Introduction: Ammo Box Drive Enclosure
Concept and Design
For a long time now I've been pondering how to manage my growing inventory of external hard drives. I didn't want to shell out over $200 for a ready-made enclosure and liked the idea of fabricating my own. I got the itch.
Before - In the first photo you can see my current collection scattered in a lower desk file cabinet... a rat's nest of cables, power supplies, a power strip and a powered USB hub. I can't seem to find anything. Not a great way to store them. But that's all about to change...
My new idea is to arrange them in a way to-
- mount them in some sort of container for easy transport
- condense the space they take up
- organize the wiring for easy replacement or troubleshooting
- locate all the controls and input plugs at one centralized location
After - The second photo shows the results of this project and it checks all the boxes.
Let's break it down in the following steps..
Step 1: Select and Modify a Container
I measured a lot, thought about everything involved and finally settled on a metal ammo box for 5.56mm rounds that I had in inventory and was crying out for repurposing.
- Components - It had to hold all the components and drives arranged in a way to provide maximum usability
- Cooling - it had to hold at least 2 full size cooling fans from an old PC to provide adequate cooling
- Connections - all the connections needed to be soldered and include quick connects for drive removal
- Power - it had to have enough power to run 4 drive and 2 fans.
Photo 1: Metal ammo can
Photos 2 & 3: Drilling holes for the fans
Photo 4: Cutting air vent holes in the sides and bottom
Photos 5, 6 & 7: Using a overhead light diffusing panel for screening
Step 2: Test Fit the Fans, Paint the Box and Screens
Test Fit the Fans -
Photos 1 & 2: I used 2 full size PC case fans that run at medium speed. I didn't want high speed fans unless necessary due to the excess noise factor. These worked out fine. The front fan pulls in cool air and the top fan exhausts hot air out.
Photos 3, 4, 5 & 6: I painted the fan blades a light gray acrylic, the fan grills and drive support brackets black, the screens camo green with a coat of gloss varnish and the case got camo desert tan with a clear coat of gloss varnish.
Step 3: Mount the Fans, Screens, Switch, Power Socket and USB Port
Mount the Fans -
Photo 1 & 2: The lid fan just fits inside the lips of the lid and has a quick connect plug in case I need to remove the lid.
Mount the Screens -
Photo 3 & 4: The screens are mounted with hot glue for now but I'll used epoxy later if they come loose.
Mount the Rest -
Photo 5: Here's a shot of the front panel with a female 110vac recessed plug left, a double ended female USB 3.0 plug center (link below) and an off/on switch to the right.
Step 4: Power
USB Connections -
Photo 1: In order to get the drives connected and working in such a small space, I searched for some short SATA to USB 3.0 adapters and found these on Ebay (link Below). I also needed a 4 port USB 3.0 hub that was slim enough to fit between the hard drives and the side of the case. I used a Sabrent 4-Port Powered USB 3.0 Hub from Amazon (link below). I had to make sure that these USB adapters and the hub would fit around the drives and still fit in the ammo box. It took quite a bit of fiddling but I got it to fit with ample air space between the drives.
Drive Power -
Photo 2, 3 & 4: I initially thought of using an old PC power supply I had laying around but after testing it, I found it was toast so time for plan b, using the existing power supplies that came the the the drives. The plan was to nix the plastic cases, zip tie the circuit boards to a piece of thin wood, re-solder the leads with new ones and mount the board to the inside of the box. Lots of shrink tubing here.
Step 5: The Drive Module
Mounting the Drives -
Photos 1, 2, 3, & 4: These are corner shots of the finished drive module. The drives are stacked with about 1/2" of gap between each one. I re-used the metal from the screen cut-outs and drilled mounting holes as side brackets. The SATA adapters are mounted on the front of the drives, their wires wrapped around the exterior of the drives, then plugged into the 4 port USB hub. The power cords for each drive and the hub feed through the gaps for each drive and are taped to the drive and brackets to reduce air interference. They have quick connect plugs so the drive module can be removed from the box.
Photos 5, 6, 7 & 8: Left side, front, right side and back.
Step 6: Final Results, Testing and Conclusion
Final Results -
Photos 1, 2, 3, & 4: Well here's the beast! Everything fits and its all in there. Even has a handle!
Power: I tested all the connections prior to firing it up. It's too much of a risk to just plug it in and hit the switch. Everything works and the PC recognizes all the drives.
Air Flow & Heat: Air flow is good with no appreciable increase of heat due to the dual fans and air screens on three sides.
Noise Level: The noise level low, just a little more that when the drives were piled in the filing cabinet.
This project was one of the most challenging ones I've attempted and very satisfying. It's taken several months of planning, building, ordering parts but I wasn't in a hurry. I am glad to see it's complete.
On a scale of 1 to 10. I'd give this an 9 for me that is. About the same difficulty as my last one "Boomzilla".
If you were considering trying this, make sure you take the time plan and test everything to ensure a positive result. And as always, wear eye protection and read and follow all safety procedures associated with any electronics or power tools. Sorry I can't assume any responsibility for any mistakes or problems you may run into. This instructable is for educational purposed only.