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Canon T3i (600D) filter and cold finger mod.

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#1 Midnight Dan

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Posted 05 July 2014 - 06:25 PM

Thought I'd start a thread to document this process.

First, a big thank you to Gary Honis for his excellent online instructions for doing a filter mod for the Canon line of camera. They are accurate and detailed and make the job easy!

I had been planning this mod for a while and figured while I was in there I'd add a cold finger as well. I've seen this on other web sites. It's a plate of metal that is put behind the sensor, and run out through a hole gouged in the left side of the camera. On the outside, you put a thermo electric cooler (TEC) and a heat sink and fan. The idea is to chill the metal plate, which in turn pulls heat away front the sensor and dramatically reduces the noise.

I'll start with a few pictures of the easy part, opening the camera and getting to the sensor. Again, Gary's instructions made this simple.

Back removed from the camera:
Posted Image

After all connectors disconnected:
Posted Image

Main board out of the way:
Posted Image

Sensor Module removed:
Posted Image

-Dan
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#2 Midnight Dan

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Posted 05 July 2014 - 06:34 PM

This is where I hit a few snags.

First, if you look at the second picture from bottom in my post above. You'll see a metal shield on the back of the sensor module in the camera. I needed to remove that shield to see where I was going to put the cold finger. While the filter mod is well documented on Gary's site, the cold finger mode is a bit more "out there" and the documentation is more scant. In fact, I did not find anyone who had done it for my particular camera. So I was kind of on my own here.

The first issue was that the metal shield was secured to the metal frame under it with 3 screws. Two of the screws were in there REALLY tight and required extreme measures to get out without stripping them. Unfortunately, the 3rd screw was worse and would not budge. In the end I had to grind the head off with a Dremel tool. Once I had it off, I was able to grab the stub with a pair of pliers and turn it to unscrew it. I've ordered a replacement screw and will have to wait for that before I can reassemble.

Here's an image of the sensor module with the shield removed. Note the 3 tabs sticking out from under the circuit board, 2 on the left and one on the right. These are the main mounting tabs for the sensor itself. You can see where I had to grind the screw head off on the right hand one.

Posted Image

-Dan

#3 Midnight Dan

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Posted 05 July 2014 - 06:43 PM

The next snag was the location for the cold finger. The photos I had been looking at on the web showed a good sized gap between the sensor and the circuit board, with plenty of space for the metal plate:
http://thenightskyin...eny_450d-51.jpg

But my camera had a MUCH smaller gap and one of the locating pins was in the way:
Posted Image

There doesn't seem to be any way to get a cold finger in there, along with insulation to be sure it doesn't short out connections on the board. Plus, the left side of the camera, which is where the cold finger was supposed to protrude, was full of stuff in the way. I was going to have to rethink this.

From the photos above, it appears that the sensor's 3 mounting tabs are rather hefty chunks of metal, and are likely used to transfer heat out of the chip. They are also bolted to the heavy metal frame around the assembly. Now I'm thinking if I can bolt my cold finger to that metal frame and use thermal paste for conductivity, it should cool the chip pretty effectively.

And it looks like there's more room to route the cold finger out of the bottom of the camera rather than the side. This might be an advantage anyway because I can use the tripod mount hole to bolt the exterior assembly onto the camera. That way, the added weight of the heat sink and cooling assembly won't be stressing the sensor module.

Anyway, I'm on hold for now waiting for parts. But I will post more when time allows.

-Dan

#4 Gary BEAL

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Posted 05 July 2014 - 07:47 PM

Brave Dan, braver than me anyway. Good luck.
Gary

#5 Midnight Dan

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Posted 05 July 2014 - 08:19 PM

Ackk! Fumbly fingers - I had the title of this thread "Canon T3k" and should have been "Canon T3i". Just changed it. :p

-Dan

#6 gdd

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Posted 05 July 2014 - 08:45 PM

But no fumbly fingers when inside the camera?

Gale

#7 Midnight Dan

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Posted 05 July 2014 - 08:51 PM

But no fumbly fingers when inside the camera?


:lol: So far, no! But I'll keep my fumbly fingers crossed!

