Introduction: Duct Tape 20 Sided Computer Server
First Prize in the
Duct Tape Tough Contest
A D20 is a 20-sided die often used in role playing games like D&D. Geometrically, it is an icosahedron, consisting of 20 triangular sides.
It may seem that sticking server computer components inside is completely random and unnecessary, but this was in fact a machine which we would hook to the LAN and run games (like Team Fortress 2) and apps like Teamspeak and a live video stream. Computer components generate heat which can be a challenge for adhesives, and everything would need to remain structurally sound for at least the 4 day duration of the summer LAN. As it turned out, it held up for weeks.
Here's a look at the finished product:
Step 1: Planning
We started with some rough planning. The motherboard was the largest component we'd put in the structure, so it dictated the general size. We aimed at putting the power supply at the bottom and the motherboard in the center. We weren't going for the most compact design possible, but rather something symmetric and decent looking.
The nice thing about an icosahedron is that it's just a series of triangles, which are easy to build and are naturally a sturdy shape. Once we had an idea of the interior space we needed, we figured out the length of the leg of any triangle and got started.
Step 2: Sheets and Tubes
We decided to frame the entire structure from very sturdy tubes of duct tape. To make the tubes we first made a thick duct tape skin by laying down overlapping strips. After the first layer, we'd go over it again with another layer perpendicular to the first. After that, we'd peel up the two-ply sheet, flip it sticky side up, and repeat the process.
Once we had a four-ply sheet, we'd roll it up as tight as possible. Once rolled, we spiral wrapped another layer of tape from one end to the other. When finished the tube was very strong and about an inch in diameter! Just to go a step further - the tubes were usually slightly hollow at the center - we stuffed tiny scraps of duct tape to fill the tubes to add a little more rigidity.
A group of us spent a few nights just mass producing tubes like this.
Step 3: Making Triangles
With nightstick-like tubes of duct tape, we started to build up the structure. It was a relatively simple matter of making a triangle and taping the corners together.
As things progressed we found that our tubes were not all exactly the same length, and that little differences would start adding up and distort our shape. The first few tubes were cut to length with a utility knife, but it was really tough chopping through nearly a solid inch of tape. We also realized that the tubes would look much nicer if they were mitered to fit snuggly together at each corner.
We looked at each other and knew what must be attempted...
we had to use a miter saw on our duct tape!
It worked like a charm! *
* Your mileage may vary. Use appropriate caution. Also be prepared to end up with a very gummy saw blade (and maybe more) when you're finished.
Step 4: More Structure
Construction continued from the bottom - up. The bottom face had an extra inner triangle added to support the computer's power supply.
After the bottom half came together, we made a large internal triangle to help support the shape and to hold our motherboard.
As the last of the sides were added, some more tubes were added inside for bracing. At this point, before adding any computer components, the structure was a hefty 20+ pounds of nothing but duct tape!
Step 5: Putting in the Computer Components
Turning the D20 into a computer from just a duct tape sculpture was pretty straightforward. The power supply and hard drive were mounted on the bottom face. The motherboard was mounted in the center. We attached one large fan to a side panel made from tape.
As for cosmetics we added a red cathode tube for a little light inside. And for even more needless bling, we charlieplexed a bunch of red LEDs (one mounted at each corner) and programmed them to randomly flash.
The specs of the machine are pretty low end (we used old gear for the build), but it was plenty to handle its tasks. If you're curious:
* Pentium P4 3.0 GHz
* Intel SFF Motherboard
* 2GB DDR2 RAM
* 80GB SATA HDD
* 475W PSU
* 1 120mm LED fan (rear)
* 1 92mm fan (cpu)
Step 6: Finishing Touches
We finished the build by adding some faces made from translucent duct tape. Other sides were left open so people could have a clear view inside.
Remember EVERYTHING that's not electrical is duct tape, anything else would be like cheating to us. Even the letters and numbers we added were cut from red duct tape.
The final tally was a whopping 22 rolls of tape and about 127 man-hours went into this thing. We prefer not to think of the dollar amount behind that - we don't use cheap tape either - but then again it's not everyday you build a 3-foot wide duct tape D20!
We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.