The Weird World Of Liquid Cooling For Datacenters

When it comes to high-performance desktop PCs, particularly in the world of gaming, water cooling is popular and effective. However, in the world of datacenters, servers rely on traditional air cooling more often than not, in combination with huge AC systems that keep server rooms at the appropriate temperature.

However, datacenters can use water cooling, too! It just doesn’t always look quite how you’d expect.

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Art of 3D printer in the middle of printing a Hackaday Jolly Wrencher logo

3D Printering: Water-Cooled Hotends

There’s an old joke about the Thermos bottle that keeps things hot and cold, so someone loaded it with soup and ice cream. That joke is a little close to home when it comes to FDM 3D printers.

You want to melt plastic, of course, or things won’t print, so you need heat. But if the plastic filament gets hot too early, it will get soft, expand, and jam. Heat crawling up the hot end like this is known as heat creep and there are a variety of ways that hot ends try to cope with the need to be hot and cold at the same time. Most hotends today are air-cooled with a small fan. But water-cooled hotends have been around for a while and are showing up more and more. Is it a gimmick? Are you using, planning to use, or have used (and abandoned) water cooling on your hot end?

Heat Break

The most common method is to use a heat-break between the heating block and the rest of the filament path. The heat-break is designed to transfer as little heat as necessary, and it usually screws into a large heat sink that has a fan running over it. What heat makes it across the break should blow away with the fan cooling.

From Thomas Sanladerer’s review of the Copperhead hotend. Heat break in the middle.

High tech solutions include making heat-breaks out of titanium or even two dissimilar metals, all with the aim of transferring less heat into the cooler part of the hot end. More modern hot ends use support structures so the heatbreak doesn’t need mechanical rigidity, and they can make very thin-walled heatbreaks that don’t transmit much heat. Surely, then, this is case closed, right? Maybe not.

While it is true that a standard heat-break and a fan can do the job for common 3D printing tasks, there can be problems. First, if you want to print fast — time is money, after all — you need more power to melt more filament per second. If a heatbreak transfers 10% of the heat, this increases demands on the upstream cooling. Some engineering materials want to print at higher temperatures, so you can have the same problem there as well. If you want to heat the entire print chamber, which can help with certain printing materials, that can also cause problems since the ambient air is now hotter. Blowing hot air around isn’t going to cool as effectively. Not to mention, fans that can operate at high temperatures are notoriously expensive.

There are other downsides to fans. Over a long print, a marginal system might eventually let enough heat creep up. Then there’s the noise of a fan blowing during operation. True, you probably have other fans and noisy parts, but it is still one more noise source. With water cooling, you can move the radiator outside a heated enclosure and use larger, slower, and quieter fans while getting more cooling right where you want it. Continue reading “3D Printering: Water-Cooled Hotends”

High temperature 3D printer

Extreme Thermal Mods For 3D Printing Exotic Materials

For general everyday use, there’s nothing wrong with the standard selection of plastics that most 3D printer filaments are available in. PLA, ABS, PETG — they’ve all got their place, and they’re all pretty easy to work with. But if you need to work with more exotic materials, you might need to go to extremes and modify an off-the-shelf printer for high-temperature work.

For the team led by [Andreas Hagerup Birkelid] at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the standard menu of printer chow wasn’t up to the jobs they had in mind. They wanted to print using polyether ether ketone, or PEEK, a high-performance thermoplastic with useful mechanical and thermal properties, in addition to chemical resistance. Trouble is, the melting point of PEEK is a whopping 343°C (649°F), making it necessary to turn up the heat — a lot. A standard Creality CR-10 printer was upgraded to withstand not only the 500°C max temperature of the new hot end and 200° printed bed, but also to survive operating in what amounts to an oven — a balmy 135° in a chamber made from IKEA cabinets. That entailed replacing plastic parts with metal ones, upgrading belts, pulleys, and wires, and moving all the electronics outside the enclosure. Even the steppers got special treatment, with water cooling to keep their magnets from reaching the Curie point.

The mods seemed to do the trick, because a Benchy printed in a carbon-fiber PEEK filament came out pretty good. It seems like a long way to go and kind of pricey — $1,700 for the printer and all the mods — but if you have a need to print exotic materials, it’s way cheaper than a commercial high-temp printer.

[via 3D Printing Industry]

CNC Saves Water Cooling Setup

A classic problem. You have a new CPU and a 15-year old water cooling system. Of course, the bracket doesn’t fit. Time to buy a new cooler? Not if you are [der8auer]. You design a new bracket and mill it out of aluminum.

