Solid-state drives (SSDs) were a step change in performance when it came to computer storage. They offered incredibly fast seek times by virtue of dispensing with solid rust for silicon instead. Now, some companies have started pushing the limits to the extent that their drives supposedly need liquid cooling, as reported by The Register.
The device in question is the ADATA Project NeonStorm, which pairs a PCIe 5.0 SSD with RGB LEDs, a liquid cooling reservoir and radiator, and a cooling fan. The company is light on details, but it’s clearly excited about its storage products becoming the latest piece of high-end gamer jewelry.
Notably though, not everyone’s jumping on the bandwagon. Speaking to The Register, Jon Tanguy from Crucial indicated that while the company has noted modern SSDs running hotter, it doesn’t yet see a need for active cooling. In their case, heatsinks have proven enough. He notes that NAND flash used in SSDs actually operates best at 60 to 70 C. However, going beyond 80 C risks damage and most drives will shutdown or throttle access at this point.
Every week, the Hackaday tip line is bombarded with offers from manufacturers who want to send us their latest and greatest device to review. The vast majority of these are ignored, simply because they don’t make sense for the sort of content we run here. For example, there’s a company out there that seems Hell-bent on sending us a folding electronic guitar for some reason.
At first, that’s what happened when CoolingStyle recently reached out to us about their Cooler Max. The email claimed it was the “World’s First AC Cooler System For Gaming Desktop”, which featured a “powerful compressor which can bring great cooling performance”, and was capable of automatically bringing your computer’s temperature down to as low as 10℃ (50°F). The single promotional shot in the email showed a rather chunky box hooked up to a gaming rig with a pair of flexible hoses, but no technical information was provided. We passed the email around the (virtual) water cooler a bit, and the consensus was that the fancy box probably contained little more than a pair of Peltier cooling modules and some RGB LEDs.
The story very nearly ended there, but there was something about the email that I couldn’t shake. If it was just using Peltier modules, then why was the box so large? What about that “powerful compressor” they mentioned? Could they be playing some cute word games, and were actually talking about a centrifugal fan? Maybe…
It bothered me enough that after a few days I got back to CoolingStyle and said we’d accept a unit to look at. I figured no matter what ended up being inside the box, it would make for an interesting story. Plus it would give me an excuse to put together another entry for my Teardowns column, a once regular feature which sadly has been neglected since I took on the title of Managing Editor.
There was only one problem…I’m no PC gamer. Once in a while I’ll boot up Kerbal Space Program, but even then, my rockets are getting rendered on integrated video. I don’t even know anyone with a gaming computer powerful enough to bolt an air conditioner to the side of the thing. But I’ve got plenty of experience pulling weird stuff apart to figure out how it works, so let’s start with that.
Modern shoes, particularly sneakers, are often ventilated, but it’s not always enough. This build takes things further, using active cooling. Water is pumped through tubes and into a copper insole which cools the sole of the foot. It’s achieved thanks to a pump assembly that mounts to the rear of the shoe in a 3D printed housing. The water itself is chilled with a thermoelectric cooler, which helps remove heat from the shoe area.
There is some bulk to the design, which would prevent its use in performance applications in its current form. However, we could imagine companies like Nike leaping at the chance to build some very fancy, high-tech shoes along these lines in future. After all, they already managed to create power laces, and this is even cooler again! Pun definitely intended.
For the past few decades, most console makers have first come out with a large flagship model, and then a few years later, released a smaller, more compact slim edition. Not content to wait for it, [Matt] at DIY Perksmade his own PS5 Slim, and the results are awe-inspiring.
Generally, slim editions are made by lowering the TDP of the chip under the hood. A lower power draw means less cooling is needed, a smaller power supply can be used, and a design that is overall easier to manage. Unfortunately, [Matt] had none of these benefits and instead had to contend with the full 180 W that the AMD CPU inside the PlayStation can draw.
Taking apart the console left him with the main board that was quite thick as it had heat pipes on both sides. His first thought was water cooling as it can rapidly move the heat needed, but even with right-angle fittings, it didn’t fit within the ambitious thickness goal he had set for himself of less than 2 cm (about 3/4″). To do that, [Matt] had to fabricate a copper water block from three sheets of copper. The first one connects to the motherboard via standoffs and has cut-outs for various connectors and parts. The middle layer has a channel through which water can flow, and the last layer seals it together.
With the three layers together, he soldered them in a toaster oven repurposed as a reflow oven. Cleverly, he used silicone grease to prevent solder from getting into areas he didn’t want, like the fins in the CPU block. Luckily, the grease dissolved in alcohol, and after flushing the chamber, he had a solid copper, water-tight, custom loop. However, on his road to glory, [Matt] ran into a snag. He accidentally covered the intake vent on the radiator, and the PS5 overheated, killing it. With a fried mainboard and a project almost on the cusp of completion, he resorted to using the PS5 he had received for B-roll.
Last-minute motherboard swap aside, the final project is gorgeous. The polished exterior and sheer thinness of it are striking. [Matt] has already disguised his PS5 before and after this, we’re not quite sure where he could possibly take it next. But we’re excited to find out.
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.
[Advanced Tinkering] over on YouTube has some pretty unique content, on subjects of chemistry and physics that are a little more, interesting let’s say — anyone fancy distilling cesium? The subject of this build is the visualization of ionizing radiation tracks, with one of our old favorite physics demonstrators, the venerable cloud chamber. The build video (embedded below,) shows the basic construction and performance of a Peltier effect cooler setup. The system is used to create a layer of supersaturated (and cold) alcohol vapor in which the radiation source or other experiment can be immersed.
Peltier modules are a great solution for moving heat from one surface to another, but they are not terribly efficient at it, especially if you don’t keep the hot side temperature in check. Effectively they are a short-distance heat pump, so you need to dump the hot-side heat elsewhere. The method [Advanced Tinkering] chose here was to use a pair of off-the-shelf water cooling blocks, mounted into a 3D printed plate. The hot side dumps into a pair of fan-cooled radiators. Four double-layer Peltier modules are wired in parallel to a 60A power supply, which seems like a lot, but Peltier modules are hungry little things. A reasonable amount of power is needed to drive the cooling fans and water pump. The vapor source is a simple pad of liquid alcohol at the top of the stack, just above a metal screen which is held at a high voltage. The vertical electric field allows visualization of the charge of emitted particles, which will curve up or down depending on their polarity.
As can be seen from the second video linked below, some really nice cloud trails are produced, so it looks like they got the setup just right!
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?
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.
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”→