The Sun Sparc Lunchbox Speaker Fan "hack"

Here's a quickie way to improve airflow in a lunchbox unit, and all you have to do is give up your internal speaker. It's not like you're going to play MP3s through that 2 inch speaker anyhow. This hack works exceptionally well if you've got the unit on it's side, or in the vertical stand, as I now do.

A little fan and a sacrificial floppy disk...

I first removed the speaker from the IPX. Note the vent holes that allow the sound to go through. The soon-to-be-installed internal fan will push air out through these holes.

I first figured that a chipfan or small boxer fan would fit in the 2-inch speaker "hole", and provide additional cooling, or at least aid the convection cooling -- as the unit is on it's side, hot air rises, and this is it's easiest escape route. The fan should just "help" the air out through the vent holes as the hot air rises.

My first attempt at building a fan for this centered around getting the biggest fan I could squeeze into that space to fit -- thus, I used a fair-sized boxer fan that moved a lot of air. The bracket was built from "floppy" plastic -- I split a floppy, and trimmed it to size with scissors. I then glued the boxer fan to the plastic bracket.

It worked great except for one little problem. I couldn't get the top of the IPX back on! I had neglected to measure how much the top of the case "intersects" with the lower half of the case. Alas! I had to start all over again, with a smaller fan. (If you look inside the top half of the lunchbox case, you'll note that that are little plastic "spikes" one of which apparently locks the speaker into place -- and this piece was preventing the top from closing.)

Here's the second version, with a much smaller fan that (unfortunately) won't move as much air as I would have liked, but some airflow is better than none. This fan is actually smaller than a 40mm "chipfan", this is a 30mm fan from those "cool your HD" fan/bracket contraptions that some PC suppliers sell. Any good PC store should have these, if not, an online search via Google for "30mm fan" can probably net you suppliers.

Note that with this version, I made use of the existing "floppy hole" in the diskette plastic, and added small screws to hold the fan. Since this fan is also 12v, it was easy to patch this into the existing 12v supply going to the HD, so when I power on the machine, the fan spins, and blows hot air out of the top (or side) of the machine.

If you are making this yourself, make sure to note the direction of airflow -- you want the fan to blow OUT, and NOT suck air into the machine. Usually, tiny arrows are inscribed on one side of the fan housing, indicating the direction the blade spins and the direction of the airflow.

Looking back at the hack in 20/20 hindsight, if I had mounted the fan at an angle instead of square, I might have been able to push it further down without it jamming against the ROM in the IPX. I also could have slightly modified the top half of the case to have allowed the use of a 40mm fan.

I have a bigger, badder fan hack planned for the future, but it's going to involve cutting the metal around the floppy bay, and cutting a hole in the plastic case -- and I don't have the tools for that yet. In the meantime, if you're looking for a just a little more airflow through your Lunchbox Sparc, this could be the trick, and all you have to give up is your internal speaker. And yes, this will still work even if you have the Lunchbox on it's feet.

Just make sure you've given the machine some room on that side for it to "breathe". Don't jam the machine into a corner, or the air won't have anyplace to go even when it's being pushed by the fan.

Here's a approximate 72dpi "template" for making the bracket part of the fan mount from the underside half of a 3.5 inch floppy disk shell.

As with any hack project, there are no guarantees, and as always, "Your Milage May Vary". If you find this helpful, great. If your lunchbox is loaded with cards, ram, a hot HD and sits in a hot space, then this may give the machine a little more life.