Luggable PC

A nominally portable ("luggable") computer chassis for commodity desktop PC components.

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For laptops to be as portable as they are, they have to make trade off in power, or upgrade ability, or affordability. When one needs a full power computer that can be upgraded with commodity components, it won't be thin or light. But it does not have to be a huge bulky box!

The goal of this project is to make a low-cost, 3D-printed chassis that can take the same kind of inexpensive commodity components as the big tower cases do, but more compact and portable than the standard PC tower.

The PC market is largely dominated by two main categories: (1) Large desktop towers offering wide spectrum of options and upgrade capability, and (2) laptops offering portability in exchange for limited options and upgrade capability.

The laptop market has seen a great deal of innovation in form factors. From super thin-and-light convertible tablets to heavyweight expensive "Gamer Laptops." The latter pushes the limits of laptop form factor towards the desktop segment.

In contrast, the PC desktop market has not seen a similar level of innovation. The only significant deviation from the standard tower are the all-in-one PCs ("iMac clones") sharing many of the same limitation as laptops. In general there's been far less pushing the limits of desktop machines towards portability.

The "Luggable PC" project ventures into this under-explored space, to design a portable chassis which accepts commodity desktop PC components.

The key features over commercially available all-in-one desktop PCs are:

  • Accepts standard ATX motherboard: Enough space for a full ATX motherboard ensures the widest choice of options. Note that while it is a goal for the full sized motherboard to fit, it is not a goal to ensure all expansion slots are usable. (See trade-offs section below.)
  • Accepts full-sized PCI-E GPU: This is expected to be the most challenging part of designing the packaging layout, but ability to upgrade the GPU (which is evolving much faster - thus become outdated faster - than the other areas of PC technology) is the primary motivation for this project.
  • Accepts full-sized ATX power supply: While smaller power supply units are available, they are typically more expensive and/or deliver less peak power than full sized units.

To deliver portability, trade-offs were chosen based on features that are underutilized (or not used at all) on most modern desktop PCs.

  • Some ATX expansion slots will not be usable: While the primary slot closest to the CPU will be accessible to install a GPU, the remaining expansion slots may not be usable. This should be OK as those slots typically go unused due to modern motherboards integrating many functions (audio, Ethernet, USB, etc.) formerly performed by expansion cards.
  • No 5.25" bays: Floppy and optical drives have fallen out of use.
  • No 3.5" bays: Floppy drives have long fallen out of use, and spinning platter hard disk drives (HDD) are fading out in favor of solid state drives (SSD).
  • Few, if any, 2.5" bay: SSD capacity has grown enough that a single SSD can meet the storage needs of most users. Though with the growing popularity of the M.2 form factor, the 2.5" bay may sit empty. Alternatively it may be employed for a laptop sized HDD as secondary storage capacity.
  • No auxiliary cooling devices (fans/radiator/etc.): Power efficiency of desktop PC components have made great strides in the past few years, producing far less waste heat. The cooling fans built into individual components are sufficient as long as there are enough vents for air circulation.


  • No PCI-e riser/extender: There are several methods to decouple the PCI-E GPU from the motherboard, which will allow far more flexibility in positioning those two components relative to each other. It is, however, an extra variable (Buy the known good $85 ribbon cable from Digikey, or roll the dice on $7 from Amazon marketplace?) and an extra cost I wanted to avoid.

Pages describing specific design considerations in building this project:

  1. PSU Layout: The heavy power supply unit anchors the chassis.
  2. Motherboard Layout: Trying to pack components tightly around a (very) not compact full-size ATX motherboard.
  3. Screen Layout Challenges: The wishlist for my perfect screen layout and why it is hard to satisfy all the requirements.
  4. Screen Hinge: The final design that satisfied (almost) all of the wishlist.
  5. A Tale of Three Corners: Learning how to build better 3D printed structures with threaded rods. (Made irrelevant by the switch to aluminum extrusions.)
  6. Angled Feet: A minor design element...
Read more »

