I designed this cluster case in my own spare time, with no financial sponsorship and very little help. Additionally, at this phase, little testing has been performed regarding the long-term viability of my design as a serious platform for distributed software development. As such, these instructions are provided “as-is”, with no warranty expressed or implied.
I do not have the time or financial resources to provide technical support, training, or any other resources to support anyone’s attempt to build one of these. It is a very difficult build, which could take even a very experienced maker a lot of time to complete. I do not recommend it as your first soldering or laser cutting project.
Consider all of this before taking on this build.
You may need to improve your skills in these areas before you take on this project.
- CNC laser cutter safety and operation
- DC power systems
- Precision drilling
Buy or gain access to what you don’t already own.
- CNC laser cutter
- The cutting bed will need to be a minimum of 18″ x 24″ in size for this project, but 2’x3′ is better.
- Network cable crimper
- Acrylic cement applicator
- Rotary tool
- Drill press and drill bits
- In this project, you only need these for drilling holes in circuit boards.
- Digital caliper
- Soldering iron (and solder)
- Hot glue gun with glue
- You’ll only need it if you have to glue the USB-to-SATA adapters back together. Don’t go out and buy one until you’re sure you need it.
- X-ACTO knife
- Utility knife
- Wire stripper
- Emery boards
The parts I list here are generally the exact same parts I used, but not always. Sometimes, I was able to get a suitable part for my own build for free. Or the part I used is no longer made. In such cases, I have done my best to link to a suitable substitute part.
- Raspberry Pi (40)
- 3 mm (1/8″) acrylic (12 of 2’x2′ pieces)
- 6 mm (1/4″) acrylic (2 of 2’x2′ pieces)
- The quantities provided above are rough estimates, based on what I believe is a reasonable amount of waste for an experienced maker. You will need more if you waste more material.
- You will save yourself a lot of trouble by using a good US-made cast acrylic. Talk to your supplier about what they recommend for use with a laser cutter.
- Acrylic cement (1 pint)
- Assorted zip ties (1000)
- In stores like Walgreens, I typically see assortments of zip ties that are about 500 to a pack for about $5 in value bins. You should look for an assortment of colors of the small zip ties and an assortment of sizes of larger white ties within the same pack. Get a couple packs like this and you’re set.
- Single-sided 8×10 copper-clad boards (2)
- The material I used was slightly different, but I believe what I linked above will work fine.
- 4-pin fan extension cable (1)
- Use as the cable for the power switch.
- 4-pin fan connectors (5)
- SATA connectors (3)
- 4-pin right angle Molex disk drive connectors (4)
- I bought off-brand connectors and I’m still sorry I did. The landing pattern may be slightly different on the real Molex connector I linked above.
- 6-pin right angle PCI-E connectors (4)
- Horizontal USB ports (12)
- Vertical USB ports (8)
- Mouser’s price on this connector is pretty ridiculous. Use the pictures to verify that you’ve found the right thing elsewhere. eBay is a good place to look.
- Jumper block (1)
- 2.54 mm Header pins (4)
- 3′ Micro USB cables (50)
- Buy cables with tips that can be removed (i.e., not a molded tip) so the cable can be shortened. I recommend buying these cables, which can be found on eBay. They’ll cost about $10 per pack of 10.
- A quantity 50 is recommended because you’re likely to ruin a couple in the process of shortening them. Just try not to ruin 2 of the same color.
- Yellow jacketed power wire (5 ft)
- Black jacketed power wire (5 ft)
- To get my yellow and black jacketed wire, I cut some of the wires from a bad PC power supply. Really, you could probably use about any stranded wire that will carry at least 2A.
- Ethernet cable tips (200)
- I had the best luck with Eltop brand, but the provided link may not give you those.
- Colorful ethernet cable (10)
- White Pink Fuchsia Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Purple Black
- Belkin cables seemed to work best for me. However, they don’t make an acceptable fuchsia, so I linked the alternative cable that I used.
- Expect to use up to 15′ per color if you don’t waste much, but less for the colors that mount lower in the rack.
- If you’re not sure you can pack all the cables in the provided space (it’s pretty difficult), consider using 4-conductor twisted pair cable instead.
- Ethernet jacks (6)
- Ethernet inline coupler (1)
- Buck converter modules (32)
- Use the provided link to see what they look like, but these are all over eBay and you can get them for less than $2.50 there. To get them at that price, you’ll probably have to order them from China and wait a few weeks for them to arrive.
- ATX Power supply (1)
- I used a Kingwin AP-550, but this one is getting difficult to find. You may need to use something else. If I do any tests regarding what other PSUs will work with this case design, I’ll post about it here.
- Extra-long power supply screws (4)
- They just need to be at least 2.5 mm longer than standard case screws. Otherwise, same thing.
- Power switch (1)
- You’ll need one that needs roughly a 15 – 16 mm mounting hole if you don’t want to modify my case design for it to fit.
- 140 mm fans (4)
- I bought, the Cougar CFD14HB, which is available in green, blue, grey, and orange, but recommend looking for a different fan, because it was a pain to try to seal these off because of their anti-vibration pads. If I were doing this again, I’d probably try the AeroCool Shark 140 mm. However, I can’t guarantee that it will fit without modifying my harness design.
- Standard M5*10 fan screws (24)
- These should come with your fans if you’re buying them new.
- M5*15 fan screws (16)
- These just need to be at least 5 mm longer than standard fan screws, so M5*16 or M5*18 are also fine.
- 80 mm fans (2)
- If you choose a different 80 mm fan, you’ll need two fan splitter cables.
- I recommend holding off on buying these. See Known Issues for details.
- Black posterboard (3 sheets)
- WD10JPVT (0 to 12)
- The case can hold up to 12 drives, but initially you don’t need to put any drives in it at all. I recommend building the rest of the cluster first and adding drives on an as-needed basis afterward, as the drives are a significant expense and they generally get cheaper over time.
- Use the WD10JPVX if it’s cheaper, because it’s just a faster version of the same drive.
- Watch for the availability of 1.5 TB and 2 TB drives that will fit this case.
- USB hard drive adapters (12)
- SD cards (40)
- I recommend a minimum of 4 GB for each SD card. 8+ GB would probably be better if you intend to install software that needs a lot of space or if you intend to do distributed storage stuff, such as Hadoop.
- Linksys EF4124 (2)
- The EF4124 regularly shows up on eBay for $20-$30 apiece. With modification, this project could also be done with 3 of the Linksys EF2116. However, the final build would be about 3.5 cm taller and several modifications would need to be made to the case design. I recommend just using the EF4124.
- Cisco/Linksys WRT310N v1 (1)
- If you buy it through the eBay search link I provided, ask the seller which version it is before purchasing it.
- I recommend using the Cisco WRT310N v1, since I provide a card design which should be compatible with the board from it. However, the space provided for a router should allow enough flexibility that, if you want to design your own card, you could use nearly any small consumer-grade router. When I complete designs for cards for other routers, I’ll post files for them as well.
|1. What You Need||2. Circuit Boards|