FreeNAS Box v1 was a good learning project for acrylic construction. Here are the issues with v1 I want to address for the next version.
- Non-orthogonal joints: The laser cutter only cuts right angle edges. v1 had a few joints that were impossible to cement because the edges didn’t align at right angles.
- Tab and slot construction: To help align joints, I designed v1 with tabs to fit into slots I had also cut into their mating surfaces. While this made the box easy to build, it destroyed durability of the end product. The sharp corners of the slots are where acrylic starts cracking under stress. I had known about the dangers of sharp internal corners, but I thought acrylic cement would bond everything together eliminating the weak point. This idea has now been proven false.
- Unappealing tangle of wires: The v1 box design placed all of the wires up front, which turned out to look pretty ugly, and all the components (hard drives and the motherboard) were hidden under the mess.
- Difficult access to components: Besides looking bad, the mess of wires up front also blocks access to everything else. It would be difficult to perform maintenance such as replacing drives if they fail.
- Cooling fans vulnerable to jamming: The wiring paths were such that, if some wires should misbehave and bend slightly out of position, they would impinge upon the blades of cooling fans stopping them from turning.
- Cooling fans are out of sight: Compounding the problem of blocked fans is the fact that despite the clear acrylic exterior, it was not easy to notice the fans were blocked.
I had to physically build FreeNAS Box v1 before I knew known any of the above are problems. Some I had thought about and didn’t think would be a problem, the others I just hadn’t thought about at all.