  • 1 × 1kg spool of 1.75mm 3D printer filament Exact amount will depend on slicer settings.
  • 1 × 425mm Aluminum Extrusion Misumi HFS5-2020
  • 1 × 405mm Aluminum Extrusion Misumi HFS5-2020
  • 1 × 285mm Aluminum Extrusion Misumi HFS5-2020
  • 2 × 245mm Aluminum Extrusion Misumi HFS5-2020

View all 35 components

  • Focus is now on Mark II

    Roger09/08/2017 at 16:58 0 comments

    This project, retroactively named Mark I, was built out of salvaged & retired computer parts. The concept worked well enough for me to embark on Mark II, which uses components I purchased for the purpose. After two major revisions I'm pretty confident the idea will pan out... eventually. Several more iterations are still needed before it meets all of my objectives.

    The major differences are:

    Mark IMark II
    ScreenSalvaged 17" laptop LCD panel Larger 24" monitor
    MotherboardFull sized ATX boardSmaller mini-ITX board
    Power SupplyFull sized ATX power supply unit.Smaller SFX PSU

    At this point I do not expect to put any more effort into Mark I, though if anybody wants to take the files I've shared here as a basis for their project I'd love to hear about it. 

    For the foreseeable future I'll be refining Mark II. The full verbose build blog is here, the "Cliff Notes" version of progress summaries will be posted on the Mark II project page here.

  • Four Month Report

    Roger08/16/2017 at 17:24 0 comments

    What else has happened since project completion 4 months ago:

    • Promoted to Primary: Four months ago I completed this project, filling the chassis with retired PC components I had sitting in the closet. After using it for about a month, I decided I really liked it. The components were re-retired into the closet, and the heart of my primary desktop PC tower were installed. My primary computer has been living in the Luggable PC chassis ever since.
    • Network Storage: In my desktop tower PC I had 3.5" spinning platter hard drives for bulk storage. The move to the luggable chassis meant I had to give them up. For alternative bulk storage, I set up a network attached storage (NAS) server on my home network. The FreeNAS Box project is shared to everyone on on this page, with the overly verbose full build log here.
    • Portable Second Monitor: At home I could attach a large 28" monitor, but when on the go I only had the 17" screen built into the luggable chassis and sometimes that feels cramped. In order to expand screen real estate while on the go, a second salvaged laptop LCD was turned into a portable external monitor. project page here, verbose full build log here.
    • Luggable PC Mark II: The earlier "Luggable Frame" project built around the 28" QHD Yamakasi Catleap monitor was halted, but the idea of building PC chassis around a retail monitor lives on. When Best Buy put a promising lightweight Lenovo 24" QHD monitor on sale, it marked the official start of the Luggable PC Mark II project. project page here, verbose full build log here.
    • SGVLUG talk: After seeing Luggable PC show up at local tech meets, I was invited to present at a monthly meet of the San Gabriel Valley Linux User's Group. The presentation covered all of the above projects and I also brought all the iterations (not just the final product) so the audience can get up close and personal looks at the evolution of each design. The presentation slide deck is available here.

  • Luggable Frame Experiment #2

    Roger06/04/2017 at 19:14 0 comments

    The experiment to build a luggable frame to carry a Yamakazi Catleap (28" QHD) monitor with a HP Z220 small form factor case is moving to the back burner. After building two prototype frames, it became clear the size and weight is a bit high for what we can consider "luggable".

    The changes for experimental prototype #2 are documented here.

    But the underlying concept of building a luggable PC out of a commercially available computer monitor (versus a salvaged laptop panel driven by a questionable eBay circuit board from China) is still compelling and will continue to evolve with smaller and lighter components.

  • Luggable Frame Experiment #1

    Roger05/31/2017 at 20:34 0 comments

    I built the Luggable PC for me, but I recognize the trade-offs would not work for everybody. [Tux Lab] proposed something easier to build and modify, with the trade-off of increased size and weight. The discussion resulted in this: a luggable frame that integrates a VESA monitor mount and a tray to hold a small form factor chassis.

