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Scratch Build – In Progress Black Dwarf

Discussion in 'Project Logs' started by Stealth, 28 Apr 2010.

  1. Stealth

    Stealth New Member

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    Introduction

    The hard drive is one piece of technology that has advance pretty clearly over time. What was once a massive machine capable of holding only a few megabytes of data is now a device small enough to fit in the palm of your hand- with enough room to hold every video and picture you've ever taken. Most people will likely never fill the 500gb or 1tb drives that you'll find in your average store bought computer, and to some the very existence of a 2tb hard drive seems excessive. But for me, 2tb can barely hold one of my "case mod build video" projects. Add to that a considerable library of HD movies, music, and other data and the appeal of a single, large device to throw your files onto should be clear.

    This project is all about having storage space. I wanted a very low powered system running 24/7 and, like the stellar remnant from which it derives its name, for it to run cool and contain a mass completely unprecedented for its size. I'd say a 1.6ghz Intel Atom, 2gb of Ram, and over 16tb of storage in a case no bigger than a shoe box accomplishes this quite well. This is the Black Dwarf.

    Construction

    The plan was simple: put as many 3.5" hard drives as I could along with a system to control them in as small a package as possible. I also wanted it to be some sort of raid array for redundancy, and deciding that 4 drives would not be enough, I realized I needed a board with an expansion card slot for a raid controller. After looking at various Mini ITX options I happened across a form factor I had never seen before over at LogicSupply.com. The Quanmax KEEX-2030 is a 3.5" (or ECX) board powered by an Intel Atom N270 with a PCI Express x4 slot.

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    The open slot would be filled with a HighPoint Rocket RAID 2680 8 Port Sata/SAS raid controller card from Newegg.com. This system would mainly be storing files over the network, so this relatively low performance controller was an acceptable choice considering its very small size.

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    The motherboard had an onboard power supply, however powering the 8 3.5" hard drives would require more juice than what the lone SATA power cable the board offered could provide- so I got an addition Serener 120w DC-DC PSU that would be powered through an external AC adapter, both courtesy of Logic Supply.

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    In addition to being tasked with storing huge amounts of files on the systems 8 3.5" drives this computer would also be running 24/7 running sharing files on Bit Torrent. For this I would give it 2 additional 2.5" hard drives to be controlled through the motherboards built-in SATA controller. The drives would be ordered later and for construction I would use dead disks.

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    And for memory Crucial hooked me up with a 2gb DDR2 SODIMM which mounts to the underside of the board.

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    The last big component I decided to include was a Matrix Orbital display. The system would be running headless, so I figured this would be perfect to quickly monitor it's status.

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    Pre-visualization for this project included carefully stacking the parts on my workbench followed by a very crude drawing with some numbers. The replacement 3.5" hard drives would be low power, 5400rpm drives, allowing me to stack them relatively close together in the case.

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    The next step was to create the internal panels that the hard drives would mount to. I chose aluminum also to help dissipate heat from the hard drives, and cut the pieces out with my jigsaw.

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    The main exterior panels would be made from steel with a clear lid. I first cut the bottom panel and fixed some motherboard stand-offs on one end. This was followed by the two side panels, and a small piece on the top that would later mount the buttons and hard drive LED's. The pieces were then welded together.

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    A thick piece of aluminum was then cut and mounted to the back of the rear-most hard drive via the drives mounting threads. This would close off the back compartment where the computer components would be to both channel air properly past the hard drives and also serve to secure the hard drive assembly to the case body. This was done by cutting and tapping small steel tabs that were then welded in place.

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    The front panel would need to be removable to allow the large hard drive assembly to be put into place. It also would need to have some detailed cutting done as it would also be the faceplate to the Matrix Orbital display. For this reason I decided to also make this piece out of aluminum, cutting it out with a scroll saw, and then filing it to fit the display. Tabs were then welded to secure it to the body.

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    As I moved onto the main computer compartment I started by cutting a small piece of steel to match the small auxiliary PSU board. I then attached some steel stand-off screws and welded the screws in place onto the body. Another sandoff was also used to secure the RAID controller to the case in the same fashion.

