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"Two Towers" - Building my own custom server case from scratch - 15 Aug 2013

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Hello,

 

Edit - October 10, 2015

Here is the link to the Sketchup drawings of the Server Case:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bz6Snryo5Le7dTBvWmtXaWQ2MU0/view?usp=sharing

 

Edit - September 13, 2015

 

I updated my hardware:

* Motherboard - SuperMicro X10SLL-F-O

* CPU - Intel XEON E3-1231v3 @ 3.4GHz

* Memory - 32GB (4x 8GB) Crucial Server Memory CT2KIT102472BD160B

* Added 2 5TB Toshiba HDDs PH3500U-1/72

* Changed filesystem server-wide to XFS

 

Update went very smoothly - just replaced the HW and powered-up. unRAID ran as if nothing changed.

 

Good work unRAID team !!!

 

Updated my Windows 7 VM to have 2 Cores - things are running very fast now.

 

Glad I build the case to support a uATX board - original board was mini-ITX.  ;D

 

 

Origianl Post

 

I have finally completed the build:

 

9659134380_c042a70e71_n.jpg

Complete - Left

9659135952_455ba0227e_n.jpg

Complete - Right

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Complete - Front

9655914491_4125aa0a98_n.jpg

Complete - Drawer Open

 

 

Post history:

 

I am planning on building my own Server Case for my unRAID server.

I currently have: http://lime-technology.com/forum/index.php?topic=6712.0 (I additionally have an IBM M1015 standing by ready for use)

 

The main reason for doing this custom is I cannot get a normal server case (like the NORCO 4224) for a reasonable price where I live - I suspect over $700 or even $1000 - If at all available here - even if I could get one it is too big for where I plan to put it.

Another option was a 12-bay tower (Antec 1200 is $220 here) with 3x 5-in-3 (iStarUSA BPU-350SATA is $170 each here) for a total of $730 !!!

I estimate the whole custom case will cost me ~$300 - I think it is a reasonable price for a trayless server:

  • Wood (including cutting at local DIY carpentry) - $50
  • Aluminum tape - $15
  • Drive drawers - $150
  • Paint - $20
  • Fans - $30
  • Filters - $20

 

The case will be 400mm x 400mm x 350mm (HxWxD).

It will be constructed out of MDF and painted black.

The inside of the entire case will be lined with Aluminum Adhesive Conductive tape for EMI/EMC reasons.

 

The case will include:

 

Drives will be split up into 2 "towers" placed on rails which can be removed independently from the case for internal case maintenance (motherboard/power supply/etc...).

 

Advantages:

  • Cheap
  • Regular easily available components - also for spare parts
  • Can reuse all internal components if I need to redesign a larger case in the future - maybe 24 drives  8)

 

See pictures below (done in Google sketchup) for concept.

 

9247533407_f0e0b2ecde_n.jpg

Model - Left

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Model - Right

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Model - Drawer Out

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Model - Disassembled

 

So I started to build the chassis.

 

* First I had the MDF cut to size:

 

9090907641_3eb2231cef_n.jpg

Bare MDF Panels

 

* Then I continued and worked on each piece:

 

9207567926_b0d575dfb5_n.jpg

MDF Panels Ready - Inside

9204785491_6d2ff05d45_n.jpg

MDF Panels Ready - Outside

 

* Then I assembled the MDF pieces together to get the bare chassis:

 

9207567318_af9c298de0_n.jpg

Partial - Front

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Partial - Left

9236959155_21914fdde9_n.jpg

Left - Before Painting

9236959505_7d05109d97_n.jpg

Front - Before Painting

 

* Then I painted the bare chassis with water based primer (white) and finally with water based paint (black):

 

9280359375_ff42b1b043_n.jpg

Left - With Primer

9280359139_089ca0e496_n.jpg

Front - With Primer

9283138556_366c8c79a0_n.jpg

Right - With Primer

 

9339105625_9331e45505_n.jpg

Painted - Left

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Painted - Front

9341892872_d1485b0f75_n.jpg

Painted - Right

 

* Then I started work on the disk towers - one has been completed (left tower):

 

9513673579_25ed2f2839_n.jpg

Tower - Left

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Given your poor availability of good cases -- and your obvious skill at customization -- I'd say go for it.  The only "nit" I can think of is that to get full coverage of the drives with your ventilation stream, you may want to use 140mm fans.

 

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Quite ambitious. I'll be watching this thread.

 

One recommendation: off the shelf drive cages have fans directly behind the disks and I'm not sure side intake only would be enough unless your ambient room temp is under 15°C. This appears to be missing from your design. A couple options would be to design a hinged panel that sits in front of the disks to push air across them, or expand your case's depth to build a fan wall directly behind the disks to pull air across them. Either option would require fairly substantial sealing of the edges to keep airflow from being wasted.