    Construction of the initial prototype is documented at this link.

    If this project gains traction, I'll create a separate project page.

  • Acer Predator 21X

    Roger05/24/2017 at 20:36 0 comments

    Gizmodo published a hilarious article for the insane Acer Predator 21X "Gaming Laptop"

    Random points of comparison with my project:

    Luggable PCAcer Predator 21X
    Weight17.5 lb.
    (excludes weight of keyboard and mouse)
    19 lb.
    (excludes weight of its dual power supplies)
    Battery run timeNot ApplicableAbout an hour
    Carrying handleYesNo. (But its customized Pelican carrying case does.)

  • 1+ Week Report

    Roger04/11/2017 at 23:08 0 comments

    I've been using the Luggable PC as my portable computing solution for a little over a week and I'm happy with it. By recycling the parts I retired from my main desktop PC, it cost me a small fraction of the cost of a new laptop with similar specs. It's certainly no lightweight! (17.5 pounds, to be exact.) But it's portable enough if I'm driving somewhere. I'll still use my Macbook Air when I'm flying for a trip, or otherwise need something small and light that easily fits in a backpack.

    Given its satisfactory performance to date I don't plan any more ground-up redesigns of the chassis. There will obviously be additional minor tweaks since I'm the tinkerer type. But if anything major comes up, I'm more likely to document it as a separate/spin-off/sequel project. (See below.)

    I've updated the project status page to "Completed Project."

    As stated earlier, I've documented the whole thing. The Fusion 360 CAD file is shared, the parts list filled out in detail, and step-by-step instructions posted. You are welcome (and encouraged!) to take what I've done and customize it to suit your needs.

    And when you are done... let me know! Show it off! I'd love to see other takes on this concept.

    Some possibilities for future development, by myself or by others:

    • Laser-cut: My individual components were constrained by the 200mm x 200mm bed of my 3D printer. Most laser cutters have significantly larger working area which opens up the possibility of a redesign to take advantage of laser cutter strengths.
    • Sheet metal: Similar to the above, industrial sheet metal tooling would allow tremendous reduction in part count and cost. If some enterprising entrepreneur wants to turn this basic idea into a product, it will definitely need to be redesigned for sheet metal mass production.
    • AIO: If portability is not a goal, and the desire is simply for a compact chassis for full-sized components, the screen assembly and associated hinge can be deleted. In its place, an aluminum extrusion to bolt on a monitor that doesn't move (no hinge).
    • Screen hinge for VESA compatible screens: A more ambitious version of the above that preserves portability. In this version, the screen and hinge mechanism is redesigned so it works with any VESA compatible screen instead of customized to a specific screen like I did. It'd be very impressive if this can be done!

  • Newegg Case Mod Event

    Roger04/07/2017 at 18:18 1 comment

    I think I'll take the Luggable PC out to the Newegg case mod event. See how that audience would react to a 3D printed PC chassis. Maybe it will be appreciated, or maybe it will only sit in the shadows of LED light show from the bling-tastic modded boxes present, who knows?

  • Components & Instructions for Extrusion Box V1

    Roger04/04/2017 at 00:12 0 comments

    All the information has been uploaded for anybody to build their own Extrusion Box Luggable PC.

    • The Autodesk Fusion 360 CAD file is shared via link to the Autodesk 360 sharing hub.
    • The component list on this project page has been updated with all parts required.
    • The instruction list on this project page has been updated with step-by-step detail.

    If the 90-step instruction list is too long for you, here's a handy TL;DR animated GIF version courtesy of

  • Extrusion Box V1.0

    Roger04/02/2017 at 19:26 0 comments

    The Extrusion Box 1.0 is complete! I've taken all the lessons learned from previous prototypes and rebuilt the structure using aluminum extrusions. Relative to the threaded rods I had used earlier, aluminum extrusions provide a stronger framework with far more consistency in dimension for building.