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    To make cutting detailed holes easier I again chose aluminum for the back panel. Allowing proper clearance for the motherboard I fitted the panel and then cut a large 120mm hole for the thin (10mm) Scythe fan on the drill press using a large hole saw. Tabs were once again cut and welded to the main body to secure the back panel.

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    I then measured and cut out holes for the motherboard connectors on the jigsaw.

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    After mounting the motherboard and RAID controller I needed to cut a hole in the thick slanted plate that held the hard drive assembly in place in order to accommodate the SATA cables.

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    The 2 2.5" hard drives would be mounted to the opposite side of the slanted hard drive plate via some stand-off screws using the mounting threads on the underside of the drive. I cut a pair of small aluminum brackets to then gang the two drives together using their side mounting threads.

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    I then cut out a piece of aluminum to sandwich a mesh fan grill I bought to the back of the case.

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    I also used aluminum to fashion small feet for the system, which were cut out and filed, and then bent on the metal break. The feet would also help to secure the front and rear panels.

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    One of the most difficult parts to fabricate for this project would be the clear plastic cover to view the drives. I chose a piece of 3/16" thick Lexan due to the materials resistance to cracking and chipping when being machined. The first step was to cut a few strips, 2 for the sides and one for the top piece that would also be bent to be the front piece as well. The two side pieces were then cut to match the angle of the metal on the case.

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    I wanted the plexi to sit smooth with the rest of the body, but it also needed to overlap for it to look right and fit snug. I used a router table to rabbit the edges to accomplish this.

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    The top edges where the side and top pieces would be joined also had to be beveled on the router to fit together.

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    The next step was finding out exactly where to bend the top piece and bending it on the metal break. Lexan was a great choice for this reason as well, as it is able to be bent without worrying about heat or anything; it bends just like metal.

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    After trimming the top piece and rabbiting the front to fit snugly under the aluminum front panel a bit of sanding was required to get everything to fit together as tightly as possible. Finally the 3 pieces were glued together and clamped to dry.

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    The joints were not perfectly smooth and clear but that's ok as I wanted to round the corners out and would later paint strips across the edges.

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    I got a couple Lamptron switches that would be placed on the small top panel above the computer compartment. One was for the main power button for and the other was going to be a power switch to turn on and off just the 3.5" hard drive array. I also drilled 8 small holes for 5mm RGB LED's to monitor the 3.5" drives.

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    I decided that the system would need some easy access usb ports as another option to get files on and off the system. I purchased a couple long single usb header cables and was able to fit them to the front panel in between the drives and the very sides of the case.

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    Lastly I marked and cut some lines on the very bottom of the case where air would be able to enter and cool the system. These were cut with a cutting wheel and then filed smooth.

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    Most of the parts where then painted black, and many of the aluminum parts where simply sanded to give them a bit of an industrial look. I received the final hard drives from Newegg which included 8 2tb 5400 rpm drives. Wiring the system took some time due to the secondary mini-psu, as well as the led's for the RAID drive status, but once complete the system started up and ran without any problems.

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    Despite the close quarters, all the drives as well as the cpu maintain an acceptable temperature thanks to the solitary 120mm fan. The 8 2tb drives have been configure as a single volume raid 5, with 12.7tb of useable space. The entire system consumes less than 90 watts under load, and while the CPU jumps to around 80% when writing files to the raid array, performance wise the raid 5 will get the job done at about 88MB/s write and 266MB/s read.

    Final Product/Sponsors

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    And a big thanks goes out to my sponsors:

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    Specifications

    Quanmax Industrial KEEX-2030 Atom 3.5" Mainboard (Intel Atom N270)
    2GB Crucial DDR2 PC2-5300 SODIMM
    Highpoint RocketRAID 2680
    Serener 120w DC-DC PSU
    8x 2TB Western Digital Caviar Green 3.5" HDD
    320GB Western Digital Scorpio Black 2.5" HDD
    30GB OCZ Vertex Series SSD

    Videos

    With over 200 hours of footage totaling over 1.5tb, the Black Dwarf made for my biggest worklog video yet. In addition I have some other videos related to the project that will be added to the Black Dwarf youtube playlist.
    Watch here!
     
    matt... and The_Beast like this.
  2. craigbru

    craigbru Now... with more CNC!

