The Project

My 8-year old daughter loves Hello Kitty...what little girl doesn't! :) I decided that her first computer should therefore be modded to suit her accordingly.
I surfed all over the Net but did not find any examples of such a mod, at least not as extensive as I was planning on making it. So, with a handful of inspirational images I decided to do it.
First of all, if anyone decides to do this or any other project based on this blog, please be aware that I will not be held responsible for any financial, emotional, or physical losses/damages due to one's following or attempting to follow procedures outlined herein. The purpose of this blog is to simply share my experience on this project and provide inspiration/ideas for someone who is looking for such information. So, now that we have this out of the way, lets get to the good stuff :)

Note: I wanted to post this blog in a chronological order - top to bottom. Unfortunately, thi
s site adds newer postings to the top, resulting in a sort of upside down sequence. So, I had to set the dates in reverse - every new posting with an older date than the preceding post. This way, it will keep things displaying in the proper sequence. Hope this doesn't confuse too many :))

1. Cost:
You can go with a cheap case and some spray paint from the local hardware store. Probably not a bad idea for either a first-timer or a very budget-conscientious person. Or, you can splurge and go all the way! I decided to splurge a bit :) Base layer coat (the PINK paint), base coat (gold sparkle), another base coat (white paint), high velocity clear coat (the finish coat), hardener, plastic adhesion promoter (makes the paint stick to plastics), some mixing cups, primer, and tack cloth = 180 bucks! :) I got it all at a automotive paint shop. I think the finish is gonna be worth it! I did go for a cheaper computer case though. Didn't want to risk screwing up an expensive one.

1.1 Additional materials - sandpaper (180/220, 400 - sheets or pads for use with a sander), steel wool (00 and 000 for final rub). Also, for this design I obtained two packs of Super Sculpey at 14 bucks each, small can of automotive Bondo, green masking tape (preferably one for usage with automotive paint work)
, paint thinner or cleaner, sheet of copper mesh (from Arts and Crafts store), 30-gauge copper wire: two spools - one black one red (RadioShack), and assortment of heatshrink tubing (for your wiring), 1/2in by (twice the height of your computer case) translucent white or clear piece of plastic (for LED diffusion).

1.2. Additional parts:
Nine pink LEDs - 5mm, two white LEDs - 10mm,
two amber LEDs - 5mm, two green LEDs - 10mm, 5mm LED holders, two spare male mini power connectors (matching your computer's power supply), nine 1k Ohm resistors, 120mm PC case fan, custom-built Hello Kitty grill (for the 120mm fan).

Depending on what you already have and how closely your design will/will not match this one, your final cost may vary substantially from mine. I would say that the extras cost me less than 70 bucks.

2. Equipment:
Step drill bit, countersink bit, drill bits for usage with sheet metal, orbital sander, drill press or hand drill, air compressor with a water/oil filer, a good quality paint gun (I happened to already have a gravity feed spray gun), paint strainer and filter, cookie sheet (for baking of Super Sculpey designs), plastic spreaders (for Bondo), Dremel rotary kit (with flex shaft) or equivalent, small metal files with flat and round surfaces, hot glue gun, heat gun or a mini torch, soldering iron, a pack of latex gloves, safety goggles/glasses, and a filter mask.
Some of this equipment does not have to be very expensive or top notch, unless you plan on doing many more projects or go pro. Mine came mostly from local home improvement stores and seemed adequate enough to do the job.

Here are pics of some of the materials and tools:

This is the bit I used for carving out shapes in the plastic faceplate

Step drill bit for cutting in sheet metal and plastic

5mm LEDs

LED plastic holders

10mm LEDs

Heat-shrink tubing for wire insulation
(Note for future - pick the right colors for the project!)

Small torch used on heat-shrink tubing

Extra set of "hands" was really helpful, especially when soldering.

Countersink bit

For creating shapes of Hello Kitty and friends

Small files for getting into tight spaces during fabrication

This is kinda upside down deal. You have to click on Older Posts to see Newer posts. I had no other way of listing this in a specific progressive order so that you would not have to start at the bottom, or the last page.

Starting point:

Raidmax ATX-228S mini tower case

Honestly, I wish I had picked something made out of thicker material. Working with such thin sheeting proved to be a challenge. I had to change my design plans for attachment of the Hello Kitty on the side panel...will explain later.
First thing needing attention was to cover the existing vent holes. This will provide an adequate area for the Head. Venting will be provided at another location.

Coat of Bondo and some sanding...

Another application and more sanding. When it starts to look "smooth" apply a coat of primer. It will show all existing imperfections otherwise you may not be able to see. I think it took about 5 cycles between Bondo and primer before I was satisfied with the results.

Now we're getting closer to a smooth finish. Notice that during the sanding a lot of the existing paint came off. That's perfectly OK. Just use self-etching primer (or another good quality primer) when ready. The imperfections in the center are of no concern as these will be covered by the Head. It was a result of something I tried and it did not work as expected ;)

It's a good idea to provide some support in the back. Otherwise, your filler will just come through like cheese through a grader.
Ensure that you have proper support underneath before you start working on the panels. This becomes even more critical when these are made of thinner material. You do not want to warp these, trust me.

Ok, this looks rather good :) Now the surface is ready for attaching of the Head. (The next steps I ended up altering completely due to the difficulties in working with thin panels)

Making of the characters Using Super Sculpey, I formed the Head of the Kitty, a whole body for the other panel, and some additional characters for the front.

The Head! I used a template to cut out a shape which then I rolled flat on an upside down cookie sheet. I also used this sheet to bake the characters as per Super Sculpey instructions.

Badtz-Maru taking shape....

Ready for baking and sanding...

Badtz-Maru, Chococat, and Keroppi primed and ready for painting

Another Hello Kitty for the opposite panel

Some detail that will later help in painting

Big problems; design change...

I decided to bolt the Hello Kitty head to the panel. This way there's no way it can get "accidentally" knocked off. You know how kids are! ;) I was planning on finishing the joint around it with Bondo. But as hard I as tried, I kept on running into a nasty problem. See the 4th pic down:

Frankeinstein Hello Kity :)

Countersinking the holes. This will ensure that the screws can be covered over once the head is bolted on.

On the inside of the panel, smoothing some metal shards from drilling.

As you can see, my thin Bondo joint kept on cracking during sanding. There are two possible solutions to this, both a bit too late for me.

1. Use a thicker material PC case that does not flex (definitely too late now)
2. Use something like short fiber reinforced fiberglass filler by Everlast rather than Bondo. It will flex with the material rather than crack or chip (found out too late about it). This product is more expensive than Bondo, but if you are going to work with thin sheet metal or plastic, you really should consider it.

I decided to take the head off, and finish the panels independently w/o the characters. Both Hello Kitty and it's head will be completed separately and then either bolted or glued to the finished panel. Not sure yet which method will work best and not cause any damage to the finish. I'll have to look into this a bit more before deciding.

New Updates on next page... (click on Older Posts link)

Badtz-Maru getting fitted with a ON button and LEDs. I thought it would be appropriate to have such a mischievous character controlling the power to the PC :)

View from the back

This character will sit directly over the power switch, however, that created a problem - the original switch was now too deep to comfortably reach it. I decided to fabricate a button/tummy that now sit at the proper level. Just press his tummy to power up :)