Hello, this is a step-by-step guide to building a water cooling system for the Raspberry Pi’s ARM processor.
It all started when I say this project. I was instantly captivated, the thought of water cooling a pi had never occurred to me but once I saw it I immediately knew I wanted to build one.
So I decided to build my own. But I wanted to give the gift of easy water cooling to the entire raspberry pi community. I decided to design a 3D printable water block that anyone with access to a 3D printer could build. What if you don’t have a 3D printer? Well you can still build one! Many great 3D printing services are available through the internet and all it takes is a quick Google search.
Step 1: Get Your Printed Pieces
Left to right are the 5 versions of the water block, the furthest right is the most refined and the only one that’ll work well. The furthest left does theoretically work but it requires a high resolution 3D printer and I haven’t had luck printing it successfully.
Anyway the first thing you’ll need to do is get the printed pieces, in the next step we’ll gather the rest of the supplies.
Download them here on Thingiverse http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:291563
For those of you without access to a 3D printer you can buy the printed parts here: https://www.shapeways.com/shops/Unprecedented
Note: It is important to make sure that the square hole on the part that will hold the penny (see later steps) is .5 in by.5 in or slightly larger, sometime it can shrink during printing in which case it wont fit the ARM processor unless it is fixed.
Step 2: Let’s Get the Rest of the Supplies
Here’s a supply list, you’ll want to gather everything before starting to make things easier on yourself.
- Printed parts (last step)
- Copper penny for the heat conducting plate (Must be minted before 1982 to be sure it’s 95% copper) (It can also be helpful to use a dremel to sand down one or two of the sides a bit to get a flatter and cleaner surface)
- Vinyl tubing (1/4 in. outer diameter and whatever inner diameter makes you happy, I used .17 in)
- Silicone Waterproof Sealant
- X-Acto knife (preferably in bright pink)
- Some sort of liquid reservoir to hold coolant.
- Thermal paste (don’t use thermal adhesive like me it won’t come apart later if you need it to)
- Water pump (I’m using an extra pump I have from a vivarium but anything that’ll fit the tube diameter will work)
- Raspberry Pi to mount it onto
- Mineral oil or other coolant solution (optional, water will work but will ruin your Pi if it spills)
Step 3: Seal the Penny Holding Plate
Start by applying sealant around the inner edge of the bottom piece like I did in the picture above, be sure to use a generous amount; you can always remove some after you put the penny in.
Step 4: Put the Penny Into the Bottom Piece
Drop the penny into the bottom piece and press down. Make sure to get the penny as far down as possible to help prevent gaps.
During this process some sealant will likely cover one or more sides of the penny. It is very important that you clean this off so that you can get good head transfer later on.
Before moving on you may want to test this seal because after next step it will be difficult to fix any issues. To test it wait for your sealant to cure and then pour some water in, if there are leaks then dry the piece and attempt to fix them. Repeat until it is fully sealed and then move on to the next step.
Step 5: Primary Seal
It is now time to seal the two pieces together. Start by squeezing a generous amount of silicone into the space on the main printed part.
Then carefully place the part holding the penny into the main piece making sure to line up the two squares to the best of your ability.
Finally push down and clean up any silicone that may squeeze out the edges. By the end of the step it should look something like the third picture.
It is not necessary but I find it helpful to use an aquarium air pump to create airflow through the piece like in the fourth image.
Step 6: Cut and Seal the Tubing
Now it’s time to cut the vinyl tubing. Figure out the lengths you need, cut them and then put them in. It’ll require some force but this will help prevent leaks.
Now seal the tubing in place as I did in image 3.
Step 7: Final Leak Check
Now that you have to untested seals it’s a good idea to try it out before proceeding. Use the pump (having put it in your reservoir like in the picture) and let it run, preferably with the cooling block over a container in case it leaks. If you end up with something like image 2 it’s a good idea to patch up the leaks with silicone by applying it to the outside of the block.
Repeat the testing until it is leak-free
Step 8: Attach to Your Raspberry Pi
Unfortunately I attached my previous heat sink with thermal adhesive and cannot remove it to save my life. The above image is approximately what it will look like when you’ve attached the water block.
Edit: I attached the cooler and the pi handles turbo mode without the cpu heating up much.
Quick demo of the water cooler:
Anyway to attach the block to the Raspberry Pi apply a drop of your thermal compound onto the Pi’s ARM processor and them press down firmly.
Next you should turn on the pump and make sure no water leaks out wit the Pi turned off. If no leakage occurs then you should be good and you can begin to use your Pi.
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions feel free to tell me in the comments section.
Note: I am not responsible for any damages to your Raspberry Pi that may occur during use of this water block.