Coffeemaker from a MacPro

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Loyal Seascape reader(s) will know that Nick is slowly transitioning out of the lab and will soon be teaching oceanography at Bowdoin College.  In recognition of his contributions, we wanted to get him a gift that would truly represent what he has meant to the lab.  Since he doesn't wear jewelry, we decided to make him something.  My original idea was to take our non-functioning G5 MacPro "Eubalaena" and turn it into a seat for his office.  Eubalaena means "true whale" and is the genus of our beloved right whale.  It is also the computer on which Nick launched his copepod modeling career.   Dom and Sigrid correctly noted that the chair idea was stupid, so we went into a round of strategic planning.  During that process we realized that, while we appreciate Nick's scientific acumen and ability to get our code to run on the Kraken, we really value the way he slowly and carefully pours the water in to our respective coffee filters every morning.  This led to the idea of putting this:
coffee001sm.jpga $10 off-brand coffee maker into this:
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a non-functioning computer that cost about $4K back in the day.

In case you have a spare MacPro lying around, here's how we did it.  Note, this project involves electricity, water, and you.  Electricity would love to kill you, and water would be happy to help, so be very careful and don't hold us liable if you or someone you love gets injured.  

1. Open the case.  Apple's great design innovation with the MacPro was the ability to open the side and easily access the hardware.  This gives you the illusion that you might be able to fix or upgrade the thing yourself.  We decided from the beginning to maintain the integrity of the case, so that it would look like a regular computer to the untrained eye.
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2. Remove the guts.  This took us about 6 hours, but to be fair, most of that time was spent trying to find the right tools.  With a good set of computer screwdrivers, this should be much faster.  I found gloves to be essential: circuit boards are sharp!
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3. With a little persistence, and a set of torx screwdrivers, you can also remove the power unit that sits in the bottom.  We cleaned that baby out too.  Man, that is a scary piece of electronics.
4. Give the coffeemaker the same treatment.  Apparently, the guts of coffeemakers are either dangerous or contain national secrets that are not meant to be shared on the internet.  The guts are protected by several "safety screws"--little screws with a bump in the middle so your normal screwdriver can't access them.  Fortunately, the coffee maker is made of soft plastic that is easily cut with a Dremel.  So much for safety.
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5. A coffeemaker is a deceptively simple thing.  It consists of a curved metal pipe attached to a heating element.  Water flows in one side of the pipe, through a simple ball valve, gets heated, and then bubbles out the other side.  Check out this video if you really want to know how one works.
6. Our main innovation was to put the heating unit inside the junction box from the power unit.  We added some tubing to carry water to the heater and another to carry the hot water up the back of the computer.
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7. We had to wire in a new switch.  This was pretty easy and we were able to connect to the wires coming out of the original Apple plug (maintaining the integrity of the case).  Note: connecting a DC switch to 120V AC power tends to create uncomfortable popping sounds accompanied by smoke.  Make sure you buy components and wires up to the task.
8. We made a holder for the filter basket using parts of the one of the fans, suspended from the built-in shelf using threaded rod.  We also used part of the heat sink as a platform for a mug.
coffee 008.jpg
Believe it or not, the thing actually works.  Here's a short video of the thing in action:

1 Comment

Too cool!

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This page contains a single entry by Andy Pershing published on July 2, 2012 10:00 AM.

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