Here's something I done on a recent trip - Warning Pic heavy!

pricklypunter

Well-Known Member
Nov 10, 2015
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So, here's an interesting teaser. What do you do when you have very little spare money left in the budget, have a real need for some reasonably fast extra storage capacity, have only a cheap, small, really short depth comms rack to house anything in and absolutely have to make something work in a short time frame. Well You obviously get to work on building your own custom storage shelf of course. What a totally mad idea I thought, but that's exactly what I did recently for a friend. So I thought I would share some of the experience with you guys. It's not exactly your professional installation you understand, but was fun to do and got the job done :)

Some things I did have at my disposal though, other than an empty wallet, came in very handy indeed. Things like a CNC Router, some 2mm thick Aluminium and 4mm thick Acrylic sheet and some general hand and power tools and a decent workbench on which to play. Not exactly what everyone has in their shed I'll admit, so this is not going to be for everyone to re-create.

Anyway, here's kind of how it went:

I ordered 6 good pulled HGST 3TB Ultrastars from a local IT recycler, a decent quality power supply and 3 fairly quiet fans and finger guards and then set to work on designing a small 2U rack mountable case, as that's all I had room for.

I admit upfront, I was both tired and in a hurry when I done this and failed to double check that absolutely every part would fit together just as I had envisioned it. Nor did I have time to build any models etc to be sure, so I just winged it that afternoon. As it turned out, there are a couple of wee things I feel could have been done better, the benefit of 20:20 hindsight of course, but in general, it went together well enough to be functional.

Here's a couple of photos of the main casing being cut. A friend ran this job through the machine for me. He was already doing other stuff on the machine that day, plus I was busy with other things anyway, cheers Rick!










After a bit of bending and squeezing, the end result looked like this. I later welded/ brazed up the corner seams to add some strength and overall stiffness.










I then cut and bent up a mezzanine/ internal disk shelf to sit inside the case and also cut a little bracket to help mount the power supply to the rear. I was just going to leave the logo cut out for added air flow, but decided that as I was going to need a power indicator anyway, I would save drilling more holes and just fill it in with some white/ opaque plastic and add an LED or two behind it to light it up. So I relief cut some plastic inserts from some 4mm white opal acrylic that was laying around. A bit of fiddling and filing later and they were in. Just a tight friction fit holds them in place, no glue was used. When I say tight, I mean I used an F-clamp and blocks to press them in, so they ain't going anywhere anytime soon :)










Lastly, I cut out a dust cover/ lid for the case. It's only held in place by friction tabs on the corners, but it's good enough to stop anything damaging getting in, like dropped screws from above/ fingers, other cables etc. It leaks air like a sieve, but there should be more than enough air passing over the disks to keep them cool. As the front panel was really shiny when the protective plastic film was removed, I decided to also wrap the case in black vinyl to take the edge off the bare metal look. A dear friend of mine done the actual wrap for me, after a long day for him as I remember, cheers Dave!




I couldn't resist a quick show off at this point and so, in the interests of science you understand, I temporarily rigged a supply for the LED's, just to see how it was going to look when it was running. Not too bad considering :)




The parts I had ordered started to dribble in over the next few days, so I got to fitting the fans and finger guards. Then the power supply and bracket and lastly the disks when they arrived about a week later. I modded the supply wiring and wired it all up for power.














I plugged it in and nothing went bang, a good sign usually, but in fact, nothing at all happened, no whirring of fans, no blue LED glow to put a smile on my face, it was completely dead. I thought oh crap, I either have a duff disk or faulty power supply, but after a little troubleshooting, it turned out to be a simple fix. There was just not quite enough clearance between the LED's and the disk sitting below them. The 12V feed to the LED's was shorting on the disk casing. I didn't fully insulate around the LED's because I had mistakenly thought there was plenty of clearance. As it turned out, there wasn't as much as I had initially thought and it was just barely touching it. It was cured by simply heating and folding up a little piece of an old plastic business card into a U shape and sticking it in place with some double sided tape. Fortunately the power supply folded back preventing any damage.

Finally, I added an M1015 card with a hole drilled in the mounting bracket to the 1U server that was already in the rack above where this was going, along with a couple of 1M long 8087->SATA breakout cables. Fitting it was, shall I say, full of sweary words and a friendly orangutan would have been handy to have had on site that night, but I got there in the end. Sadly I can't show photos of it in the rack due to security reasons, but suffice to say, it doesn't look at all out of place with the rest of the installation. The real bonus is, it's working a treat and cost nothing more than the parts and some play time. Although I never did wrap that lid, I ran out of time :)

I hope you enjoyed the read as much as I did building the thing. I still have the dxf files I created, so if anyone would like a copy of them to improve upon, let me know :D
 
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archangel.dmitry

Active Member
Sep 11, 2015
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I would rather put the drives on its side. It would allow to put about twice more drives.
It seems to me that the case is overkill for only 6 drives. Great work though.
 

pricklypunter

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Nov 10, 2015
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I agree, a rack mounted case for only 6 disks does seem a bit over the top, at first blush. However, the rack itself was only just about 400mm deep on the wall and a bit less than that internally. The disks had to be hanging off an existing small 1U server that was already mounted above. Plus I only had 2U left to play with, so even if I had wanted to put the disks on their sides, which would have been nice, I didn't have the space to do it. The project goal was to remove an old QNAP NAS with failing 1TB disks that was sitting on the floor below the rack, while at the same time, put forward a solution that was a bit more responsive, was more reliable, provided greater storage capacity and utilized the available space left in the rack to tidy things up a bit. Also there was only just barely enough money available in the budget to buy the parts I used. I had very limited time to get it done, so I made use of what materials and resources I could readily lay my hands on. It was I think, a unique challenge, which required an equally unique solution :D
 

William

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May 7, 2015
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Good to hear power on problem was a simple fix. Man I hate that when a build gets all put together and you hit the power button and nothing happens... argh !

Very nice build !!
 

CyberSkulls

Active Member
Apr 14, 2016
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I love posts like this. We all have these crazy ideas in our heads but very few of us (including myself) act on them.

All in all, a sweet case. Well done!!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

pricklypunter

Well-Known Member
Nov 10, 2015
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Cheers guys, much appreciated :)

Hopefully sharing some of my trips down the "rabbit hole" with the community, helps encourage other folks to pluck up the courage, have a go at something mad themselves and post about their experiences here for us all to enjoy :)
 
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