Engineering High Density in a Compact Rack-Mount System

The Story

High-density, modular platforms for ultra-performance, and intelligent network visibility.

M3 partnered with Ixia, one of the premiere global providers of network solutions that help organizations to simulate, test, secure and monitor their networks to optimize performance. M3’s role was to bring new cutting edge product ideas to reality and push the boundaries of existing market density and throughput capabilities. By working closing with the Ixia team to validate new architectures, develop thermal management strategies, and ultimately design groundbreaking modular mechanical systems, M3 was able to help Ixia bring class-leading network visualization and optimization tools to market which outpaced the competition and provide more upgrade flexibility and bandwidth than the competition.

"M3 has been a vital partner in the development rackmount hardware design, their attention to detail, design concepts, and thermal solutions have been paramount to our success." Kevin Moden Senior Manager, Hardware Development at Ixia
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The Details

Thermal Management Strategy

M3 developed various thermal simulation studies capturing typical and extreme installation scenarios and partnered with Electronic Cooling Solutions to perform multiple rounds of thermal simulations to determine airflow, system component level cooling, and identify overall impact to the program design direction. Our engineering team provided oversight of thermal testing, airflow measurements and system resistance measurements using wind tunnel testing and prototype units in order to validate initial thermal simulation results. Finally, fully customized heat sink solutions were modeled in CAD, simulated, prototyped and tested/validated in order to meet system performance goals.

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The Details

Strong focus for optimizing performance & keeping it cool

Our engineers evaluated mechanical/electrical architectures for viability based on modularity, serviceability, thermal impact, mechanical and assembly complexity, and usability. The outcome was a compact system that optimizes performance. The Vision X offers rugged, NEBS Level 3 certified hardware with optional redundant power supplies, system cooling fans, line modules, and supervisor modules for maximum system protection in critical application environments.

Planning for Success

To create cutting edge products, sometimes it's necessary to push the boundaries of design. With thoughtful planning and a clear and defined path toward prototyping, even designs that appear risky early in the program can be progressed forward. By leveraging decades of experience in manufacturing fabrication methods, M3 is able to push the envelope and mitigate risks along the way. With in-house prototyping capabilities, as well as a vast network of rapid prototype vendors, M3 is can deliver fully functional units at any phase of the design process which can be used to continually validate the design parameters, reduce schedule risk, and confirm market goals.

Risk Mitigation

One of the biggest unknowns in the development of the Vision X system was using a non-traditional, cabled backplane approach, versus a traditional PCB mounted backplane. This new system allowed for extreme bandwidth and throughput, but created challenges for the cable routing and system airflow. Mockups of the cabling system were used to determine bend radii, routing guides and clips.

Unique Solutions

The extreme clocking and switching speeds of the Vision X system presented challenges with EMI containment when balanced with thermal requirements. System apertures had to be relatively small to prevent EMI leakage, but this chokes off the air inlet zone and increases system airflow impedance. To mitigate this problem, a custom faceplate solution was developed with Ixia’s supply chain that allows deep channel perforations to attenuate EMI emissions while maximizing percent open area on the airflow path inlet. This solution offered a novel way to meet both design goals while meeting system performance specs.

Thermal Management

Throughout the development cycle, validation testing was performed on each iteration of the chassis to confirm previous simulation models were accurate and providing good inputs for the design. Additionally, the prototypes and wind tunnel testing provided valuable measurements which were used as inputs to refine some aspects of the thermal simulation models to provide the most accurate results possible. Fan performance was characterized and adjusted in the simulations to match the real fan performance, as well as resistance values for hard to model items such as the faceplate perforations.

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