Embedded Systems Rack

Embedded Systems Rack

I’m a system/operations guy and I’ve been operating in data centers since 2010. During all of that time, I’ve become accustomed to having a file server, dns server, tftp for phones, (etc. etc. etc.) all running simultaneously. I’ve also had open source firewalls in my house. Some of you will understand the struggle.

When I lived in Wisconsin, space was cheap and easy to come by. At one point I had 2 racks of test equipment and servers that did things for my apartment. When I moved to Boston, space became a premium. I could no longer have racks of equipment anymore. I went from 96u’s of space to this Box.

When I moved, I had sold or gotten rid of most of the things I had. I gave a lot of my servers away to friends, family and local makers. Everything in that box is just what I had at the time. I really wanted to get back to a similar system to what I had before I moved. I played around with a lot of different ideas before I came up with the Embedded Systems Rack.

These ideas included:

  • Just running everything on my tower that runs windows and dual booting with Linux. This wouldn’t work because I used windows just for video games and any time I was gaming my other services would be broken.
  • Just running everything in Windows. Ew. Dear God no.
  • Running several different Raspberry Pis, Beagle-bone Black’s, Micro ATX boards, and Banana pi’s.

Option 3 worked out the best. Since I have access to a 3D printer I decided to print cases for everything. A lot of cases..

This first system was nice but cable management was a nightmare. I would unplug the wrong device sometimes. It was just obnoxious and I needed a different solution.

I started then to stack devices and run the same power source to all of them. This worked better. However it did still have its flaws. For instance, if you had to replace the bottom device you had to take the whole stack down.

I then started to think about how my systems work and decided that rack mounting was the best option.

It needed :

  • Centralized power
  • Access from the front
  • A place to store add-ons
  • Easy to remove/replace/add devices

I checked out a few places and none of them had what I wanted, so I started to design my own.

It took several different iterations before i got to what I have now, see below the stages. The Final designs can be found below as printable files.

This was a learning experience for me and I did a lot of things wrong and needed to make many change (7 variations in total) to come up with a design of the Embedded Systems Rack for the Raspberry Pi 2/3 that I liked.

Final Product

  1. Rack mount to standard 1u
  2. Front facing power
  3. Heat-set screws, easy for attaching devices
  4. Room to added add-ons for GPIO headers.
  5. Super easy to remove and work with.
  6. Very little support needed when printing.
  7. A place for nuts on the bottom if case you don’t have access to heat set screws.
  8. A section in the front to add a label of what the device is.
  9. Places at attach Velcro and tie wraps for add-ons.

Hardware

  • DC-099 Female 5.5 x 2.5mm Panel Mounting DC

Here is an example of what it will look like when mounted.