By now you will all have heard so much about the grille on Apple’s new “Cheese grater” Mac Pro that you might think there was nothing more to say. Before we move on though there’s one final piece of work to bring to your attention, and it comes from [Andy Pugh]. He’s replicated the design in Fusion 360, and used it to produce rather an attractive Raspberry Pi case.
It seems that for Fusion 360 users the problem lies in that package’s method of placing spheres which differs from that of some other CAD software. Using the page linked in our previous coverage of the grille he’s taken its geometry information and produced a video detailing every step in recreating it for Fusion 360. This is where following someone who really knows your CAD package pays dividends, because we suspect it would take us days to figure out some of the tricks he shows us.
The result is the Raspberry Pi case, which is for the Pi 3 and others like it. Sadly we couldn’t break our embargo and tell him about the Pi 4 and its different connector layout, but we’re guessing a halfway competent CAD operator could put together a Pi 4 case. Andy’s files can be found on Thingiverse, so you can all make one for yourselves.
Apple’s newest Mac Pro with its distinctive machined grille continues to excite interest, but until now there has been one question on the lips of nobody. It’s acquired the moniker “Cheese grater”, but can it grate cheese? [Winston Moy] set out to test its effectiveness in the kitchen with a piece of Pecorino Romano, a great cheese.
Of course, the video is not really about cheese grating, but about the machining process to create that distinctive pattern of intersecting spherical holes. He doesn’t have a real Mac Pro because nobody does as yet, so like others his approach was to reverse engineer the manufacturing process. He takes us through the entire thing and the rationale behind his decisions as he makes a 13-hole piece of Mac Pro-like grill from a billet of aluminium. It’s first roughly cut with a pair of decreasing-size end mills, then finished with a ball mill. He’s added an extra cut to round off the sharp edge of the hole that isn’t there on the Mac.
An unexpected problem came when he machined the bottom and the holes began to intersect, it was clear that they were doing so wrongly. Turning the piece over must be done in the correct orientation, one to note for any other would-be cheese-grater manufacturers. Finally the piece is blasted for a satin finish, and then anodised for scratch-resistance.
So, the important question must be answered: does it grate? The answer’s no, the best it can manage is something close to a crumble. He doesn’t seem bothered though, we get the impression he likes eating cheese whatever its form. The whole process is in the video below the break.
Love ’em or hate ’em, you’ve got to hand it to Apple: they really know how to push people’s buttons with design. Their industrial designers can make a product so irresistible – and their marketing team can cannonball the hype train sufficiently – that people will stand in line for days to buy a new product, and shell out unfathomable amounts of money for the privilege.
But what if you’re a poor college student without the budget for such treasures of industrial design? Simple – you take matters into your own hands and stuff a Raspberry Pi into a cheese grater. That’s what a group of engineering students from the University of Aveiro in Portugal called [NeRD-AETTUA] did, in obvious homage to the world’s most expensive cheese grater. The video below for the aptly named RasPro is somewhat less slick that Apple’s promos for the Mac Pro, but it still gets the basics across. Like the painstakingly machined brushed aluminum housing on the Mac, the IKEA cheese grater on the RasPro is just a skin. It covers a 3D-printed chassis that houses a beefy power supply and fan to go along with the Raspberry Pi 3. There’s also a speaker for blasting the tunes, which seems to be the primary use for the RasPro.
Apple released a monitor stand not so long ago with an eye-watering price tag, and in the resulting fuss you might almost be forgiven for missing the news that they also released a new computer. The distinctive grille on the new Mac Pro caused some interest among Hackaday editors, with speculation rife as to how it had been machined. It seems we’re not alone in this, because [J. Peterson] sent us a link to his own detailed analysis.
The key to the pattern lies in hemispherical holes milled part-way-through a piece of metal on a triangular tessellation, and intersecting with an identical set of holes milled at an offset from the other side. The analysis was done purely from online information as he doesn’t have a real Mac Pro, but using some clever trigonometry he is able to calculate the required offset as well as the hole depth. There are some STL files on Thingiverse, for the curious.
Should you wish to make your own copy of a Mac Pro grille you should therefore be able to use this information in programming a CNC mill to carve it from a piece of alloy plate. The interesting side of it from a manufacturing perspective though is that this is a complex shape that would be difficult to produce in numbers without either CNC or a very specialist one-off machine tool for this single purpose, and neither is a normal expenditure for a mere grille. Perhaps you might come close by rolling alloy plate between rollers whose profile matched the hole pattern, but in that event you would not equal the finish that they have achieved. Apple’s choice to use a relatively time-intensive CNC process in mass-production of a cosmetic part is probably in a large part a quality statement for their particular brand of consumer, but also sets a high bar to any would-be imitators. We applaud it for its engineering, even if we won’t be shelling out for that monitor stand.
