Much to our delight NOCTUA showed a creative custom VRM fan bracket for the Open Benchtable earlier this year at the Computex 2019 trade-show. This is the story of the “what and why”, and how you can get one yourself.
Computex During Taiwan Summer Time
Computex is one of the most important tradeshows for technology and the PC hardware industry. It is held every year around the beginning of June in Taipei, Taiwan. Taiwan holds a special place in the hearts of many technology enthusiasts as it is the home of some of the biggest brands in the PC industry. Every year the Taiwanese companies, as well as a range of international companies, show off their new products during the week-long event. That week Taipei is a hot spot not only because of the innovation but, as many tech journalists will confirm, also because the humid summer weather.
Among the international brands is NOCTUA, an Austrian company world renowned for their premium CPU heatsink and fans. At Computex 2019 NOCTUA demonstrated an upcoming refresh of the chunky NH D15 CPU cooler.
The VRM Cooling Challenge
NOCTUA used a high performance platform featuring an overclocked AMD Ryzen™ Threadripper™ 2990WX Processor to demonstrate the cooling capability of the NH-D15. While the CPU consumes over 435W, the CPU cooler is more than capable of handling the associated thermal challenge. However, as witnessed on other high-end desktop platforms, it’s the VRM that presents a real cooling challenge.
The VRM, or Voltage Regulator Module, are a group of electrical components that ensure efficient and stable conversion from the +5V or +12V input to the voltage used by the CPU. Contemporary CPUs will use any voltage in the range of +0.6V up to +1.5V. Additionally, the high core count CPUs will draw a lot of current especially during intensive workloads like 3D rendering. While the conversion process is not that complicated and has seen many decades of development, the conversion isn’t 100% efficient. The inefficiency is translated in, among other things, increased heat dissipation.
VRM Fan Bracket To The Rescue!
With higher and higher power draw from the CPUs, VRM cooling is increasingly challenging. With our high-end CPU coolers, we often run into situations where the CPU is still well below its maximum temperature but VRMs are already throttling. Unfortunately, many of the heatsinks that motherboard vendors put on the VRMs appear to have been created with a key focus on visual design rather than best thermal performance, so sometimes, your best bet is to add some extra airflow. Thankfully, this is super-easy to do with the OBT, so when we created our demo system and discovered that the VRMs were running too hot, we quickly sketched a fan bracket, CNC-milled it and a few hours later we were ready to roll!Jakob D. – NOCTUA
The simplest solution to ensure the VRM cooling solution can handle the extreme power conversion is to increase airflow over the heatsink fins. Of course, that’s a simple job for a company widely praised for its superior air cooling solutions!
The NF-A6x25 PWM VRM fans feature advanced aerodynamic design measures such as Flow Acceleration Channels and Noctua’s AAO frame. As such, the NF-A6x25 is a highly optimized, premium quality quiet fan in 60x25mm size. The PWM version sports Noctua’s custom designed NE-FD1 IC for fully automatic speed control via 4-pin fan headers and comes with a Low-Noise-Adaptor to reduce the maximum speed during PWM control from 3000 to 2100rpm.NOCTUA NF-A6x25 Product Page: https://noctua.at/en/nf-a6x25-pwm
With the fan choice out of the way, the only thing left is to attach the additional cooling to the Open Benchtable. Using the open-source Open Benchtable blueprint, NOCTUA designed custom VRM fan bracket that supports up to two fans aimed directly at the motherboard VRM.
Design Done Right
With a design-focused mindset as a core value, NOCTUA couldn’t “ghetto-mod” this Open Benchtable extension. So NOCTUA designed an aluminum bracket that matches the design and style of the Open Benchtable.
For Computex 2019, we CNC milled the bracket from aluminum, but it can also be 3D printed. The bracket has been designed for use with the Noctua NF-A6x25 series fans, which can be mounted to the bracket using the supplied NA-AV1 anti-vibration-mounts: https://noctua.at/en/nf-a6x25-pwm
Post Computex, NOCTUA published the blueprint of the custom VRM fan bracket. It is available in the community project section on openbenchtable.com.
Working with the Open Benchtable for our demo systems was pure bliss. As an engineering company, we have a special appreciation for products that are cleverly designed, where everything just falls into place and works as expected, even if you do something that goes beyond the usual scope of application. The same goes for the impeccable craftsmanship of the OBT, it’s rare to find a product that not only doesn’t have any sharp edges but is so well crafted that it’s actually a pleasure to touch and use.Jakob D. – NOCTUA
Get Your Own Custom VRM Fan Bracket
There are two ways to get a hold of this custom VRM fan bracket. You can either 3D Print your own bracket with the files available on the community page. Or, you can order the kit directly from NOCTUA via the community page. NOCTUA’s kit comes with two NF-A6x25 fans and anti-vibration mounts.
We would like to thank Jakob and the team at NOCTUA for contributing to the Open Benchtable community and sharing their story in this blog post.