    With the completion of this prototype I now have something I can lug around when I need more computing power than available from an Apple MacBook Air.

    Over the next several days I'll flesh out this project page, update the components list and provide a full list of instructions for building your own Luggable PC.

    In the meantime, here is a list to posts explaining specific design elements that went into the project.

    1. PSU Layout: The heavy power supply unit anchors the chassis.
    2. Motherboard Layout: Trying to pack components tightly around a (very) not compact full-size ATX motherboard.
    3. Screen Layout Challenges: The wishlist for my perfect screen layout and why it is hard to satisfy all the requirements.
    4. Screen Hinge: The final design that satisfied (almost) all of the wishlist.
    5. A Tale of Three Corners: Learning how to build better 3D printed structures with threaded rods. (Made irrelevant by the switch to aluminum extrusions.)
    6. Angled Feet: A minor design element with major ergonomics impact.
    7. Drive Bay: Finding the best way to package 2 x 2.5" storage drives.

  • Threaded Rod Box v2

    Roger02/27/2017 at 23:58 0 comments

    Presenting the second version of the threaded-rod box design!

    It advanced on the previous version in several significant ways. The most obvious new feature is the screen hinge mechanism. I've already posted an animated GIF showing it in action at the Feb. Hackaday LA meet, here are higher-resolution stills in the open and closed positions:

    The screen hinge design offers the following benefits:

    1. When closed for traveling:
      1. Screen glass is facing inward and protected.
      2. Screen edge is not sticking out so less vulnerable to damage.
      3. Vertical orientation minimizes width and depth to increase portability.
    2. When open for use:
      1. Screen is at a high ergonomic position. This addresses a peeve of mine against laptops, whose screen (at table height) are too low.
      2. Horizontal orientation as is typical for computers. (Versus phone/tablet)
      3. Exposes an area for things like a Big Red Button power switch, which is something I've always wanted in a PC case.

    It has the following issues I want to resolve in future iterations:

    1. The screen wiring is awkward and exposed. Right now it is easy for them to get tangled up and pinched by the metal hinge hardware.
    2. The hinge needs to move through two axis of movement ("flip" and "rotate") to switch between configurations. This is poor design: It's not obvious to an user if the flip should happen before the rotate, or the opposite, or some combination in between. I want to evolve this design so it has one continuous unambiguous movement between the open and closed positions.

    Inside the box, the component layout is identical to Threaded Rod Box V1 but for one significant difference: the motherboard has been flipped around so the backside of the board faces the screen. The space that was previously enclosed and wasted in the box v1 volume is now opened up to a sloped back.

    I focused mostly on the front of the box this time around, leaving the back pretty bare and open. I think much of the volume can be reclaimed for productive purposes. Ideas for future iterations include:

    • A few hooks that will be useful to coil power and network cables.
    • A home for a mouse, probably in the form of a small cubby.
    • A way to attach a keyboard, probably in the form of a clip or a tray.

    Lastly, I also made a significant change in construction technique. In the previous versions, plastic printed pieces are asked to hold together metal pieces several centimeters apart. Given that distance and plastic's flexible nature, the earlier editions would noticeably bend and flex as I moved them around.

    The latest design keeps the metal pieces much closer together. This means less plastic to flex in the corners. The resulting box is far more rigid and confidence inspiring to carry around.

View all 19 project logs

  • 1
    Step 1

    Create a power cable for the LCD panel driver board

    To supply the 12V DC power required by the driver board, a cable with the appropriate barrel plug (A) is wired up to the 12V portions of a standard PC power connector (B). The 5V portion of the PC connector is sealed off with heat shrink tubing.

    The length of wire required is approximately 60 cm. (~24 inches)

  • 2
    Step 2

    Create basic front panel controls

    The standard ATX power button (momentary-on) and the two basic status LEDs (power and disk activity) are connected via a 2x5 pin 0.1" pitch plug. (A) The pin layout is specific to the motherboard used, consult the manual.

