Behold! The Most Insane Crowdfunding Campaign Ever

foam

Hold on to your hats, because this is a good one. It’s a tale of disregarding the laws of physics, cancelled crowdfunding campaigns, and a menagerie of blogs who take press releases at face value.

Meet Silent Power (Google translation). It’s a remarkably small and fairly powerful miniature gaming computer being put together by a team in Germany. The specs are pretty good for a completely custom computer: an i7 4785T, GTX 760, 8GB of RAM and a 500GB SSD. Not a terrible machine for something that will eventually sell for about $930 USD, but what really puts this project in the limelight is the innovative cooling system and small size. The entire machine is only 16x10x7 cm, accented with a very interesting “copper foam” heat sink on top. Sounds pretty cool, huh? It does, until you start to think about the implementation a bit. Then it’s a descent into madness and a dark pit of despair.

There are a lot of things that are completely wrong with this project, and in true Hackaday fashion, we’re going to tear this one apart, figuring out why this project will never exist.

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Hacking Manufacturing: Ordering a Custom Heatsink from China

a black aluminum heatsink with fins on a green matt

Building a one-off hack is fun. But what happens when people like your hack so much they want to buy it? As many of us have discovered, going from prototype to product can be a frustrating, tedious, and often expensive process. [Nick] at Arachnid labs has documented the process of manufacturing a custom heatsink in China.

While designing the Re:Load Pro, [Nick] discovered that there were no enclosures with integrated heatsinks which suited his application. Rather than design an entire case from scratch, [Nick] used an aluminum extrusion. This is a common technique in the electronics world, and literally thousands of extrusion profiles are available. The problem was the heatsink. Only a custom part would fit the bill, so [Nick] created a CAD drawing detailing his design. Much like the case, the heatsink was an aluminum extrusion. The custom nature of the heatsink meant that [Nick] would need to pay mold/tooling costs as well as satisfy minimum orders.

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Can’t Stand Your Noisy Fan? Here’s a Plan, Man

[Brian] adores his GW Instek GPC-1850D power supply, but it’s annoyingly loud and disruptive to his audio projects. The thing works great, so he decided to regulate the fan’s speed based on usage level to save his sanity.

Once [Brian] got under the hood, he found that it actually has four separate heatsinks: one for the bridge rectifiers and one for each power transistor on the three output channels. The heatsinks are electrically and thermally isolated from each other and change temperature based on the channel being used.

[Brian] and his associates had several Microchip MCP9803 temperature sensors kicking around the lab from previous projects, so they put one on each heatsink. The great thing about these is their address selection pins which let all four of them sit together on the I²C bus to Arduinoville. Each sensor is insulated and clamped to its heatsink with a piece of meccano and a dab of thermal paste.

[Brian] used an Arduino Mini and built the circuit on stripboard. The fan runs at 24V, so he’s sharing that with the Arduino through a 7805. He controls the speed of the fan with PWM from the Arduino fed through a MOSFET. The Arduino reads from each sensor and determines which one is hottest. [Brian] wanted the fan to run at all times, so he set a base speed of 20%. When the heatsinks reach 30°C/86°F, the fan speed is increased to 40%. After that, the speed increases at 5°C/9°F intervals until it reaches max speed at 65°C/149°F.

You can grab the code and schematic from [Brian]‘s repo. If you want to study your heatsinks, build this heatsink tester first.

Heatsink Tester Shows Thermal Resistance Isn’t Futile

[Bogdan] knows that it’s hard to model the cooling needs of any given project. It’s important to know how much heat a system can dissipate given the housing material, airflow opportunity, and the proximity of neighboring components. Inspired by an aluminium-walled enclosure that allows for mounted transistors, he devised and built a heatsink tester.

He’s using an ATXMEGA32A4U, a temperature sensor, and a IRF540 MOSFET. A specific power is dissipated across the transistor, and the temperature sensor measures the heatsink as close as possible to the transistor. Through the serial connection, he gets back the supply voltage, current, calculated power, DAC set, temperature, and calculated thermal resistance in the terminal.

[Bogdan]‘s tester assumes that it is reading the ambient temperature, so the circuit needs to warm up first. He found that an hour is generally long enough to reach this point. He also found that the system exhibits high thermal inertia, so it regulates the DAC output based on the dissipated power.

Passively cooled computer

This came in on the tipline: [Ville 'Willek' Kyrö] wanted to build a fully passively cooled computer. That means no fans at all. He started with scrap aluminum heatsinks, ripped apart a cpu heatsink to get the copper heat pipes, and began surrounding the boards with heatsinks to form a case. Cooling down the powersupply was the hardest part, as it did not lend itself to the flat surfaces of heatsinks. Any passive case with powerful components will inevitably be huge and heavy; this one weighs over 20 kg. He says, “It might not have been worth it, but it sure was weird watching the computer boot up with no sound at all”.

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