After the immense failure of the 2013-era Apple Pro trash can Mac, Apple has been hard at work at the next generation of workstation desktops. This week, the new Mac Pro has been announced, and the specs are amazing: We finally can buy a professional, desktop Mac with half the storage of an iPhone. The big story isn’t the next generation of cheese-grater Macs, though: the new display, the Pro Display XDR, has killed the venerable VESA mount and we couldn’t be happier.
The VESA mount, or more correctly, the VESA Mounting Interface Standard, was created in 1997 as a mounting standard for flat panel monitors and televisions. Look on the back of your monitor, and you’ll probably find a pattern of M4 threaded inserts laid out on a 75mm or 100mm square. Larger sizes, with respectively larger thread sizes, are used for gigantic wall-mounted televisions. For the last two decades, this has been the standard for mounting monitors to stands. Now this standard faces a challenger thanks to the brave designers at Apple. Continue reading “Apple Just Killed The VESA Mount And We Couldn’t Be Happier”→
The current Mac Pro is a masterpiece of design that looks like a trash can. We’ve been waiting for someone to take one of these computers and stuff a MiniITX board in there, but seeing as how the Mac Pro costs $3000, that probably won’t happen anytime soon. Here’s the solution. It’s a trash can computer case that is also too expensive for what it is. Now all we need is someone to put a big fan inside one and turn this computer into a wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man.
[Mike Harrison] recently got his hands on a $20,000 SPARC CPU module. This is an enormously thick board that must be dozens of layers thick. How many layers was an open question until he put the board in a CNC milling machine. The setup is pretty much what you would expect with a few lines of g-code repeated over and over. The real trick comes from using one of the outputs for lubricant to trigger the shutter release on a camera. How many layers were in the CPU module? About 30, or something like that.
[Ray Wilson] started Music From Outer Space, the place to learn about DIY analog synthesizers. Ray now has cancer, and as you can imagine, being a self-employed engineer specializing in analog synthesizers doesn’t provide great health coverage. [Ray]’s family set up a GoFundMe page to pay for the medical expenses.
We haven’t seen much in the land of 3D scanners, and we’re betting most of that is because they’re so expensive. The guys from CowTech have a kickstarter up for a 3D scanner that’s just $99. It’s based on the Ciclop scanner but designed around a custom Arduino shield and remains fully open source.
Need a rechargeable multimeter? It’s actually pretty easy. With an 18650 Lithium Ion cell and a 9V boost converter, this circuit will fit in most devices that need a 9V battery. To do this right, you’ll also need a USB charging port, to be used once every couple of years when the battery needs charging.
We were delighted at a seeing 96 MacBook Pros in a rack a couple of days ago which served as testing hardware. It’s pretty cool so see a similar exquisitely executed hack that is actually in use as a production server. imgix is a startup that provides image resizing for major web platforms. This means they need some real image processing horsepower and recently finalized a design that installs 44 Mac Pro computers in each rack. This hardware was chosen because it’s more than capable of doing the heavy lifting when it comes to image processing. And it turns out to be a much better use of rack space than the 64 Mac Minis it replaces.
Racking Mac Pro for Production
Each of the 11 R2 panels like the one shown here holds 4 Mac Pro. Cooling was the first order of business, so each panel has a grate on the right side of it for cold-air intake. This is a sealed duct through which one side of each Pro is mounted. That allows the built-in exhaust fan of the computers to cool themselves, pulling in cold air and exhausting out the opposite side.
Port access to each is provided on the front of the panel as well. Connectors are mounted on the right side of the front plate which is out of frame in this image. Power and Ethernet run out the back of the rack.
The only downside of this method is that if one computer dies you need to pull the entire rack to replace it. This represents 9% of the total rack and so imgix designed the 44-node system to deal with that kind of processing loss without taking the entire rack down for service.
Why This Bests the Mac Mini
Here you can see the three different racks that the company is using. On the left is common server equipment running Linux. In the middle is the R1 design which uses 64 Mac Minis for graphic-intensive tasks. To the right is the new R2 rack which replace the R1 design.
Obviously each Mac Pro is more powerful than a Mac Mini, but I reached out to imgix to ask about what prompt them to move away from the R1 design that hosts eight rack panes each with eight Mac Minis. [Simon Kuhn], the Director of Production, makes the point that the original rack design is a good one, but in the end there’s just too little computing power in the space of one rack to make sense.
Although physically there is room for at least twice as many Mac Mini units — by mounting them two-deep in each space — this would have caused several problems. First up is heat. Keeping the second position of computers within safe operating temperatures would have been challenging, if not impossible. The second is automated power control. The R1 racks used two sets of 48 controllable outlets to power computers and cooling fans. This is important as the outlets allow them to power cycle mis-behaving units remotely. And finally, more units means more Ethernet connections to deal with.
We having a great time looking that custom server rack setups. If you have one of your own, or a favorite which someone else built, please let us know!