Exergy

Henry Build Log Overview

The Beginning

The start of it all…
The start of it all…

Where do you start, you start at the beginning, with the first liquid cooled computer we built in 2006. Since we’re all about reusing, recycling and repurposing, this unit was the perfect place to start building a computer that’s meant to break the rules. It looks like old tech today but it was pretty cool (or hot!) in its time.

Since I’m a fan of AMD I decided the only way to go was the 8-core AMD 8350 processor on a top-of-the-line Crosshair V Formula Z motherboard. To that we added 4 one terabyte SSDs running in RAID 0 and a three terabyte drive for local backups. To prepare the case, we coated it with a high temperature black paint, and then baked cured it.

The Graphics

Note the fins and machined cavities that are used to guide the coolant through the heat exchanger and harvest the heat.
Fins and machined cavities are used to guide the coolant through the heat exchanger and harvest the heat.

For graphics we went with six EVGA GTX 670 FTW cards because they have great overall performance and are quite rugged.

The core graphics array is made up of three graphics cards mounted directly to the motherboard. Water-cooled heat exchangers remove heat from the graphics processor by circulating coolant through them. The cards were all fitted with thermal transfer pads and a diamond thermal paste to help maintain contact between the card and the heat exchanger.

Two graphics cards were mounted to the exterior and plumbed with quick disconnect coolant lines and a mechanical pressure gauge to ensure quick visual indication of the cooling system’s internal pressure.

The Heat

After-cooler mounted to the rear of the case.
After-cooler mounted to the rear of the case.

Dual radiators were used to construct an after-cooler for the main cooling loop. We also sealed them to ensure that the powerful fans we were installing would draw the maximum amount of air across the fins.

The after-cooler was mounted after the storage tanks in the cooling loop series to ensure that the processors in the system stay just cool enough to survive. The coolant loop is constructed and routed to maximize the longevity of the individual parts, supplying coolant to the Northbridge, CPU and then all three GPUs in parallel.

The coolant is circulated with a variable speed, double pump setup that allows a good degree of flow control. It can move upwards of 45 gallons per hour through the cooling system.

The Koolance EXOS radaitor cools the secondary loop.
The Koolance EXOS radaitor cools the secondary loop.

This Koolance EXOS radaitor is mounted on top and cools the secondary loop. This unit ensures the RAM as well as North and Southbridge chipsets are kept cool enough to continue operating.

After a few initial 150° F heat runs, we added silver springs to the plastic tubing to prevent it from bulging. We also noticed a loss of internet connectivity, which meant an overheating Southbridge controller. Finding a heat exchanger for the Southbridge turned out to be a real problem because no one actually makes a device that fit our Southbridge chip without modification. After some machining, we got it to fit. We also ended up replacing the plastic tubing with silicon that can withstand temperatures up to 500° F.

The Data

We fabricated a mounting tray and bracket to hold two controllers back to back.
We fabricated a mounting tray and bracket to hold two controllers back to back.

We used the very sophisticated Aquero 6 controller to collect telemetry from the computer as it runs and controls all the fans, pumps and accessories of the system.

Since one controller just wasn’t enough to manage 60 fans, all our coolant pumps, 16 separate temperature sensors, lights and pressure and fluid levels, hacked together 2 Aquero 6 XT controllers. The controller is also set up to signal the computer for a hard shut down if there is problem.

The pump and fan circuitry get very warm running inside Henry, so we needed to add a cooling solution to keep the controllers alive. Wired and plumbed, this is a very cool device that will allow us a fine level of control over this computer’s important cooling and environmental systems.


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