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poisonedantidote's avatar

How can I create a special custom made 100% dust free container for computing equipment?

Asked by poisonedantidote (21549 points ) September 30th, 2010

All my life I have dreamt of owning a supercomputer, and over the last few days I have been reading up on some of the latest hardware. I have been comparing the top of the range products to the first computer I had that I actually found impressive. Yes, I was actually once very impressed by a 166mhz CPU and an 80mb hard drive. Suffice it to say that the technology on sale now is magical by comparison. Processors with six cores, motherboards capable of holding four processors, 3tb hard drives, and all kinds of other amazing goodies.

In a years time the technology available will be even better, and if I start saving money now, next year I can treat my self to something really special. But it looks like the investment will be comparable with that of buying a new car. If I really am going to spend that kind of money, I don’t even want a single speck of dust getting in to it. Dust can make computers run less efficiently, or even totally destroy them. The oldest PC that I have here at home is about 2 years old, and is totally full of dust, I can’t let that happen to my dream computer. There are cleaning methods, but they can do more damage than good.

I will need to build a custom made container that houses the computer. The container will need to keep the computing equipment totally dust free, as well as cool and well ventilated. It will need to have access points for inserting DVDs and CDs, as well as exit points for cables. It will also need transparent points so I can see inside, or small cameras inside so I can see. Then you have things such as USB hubs that will need to be on it, and slots for cards and things.

Obviously I will have a full year to design the container, and while I do have engineering experience, I could really use some advice. Not only on making it functional, but real bad ass looking too.

So, how would you create a container like this? What materials could I use? What cooling systems are there that I could use? Etc…

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3 Answers

jerv's avatar

Dust free and well-ventilated are hard to combine unless you want an enclosure with many air filters and the maintenance that that entails. And if you need access to anything internal like putting a CD/DVD into a drive, or a card into a reader then you can forget it. I suppose you could go with external optical drives and a card reader, but those components would still be vulnerable.

If you want efficient CPU air-cooling, you will need to duct the CPU fan to such air directly from the exterior as opposed to circulate preheated air inside the case, but it sounds like you are leaning towards liquid cooling. Water cooling is your best option to keep your case clean, but then you’ll have to clean radiators. Trust me, that is no fun, and no easier than cleaning the CPU heatsink on an air-cooled system, though it is easier than cleaning the heatsink on most graphics cards. In the end, you will have a dusty mess somewhere though.

You will also need to move the power supply out of the case unless you want to build your own. They all have at least one fan, often two, and require a lot of air to move through them; enough that air filters will hurt the cooling more than a little dust could. And no, you can’t water-cool your PSU… unless you build a custom one.

Now, I work in a steel mill and there is enough dust and crap in the air sometimes to make visitors hack up a lung, so you think that the computer workstations we use for production tracking (normal PCs with no filters) would be pretty nasty inside, right? Nope! It surprised me a little too, especially the one near the sandblasting booth, right next to the debur station (enough metal dust that a paper facemask is recommended), but if those computers can run for years under those conditions then maybe you are overestimating the dangers of a bit of dust.

You also seem to be overestimating the dangers posed by a couple of half-second blasts of compressed air every month or three. The less often you do that though, the harder it is to clean when you finally do do it, and the more invasive those cleaning methods are with the resulrong increased risk of damage. By the same token, it’s a little bit of a hassle to change your oil every three months compared to never changing it at all, but multiple oil changes are less of a hassle than an engine rebuild/replacement. Keeping a clean-room environment is more expensive and maintenance intensive than just proper housekeeping.

Fortunately, making a badass-looking case is fairly easy.

poisonedantidote's avatar

@jerv thanks. yes, the ventilation thing is a problem indeed, im going to have to experiment with some filters. putting a dvd in the machine, im probably going to have to have external dvd drives. if they are vilnerable its ok i suppose, they are only a few bucks, its the cpu’s i want to protect, they will be a few thousand bucks to replace.

as for me overestimating the danger of dust, it is possible. but then again, maybe not, i do smoke. and i dont want to leave the pc each time i smoke, and looking at my oldest pc, its a real mess. plus, i live next to a big ass dirt parking lot.

my main worry is the cpu fans becoming clogged up and the cpu overheating and things like that. also it would be cool to give it some spill protection, and also, i partly want to do it just for the sake of being different too. i imagine the case being about the height of a pc tower, and about as wide as 8 towers (it will probably house 2 towers for lan games).

i am probably being way too cautious, but im thinking i can maybe get together a budget of 15k to 20k to spend on it. and while that is a lot of cash, i am by no means a rich guy, just a little crazy is all.

thanks for the answer, it helps… maybe i can get away with some kind of plexiglass case that shields it just a big, combined with a monthly cleaning or something.

jerv's avatar

I forgot to mention that. Smoking does bad things to heatsinks. It leaves a sticky residue that makes them impossible to clean since the dust is glued on. My lease doesn’t allow me to smoke inside so it’s never been an issue for me, but the worst cases I’ve seen were all smokers.

You probably need to have your PC elsewhere with long cables for an external optical drive. Let me think a little about it. I am at work right now and my breaks are short.

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