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Questions about Custom Case Airflow, Custom Heatsinks

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
Hey, so I've been designing a custom case for some time - this is going to be a computer-in-a-desk gig. The Crutch of the situation is that it is a classical American Craftsman desk - paneled wood, the whole nine yards. I'm not fond of the computer being "visible" in any way. I've been mulling airflow design over and over ad nauseum, and have two basic theories. The primary cooling for this system will be Water, with Backup to help remove excess heat. The computer is in a chamber that is on drawer slides for easy removal. The chamber is 14x20x24 inches in size. It will house a 24/7 web & file server, and my gaming computer. It will have 6-9 x 120mm Rads (Either 3x360, 2x360, 2x360+1x240, etc, still haven't decided, and ultimately not the question here.) The chamber is insulated to reduce sound.

Airflow Design One:
Intake in the Front, Exhaust in the Back. The entire front panel and back panels would be intake. I would cover them with speaker fabric, perhaps louvered wood panels to disguise it. Very large intake and exhaust fans on both sides. This is a "Classical" computer airflow design, and my last resort. I'm not fond of having to have exhaust in the back, as it marrs the appearance of the desk when looking at it from the back. (Executive desk, sits in the middle of a den.)

Airflow Design Two:

"U" Shape or "Magnet" Design. Think of a U. Turn it 90 degrees to the left so that it lays. Cool air is blown in through the bottom, then directed upwards via internal fans, into a duct built into the top. The purpose of this duct is to redirect the air vertically, then laterally, out the front of the drawer, so that both intake and exhaust are in the front. I love this option because it allows me to build the desk how I want, and provides possibilities of putting the desk against the wall, if necessary. My main concern here is, is it unwise to try and redirect air in such a fashion in a large space such as this using small fans? I'm worried particularly about dead spots of heat in the system, as well as the notion that because the top duct is much smaller than the intake, will I be able to move air through fast enough to prevent heat buildup. (Granted, increasing CFMs can account for this.) There is simultaneously the following issue. With the passthrough design one, I can't mount the Rads on the rather large back panel and push air out while still having generous room otherwise for conventional exhaust. With this U shape design, all air will have to pass through the rads, to get into the top duct system.

My second question is about custom heatsinks. I'm wondering if it is feasible or even necessary to do this. The entire case will be lined with an aluminum exterior shell surrounded by insulation. This is to prevent heat bleed through the walls of the case, which can warp wood, or worse, cause mold if moisture gets in there. Two, if there is a catastrophic problem with my water cooling, the aluminum shell will hold all the liquid so that the desk isn't damaged. I'm wondering if it would be possible to make a conductive heatsink attached to this shell to bleed conductive heat from the case. I'm dubious to whether this is even necessary however.

Basically, my concerns can be summarized as such:

Possible to use U shape cooling?
Heatsink necessary, useful, or possible


Keep in mind, throughout all of this, I'm trying to keep the computer as quiet as possible - hence water cooling. The only particular reason I need airflow is to pass air through the rads, and get some cooling across the North Bridges, PSUs, and Hard Drives. (They won't be water blocked. Maybe the North Bridge on the gaming computer.)

Thanks OCN.
    
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post #2 of 8
My god that is a long post....so i wrote you a long answer.

Toms hardware did a in-depth study on case design, fan placement, cooler placement, ect. It's a good read and might give you some clarity.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/cooling-airflow-heatsink,3053.html

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/cooling-air-pressure-heatsink,3058.html

"U" shaped cooling works just fine. Increasing air pressure will remove dead spots. Give us some drawings, and we will be able to provide better critique.

About heatsings...You need a heatsink, or your destroy your processor.

I work in a electronics factory, and we do custom heatsinks all the time. Bleeding heat from your processor to the walls of your case is very much possible.

Bleeding the heat from your processor to the walls of the case is a technique often used in embedded systems where there isn't enough room to put in a tradational heatsink and where fan's arn't a option. If you have room for a heatsink, and you have room for fans.....your really not going to gain anything.

You don't need liquid for silent operation. Newegg has a bunch 250mm fans that are less than 20 dB, so basically silent. Bigs fans = silent.

Encasing it in aluminium seems uncesscasrry and a waste. Your logic and reasons for this is flawed.

1.) If the computer is colder than the surrounding desk (not warmer), your get condesnsation between the computer and the wood. Adding metal would make it more likely to condensate, since your see more extreme temperature changes in metal.

2.) If your case is getting hot enough to warp wood, you screwed up the cooling. Adding a metal box isn't going fixing the problem. Infact, it will transfer more effectively into the wood and warp it faster.