 

An off shoot of above is to not use the trays at all, just build cages out of wood for the disks to sit in. See the attachment. It's a front view. The disks sit on the ledges made of small wood strips. Obviously not to scale. Note my l33t mspaint skillz. 8) If the side walls are slightly narrower than the disks, you may not even have to account for screw holes to secure the disks to this wooden cage.

 

I've thought about a wooden case, and I've already got the woodworking skills and kit, but off the shelf cases are reasonably enough prices for me.

 

Capture.JPG.d9484338d49a644275c499af34a9de88.JPG

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One recommendation: off the shelf drive cages have fans directly behind the disks and I'm not sure side intake only would be enough unless your ambient room temp is under 15°C. This appears to be missing from your design. A couple options would be to design a hinged panel that sits in front of the disks to push air across them, or expand your case's depth to build a fan wall directly behind the disks to pull air across them. Either option would require fairly substantial sealing of the edges to keep airflow from being wasted.

 

I will not be using off-the-shelf drive cages just drive drawers - I will construct the drive cages myself - see attached picture.

I will have at least 10mm of "air" between each drawer that I think will be enough for venting the air between the drives.

It is more than I currently have between drives in a standard 3.5" drive cage that comes built-in my current of the shelf case.

The airflow will be from right to left instead of regular front to back.

The case will be almost perfectly sealed except for the air filter intakes.

 

Tower.jpg.50501002025254fe96e620a2cfcfe222.jpg

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Actually, a couple of the best arrangements I've seen (both in Lian-Li cases) have had the fans blowing from the side across the disks.    These work VERY well -- MUCH better than the cooling you get with a "pull" fan at the rear of typical hot-swap cages.

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This is a very intresting project.  my thoughts were what size wood are you going to use for the carcass. 

 

Also safety is a big concern with MDF.  Here is a quote from wikipedia about these concerns:

 

When MDF is cut a large quantity of dust particles are released into the air. It is important that a respirator be worn and the material be cut in a controlled and ventilated environment. It is a good practice to seal the exposed edges to limit the emissions from the binders contained in this material.

 

Formaldehyde resins are commonly used to bind MDF together, and testing has consistently revealed that MDF products emit urea-formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds that pose health risks at sufficient concentrations, for at least several months after manufacture.[6][7][8] Urea-formaldehyde is always being slowly released from the surface of MDF. When painting, it is a good idea to coat all sides of the finished piece in order to seal in the urea-formaldehyde. Wax and oil finishes may be used as finishes but they are less effective at sealing in the urea-formaldehyde.[4]

 

Whether these constant emissions of formaldehyde reach harmful levels in real-world environments is not yet fully determined. The primary concern is for the industries using formaldehyde. As far back as 1987 the U.S. EPA classified it as a "probable human carcinogen" and after more studies the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), in 1995, also classified it as a "probable human carcinogen". Further information and evaluation of all known data led the IARC to reclassify formaldehyde as a "known human carcinogen"[9] associated with nasal sinus cancer and nasopharyngeal cancer, and possibly with leukaemia in June 2004.[10]

 

You also have to be careful when fastening MDF together.  The wood screws can easily split MDF making that part useless.

 

I wonder if using 1/2" standard plywood, and placing an inexpensive veneer on top to hide imperfections would make a better, stronger, Safer product.

 

-- Sideband Samurai

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The wooden case shown in the "Show me your builds" thread does indeed look intriguing.  While it certainly allows for excellent airflow, I'd also think that there's poor heat conductivity away from the drives.  It'd be interesting to see the temperatures for the drives in that build  :)

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This is a very intresting project.  my thoughts were what size wood are you going to use for the carcass. 

 

Also safety is a big concern with MDF.  Here is a quote from wikipedia about these concerns:

 

When MDF is cut a large quantity of dust particles are released into the air. It is important that a respirator be worn and the material be cut in a controlled and ventilated environment. It is a good practice to seal the exposed edges to limit the emissions from the binders contained in this material.

 

Formaldehyde resins are commonly used to bind MDF together, and testing has consistently revealed that MDF products emit urea-formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds that pose health risks at sufficient concentrations, for at least several months after manufacture.[6][7][8] Urea-formaldehyde is always being slowly released from the surface of MDF. When painting, it is a good idea to coat all sides of the finished piece in order to seal in the urea-formaldehyde. Wax and oil finishes may be used as finishes but they are less effective at sealing in the urea-formaldehyde.[4]

 

Whether these constant emissions of formaldehyde reach harmful levels in real-world environments is not yet fully determined. The primary concern is for the industries using formaldehyde. As far back as 1987 the U.S. EPA classified it as a "probable human carcinogen" and after more studies the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), in 1995, also classified it as a "probable human carcinogen". Further information and evaluation of all known data led the IARC to reclassify formaldehyde as a "known human carcinogen"[9] associated with nasal sinus cancer and nasopharyngeal cancer, and possibly with leukaemia in June 2004.[10]

 

You also have to be careful when fastening MDF together.  The wood screws can easily split MDF making that part useless.

