Why Should You Switch To A Fanless System?

Computing devices have reached ubiquity in our personal and professional lives.  As business has evolved to rely on the automation and ease of data accessibility provided by computers, servers, and mobile devices, the operation and maintenance of this technology has also evolved to help combat the major problem of heat management. With servers and computer devices utilizing moving parts and the chips on their internal boards both generating a non-trivial amount of heat, the most common internal cooling method has historically been the installation of multiple fans within a vented chassis creating air flow to dissipate heat radiated by processing components. These fans expel the heat from the servers but then begin increasing the air temperature in their surrounding environment, degrading optimal operating temperature thresholds of other electronic devices. Additionally, this method of addressing the heat problem is not the most energy efficient, and it also creates a loud noisy atmosphere within server closets, server farms, and data centers.

Fanless systems shift the paradigm and solve the heat problem in a different, more effective way. The development of fanless systems has been a long-awaited innovation for IT professionals looking to find solutions for increased heat level applications.  This article will cover the dynamics of this technology, its benefits, and compare its performance with traditional fan cooling methods. 

What is a fanless system?

Before we can begin discussing the benefits of a fanless system, it is best to first explain how this specialized feature of operation is achieved.  The established form of heat dissipation for most computer systems has been fans, as previously mentioned.  Fans have become available in varying sizes and operating speeds acting as intakes and exhausts to moderate air flow within the housing of a device to dispel heat generated by moving parts and chipsets.  Unfortunately, this method makes for a loud noisy environment and realistically only moves the heat away from a system into the open air environment that still has to be addressed by the available facility cooling practices in service when available. Fanless systems instead utilize a heat sink, which allows for the heat generated within a device to move over this component and then gravitate away from the system.  Normally comprised of copper or aluminum, heat sinks are used in many electronic devices from smartphones to refrigerators because of their ability to cool components that encounter performance degradation caused by increased temperatures.  Physically they appear as a block-shaped component with fins protruding from its base increasing the surface area of the module to improve airflow, which is, unfortunately, a poor conductor of heat. Adding more surface area to a heat sink improves pathways for heat to dispel.  In a fanless computer system, they are normally attached directly to the main central processing unit (CPU) and are within close proximity to the housing of the device. Heat is transferred from the CPU to the heat sinks which then guides the heat to the chassis allowing it to radiate from there to the outside space around the device.  The outside frame of a fanless system is normally designed in a similar fashion as a heat sink that it also has fins or ridges to increase surface area for added airflow and increased heat dissipation. This effective construct aids in the appeal of the implementation of more fanless systems in a myriad of applications crossing over multiple industries.

What are the main benefits of a fanless system?

Less noise

First, the obvious benefit comes by way of audible noise.  Because there are no fans in these systems, they generate much less noise than the customer fan cooled counterparts.  Anyone that has walked through a data center housing a large population of servers mounted in rack enclosures is fully aware of how loud fans operate often drowning out standard verbal communication amongst personnel performing work in these rooms.  Other applications where minimized noise is welcomed such as

  • schools
  • libraries
  • laboratories or medical installations
  • video/audio editing
  • and mobile configurations greatly benefit from this less audible solution

Physical space

Another added benefit is that fanless systems provide a smaller physical footprint as they are normally smaller than standard fan cooled computer systems.  Since leaving space around internal computing components is a necessity for cooling by airflow created by fans, items within a fanless device are fitted closely together taking up much less space.  This allows for more versatile installations creating increase opportunity for computing solutions to be used in various configurations such as in-vehicle applications.  Premio’s ACO-6000 series in-vehicle fanless systems not only allow for minimal physical space requirements, they also employ anti-shock/vibration features making them ideal for mobile operations while supporting Intel Skylake socket processors for optimal computing performance.

Our RCO-1000 Series also is designed with four form factors that make them best suited for embedded platforms such as machine automation or IoT (internet of things) gateways that serve as a connection point between IoT devices and a Cloud system.

Increased reliability

Over time, conventional fan cooling systems run into the problem of their fans degrading operation or failing completely if not properly serviced through a preventive maintenance strategy.  Even then, the components within the fan will eventually fail and require replacement.  However, during the interim time before a replacement fan is installed, the temperature of the system in question will rise and increases the propensity of an untimely shutdown of the device.  Having less moving parts allows for a higher mean time before failure (MTBF) rating of a fanless system minimizing maintenance and downtime costs.

Lack of fan openings

In industrial installations, environmental hazards pose a detrimental danger to fan cooled systems.

Exposure to elements, dust and/or debris, along with moisture all contribute to unexpected failures of traditional computers using fans for heat expulsion. Clearly, fanless designed devices account for these variables and are able to be applied in much harsher situations with some even allowing for outdoor operations as well.  Medical configurations also benefit from this feature increasing the sterility level of an area where systems relying on fans are not suited for use.

Cost efficient

The power, measured in watts (W), provided to all IT devices is essentially converted to heat.  In turn, this conversion of energy relates itself to a unit of measurement for heat that is called a British Thermal Unit (BTU) and can also be referenced with time duration by hour known as BTU/hr. With cooling costs continuing to soar for sizable server infrastructures and large-scale data centers, the saving provided by fanless systems make them an ideal solution for those in search of energy efficient solutions.

While an entire organization’s computing architecture may not be ideal for a complete fanless configuration overhaul, replacing high BTU/hr rated systems with this option provide a great impact at reducing the cooling expenses of the environment.  Couple this with the aforementioned savings of maintenance and downtime losses made apparent with fan cooling system, the financial benefits of fanless design are clearly evident and serve to provide an assortment of advantages over traditional solutions.

At Premio, we specialize in providing the design, production, and distribution of digital computing products worldwide supplying industry leading inventive computing solutions including fanless systems.   Our company is well versed in sizing server and platform options with focuses on healthcare, automation, and retail needs that are able to support the most complex architecture challenges.

If you need assistance determining which of our custom products is best suited for your requirements, please contact us today and let our Premio Customer Care Team begin developing a solution that meets the dynamic business demands of your specialized application.