3.) If your radior is leeking, it would need to be leeking for onto the wood for many days/weeks before you see visible water damage. If your radiators leeking, I hope you fix it that day or your have more to worry about than just the desk,

Honestly, you just need one metal plate on the bottom to keep everything properly grounded. Building a metal box into a wooden box seems unecessary. This all seems overly elaborate for no reason. Your over-thinking this whole project.
Edited by crimsontears809739 - 4/3/12 at 9:38am
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post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 
Your explanations make perfect sense - you have my thanks. Rather embarrassing now that I think about it (I finished Thermo in my Eng Degree about 2 years back.) Just for the sake of it, I might put a nicely finished plastic tray in the bottom, just to save the wood anyway. The CPUs definitely will have heatsinks, I was more referring to the heat build up in an aluminum case - but removing that removes the necessity for a case heatsink. (For those unfamiliar, think the large metal fins you see on the outside of large electrical boxes at commercial / government buildings)

Thanks for the links - will duly look into. I should have some Cad designs soon.
    
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post #4 of 8
If you do a plastic tray instead of a metal tray,...you got to be very carefull about grounding.

Everything that has power (the optical drives, hard drives, motherboard, and PSU) should have either a metal something or a tiny wire keeping all the grounds at the same potential. Any place where you tighten down a metal screw (the optical drives, the hard drives, the motherboard, the PSU) is also a grounding point. Or you can have problems with current loops forming and static. They sell clear all plastic cases that work just fine without metal grounding between all the componenets, it's just not the best deisgn from a electronics point of view.

The large metal fins you see outside of large electrical boxes, is likely a transformer that is submerred in lquid to keep it cool. The box is acting like a radiator, just without a pump. Most likely the large boxes you are thinking of on goverment and commerical is the heat exhangers for the large heating/cooling systems and had nothing to do with electronics.

Many of your smart phones, and other portable devices use the case as a heatsink.
Edited by crimsontears809739 - 4/3/12 at 9:59am
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post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 
Question then:

I was intending to mount all the hardware to acrylic. Is this not a good idea compared to a metal frame? And even then, a metal frame isn't "grounded," per se, is it? I mean, don't you have to actually have it connected to an electrical source, such as, say, the three prong socket outlet? Or is this accomplished merely by the fact that the metal frame is attached to the PSU as well, forming a loop to allow energy back to the wall?
    
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post #6 of 8
youll just need a solidly sealed case with lots of well directed fans and chambers
 
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post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 
Admittedly my knowledge of circuits isn't deep enough to understand this concept.

To me, I'm unsure why static and loose charge wouldn't choose to go through the grounded wire in 4 wire Molex, SATAp, 4pin, 6pin, 8pin, and 24pin, as all of those wires have a dedicated ground.
    
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post #8 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by joavery View Post

Question then:
I was intending to mount all the hardware to acrylic. Is this not a good idea compared to a metal frame? And even then, a metal frame isn't "grounded," per se, is it? I mean, don't you have to actually have it connected to an electrical source, such as, say, the three prong socket outlet? Or is this accomplished merely by the fact that the metal frame is attached to the PSU as well, forming a loop to allow energy back to the wall?


Electronics lesson time!

Acrylic won't hurt it. Acrylic just is a insulator so it builds up static, so your are at a higher risk of static damage.

You are correct. The frame on the PSU should be at the same potential as the ground on the three prong outlet in the wall. Therefore, screwing the power supply into a metal case keeps everything grounded. You are correct, the SATA, molex, ect connectors all have grounds.

The ground on the frame of metal parts (motherboard, hdd, optical drive, power supply) is called "Chassis ground". The ground on the three prong outlet is "earth ground". When Chassis ground is not electrically connected to earth ground, you have a "Floating ground" --> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floating_ground

The connectors on the power supply (sata/ide/molex) should keep all the chassis ground = earth ground ( to a prevent floating ground). That's why you can build a acrylic case, and the PC will still work. It's just a "good design" practice to electrically tie all the chassis grounds together. It gives you a "extra layer" of protection against noise/interference/floating grounds/static. The more protection, the better.

Keeping all the metal parts tied together electrically also helps to reduce electronic noise and interference, and protects against damage from static.

http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/257472-30-gigabyte-onboard-sound-noisy (scroll down to the picture toward the bottom on the thread) <-- Some people go even one step farther and run a wire directly from the PSU into their metal case for a even better connection. This guy did it to remove noise on this sound card.

This relates to the reason why computers have metal back panels. Your tieing all the grounds together on all the back panel connectors to the metal case, for the same reasons as the ones i listed above.

Acrylic is not a terrible design, it's just metal is a better design.
Edited by crimsontears809739 - 4/4/12 at 9:53am
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