Honestly, it might seem overkill, but it makes sense. After all, no matter how new the CPU is, using water to cool it still works the same way, in principle.

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Liquid Cooling Keeps This Electronic Load’s MOSFETs From Burning

Problem: your electronic load works fine, except for the occasional MOSFET bursting into flames. Solution: do what [tbladykas] did, and build a water-cooled electronic load.

One can quibble that perhaps there are other ways to go about preventing your MOSFETs from burning, including changes to the electrical design. But he decided to take a page from [Kerry Wong]’s design book and go big. [Kerry]’s electronic load was air-cooled and capable of sinking 100 amps; [tbladykas] only needed 60 or 70 amps or so. Since he had an all-in-one liquid CPU cooler on hand, it was only natural to use that for cooling.

The IXYS linear MOSFET dangles off the end of the controller PCB, where the TO-247 device is soldered directly to the copper cold plate of the AiO cooler. This might seem sketchy as the solder could melt if things got out of hand, but then again drilling and tapping the cold plate could lead to leakage of the thermal coupling fluid. It hasn’t had any rigorous testing yet – his guesstimate is 300 Watts dissipation at this point – but as his primary endpoint was to stop the MOSFET fires, the exact details aren’t that important.

We’ve seen a fair number of liquid-cooled Raspberry Pis and Arduinos before, but we can’t find an example of a liquid-cooled electronic load. Perhaps [tbladykas] is onto something with this design.

Echos Of The Cold War: Nuclear-Powered Missiles Have Been Tried Before

On August 8th, an experimental nuclear device exploded at a military test facility in Nyonoksa, Russia. Thirty kilometers away, radiation levels in the city of Severodvinsk reportedly peaked at twenty times normal levels for the span of a few hours. Rumors began circulating about the severity of the event, and conflicting reports regarding forced evacuations of residents from nearby villages had some media outlets drawing comparisons with the Soviet Union’s handling of the Chernobyl disaster.

Today, there remain more questions than answers surrounding what happened at the Nyonoksa facility. It’s still unclear how many people were killed or injured in the explosion, or what the next steps are for the Russian government in terms of environmental cleanup at the coastal site. The exceptionally vague explanation given by state nuclear agency Rosatom saying that the explosion “occurred during the period of work related to the engineering and technical support of isotopic power sources in a liquid propulsion system”, has done little to assuage concerns.

The consensus of global intelligence agencies is that the test was likely part of Russia’s program to develop the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile. Better known by its NATO designation SSC-X-9 Skyfall, the missile is said to offer virtually unlimited flight range and endurance. In theory the missile could remain airborne indefinitely, ready to divert to its intended target at a moment’s notice. An effectively unlimited range also means it could take whatever unpredictable or circuitous route necessary to best avoid the air defenses of the target nation. All while traveling at near-hypersonic speeds that make interception exceptionally difficult.

Such incredible claims might sound like saber rattling, or perhaps even something out of science fiction. But in reality, the basic technology for a nuclear-powered missile was developed and successfully tested nearly sixty years ago. Let’s take a look at this relic of the Cold War, and find out how Russia may be working to resolve some of the issues that lead to it being abandoned. Continue reading “Echos Of The Cold War: Nuclear-Powered Missiles Have Been Tried Before”

Thermoelectric Generator Shines Where The Sun Doesn’t

For off-grid renewable electricity, solar seems to make sense. Just throw some PV panels on the roof and you’re all set to stick it to the man, right? But the dirty little secret of the king of clean energy is that very few places on the planet get the sort of sunshine needed to make residential PV panels worth their installation cost in the short term, and the long-term value proposition isn’t very good either.

The drearier places on the planet might benefit from this high-power thermoelectric generator (TEG) developed and tested by [TegwynTwmffat] for use on a wood burning stove. The TEG modules [Tegwyn] used are commercially available and rated at 14.4 volts and 20 watts each. He wisely started his experiments with a single module; the video below shows the development of that prototype. The bulk of the work with TEGs is keeping the cold side of the module at a low enough temperature for decent performance, since the modules work better the higher the difference in temperature is across the module. A finned heatsink and a fan wouldn’t cut it for this application, so a water-cooled block was built to pump away the heat. A successful test led to scaling the generator up to 10 modules with a very impressive heatsink, which produced about 120 watts. Pretty good, but we wonder if some easy gains in performance would have come from using heat sink compound on the module surfaces.

Using thermal differences to generate electricity is nothing new, but a twist on the technique is getting attention lately as a potential clean energy source. And who knows? Maybe [TegwynTwmffat]’s or one of the other Hackaday Prize 2018 entries will break new ground and change the world. What’s your big idea?

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