-Dan

#8 moxican

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Posted 05 July 2014 - 08:54 PM

This is a great project. I modded my 450D, and I had more space as you have mentioned. One warning I'd give you though, be very carefull with those ribbon cable. The connecting surfaces scratch easily and then things start not working. I have to live without the screen and my memory card just for that. It is ok though since I have it running by the PC anyways. Just a word of warning.

#9 Midnight Dan

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Posted 05 July 2014 - 08:57 PM

Thanks Gustav - good to know! I'll be careful with the connectors. Even though I use the computer, I'd like to be able to still use the rear screen to access the menus in the camera. There are features like "long exposure noise reduction" that can only be turned off and on through the menus.

-Dan

#10 Jaymichaelt

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Posted 06 July 2014 - 09:49 PM

Following this post, considering modding this same camera.
Best of luck and keep us posted on your progress!

#11 Midnight Dan

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Posted 09 July 2014 - 01:52 PM

Update:
I had a piece of 1/8" copper that I was going to use for the cold finger, but after looking at the space available, I think that's way too thick. I placed an eBay order for a 1/16" thick piece of stock to use instead.

I haven't gotten the copper or the the replacement screw in yet, and I'm leaving in a couple of days for a 2 week vacation. What with prep for the vacation, there's now no way I'll get back to this till I return. I'll have to pick this up again towards the end of July.

-Dan

#12 Dennis_S253

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Posted 10 July 2014 - 12:27 AM

Dang, I just bought my T3i. I think I'll just look for a body to try modify. Why mess with a $$$ camera with 2 nice lenses? Once you mod can you still use the lenses?

#13 Midnight Dan

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Posted 10 July 2014 - 06:39 AM

Depends on how you mod it. I'm planning on leaving the filter out completely so auto focus won't work right.

If you replace the filter with clear glass or with an IR/UV cut filter, then yes you can use normal lenses. But you'll have to use custom white balance to get good color. Another option is a clip-in filter that restores normal color balance. Look at Gary Honis' web site for a description of the various options for modding and filters.
http://dslrmodifications.com

If you can afford getting another body only, and dedicate it to astro work, then you have more freedom to do what you want to the camera. Doing the cold finger mod really 'hacks' the camera body and, while some people still use it for normal photography, in most cases it becomes a dedicated astro camera.

I found a gray market T3i body from Abe's of Maine for under $400. It doesn't have a warranty, but after the mods, the warranty is no good anyway.
http://www.abesofmai...OSRDT3I&&amp...

-Dan

#14 Dark Night

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 10:11 AM

Very interesting. I too have a T3i that I'll be modding and will follow this very closely. Cold finger huh... every time I read that, for some reason, Bond music plays in my head! :lol:

#15 gdd

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 05:30 PM

The 3ti has an articulating LCD that can be moved out of the way. Does this make it possible to make a simpler though less effective externally mounted cold finger?

 

Gale



#16 Midnight Dan

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 10:13 AM

Made some headway on this in the last couple of weeks. I spent some time figuring out exactly how to route the cold finger based on what's in the way.  

 

Gale, to answer your question, I'm trying to leave the camera parts in their original functioning locations.  This included leaving the articulating screen in place.  Not sure if moving it would really help anyway.  There's a lot of circuitry and cables behind the sensor, so it would not be easy to get the cold finger to come out the back, if that's what you were suggesting.

 

I felt that the best route was out the bottom of the camera.  There are 2 ribbon cables in the way, as well as the tripod connector screw hole, so this meant splitting the cold plate into two fingers.  I started by carefully marking the sensor frame with a fine sharpie to indicate where the other parts were, and I tapped threads in two of the existing holes in the frame.  I used a 4-40 sized tap which seemed about right for the holes:

 

SennsorFrameLayoutanndHoles_zpsee825f01.

 

Note the locations where I drew around the ribbon cables.  This is NOT where the cables block access to the sensor plate itself.  Rather, these are the areas that block access through the bottom of the camera.  The cold plate fingers have to go around those locations, but can swing back in towards the middle to be able to bolt onto the plate.  

