A couple years ago, I put together a simple water cooling system that I dubbed FFF&FM.
And the name really tells you everything you need to know. It was not a pretty system, nor did it need to be….but it did work very well for cooling my HW while pretesting for more serious benching session with liquid nitrogen. Here is a link to the original forum post where I detailed the build.
The original system used two Swiftech triple 120 radiators sandwiching three 120x38mm San Ace fans. It used a single DDC style pump, and performance was excellent, especially in the winter when I could hang it out the window for some extra cool benching sessions.
While the original system has served me well, I recently decided that I needed to correct a couple flaws with the design, and also push the performance to the limit….so with that in mind, I bring you the next generation….
The idea with revision 2 is to keep the original design goals, but enhance performance, and correct two flaws in the original design. What were those flaws?
All of the other design goals remain, and the most important ones are performance, and the “modular” design made possible with the Koolance quick disconnects. These have made this water cooling system as useful as it is.
So, I wanted to take you through a quick step-by-step build log, showing how I put the system together. The biggest part of the new system is the new Watercool radiator, which is a monstrosity designed to use 18 140mm cooling fans, nine on each side. This is the “light” version, which only allows for mounting fans on one side.
In the picture above, the radiator is resting on the box for a Swiftech MCR-320-QP quad 120 radiator….that should give you some scale, this thing is huge! There are actually 6 fill ports, two on the front, two on the rear, and two on the top which provides tons of flexibility for your desired configuration.
Based on this testing I wanted to put some shrouds on the fans, and I also wanted to use some good 120mm fans, due to the lack of decent 140mm fan options. So, I decided to use a 30mm thick piece of wood as a shroud for the entire bank of fans.
I started by getting the board cut to the correct size at the hardware store. Then I drilled holes to mount the radiator, and positioned the pumps and reservoir to ensure the board would accommodate the desired layout. The reservoir selected for this project is the Tecnofront Challenger X1 from Italy. It has an integrated flow meter, which will be a nice visual indicator for me. The two DDC based pumps (10W OEM versions) are linked with the EK Dual DDC Turbo Top.
Next, I drew out the spacing for all the fans. My goal was to have each fan placed directly over the intended location for the standard 140mm fan, to get as even a distribution of air as possible.
Then I slowly began cutting the fan holes, going 1/2 way through on the first side, and then finishing the cut from the opposite side.
After cutting all the holes, I then routed the rear side (the side facing the radiator) to help airflow spread out from the fan to cover the gaps in-between the fans.
Then, I bolted the board up to the radiator for the first time to ensure a proper fit and alignment.
With the radiator mounted, I was able to trace the edges of the reservoir and pump wires to plan for proper placement of each.
Next, I made some rough cuts for the reservoir and the pump wires, and I also routed the corners of the fans intake side.
I took my Dremel sanding wheel to the corners and then some good ol’fashioned elbow grease and got them nice and smooth. Now the holes are proper square with rounded corners to match the fan’s frame. Then I placed weather strip around the edges to ensure a good seal on the radiator.
Next, I mounted the radiator for the final time; the first tube was also connected with a compression fitting to the front side of the rad.
You can see here the reservoir and pumps placed in their final locations. Both are secured to the top of the radiator with double sided sticky tape.
You can see the basic tube routing here, the water comes in through the lower white tube on the left (into the front radiator port, not seen), exits the radiator into the black tube on the right and goes into the reservoir, the out of the reservoir into the pumps, and out of the pumps in the upper white tube and out to the system.
The next step was to mount my fans, nine San Ace 120x38mm 110+CFM gems. Been really happy with these fans over the last few years and they should be perfect for this project as well. You can also see the reservoir mounted at the top.
With everything mounted up, I also wanted to create a stable base for the system. I used the leftover wood from the original board.
I used some additional scrap to make some strengthening plates to put on each side.
Another shot from the front.
No matter how hard you try, if you don’t have the proper tools to complete your cuts perfectly, you’re never going to have perfect alignment. That’s where silicon sealant comes in.
The last step was to wire the fans and pumps together and fill and blead the system. I have to say this Tecnofront reservoir made that job easier than with any other reservoir I’ve ever used…99% of the air bubbles were bled within a couple minutes….very impressive!
After getting everything hooked up and running, I played with a few benchmarks. But first I wanted to give you a quick sound check, and made the video below. Also notice the flow meter showing you a good indication of flow.
Well, this is not a review, but I still wanted to leave you with some results. I have not spent much time with the system yet. But I did have a chance to test out a new 990X and improve my previous best 5970 Vantage score.
The CPU cores reached a max temp of 72C and the GPU cores hit 47C and 43C….not bad considering the 20C ambient temp in my room at the time.
I’ll have tons more testing with this system, and I still have a few more minor improvemtnes to make (fan grills and weather protection)…but the meat and potatoes are all here, I hope you liked it and it inspires some of you.