    The blue power and red activity LEDs (B) are soldered directly each in series with appropriate current-limiting resistor. The power button has blade connectors so the matching female connectors are crimped on to the harness (C)

  • 3
    Step 3

    Cut slot in extrusion frame for backlight wire

    The screen frame fits tightly around the perimeter of the screen. A protrusion of concern is the backlight power wire. (A) Cut a slot (B) in one of the 106.25mm extrusion pieces so the frame will not pinch the wire.

View all 90 instructions

Enjoy this project?



EngineerAllen wrote 05/11/2017 at 14:26 point

im planning to make a micro atx ... 

portable cad machine

stick a laptop screen on the side

problem is cant make it cheap

  Are you sure? yes | no

Galane wrote 04/15/2017 at 04:37 point

Have a look at how the Fujitsu LifeBook laptops' screens worked. They hinged open then rotated 180 degrees in either direction to be folded with back to the keyboard to become a tablet PC. The lid latch was also pretty neat. It used an L shape part with a hole at the end of each leg. It could be flipped back and forth so the latching hole only protruded from one side at a time. I have a functional but needing a couple of parts LifeBook T4210 I've been trying to give away. Needs a cooling fan, battery, up arrow key, stylus is missing, no hard drive (takes SATA) and the side of the latch that holds the screen closed normally is broken off. Still latches in tablet mode. For me it's not worth fixing up - but the screen hinge would be useful for a prototype, and the rest of the parts can be sold on eBay to people who want to fix their old laptops.

Mount the hinge at the middle of one side, unlatch display, swing open then rotate up 90 degrees and latch.

Similar hinges have been used by other companies on convertible tablet laptops. If you're in the USA (so shipping wouldn't cost you a ton) and want the LifeBook, send me an e-mail g_alan_e yahoo

  Are you sure? yes | no

Roger wrote 04/16/2017 at 01:01 point

The Fujitsu LifeBook hinge is indeed a marvel of engineering and design. Thank you for the pointer and the generous offer! However I'll pass on the offer. The current design works well as-is, taking advantage of the strengths and sidestepping the weaknesses of a simplistic design. It is also very accessible so other people can customize and build their own. Integrating the LifeBook hinge into the design would make it less accessible, as people who want to build one of their own would have to find their own LifeBook hinge somewhere. Much more challenging than ordering a few pieces of commodity hardware from McMaster-Carr.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Galane wrote 04/16/2017 at 02:20 point

Duplicate the function of the hinge, not use it directly in a production version.

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The48thRonin wrote 01/30/2017 at 22:24 point

Looks good! If you are worried about cable management and have the cash to spare, you might look at a modular or semi modular power supply as it'll leave less wires hanging off to the side going unused. From what I remember, Corsair makes a good one at a fairly affordable price. Once the positions of the important bits become more final, you could also make some clips that attatch to the threaded rods to help hold the wires.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Roger wrote 04/16/2017 at 00:52 point

For people buying components for a build, I agree a modular power supply would be very helpful. If the budget stretches to a SFX form factor power supply (instead of full ATX) that'd be even more compact. In my case I was on a tight budget. Recycling components I had retired from my main desktop which meant the full ATX non-modular power supply I had on hand.

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Derrick wrote 01/28/2017 at 21:01 point

I'm interested in the parts you're using to mount the motherboard to the frame - I'm looking at building my own kind of similar case, and am trying to decide how I'm going to mount the motherboard and GPU.  

I pulled up the v3 files, but they're just the frame itself and not (at least as far as I can see) the motherboard mounts?  I may just be reading it wrong, as I have no experience in Onshape (too many CAD programs, too little time!) but they just don't seem to be there.

My goal is a little different: I have two full sized ATX desktops, one my gaming rig and the other my home server.  I'm not looking for portability, but I do want needlessly exposed components because it looks cool and I make poor life choices.   I've been working at mounts for the hard drives (there's 10 between the two systems) and think I've got a good plan there, but... yeah, the motherboard.

