Tuesday, April 23, 2024
Tamiya Truckin

In 2004 Ant Pritchard went about building a PC with a differance! Here's some details about this unique Truck - LANTruck!

I already own a number of radio controlled models and a new addition to the collection seemed like a great idea. With the shape of the MSI Mega PC and wanting to add to my collection, the Tamiya 1/14th Mercedes 1850l truck seemed to be the right choice. The rear body was almost exactly the same size as the MSI Mega and the idea of adding a trailer for peripherals and cables seemed perfect for transporting everything.

Planning was key to this project.  Making everything fit right is important in a small form factor PC not only to ensure it fits, but also to ensure sufficient airflow. It took me a few weeks to design and draw up all of the parts for the LAN Truck. As a professional model maker, I make lots of prototype models. So this project has really been like a big kit, that I have made myself. I designed the parts of the truck using CAD (Computer Aided Design). My experience at work has helped me no end. Also, having recently purchased my own CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) mill to help with work meant that I could precisely make all the parts so it would be just a matter of assembling the LAN Truck.

It seemed sensible to fit the largest and heaviest part first which is the power supply. This is a 200w supply which is nice and small. It fits in very nicely I placed it so there was an air gap all-around. The Tamiya kit has aluminium sides with realistic detailing on the panels. I made the motherboard chassis from 2mm aluminium. The motherboard itself only has 3mm of clearance either side so it's a very tight fit. The roof of the rear container is where the motherboard has found its home. It is fixed in with two layers of 2mm thick aluminium with a 7mm air gap, created by spacers. Standard motherboard mounts are screwed on to the second layer and a 50 mm fan up the front pulls the warm air out. The aluminium helps keep the unit ridged, strong and also helps with the heat dissipation. The aluminium was cut to size at my local metal workshop Mercury Metals. With their equipment the aluminium could be quickly cut to size with a neat finish on the edge. The fitment test of the motherboard, on to the roof panel of the truck, was perfect first time, got to love the accuracy of a CNC mill. As I mentioned earlier I wanted to build a trailer to carry all of the peripherals for the PC. I managed to source a back body from a fellow Radio Control truck enthusiast who had not used the original rear body of his Mercedes 1850l. This was great as it meant I would have matching body's to create a neat looking rig. It took me a while to design up the new panels to fit the box to the chassis of the trailer. It has been worth the time. Working out the best placement for the front connectivity board took some thought and a number of test fits before I eventually found a very nice place just above the side protect bars on the chassis of the truck. The main problem with this was to extend the cables, it took me a while to work out the types of connectors and find them. I eventually located all of the parts in the RS components catalogue. I also had to extend the LCD screen, this took a while to custom make the cables but it was well worth it! Big thanks to my friend Kane on helping me with the rewiring of the cables. By this time I had realised that the standard MSI optical drive would not fit how I wanted it to, due to the weight and size. I then found a very nice laptop DVD combo drive from www.linitx.co.uk who also sells the adaptor to use the drive with a standard IDE cable. Next came the placement of the LCD screen, this includes all of the CD controls and power buttons. In addition to this the MSI also has a 6in1 card reader so this had to find a home. I designed the side of the truck with the LCD screen set to the left of the side panel, with the DVD combo under the screen and the 6in1 under this. The LCD screen had to be built into a holder to support the buttons. I made this out of two pieces of 6mm polycarbonate, and this also holds the screen in place. This layout seemed to leave a rather blank space. Then it came to me to put a mini TFT screen in there. I choose the LILLIPUT 7" Touch screen VGA TFT, which I got from eBay. The TFT means I can use the truck without the need to plug in a monitor and mouse, so taking up little space when it is parked in my room. The screen is designed for automotive use and so requires a 12v supply and so I have soldered a standard Molex connector to power the screen from the PC power supply's 12v rail. The original buttons on the TFT could not be used for the LAN Truck as the LILLIPUT screen's bezel is at an angle and my panels are flat. So with this I decided to machine the buttons as a flat piece and add some custom features too. The Lilliput screen already backlights the buttons blue so I made the buttons clear and embossed the word LAN truck into the volume buttons (centre) and put my own symbols on the relevant buttons. When illuminated the symbols will refract the light and glow. The polycarbonate forms the support behind the aluminium panel to hold all of the features on the panel. With fitting the TFT into the truck I had to redesign the holder for the LCD as well so as to build it all into the one piece. I had to remake a few of the panels to get it to fit perfectly. Unfortunately, even with computer control not everything fits first time and you have to start over again!



Technical Specs;

Barebones MSI MEGA 651 PC
160 GB Seagate hard drive
MSI FX5600 128mb
2.8GHz P4
1gb ram
Logitech diNovo Bluetooth keyboard
Sony active speaker system SRS-T55
LILLIPUT 7" Touch screen
Wireless Netgear PCI adaptor
3 x 4 Blue Cold Cathode Kit
Tamiya Mercedes 1/14 RC truck
PS2 adaptor
Panasonic Slot Laptop Combo Drive

More details about the build can be found on the Bit-Tech site