Mar.14, 2014

As Amazon, Staples, Hema and a few other companies are using 3D printing to deliver a just-in-time retail experience, Phoenix-based data center provider IO is using the technology to prototype models of "data center modules", massively complex containers of computing equipment that can be pieced together to support power or cooling infrastructure, or racks of IT equipment.

With the continuing development of ICT comes a rapidly increasing amount of data. As a result, operating the data centers is becoming more complicated, as the requirement to flexibly and reliably handle unpredictable fluctuations in the amount of data increases.

IO has been working on the transformation of data centers from a construction to a standardized, just-in-time assembly business. Its ultimate goal is to build a low-cost and most rapid data center delivery mechanism in the industry, and 3D printing can help the company to design, test and reshape prototypes with ease.

In the past, as the company designed its modules, IO had no choice but to call on outside contract manufacturers to help create a physical prototype. To prototype a newly designed light-fixture bracket, the company would spend between US$300 and $400 and wait two weeks for the prototype to arrive.

But in recent five months IO has started using a MakerBot 3D printer at its Chandler, Arizona, data center factory to prototype various components of its IO.Anywhere data center modules. Now, it can produce the bracket in a few hours, and the cost is about $0.75, said Andreas Zoll, VP of engineering and product development at IO.

"I can get it rather fast and for a low price," he said. "If it doesn't work out, we can immediately go back to the drawing table and come up with another design."

The company has used Makerbot to print door handles, solutions for hanging wires and for securing equipment. In addition they also created reduced-size models of the modules and infrastructure equipment for doing design reviews.

"Instead of just doing design reviews on a big computer display using CAD software," Zoll said to Wired, "we can actually print module frames and piece-parts within this frame to see how we can improve the assembly process. Where do we have potential interface? Where would human access be hard? It's almost like a chess game. We can move things around, in and out, trying to create efficiency during the design process, right at the front-end."


Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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??? wrote at 3/26/2014 7:07:00 PM:


jd90 wrote at 3/14/2014 2:45:17 PM:

I guess the stated cost per part is only in plastic. That doesn't cover the cost of the machine time (amortized machine cost, maintenance, repairs) and the biggie: human intervention, setup, removal, failures, adjustments, tuning & experimentation. Engineers don't work for free.

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