Concept Vitrine -- The idea of a <10L vertical case with radiator core and glas panel

einmannbude

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
May 22, 2016
11
1
Hey there,

I have a crush with vertical, sandwich-layouted cases - like the Corsair One.
I also have a crush for water-cooling and as much glass side panels, as possible.

The problem
This does not go very well all together. You would typically place radiators in a vertical sandwich case also in sandwich style - at the outer layer. If you then added glass side panels, you would have to drill holes in them for air flow, which I don't like, and secondly you would look just at radiators. Or you would look at the sandwich-layout from the side like in the H1, which I don't like either.

So, what's the solution?
I stumbled about (at least for me) uncommon radiator sizes from Alphacool. They have tall 60mm, but low surface area 40mm radiators in their program with interesting connectivity possibilities. So something came to my mind:
What if I stack some of this 60mm tall radiators over each other, put 40mm fans in between each and use this as the "core" of the case with sandwich-layout. Motherboard and PSU on one side. GPU on the other side. Air would be moving in the middle of the case in vertical direction - either top down or bottom up. Motherboard and GPU IO would be at the bottom. I could imagine a large fan at the top to help getting some ventilation over the motherboard. All sides would be free and could be see-through. I don't know, if this is possible, but it could be a single cornered piece of glass. Just where the PSU fan is located there should maybe be the possibility for air to come in.

Thoughts on the size
Those Alphacool radiators are 40,5mm in width. A GPU with water block and special EK Terminal for fittings should not take more than 30mm. On the other side the PSU will be the determining component with SFX standard being less than 65mm. Add some buffer for hiding cables or something and we should get away with around 150mm in width.
Depth is determined by miniITX standard being 170mm plus room for PSU cables and PCIE riser cable routed around. I hope not more than 180mm would be needed.
I am unsure about the height. The board is 170mm, the PSU is 100mm, space is needed for the cables coming out to the PSU. Space is needed for a top mounted fan. Space is needed at the bottom of the case for the IO cables. If we get away with 370mm or less, the promise of the title with <10L volume is achieved.
With over 320mm height one could fit 4x of those 60mm radiators plus 4x 20mm Noctua NF-A4x20 fans inside the case.

Concerns
#1
I am no physicist. I could imagine the first radiator(s) in the stack heating up the air so much, that the second or third radiator in the stack can't dissipate more heat to the air moving through and therefore being useless. Maybe this is not a problem, if the air moves fast enough. Those Noctua fans spin with high RPM, but then again I am not a fan of noise and don't trust the manufacturer specs of 20db.
#2
With #1 in mind and even if this was not a problem, I am concerned about the total cooling capacity of the system. My target is a Nvidia RTX 3080 and Intel 9600 being cooled reasonable at lowest noise possible. The setup allows 4x triple 40mm radiators of 60mm thickness each. Naive miscalculation incoming: I think 2x 240mm with 30mm thickness would be adequate for this system. One 120mm radiator is like 9x one 40mm radiator in surface. So 2x 240 equals to 36x 40mm radiator surface standard thickness. 4x tripple 40mm surface with double thickness equals to just 24x 40mm radiator surface with standard thickness. This might just not be enough surface. Fins per inch not even taken into account.
I would go for Alphacools 60mm surface radiators immediately, but they don't have the same connector possibilities like the 40mm ones. What a pity.

I am curious if this concept is valid. Before spending hundreds of dollars on radiators, fittings and waterblocks to field test the idea, I wanted to share it with you and get some feedback. I am sure some of you are experienced enough to tell me, if this is already in theory a bad idea.
Let me know what you think. Thank you.

P.S.:
Before you ask:
I manage my storage with a single NVMe SSD, which I put on the motherboard. I don't need this much storage, so I don't plan to leave any spots for 2.5" SSDs or even 3.5" HDDs.
My current rig is an air cooled Ncase M1 with Intel 9600K and Nvidia 1080Ti with Accellero III, 3 RGB Fans and plexiglass side panel.
 
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Enamel_32

Efficiency Noob
Jan 1, 2020
6
9
That's a really interesting concept. I'd love to see even a rough image of what you're thinking it'd end up looking like.
#1 - If there's room for it, it may be worth keeping some open space between the rad/fan layers so that some of the air can enter/exit from above and below.
#2 - There's some, but not many, reviews for those radiators out on the internet. Maybe with enough of those you could (very roughly) estimate how many watts they can dissipate?


