The Sun Sparc Lunchbox Ultimate Fan Hack

For some time, I have been wanting to get a larger capacity HD into my webserver. 500MB may be okay for some people, but the amount of information here at "ObsolYte!" seems to grow on a regular basis, so obviously, more storage is required. I have a 2GB HD ready to go, but it is a Seagate Barracuda drive, and it'll probably run way too hot to work comfortably in the IPX. So, the challenge was on to build the biggest fan mod yet so far to this machine.

I'd previously hacked in small "chip fan" type fans to move some extra air around, but the idea here was to have tornado type airflow for maximum cooling power. Once installed, I could remove all the other smaller fans as they would no longer be necessary.

If you're going to put a hot HD inside your lunchbox, give up your floppy drive for this cooling modification. It will REQUIRE that you sacrifice ever mounting an internal floppy drive again.

Step 1: Modify the Steel Chassis

hd and floppy tray Don't worry, not all the photos are this crummy. This first image shows the steel cage that holds the floppy and HD removed from the plastic body of the top half of the IPX. To remove it, you just have to completely remove the center screw between the chassis and the power supply, and then gently lift upward, from the end that butts up against the power supply (the front half is held by plastic tabs, make sure you don't break those!).

Circled in the above photo is the floppy tray. The HD tray will remain untouched, so that the seagate drive can still be mounted internally. weldsThe tray that is the floppy part is actually welded to the rest of the steel chassis, and needs to be broken off so we can get to the area we are going to cut a hole through for the fan.

However, much to our shock, those little welds are considerably tougher than they look. trying to melt a weld A torch didn't melt them -- all it did was warp the metal after it got really hot. We were eventually forced to cut and hacksaw and pry it off. This is unfortunately, a much messier solution than the blowtorch, and some time was spent filing and re-hammering everything back into shape so it would fit back into the plastic case.

what a mess! So, with the help of my brother (he has all the nifty power tools), we got started with the cutting process. It was very messy, first using a large wire cutter to try and snap off, twist and bend, and just generally pry loose, the first weld -- everything after that would be easier once we got some "wiggle room".

Power Tools Rule!
Sawzall Now we brought out the heavy artilery to try and cut through the metal. Like I said, I would have preferred to melt off the weld, but that was not to be -- instead, we were forced to use *loud* power tools. The tool of choice here is a Milwakee Sawzall - an industrial strength electric knife that pushes a sawblade back and forth at high speed.

After cutting through the two outer welds, simply wiggling the upper "plate" up and down allowed the two inner welds to loosen and the whole thing popped out fairly easily.

first part done With the first stage completed, i.e. the removal of the "plate" the floppy screws into (and also acts as a guide for the power cables), we now looked at the four punched "holes" that make the tabs that also hold the floppy. We were pretty sure that all we needed to do was "connect the dots" and cut a square hole using each tab hole as a starting point for the cut.

careful! Now came the scariest part of the entire operation: Even with the chassis gripped tightly in a vise and a few other safety precautions, the thing rattled and shook, and looked like it might tear off the Sawzall blade as we attempted to cut through the steel. This is where I'd like to point out the following:

If you do not know what you're doing with power tools, do not even attempt this!!!!

My brother is a professional - if you attempt this with little or no experience using these kinds of tools, you could seriously injure yourself or even lose parts of yourself that might not work so well after they are re-stitched on by a doctor!

hole is cut Okay, so here is the finished product of the cutting process. As you can see, we cut from hole to hole, creating a square cut-out that is big enough to allow a boxer fan to pass through.

Now we were ready to modify the plastic case of the IPX -- ready to cut the "blowhole", where the fan pushes out hot air, and ready to drill 4 little holes to screw the fan to the case.

checking so far However, I was concerned that with all the torching, twisting, prying, and sawing, we might have warped or destroyed the chassis to the point that it would no longer fit in the case -- fortunately, everything went back together quite easily, and now you can see the progress thus far.

I urge you to check and recheck your work as you progress through this modification. Remember that Sparc Lunchboxes are pretty tightly designed to start with, and there isn't much margin for error -- if the pieces don't fit back together when you're done, you'll be spending much time trying to re-hammer everything back into shape.

Step 2: Modify the Plastic Case

drilling With power supply and drive chassis removed again from the top half of the lunchbox, we proceeded to start drilling the first hole -- the "blowhole" through which the air will pass through. After making sure we were centered in the cutout we had made, and that the fan fit in the square hole, we made an initial cut and then checked again, because screwing up here would really make it look bad.

Make sure that the drill's hole-cutting sawblade is the same size or smaller than the diameter of the chosen boxer fan. You can always make it a half millimeter wider with a file after you've cut the hole, but if you've made the hole too big, you cannot put plastic back in!

hole We drilled an approximately 2-1/4" diameter hole for an approximately 2-3/8" diameter fan. Rather than cutting through completely on one side, we cut through halfway on the underside, and halfway on the topside, so the end result would look cleaner. With a little more cleanup with a file, the result is a clean, circular "blowhole" for the boxer fan.

fan for placement Once again, using the boxer fan itself for placement, we now needed to determine and drill the four fan mounting holes. I'll be using a steel fan-guard on the topside, and run bolts through that, through the case, through the fan, and bolt them on the underside. I might also need to use some foam tape to seal around the edge where the fan meets the case itself.

complete Here are the completed four holes. As each hole was drilled through the case, we ran a nail through fan's mounting hole to hold it while we lined up the next hole. Again, we were using a drill bit slightly smaller than the holes in the fan itself. When we had 3 nails holding the fan steady, we drilled the fourth hole and we were done.

Step 3: Bringing it all together

plate and hole Now you should be able to see what all the work thus far is coming to, and how it all fits together. The fan sits where the floppy was, bolted to the plastic case. But there's enough of the steel chassis left to reduce RF emissions and hold and protect the hard drive.

The fan itself isn't any deeper than a floppy drive, so it won't interfere with any ram or SBUS cards that might be underneath the area once occupied by the floppy. The fan is also situated far enough away from the front of the case that it won't just suck air through the floppy slot and up and out, but actually pull hot air off the motherboard and hopefully, off the ram and HD as well.

test fit At this point, I once again test fitted everything together, making sure that the top half and bottom half continued to work as a pair and that I hadn't damaged anything to the point of not being able to ever use this machine again.

By now, it should be obvious that if you operate your lunchbox with a monitor ontop of the case, this hack isn't for you! However, if you use a monitor to the side, or don't use a monitor at all, then you're going to wind up with a much cooler-running Lunchbox machine. Just get used to the idea of never again having a floppy drive.

fan installed With a test fitting of the boxer fan, you can see that by this point, all I pretty much need to do is connect the power and I'm done. I'll probably try and get a nice fan guard to attach from the topside so it looks nice. I've made sure that the bolts I'm using are long enough to accommodate the thickness of the fan guard, the plastic case, pass all the way through the fan itself and can be bolted in nice and tight from the opposite end. If the fan makes too much vibration noise, I'll disassemble the hole thing and put down a thin layer of sticky-foam tape between the fan and the inside of the case to dampen the vibration.