I can't print a tray, as my printer is a Monoprice Select Mini with just a 120mm cubic build volume, but it appears you're using small parts to screw the motherboard into that slide onto the threaded rods?  That'd be a great way to go.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Roger wrote 01/28/2017 at 21:54 point

Putting small brackets on threaded rods is a great way to mount components to see layout ideas work (or not) in the real world before committing to a design, which is how I'm using it. But I'm confident it'll also prove to be an excellent approach for needlessly exposing components. :)

I totally hear you about "too many CAD programs". And of course no two are alike. No worries! A quick explanation: An Onshape document can organize sub-assemblies in "Part Studio", which are accessible as tabs across the bottom. I have two tabs for the ATX motherboard supports depending on how I wanted to arrange the threaded rods. One going length-wise and the other width-wise. ("ATX support") and ("ATX support 90")

However, neither of those are small enough to fit in the build volume you listed, so what you need is the Super Ultra Minimalist Edition bracket that connects a single motherboard screw location to a single threaded rod.

It only took a few minutes to whip one up, so if you open up the document again, look on the list of tabs across the bottom for the part studio labelled "Minimalist Derrick"

Alternatively, this URL should take you straight there.

In the lower-left part of the window is the list of parts, with the single item named "Bracket". Right-click on it and select "Export..." to download in STL format for your 3D printing slicer software.

Have fun!

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Neon22 wrote 01/28/2017 at 19:44 point

Might I suggest a handle threaded onto the top rod. This would rotate freely and therefore lie vertically below the rod when not in use but be easy to grab and lift with when needed...

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Roger wrote 01/28/2017 at 21:20 point

That's a great idea! I might do that in a future iteration. The current iterations are focused on figuring out the best layout for the core components. Once I settle on a core layout I'll have a better idea on the space available for auxiliary components (like a handle) and incorporate them into the design.

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Neon22 wrote 01/28/2017 at 22:11 point

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blinkydoublea wrote 01/26/2017 at 02:35 point

i don't think sticking to full size ATX will help you much on making a full featured luggable PC.

but if you really want the extra slots and have it still keep it low profile, i suggest you look for some kind of pci express riser card to keep the giant graphics card parallel to the motherboard and keep the casing thin.. someone on the chinese internet has got to have one of those for sale.

or maybe use a low profile video card.

I'd recommend gutting apart a thin 1080p monitor and slapping the insides into the casing of your luggable PC, but you already have that laptop screen over it, so... yeah.

and put a lid over the screen, it's giving me the creeps to see a portable unit with the screen unprotected. and while you're on it, put flaps over the I/O ports as well, well worth to keep your 3-digit project from exploding over a drop of rain water.

But you will probably be carrying it around in an external box, that's why you are not worrying about hazards, right?

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Roger wrote 01/26/2017 at 06:17 point

Thanks for looking over the project! I agree the current iterations leave the components woefully unprotected. This is because I'm still experimenting with the physical arrangement of the core components, playing 3D jigsaw puzzle to determine the best layout. I decided not to put effort into designing the auxiliary pieces (screen protection, rain protection, etc.) while the core pieces are still moving around. That can wait until later.

The full ATX requirement came from personal experience building a PC where the manufacturer only had the feature set I wanted in their full ATX offering, not in their mATX version. I don't particularly care about the extra slots, I wanted to preserve component choice.

I'm skeptical of the PCI riser card/extension ribbon cable I've found online so far. Half of them have user review of "this destroyed my motherboard" and most (all?) of them impose a performance penalty in PCI bandwidth and/or latency. I understand it is an acceptable trade-off for building, say, a Bitcoin miner. But that's not my goal and I want to try making my idea work without using one.

Thank you for your ideas and feel free to share if you have more.

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Zerum wrote 01/29/2017 at 01:15 point

Hi Roger,

just in case you decide to use a PCI extnsion, you might want to check this test out.
I was looking into extensions a while ago and found this one ( ) get mentioned a lot in PC modding communities.

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