Edit:
 
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einmannbude

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
May 22, 2016
11
1
I'd love to see even a rough image of what you're thinking it'd end up looking like.
Absolutely. Looking at 200 visits of the thread and only one response is probably due to the lack of a picture. I guess most of them didn't read the whole text.
I gained some 3D modelling skills in Maya, but don't have a licence anymore. Downloaded Blender, but have no clue how to use it. So, unfortunately there is nothing visually stunning to expect at the moment.

Thanks for the links. I already knew the first one. But the second one was really remarkable, where they compare their thin 360mm radiator with their thick 120mm radiator - with virtually equal volume. The cooling capacity of the thick one only catches up at high fan speed. It is really unfortunate, that the diagram ends at the point where the curves intersect. Those 40mm Noctua fans spin with up to 5000 rpm. On the other hand even at this speed they do not move a lot of air because of their small size.

It came to my mind, that an accepted upgrade in width from 40mm to 60mm for the "core" would also allow very slim 240mm radiators oriented vertically. Actually two of them, if they are 20mm thick like the XSPC TX240. But since a strictly vertical airflow is then not possible anymore, a solution must be found how to get rid of the hot air, or how to provide enough fresh air. Or both. I am still thinking about this.
 

einmannbude

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
May 22, 2016
11
1
I was curious about the noise those 40mm Noctua fans are emitting. That's why I ordered one of the Alphacool radiators and 6 of the fans.


They are dead silent below 50% fan speed. When they run faster than that, you can hear the hum of the motors. And since they are spinning very fast, the tone is relatively high-frequency compared to 120mm fans for example. I plugged the setup into my current PC and let a game run and I was able to hear the 40mm fans over the sound of the game and the noise of the fans of my system. The speed was synced with my case fan, so they were running at around 80-90%. My guess is, that in my case concept they would have to run at least at the same speeds, if not higher. This high-frequency motor hum would really annoy me over time. So I have to say, that although I am also curious if the cooling concept of stacked radiators would work in practice, I will not buy more water-cooling components and fans for hundreds of Dollars - or in my case Euro - just to find out.

Here is a video of the fans going from 50% to 100% speed:
 

REVOCCASES

King of Cable Management
Bronze Supporter
Apr 2, 2020
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www.revoccases.com
Not sure about the exact layout you are thinking of but perhaps you could consider at least to go for an 80mm rad. I've tested that setup in my RCC-BIG1 with pretty good results despite I only used some very cheap and crappy aluminum rad plus 8010 fan. With a good fan and thick 80mm alphacool rad this should work pretty well for up to 100W TDP.

Just to give you some inspiration:

 

einmannbude

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
May 22, 2016
11
1
I want to water-cool both CPU and GPU, so we are speaking of around 400W TDP.

You see the picture I linked above? Imagine on top of the upper row of fans another row with a second radiator with its own fans. And then double this construction again on top. You then get a vertical sandwich of 4 radiators stacked above each other with a row of fans in between each.

Radiator​
P​
Fan​
S​
G​
Radiator​
U​
P​
Fan​
B​
U​
Radiator​
O​
Fan​
A​
Radiator​
R​
Fan​
D​

On the one side of the radiator sandwich there would be the GPU. On the other side the mainboard and the PSU.
Think of a sandwich layout case, but with a stack of radiators in the middle.

I have found out, that 1 thick radiator only has the same performance like 2 thin radiators next to each other, if the fans are moving the air through the radiator fast enough. Since we are talking here about 4 thick radiators, this would presumably only work - if at all - with fans at or near 100%. And from my experience, even the best fans are annoying at 100%.

Although ... I have a Noctua 92mm Fan in my current rig and set it to 100% while writing those lines and I have to say, that it in fact gets a little louder, but does not make a hum noise. It's more a "whoosh", which is tolerable.
 

REVOCCASES

King of Cable Management
Bronze Supporter
Apr 2, 2020
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www.revoccases.com
Ok, I see. Interesting idea but I doubt this would work very well unless each of the rads would be able to draw fresh and cool air and not air which had already been heated up by the previous rad in the stack.

