Ammo Box Drive Enclosure

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Introduction: Ammo Box Drive Enclosure

About: Alan Walker a.k.a. "The Toolman" has been creative and worked with his hands all of his life. He has been employed in a wide variety of industries including a museum, a major power tool manufacturer,…

Concept and Design

Concept-

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...

Design-

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.

Requirements:

  • 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.

Paint -

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.

Xiwai USB 3.0 Female to Female Extension Extender Coupler Adapter with Panel Mount Holes

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.

2.5" 3.5" Inch UASP USB 3.0 to SATA Converter HDD Adapter Cable Easy Drive Cord

Sabrent 4-Port Powered USB 3.0 Hub


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!

Testing -

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.

Conclusion -

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.

Good luck.

Step 7:

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    38 Comments

    0
    Polyhistor
    Polyhistor

    1 year ago

    Thought about putting a raspberry pi in there and turning it into a NAS?

    0
    warhawk8080
    warhawk8080

    Reply 1 year ago

    You can get 12vdc switching power supplies from aliexpress for pretty cheap, small in size...with just drives and some fans no need for multiple power outputs..one 20-50W can easily run all those drives
    https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005002728038351.h...
    Plus with those DC-DC buck converters you can take that 12vdc and step down to power other devices, haddrives usually don't go over 5-6 watts running wide open...much less when idle
    https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005002313624926.html?spm=a2g0o.productlist.0.0.4ca3657a0JprZD&aem_p4p_detail=20210706191150345100664707650073251865

    0
    thetoolman
    thetoolman

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks for the advice but I was trying to stick with using all the original components and stay true to my original idea.

    0
    thetoolman
    thetoolman

    Reply 1 year ago

    No but that is possible if the power supplies were external. Using this box I wanted everything inside. Thanks.

    0
    dj_segfault
    dj_segfault

    1 year ago

    Nice design, but it is not a file server. it's a USB enclosure for hard drives. It gets hooked up to a computer then the drives are accessible. If it were a file server it would be accessible over a network and have some sort of processor in it. As someone suggested, this could be extended by throwing a Raspberry Pi in there and loading NAS software on it.

    0
    mario.deronja
    mario.deronja

    Reply 1 year ago

    If you can read, you can see, that there is no mention of SERVER...

    Kr, Mario - The IT guy

    0
    thetoolman
    thetoolman

    Reply 1 year ago

    Technically no, you are correct but a server has separate drives and they show up on the computer as 4 drives. I know I'm stretching the point a bit here but you get the idea. No room for a Raspberry or NAS in this box. Thanks anyway.

    0
    hbran
    hbran

    Reply 1 year ago

    A Raspberry Pi can be broken down into multiple boards and spread out throughout the enclosure to help utilize the available space, and this can be used as a file server by connecting it to a router with a USB connection (still technically a USB enclosure, just connected through a router). You could always use a back-plane to connect the drives inside the enclosure instead of the USB hub.

    0
    RigoC
    RigoC

    Reply 1 year ago

    You are correct sir.

    0
    joe_cool_knows
    joe_cool_knows

    1 year ago

    wow, super cool, the switch rocks too!

    0
    thetoolman
    thetoolman

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks.

    0
    miles.oldfield
    miles.oldfield

    1 year ago

    Great idea! I have a load of external hard drives I need to consolidate somehow. I also have an old 50 cal ammo box I need to make use of. I might end up making this project when I find the time, and perhaps make use of this Instructable as well:

    https://www.instructables.com/Multi-External-Hard-...

    Thanks for the idea!

    0
    thetoolman
    thetoolman

    Reply 1 year ago

    Good luck.

    0
    Netmizor
    Netmizor

    1 year ago on Step 6

    This was an interesting project. It caught my attention as soon as I saw the ammo can being used. Good Job putting it together and providing the detail. I think I may want to try this one! Thanks! - Bill

    0
    thetoolman
    thetoolman

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks.

    0
    Aaaecm
    Aaaecm

    1 year ago

    Awesome eye-catching Instructable. I like the rugged nature of the end product. I have been puzzling what to do for a portable computing solution for a while. A laptop just won't do it. I need something tougher. I have decided that a small (belted .223) can will be the perfect case for my portable build. It needs to run a printer and vinyl cutter in the field. Thanks for the inspiration. Yours is a great Instructable!

    0
    thetoolman
    thetoolman

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks. Good luck with yours as well. Let me know what you did.

    0
    warhawk8080
    warhawk8080

    1 year ago

    Not a bad idea...however using DC-DC buck converters would be better and use less room than all those transformers...would only need one with say 12VDC from AC output and use those buck circuits to output required voltages.

    Also there is an AWESOME NAS server you can install on a Raspberry Pi called openmediavault that will easily use those drives for data storage...and easily set up shares for the home network

    Not a bad idea , with a tiny bit of tweaking it could be made a bit better...

    Either way...one heck of a tough little enclosure for sure!

    0
    hbran
    hbran

    1 year ago

    What would you suggest using to provide protection for the drives from the EM fields (however low they may be) created by the power supplies? Also, I would suggest using something (not sure what) between the power supplies and the drives for extra heat protection (it may not be much but the drives produce heat as a byproduct of spinning and the PSU's produce heat as a byproduct of just being powered on).

    For shock protection (there is always a possibility) I would also suggest using a "plastic" ammo can - not quite as cool but much safer (especially with little hands and animals around.

    Another couple of suggestions, I would add some "rubber feet" to the bottom of the "can" for vibration reduction and possibly some SSD's to cut down on heat produced by HDD platter spin. Just some thoughts.

    I must say that I truly do like this design and will be working on one similar in the near future. I may take the back plane out of existing enclosures so I can add more drives (all SSD's for space saving and overall heat reduction). I have downloaded your ible for source knowledge and guidance (I have downloaded three or four over the years that I thought were extremely innovative and yours is the best I have ever seen).

    Best,
    Henry (retired police officer and IT specialist at Waste Management).