Enterprise Air Blocker Solution Case Study
When a US-based data center company was developing a new line of servers, they knew that ensuring a proper flow of air was crucial to performance and longevity. They needed a custom component to help block and direct airflow in order to prevent cool air from being wasted and ensure no hot air was seeping back into the system. Having relied on Boyd’s material science expertise for a number of successful past projects, they approached Boyd for help.
Data Center Builder/Operator
Data Center Servers
Server Air Gap Filler Challenge
As the customer was a leader in the Enterprise space, this data center company had stringent requirements for what materials could be used for the filler. The filler needed to meet a V0 flame rating, the best possible flame retardancy possible per UL 94 Classifications. The material needed to be converted to the unique geometry of the server given the large size of the areas that required gap filling. Depending on which material was chosen, the customer would also need to find the best way to install the filler within the system. Finally, the material had to be cost efficient, even when converted into the size necessary for the application.
Server Air Gap Filler Solution
Boyd’s engineers began by evaluating different possible materials in tandem with the customer. Initial trials began with a silicone-based foam. While this easily met the necessary V0 flame rating, the large part size caused the foam to be quite expensive to convert based on raw material costs. In addition, due to the silicone construction, expensive custom adhesives or cumbersome mechanical fasteners would be necessary to affix the component inside the server. The customer also tried Polyester-based foams, which were significantly less expensive, but were unable to meet the necessary flame rating.
The customer also tried fabricating the air blocker out of sheet metal to lower costs and eliminate flammability concerns. This seemed like an effective, inexpensive solution, but they quickly found that the metal could hold static charge, which could lead to shorts within the system and equipment failure.
Boyd’s engineers introduced the customer to SOLIMIDE® foam after further experimentation. SOLIMIDE® is a lightweight, open-celled polyimide foam with unique thermal properties that had been successfully implemented in similar applications in the past. While this easily exceeded the flammability requirements, the customer did have reservations about the ability to cost-effectively convert the material into the necessary design. Boyd’s engineers created prototypes with the SOLIMIDE® foam in the exact required dimensions to help alleviate these concerns.
The SOLIMIDE® prototypes were immediately implemented in the servers and met all of the project requirements. The lightweight construction of SOLIMIDE® also allowed the filler to be adhered with an inexpensive low-surface energy (LSE) adhesive, which saved cost and made the installation process significantly simpler.
Server Air Gap Filler Results
Combining comprehensive material selection with our expertise in material science, design, and precision converting, Boyd was able to provide our customer with a complete, ready-to-go air gap filler solution. The SOLIMIDE® filler has since found its way into enterprise data centers across the US.
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