 

I wonder if using 1/2" standard plywood, and placing an inexpensive veneer on top to hide imperfections would make a better, stronger, Safer product.

 

-- Sideband Samurai

 

I will be using 10mm MDF (2/5"). I thought of 17mm and even did a prototype/mockup but it was VERY!!! heavy just the chassis.

I myself will not do the cutting but will have a local DIY carpentry cut the pieces according to my layout.

After constructing the chassis (carefull not to split it escpecially at 10mm width) I will indeed seal it with primer which is needed anyway for painting.

Then I will paint it with 2 or 3 coats of paint so I think it will be well sealed (water based not oil based).

 

I though of plywood but it is much more difficult to get it accurate and smooth especially at the joints.

 

Regarding MDF, I don't think another piece of furniture made of MDF will do much harm - almost all daily used furniture (cupboards, kitchens, doors, living room sets, dining tables, etc...) have some MDF in them.

 

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I have nearly completed the custom design.

 

* I Added rails/slides for the HDD "towers" so they can easily slide out.

* I modeled a MINI-ITX and MICRO-ATX with a SATA expansion board to make sure they all fit.

* "Towers" are now identical.

 

Tomorrow I am getting samples of the Hot-Swap HDD Drawers and I will model them more accurately - I may have room for another 2 for a total of 16.

Left_Solid_2.jpg.817646db4af0dce19847e5647bf68a47.jpg

Right_Solid_2.jpg.4025153a26b299176d66b956eaee9bd1.jpg

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Definitely an interesting project, and it seems to be coming along nicely.

 

I'm sure you already plan on doing so, but be sure to post some pictures of the completed case !!  8)

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Just a quick update:

 

Work is coming along slowly - working on it only ~1 day a week (weekend)

 

  • Got the MDF pieces from the carpenter a couple of weeks ago (see picture)
  • Cut all the necessary addtional holes in the panels (by myself): filters, motherboard IO shield, PSU, drive drawers, expansion options (not in picture)
  • Started lining the inside of the panels with Aluminum shielding.

 

I am currently waiting for the metal wood inserts for holding the fans and filters before I complete the Aluminum lining and assemble the box.

I am using inserts so I will be able open/close the screw multiple times without degrading the threading.

20130606_210026.jpg.ac80544b317f952d4a1f9c902bf3953a.jpg

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Did you get the trayless hdd things yet?  I was toying with the idea of building my own case and one of the stumbling blocks was the cost of making the drives "pluggable".

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I got the first order of 2 trayless drawers and they work perfectly.

I have ordered an additional 12 for the full 14 capacity.

 

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I have completed building the 2nd tower (right tower).

 

Additionally I have:

  • Added the fan controller and 2 of the 4 fans (the other 2 are in my working server).
  • Tested the controller and fans with spare power supply I have - very quite.
  • Assembled fan gaurds and air filters.

 

I am trying to keep cabling very tidy so doing slowly and neatly.

I need to add the power and reset buttons.

 

I hope that in the coming couple of days I will have time (and family will let me) to stop my running server and move it into the new chassis.

Motherboard, Power supply, add new M1015 card, HDDs, add new 3TB WD30EZRX, additional 2 fans.

 

Most work will be to get the routing of the SATA cables and HDD power cables tidy and allow for easy movement of the tower in and out on the rails.

 

Pictures will be added once completed.

 

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Turned out VERY nice.

 

What are your drive temps like?    ... both "normal" and during a parity check.

 

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During regular use in an unvented enclosed space (under stairs), during summer temperatures (30C), no airconditioner, Case fans on low speed, 7 drives in use - temps range 34C-39C.

 

Haven't run parity yet - scheduled for 15th of the month.

I expect parity temps to be approximately 37-42C.

 

I will probably raise the fan speeds higher.

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During regular use in an unvented enclosed space (under stairs), during summer temperatures (30C), no airconditioner, Case fans on low speed, 7 drives in use - temps range 34C-39C.

 

Haven't run parity yet - scheduled for 15th of the month.

I expect parity temps to be approximately 37-42C.

 

I will probably raise the fan speeds higher.

 

With your ambient temperature that high those aren't bad temps at all.  I'd run a parity check;  watch the temps; and adjust your case fans accordingly.  If your parity check temps don't go above 42 (as you expect) you're fine ... but if they do, you definitely want to bump up the airflow a bit.

 

As I noted above, your build came out very nice -- it's a good looking setup; and the airflow design is excellent.

 

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After you run it for a few months I'm sure you will have some 'I wish I'd done that differently' moments. I've done many diy projects and always have those moments.

 

Pulling the drives drawers out will create cabling tension issues. Or is there a backplane?

 

I'm amazed at how dense the industry has been able to pack drives into data centers.

 

Keep us up to date on this....

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