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Winnipeg, Manitoba

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IKEA cheap renderfarm update: Remember that thing i did? Maybe don't do that thing

Patrick Letourneau



So, I stuffed a bunch of computers in tiny drawers with stock coolers. As it turns out, Intel don't equip stock heatsink setups with much overhead for low ventilation areas. Who would have thought? Time for the cheap render farm, part 2

Initial tests with the helmer renderarm were within parameters, hitting 79c on the hottest core on average. Thermal management kicks in at 100c, so i had some headroom.... some.

Eventually though, temps on long term renders were hitting the low-mid 80s C. This left me a very small margin should anything go wrong, and made it hard to sleep during overnight renders. I realize that thermal throttling should technically prevent damage, but do i really want to take any chances? Not really. I also assumed that a thermal event halt any render in progress, which is not cool on client jobs.  I looked into low profile coolers, but none of them are made for 100% CPU usage for 100+ hours at a time.

So i built some spreadsheets, looked at moving to ITX cases,  which would mean new motherboards and fresh OS installs. No thanks. Eventually i found the Fractal Core 1000 case, which is small, made for Micro ATX, and can fit the big fat tower coolers i so desperately need.

What i end up with is surprisingly close to the Helmer in volume, almost as small in footprint, and very friendly to the coming GPU rendering revolution. I'm down from 3 fans to a single 120mm in each unit, so i can't even tell when they're on, and they haven't gone above 60c in render. Cost per node was only about $60 as the cases were nice and cheap at the time. I now render with impunity. In the end, i spent a few dozen hours grinding metal and making a huge mess for nothing. But now you wont have to in order to setup a good, cheap renderfarm.


Banana for scale

Banana for scale

Not bad

Not bad