 

The line drawn where the EMI shield sits on the frame shows that the hole on the right side will interfere with the shield.  As a result, I had to cut a notch out the shield and make the cold finger a little longer on that side.  Here's an image of the notch cut in the shield, as well as the notches cut in the camera body to allow the fingers to go through.  On the bottom part (camera body), I had to cut away parts of the camera's metal frame.  On the top part (the camera back) I had to cut away parts of the plastic.  All the cutting was done with a dremel tool and thin abrasive cutoff wheel.  When I was cutting the metal camera frame, I covered the open camera interior with plastic from a sandwich bag and used lots of scotch tape to seal the edges so that grinding dust and metal particles would not get into the camera.

 

NotchesCut_zpscc0730eb.jpg

 

-Dan



#17 gdd

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 10:31 AM

Made some headway on this in the last couple of weeks. I spent some time figuring out exactly how to route the cold finger based on what's in the way.  

 

Gale, to answer your question, I'm trying to leave the camera parts in their original functioning locations.  This included leaving the articulating screen in place.  Not sure if moving it would really help anyway.  There's a lot of circuitry and cables behind the sensor, so it would not be easy to get the cold finger to come out the back, if that's what you were suggesting.

 

I felt that the best route was out the bottom of the camera.  There are 2 ribbon cables in the way, as well as the tripod connector screw hole, so this meant splitting the cold plate into two fingers.  I started by carefully marking the sensor frame with a fine sharpie to indicate where the other parts were, and I tapped threads in two of the existing holes in the frame.  I used a 4-40 sized tap which seemed about right for the holes:

 

SennsorFrameLayoutanndHoles_zpsee825f01.

 

Note the locations where I drew around the ribbon cables.  This is NOT where the cables block access to the sensor plate itself.  Rather, these are the areas that block access through the bottom of the camera.  The cold plate fingers have to go around those locations, but can swing back in towards the middle to be able to bolt onto the plate.  

 

The line drawn where the EMI shield sits on the frame shows that the hole on the right side will interfere with the shield.  As a result, I had to cut a notch out the shield and make the cold finger a little longer on that side.  Here's an image of the notch cut in the shield, as well as the notches cut in the camera body to allow the fingers to go through.  On the bottom part (camera body), I had to cut away parts of the camera's metal frame.  On the top part (the camera back) I had to cut away parts of the plastic.  All the cutting was done with a dremel tool and thin abrasive cutoff wheel.  When I was cutting the metal camera frame, I covered the open camera interior with plastic from a sandwich bag and used lots of scotch tape to seal the edges so that grinding dust and metal particles would not get into the camera.

 

NotchesCut_zpscc0730eb.jpg

 

-Dan

I was thinking of something non-invasive. Just cool the camera by placing the cold finger on the plastic housing. With the LCD moved out of the way maybe it could extract enough heat from the camera to cool the sensor somewhat. But you say there appears to be too much circuitry between the sensor and the plastic housing.

 

Gale



#18 Midnight Dan

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 10:32 AM

Next Step was to shape the cold finger.  I drilled the 1/8" copper sheet where inside corners of the cuts would be to make rounded corners.  Then I used a bandsaw to cut the metal into the right shape.  I finished it with files to smooth and round the edges.  Then I bent it using a bench vise and pliers.  One of these days I'll get a cheap metal brake but I never seem to get around to it. It certainly would have done a better, more precise job.  

 

I did a lot of back and forth with test fitting and trimming to get it to the right size and shape.  This next picture shows a test fit.  Note that there is a loop of metal from the EMI shield that ends at the screw hole where it is attached at lower left.  This seems to be a strain relief, or something to allow some flex in the positioning of the shield.  In any case, that loop was in the way of the cold finger so I had to rebend it into a shape that would route it above the cold finger.

 

TestFitwithShield_zps8850ed01.jpg

 

After getting it into the right shape, I carefully measured the positions of the newly threaded holes in the sensor frame, transferred them to the cold fingers, and drilled holes for the 4-40 screws.  I purchased some flat head screws so I could countersink them and keep the heads out of the way.  But, due to the thinness of the copper, I couldn't countersink as much as I would have liked, and the head do stick up a wee bit from the surface.  I don't think this will cause a problem though.  Also, due to the thinness of the sensor frame, and the fact that it is made of aluminum, I am being VERY careful to only gently tighten the screws.  It would be extremely easy to strip these threads.  I plan to use thread locking compound on final assembly so I don't have to tighten the screws much.