Are you planning to do some thermal tests with the single rad you already bought? I'm curious how this performs together with the noctuas.
 

einmannbude

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
May 22, 2016
11
1
Ok, I see. Interesting idea but I doubt this would work very well unless each of the rads would be able to draw fresh and cool air and not air which had already been heated up by the previous rad in the stack.
After fan noise this is also my second concern. But then again there is a lot of cases out there, where one radiator is at the front of the case and another one is at the top of the case and air is moving from the front through the case and upwards to the top. The front radiator will also heat up the same air which then goes through the top radiator. And this is not a problem at all. In theory, as long as the water temperature is warmer than the air moving through the radiator, heat should still dissipate.

Are you planning to do some thermal tests with the single rad you already bought? I'm curious how this performs together with the noctuas.
I am afraid, I have to say no. I am not willing to stand the hum of the 40mm fans and will send them back together with the radiator and would rather not get it wet before.
 

REVOCCASES

King of Cable Management
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Apr 2, 2020
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After fan noise this is also my second concern. But then again there is a lot of cases out there, where one radiator is at the front of the case and another one is at the top of the case and air is moving from the front through the case and upwards to the top. The front radiator will also heat up the same air which then goes through the top radiator. And this is not a problem at all. In theory, as long as the water temperature is warmer than the air moving through the radiator, heat should still dissipate.



I am afraid, I have to say no. I am not willing to stand the hum of the 40mm fans and will send them back together with the radiator and would rather not get it wet before.
Well, in most cases fresh air can still be sucked in from side panels or wherever or if you make the setup double intake both rads will get fresh air.

The rad hamburger will work somehow and dissipate more heat than a single rad but the cooling efficiency of the second, third, fourth rad will suffer as you can see from the EKWB article which explains the issue pretty good. At the end you would spend a lot of money on rads and fans just to get the overall cooling performance of something like an 120mm AIO.

I would go for one single 180mm rad on top of the case. This would be cheaper, cool much better and definitely be more silent :)
 
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einmannbude

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
May 22, 2016
11
1
Had a look at the EK article again. I could only remember the first graph, where the curves met at a high enough RPM.
But later in the article they also had a graph where the XE 120 would never meet the performance of the SE 360. Got it.

Besides that the footprint of a single 180mm radiator is more than what I was shooting for with the case concept and added height not even mentioned - do you think one 180mm radiator would be enough to cool a whole system?
 

Qzrx

Buried under radiators
Bronze Supporter
Dec 29, 2019
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Besides that the footprint of a single 180mm radiator is more than what I was shooting for with the case concept and added height not even mentioned - do you think one 180mm radiator would be enough to cool a whole system?
It's about 12.5% more surface area than a 240mm radiator which is sufficient for many builds. You may not like the fan speeds and temperatures if you're running, say, a 5950X and 3090 but for a more mid-ranged build it should be adequate.
 
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einmannbude

Cable Smoosher
Original poster
May 22, 2016
11
1
I will keep that in mind. In the meantime, I had the idea not to do a radiator hamburger, but using the 40mm radiators vertically - the hexa ones with place for 6x40mm fans. One at the left panel of the case and one on the right panel, which leaves empty space in the middle. One could either blow fresh air from the sides into the middle and then exhaust to the top and bottom, or pull fresh air from top and bottom and exhaust through the radiators. Or pull in fresh air from one side and push it out through the other side, with help from fresh air from the top and bottom. What ever works best.

I then made some surface area calculation and even two hexa 40mm radiators together only have 67% the surface area of one 240mm radiator. The volume is 133% though, but as I learned, surface area is what matters. There is a hepta variant (7x40), but again that's 78% surface area compared to 240mm.
For fun I added another column in my table for the Alphacool XT45 60mm radiators. The largest is a triple variant. One could fit one triple and one single over each other. 8x60mm is as much surface area as 240mm and 150% volume. There would even be more breathing room in the middle. But the case footprint would be larger. Based on my initial sizing thoughts it would be more like 180mm (mainboard width plus a bit) x 170mm (GPU chamber plus rads plus mainboard/PSU chamber).