Making the decision to build a custom chassis for an application usually happens after an extensive search for the right commercially available option reveals that all existing off-the-shelf chassis are lacking some key features your system needs. Though typically inexpensive at first glance, the hidden cost of most off-the-shelf chassis is in their “one size fits many” approach to design that does not work well for numerous applications.
Instead, a custom option can often provide design flexibility with the ability to optimize costs. More specifically, custom chassis can maximize storage, minimize rack footprint, are tailored to the appearance of existing system components, and incorporate custom controls and mounting features to integrate with the system seamlessly as needed. But, even if a custom design truly is the best option to address the needs of an application, if the design process for a custom chassis is convoluted and difficult, organizations may shy away from this option.
A STREAMLINED, YET FLEXIBLE, DESIGN PROCESS
To ensure quality, efficiency, and simplicity, General Technics uses a design process to develop custom chassis based on the traditional stage-gate model for product development. This involves the following key steps:
- Conceptual Phase: A great custom design all begins with the seed idea, which our experts will help you grow by discussing key questions to determine your projects goals, constraints, and challenges. After developing an understanding of your project and our role, we will sketch some ideas and overview drawings for your initial feedback.
- Modelling Phase: With physical samples and manufacturer drawings, we will create accurate 3D models of your system’s unique components. We will assemble these along with items from our existing model library to layout your system with dimensional precision. We focus on optimizing the layout for cooling, noise, and cost considerations, and also to ensure the system is easy to assemble and maintain. From this layout, support structures will take shape, and we can show the progress and goals met with overview drawings and realistic renderings.
- Detailing Phase: This phase involves fully detailing the model with threaded holes, fasteners, hardware, mounting posts, and molded parts and nudging the part edges into their final locations. We will then create a set of detailed dimensional drawings and documentation for fabrication and send them to our factory and vendors for quoting.
- Fabrication and Testing: As soon as the first prototypes are delivered, we inspect them, resolve any issues, and send them on to you. It is common for last minute modifications and improvements to be made to the design based on the physical prototypes. In fact, it’s the reason prototypes are made. We want to be absolutely sure you are happy with the design before we finalize the production version.
- Production and Delivery: After tweaking the design to perfection, your custom chassis is ready for a full quantity production order. While we don’t set a minimum quantity, there are clear cost savings to producing larger volumes. For example, setup time and factory optimization can be spread out over the entire job, reducing the cost per unit. If you are taking advantage of our expert integration services, we will also warehouse your custom chassis, assemble and test each of your systems, and package them for final delivery.
At General Technics, we truly believe your custom design should meet or exceed each of your criteria and support every feature on your wish list, which we know we can achieve by following our tried and true design process.
THE CHIME PROECT: A REAL-WORLD EXAMPLE OF CUSTOM CHASSIS DEVELOPMENT
The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) is a collaborative project that involves the creation of an innovative telescope with a one-of-a-kind half-cylinder design and ultra-wide frequency range. This application has unique performance and system requirements such as liquid cooling of the compute clusters, packaging requirements of 4 GPUs, a Quad 10 GbE network card, and ease of accessibility for repairs, that put constraints on the design of the system’s chassis.
By using the design process detailed above, General Technics worked with the three organizations involved in the CHIME project to create 266 units of a custom chassis with the following unique features:
- Non-standard eight-card slots to support more double-width cards
- Liquid cooling with a unique drainage spout
- Extra-high mounting of power supply and system boards
- Large triple fan radiator on the intake with a full front panel grill
- Extra-short chassis depth and a quick release lid for easy access
What can we help you deliver? Contact us today with ideas to get started.