 

FingerboltedtoFrame_zpse01b1902.jpg

 

Note in the image above, you can see the screws sticking out the rear of the sensor frame.  This was not going to work so I had to cut them off short enough to be flush with the rear.  Whenever I cut off a screw, I always thread a nut on first.  After cutting, if the thread got a little messed up, removing the nut will clean the threads.  In this case, threading the nut onto the screw all the way did not allow me to cut the screw as short as I needed to.  So I clamped the nuts in a vise-grip pliers, and used my drill press to countersink one side of the nut.  Then I could thread it on to the proper distance, use the dremel cutoff wheel to cut off the screw, and remove the nut to clean the threads.  Worked great!

 

ScrewsCut_zpse944a276.jpg

 

Here's an image of the cold finger and sensor frame bolted together and test fit into the camera:

 

Boltedassytestfit_zps4cac596d.jpg

 

-Dan



#19 Midnight Dan

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 10:44 AM

>> Just cool the camera by placing the cold finger on the plastic housing.

 

Hi Gale:

 

Ah, now I see what you're suggesting.  For me, the important thing is to get the cold finger into the camera and thermally coupled to the sensor.  Cooling the outside of the camera is much less efficient because of all the pieces and air gaps between the cold plate and the sensor.

 

There are many people who make cold boxes that surround the camera and chill the air inside the box.  These do work, but not as well as a cold finger.  I figured since I was inside the camera anyway for the filter mod, I might as well try to go for the cold finger mod as well.

 

-Dan



#20 Midnight Dan

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 10:57 AM

The cooling assembly is one that I ripped out of a novelty drink cooler in the shape of a tiny Coca-Cola branded refridgerator.  I got it as a gift a few years ago and don't use it.

 

Fanfromcooler_zpsf114514d.jpg

 

It consists of, from bottom to top, a thin aluminum plate, a 40mm x 40mm TEC (thermoelectric cooling) plate, an aluminum heat sink, and a fan.

 

Fandisassembled_zpscfe84192.jpg

 

The whole thing is powered by plugging into a USB port so it runs off of 5V, not the 12V I preferred.  The fan is definitely a 5V model so I'll be replacing that.  The TEC plate seems to run fine on 12V, as most of them do, and was probably just being run at low power with the 5V supply.  I measured the current usage and it appears to be a model 12703 which is a 3 amp maximum current type.  There are no markings on it, so I'm just guessing based on the specs I see online for various models.  This means it is probably rated at 22 watts of cooling power.  A little on the low side, but I might as well try and use it since I already have it.  I think a 5 amp model would be better, but I can easily switch to a different one later if desired.

 

But, if you're starting from scratch and don't have something, a 5 Amp model 12705 should do well, and can be found online for under $10.  Heat sinks are also available fairly cheaply from many sources.

 

-Dan


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#21 ccdmaker

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Posted 07 August 2014 - 06:06 PM

Dan,

Thanks for the superb description and pictures. I was planning to do the same with my T2i, which is somewhat similar internally to the T3i but balked when I saw web references (can't recall where) showing a much narrower cold finger gap than the 450D/Xsi. I will watch your progress with keen interest to see how many degrees of delta-T you achieve!

 

Clear Skies,

 

RK



#22 Midnight Dan

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Posted 15 August 2014 - 05:34 PM

Been doing some more work on this and decided it was time to post an update on my progress.

 

Initially, I had planned to use a PWM power supply to deliver power to the TEC plate so I could vary the temperature.  I had purchased a cheap $3 digital thermometer from an eBay store, which came with a thermistor probe.  Another member here on Cloudy Nights offered to build a controller circuit for me to maintain a set temperature point, which I thought was a good idea and greatly appreciated (thanks, Scott!).  But when I looked on eBay again, I found I could buy a pre-made circuit with digital readout, programmable set point, hysteresis, and calibration, for only $6!  It's amazing what's available for dirt cheap these days!

 

The one thing I was concerned about was the size of the temperature probe.  It looked identical to the one that came with my $3 digital thermometer so I decided to use that to start thinking about where to mount the probe.  The probe was a small metal tube at the end of a wire, but it was bit too large to fit easily into the camera.  So I opened it up with the cutoff wheel in my dremel tool.  The thermistor inside was coated in a rubbery material that I scraped off with an exacto knife.  What remained was an epoxy coated thermistor that I could mount on the area of the sensor frame between the two fingers.