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    Very cool project Will!
     
  3. Dahl1n

    Dahl1n New Member

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    This is Awesome :D
    I realy like the design!

    //Dahl1n
     
  4. Fabou

    Fabou New Member

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    This look awesome and is for sure a lot of memory.
     
  5. exexs

    exexs Member

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    Awesome! Great job!
     
  6. DeltaFX

    DeltaFX New Member

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    Yep :thumb: That's a hell of a high density server. I fear heat might be an issue, though.
     
  7. bigkingfun

    bigkingfun Tinkering addict

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    That looks very good.
    Nice worklog, and a very nice looking system.

    How did you wire the LED's for monitoring the drives?
     
  8. wormy

    wormy Member

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    big claps and great photos too :)
     
  9. Volund

    Volund Am I supposed to care?

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    fapfapfapfap

    Beautiful little device.

    Is the HDD rack removable, or at least easily accessible once you built the surround on it?
     
  10. SuicideNeil

    SuicideNeil New Member

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    Yeah, wouldnt mind a bit more info/ pictures/ diagrams for the wiring side of things?

    Awesome little server, I love the compactness and design ethic, reminds me of THESE, lol.
     
  11. Yslen

    Yslen Lord of the Twenty-Seventh Circle

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    great to see photos of work actually being done!
    nice work, but just wondering, how are the drive temps?
     
  12. bobisgod

    bobisgod New Member

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    for a bunch of hard drives, thats 1 sexy beast. I didn't know newegg sponsered modders though
     
  13. stonedsurd

    stonedsurd Is a cackling Yuletide Belgian

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    Great job! That's a very slick design and you pulled it off nicely :thumb:
     
  14. The_Beast

    The_Beast I like wood ಠ_ಠ

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    You've done what I've wanted to do for a while



    Great project, very well executed :thumb:
     
  15. skreenname

    skreenname SFF Forever

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    I didn't know Lexan would bend like that.
    I gotta try that.
     
  16. Stealth

    Stealth New Member

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    Thanks guys!
    The Highpoint raid card had a fault and activity led pin for each drive that I simply wired to the 8 rgb led's.
    If you want the video you can see how it all fits together. I don't really look forward to having to replace a dead drive but the drive assembly can be pulled out after removing the lid and the front panel.
    You're the second person who's brought those things up! I'd like to say they were my inspiration but I think i actually blocked those things out of my memory.
    I don't really have any more info or diagrams for the power. To briefly explain: That motherboard has a built in psu like many other itx motherboards where it has that 4 pin connector that goes to an extern ac-dc adapter. To power the additional 8 3.5" drives I had to bring in a second psu (the little serener designed for the pico itx boards in this case) and spliced it in to share the 12v power from the (upgraded of course) external power brick. I then cut the connector on the serener that would plug into the motherboard and fitted the 8 sata power connectors as well as a separate switch to manually power on/off those drives.

    Thanks - most of the work log part was actually just screen shots from the video- so if you havnt already check it out:
    Youtube Black Dwarf Playlist
    The temperature normally idle between 95-100f . During long transfers they're usually between 100-108, i think the highest I've seen is 112. From what I've read that seems to be acceptable.
     
  17. MikeMania

    MikeMania New Member

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    Wow, impressive video editing and camera work. Thoroughly enjoyed that.

    But more impressive is your mod, great work.
     
  18. Baekkel

    Baekkel Picky Picture Villian

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    That is pure clean and neat awesomeness!!!

    Very simply, and thus mayor effect!
    Great mod!
    Massive File-server :D

    (off-topic - What car is it that you can spot the right side off in picture 17 [bottumpanelcut.jpg] ?? )
     
  19. 500mph

    500mph The Right man in the Wrong place

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    I am impressed. You pulled off this mod well and it gets what it needs to do done.
     
  20. Blooddrunken

    Blooddrunken In Flames we Trust

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    Great job :thumb:
     

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