lots of electronic goodies. They also stock nuts and bolts, rubber gromets, and heaps more.
- Aus PC Market - Extensive range of pretty much anything you can stick in a PC.
Below 0 (Zero) - Good array of Water Cooling, Air Cooling and some Vapochill products.Closed 2007
- Bunnings - Modder's Paradise :)
- Chilled PC - Lots of cooling goodies in here, especially water cooling stuff.
- Cool PC - Specialise in mostly PC Cooling gear but stock some cool gadgets and some console equipment (XBox, PS2, Nintendo) :)
Custom Cases - A great supply of modding equipment.<--- Site has changed and isnt about computer modding at all David And Karma's Pc Cooling Gear - Alot of cooling equipment for water cooling and air cooling, also a OCAU sponsor!Closed Dec 2006 Flabbergast - Provides everything you need to add water cooling to your setup!Closed Jan 2009?
- GAM Mods - PC Modding Supplies and Watercooling components including the ThermoChill line of radiators.
- IndustrialPlastics can get basically any colour plexi you require, and the beauty of their service is that they will cut to size, and you are only charged for what you need instead of buying a whole sheet.
- Jaycar Electronics - Your new best friend... you can get pretty much anything relating to electronics here, just ask Defyant
KA Technologies - Exstensive array of modding equipment and general PC gear.<--- Site down l33t ModdersSite last up Aug 2006?? Lownoise PC - like the Link... they sell quiet cooling :)Site Down
- Mainline Plastics - Perspex Supplier in Perth
NintekClosed Jan 2008
- PC Case Gear - Again an Extensive range of most computergear.
PC Cooling Australia - Great array of WatercoolingClosed Dec 2006
- Pluscorp - Great for anything PC related inculding Water Cooling & Air Cooling.
- Radiical - some pretty cool Watercooling stuff including watercooling for HDD!!
Webber 4 Technologies - Good Supply of Hardware and if he hasn't got it he can usually get it in and for a great deal.Site Down - Last working Feb 2007
Non-Australian Modding Suppliers
- Alpha Cool
- Danger Den - Great array of waterblocks and other watercooling equipment.
- Frozen CPU - Although not in Australia a great array of cooling gear some of which is not available from our stores but can still be ordered!
Australian Electronics Suppliers
- OpenLab Australia - Online - has other gear for makers
- Active Components
- Altronics - Sydney, Perth, Melbourne
- Australian Robotics - Electronics & Robotics - Canberra, ACT
- Aztronics - Adelaide
- Bliptronics - esp for RGB LED modules. - Online Store
- Dontronics - Online Store
- DSE - Dick Smith Electronics
- Excess Electronics - (Seems to be something else?)
- Farnell - Free delivery, GST added at checkout, Min Order $10 (ex gst) - Credit Card
- Freetronics - Online Store
- Futurlec Australia - shipping is cheap, but can take a while as I think it comes from Thailand.
- Icy Labs - Online Store
- JED Microprocessors
- Kalex - Kinsten Printed Circuit Boards Supplier - Melbourne + Online
- Little Bird Electronics
- Mektronics - Online Store
- MicroGram Computer - Online Store
- MicroZed - Queensland
- Oatley Electronics - Online Store
- Oretronics - Perth and Online (free shipping?)
- Oritech - Melbourne and Online (free shipping for orders over $100+GST)
- Ozitronics - Online Store
- Photonage - Online Store, Sydney based
- Primer Electronics
- Proto Gear Arduino, sensors, etc
- Protostack - Online Store ($5 shipping worldwide?)
- Radio Parts Online - West Melbourne
- Rockby Electronic Components - Victoria
- R.T.Nollet - strathmore, Victoria
- Robort Gear - Robotics & Electronics - Perth, WA
- RS Components (free shipping)
- Square Bit Arduino + a few components
- Toys Downunder - Arduino, sensors, etc - Maylands, WA
- Wagner - Ashfield, NSW
- WES Components - Ashfield, NSW
- Wiltronics - Ballarat Victoria
- Worldwide Electronic Components - located in Bentley (Perth), and open from 7am to 3pm weekdays. Has a much wider range of electronic bits than Jaycar/Altronics, (cheaper than them for most stuff too), and can do BIOS/microcontroller flashing as well.
- X-On Electronics
If you are looking for more specialised, harder to find components, there are a few distributors in Australia.
Warning: They many only ship to commercial entities or in large quantities.
- Adilam Electronics - Line Card
- Arrow Asia - Line Card
- AvNet (formely Memec/Insight) - Line Card
- Braemac - Line Card
- Electus Distribution
- Richardson Electronics - Line Card
- SoanarPlus - Line Card
Non-Australian Electronics Suppliers
- Digi-Key.com - probably the biggest distributor in the US
- Elane Electronics - Load Cells
- Future Electronics
- iTead Studio
- Jameco Electronics
- Mouser Electronics- has alternative parts to digikey, great range
- Newark InOne - part of the Farnell network, not very easy to deal with in Australia
- parts conneXion - biggest range of diy hifi audio electronics
- Parts Express - diy audio
- Michael Percy Audio - diy audio
- Seeed Studio Depot
- Spark Fun Electronics - Good range of random electronics
- Sure Electronics - Good Range, Nice LCDs, fairly cheap
- Tang Hill Ltd Audio - diy audio electronics from taiwan, very good range
- Advanced Circuits PCB
- BatchPCB - very good deals for one off small orders
- Custom PCB
- Ez PCB
- Futurlec PCB Service
- Gold Phoenix PCB
- iTead Studio PCB Prototyping Service
- PCB Cart
- PCB Core
- PCB Zone - NZ Based
- Seeed Depot Prototyping Service
- Analog Devices - analog audio and video, switches, opamps, etc.
- Atmel - microcontrollers
- Cirrus Logic - audio codec's
- Fairchild Corp
- Maxim - power, audio, video, microcontrollers,
- Microchip Technology - microcontrollers & eeprom
- National Semiconductor - power, audio, video,
- ON Semiconducter - fets and transistors
- STMicroelectronics - fets and transistors
- TI Semiconductors - power, audio, video, microcontrollers, opamps, dsp