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A short series - the design and creation of a rugged Xeon class server #2

Posted by Clusters on


CAD, or Computer Aided Design, has come along way since it was first introduced in the late 1960's. At Tranquil PC we use the very latest 3D CAD software to 'design' and 'build' our products in a virtual world. The software we use is SolidEdge ST7 software from Siemens. It is very advanced and used by some of the world's largest engineering and manufacturing companies. 

Not only do we use the software to design our aluminium and sheet parts, we also design or import every single component used in the product, right down to the last washer. By designing products in this way, we can 'see' where any production assembly issues could occur, before we manufacture any single part. The CAD software is also used to give an accurate indication of each component and the overall mass of the product, this is especially important when a product has a 'maximum mass' limit, in the case of the MSC3M.

Further tools within the CAD software also allow the engineers to determine the effectiveness of the fanned or fan less cooling systems – again, before any part is manufactured.

CAD has proven to be a very powerful tool, as it provides the team with a very high level of confidence in the product characteristics before any single part is made. This drastically cuts down or product design cycles and material costs (waste). Although very powerful, it is constrained by the standard rules of software – “what you put in, is what you get out” – but with over 30 man years of expertise aligned to the design of fan less and specialised IT servers, our products are evolving at a high level.

The MSC3M itself, had a number of specialised components to design, beyond the standard server main board / RAM / CPU etc. The CPU blade, with embedded heat pipes and SSD bays was perhaps one of the most challenging. Over 350 hours of design and testing were applied to the 'blade' cooling alone.

The 'Blades'


The 'blade' itself starts life as a solid billet of aluminium which is then precision milled on all six surfaces. The resulting part is optimised to cool the main system parts, support 2x 2.5” SSDs, integrate to the main heat sink and contain all cabling etc., – in a single part only 35mm tall. This svelte design allows up to 5x 'blades' to be stacked sideways on a 40mm pitch, resulting in the MSC3M being remarkably 'thin'. There are actually 2 rows of 5 'blades' in the unit.

Once the 'blade' part was finished the main supporting heat sink, a huge 420x 292mm part with over 600,000 square mm of cooling area, was designed. This part not only supports all of the blades, it also supports the internal PSU, Smart Ethernet switch, fan controllers and other peripherals. It also is the main heat transfer component to remove heat from the CPUs on the blades (via the embedded heat pipes). Even though the blades are very close together the CPU temperatures even under 100% load are stable and safe - bearing in mind there is up to 500W of power being generated internally. 

CAD is also used to create the front and back panels, the shock absorbers and other custom components required for the product.

Once the entire assembly is built, from 1000's of components and has passed all of the engineering simulation tests, then the custom parts can then be processed in CAM (Computer Aided Manufacture).


In the CAM stage the types of cutting tools are selected and their paths created, to ensure that the final products are exactly as expected. The number of lines of 'code' that control the CNC mills generated in the CAM process can be 1000's and even 10,000's deep – one single mistake can lead to disaster – but with the advent of CAM, we rarely see code errors!

Now that we have completed the CAD/CAM stage the manufacturing team will start the cutting and finishing of the custom parts. It's normally in parallel that another team are working to ensure the product, once completed will 'look right' – this process known as 'photo realistic rendering' will be discussed in the next stage of the series.

In the next part of this series, we share the rendering process of the product design, using Luxion Keyshot

If you would like to know more about the MSC3M or wish to talk to us about a bespoke server cluster, please drop us a line. Or why not check out the MSC3M product page here

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