 

20Thermistoropened_zps554ff92e.jpg

 

21Thermistoratframe_zpsbc3d7105.jpg

 

-Dan



#23 Midnight Dan

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Posted 15 August 2014 - 06:14 PM

Next up was dealing with mounting the cold finger.  Since I wanted to bolt it to the sensor frame, and also to the tripod socket on the bottom of the camera, I needed to be able to adjust its position carefully so I would not put any stress on the sensor frame.  To do this, I needed two degrees of freedom.  I needed to be able to move it forward and backward relative to the camera body so that the fingers would be at the same plane as the top of the sensor frame.  I also needed to be able to adjust it up and down relative to the camera body to position the screw holes in the fingers correctly with respect to the sensor frame's threaded holes.

 

My approach was to use a two-layer bottom plate.  The first layer is the copper plate shown above.  The second layer is a thicker aluminum plate that will be the part that the TEC cooler lays against.  I needed a bolt with a thin head that could be used to bolt the copper plate to the bottom of the camera, with the head taking up the same thickness as the aluminum plate.  To allow the lateral adjustment in position for the plates, I needed the hole in the copper plate to be larger than the screw body, and the hole in the aluminum plate to be larger than the screw head.

 

I found such a screw at McMaster Carr, the internet's hardware store. :grin:  Here's some images of the plates, with holes drilled and the screw nearby.  I used two 4-40 screws to bolt the two plates together, and used Arctic Silver thermal grease between the two.

 

22CopperandAlplates_zps36c53b1a.jpg

 

 

 

23CopperandAlplates_zps897933dd.jpg

 

This photo shows the cold plate bolted into place.  I started by loosely threading the screw into the bottom hole.  Then I aligned the holes in the fingers with the holes in the sensor frame and put in the two finger screws.  The final step is to tighten the bottom screw, but I had to get some washers that would exactly take up the space between the plate and bottom of camera.

 

Also, notice the blue marking on the plate where an access hole is needed.  When I test fit this into place, I noticed that it covered up several of the bottom holes in the camera.  I really didn't need to use them all, but I did want to be able to insert the camera screw back into the hole that was covered by the cold plate in that location.

 

24Plateboltedinplace_zps8703116e.jpg

 

There was a lot of fiddley work needed to get this mounting right.  I was able to find a rubber washer the right size to take up the space between the plate and camera, but had to be careful not to compress it too much when fighting the bottom screw.  I also had to trim the washer to allow clearance for the fingers, and to allow a space for the temperature probe wire.

 

Because the hole in the aluminum plate was in a location where part of the TEC plate would be, I didn't want such a large opening where the TEC was not thermally coupled to the rest of the plate.  So I added a washer under the head of the screw to align the head of the screw with the surface of the aluminum plate.  To continue to allow the screw to move around in the oversized hole during positioning, the washer had to be the same diameter as the head.  That meant I had to chuck the head and washer into a drill press and use a file to reduce the washer diameter to the right size.

 

When I was done with that, the head of the screw was just a hair above the surface of the aluminum plate - which meant that the TEC plate wouldn't sit flat on the plate.  So I had to remove the screw and rub the head on sandpaper to shave the top surface down to the right height.  Seems like a relatively easy task, but took me most of an evening to get it to the right height!

 

-Dan


Edited by Midnight Dan, 15 August 2014 - 06:23 PM.


#24 Midnight Dan

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Posted 15 August 2014 - 06:56 PM

On to the temperature probe.  I purchased some Arctic Silver 2-part thermal epoxy, and glued the sensor into place on the sensor frame between the two fingers.  I also did the final assembly of the cold plate to the camera.  This included inserting the long screws for the heat sink and fan, as well as adding some insulation strips between the plate and camera.

 

The insulation was a roll of adhesive backed weatherstripping 3/16" thick by 3/4" wide.  I had to cut it so that it would fit around the rubber washer, and also leave space for the temperature probe wiring.

 

25Thermistergluedin_zps724ef689.jpg

 

Once the epoxy dried, I was ready to reassemble the rest of the camera.  I had to do so before assembling the cooler, so that I could get at the access hole I had drilled in the base plate and screw the camera body together.

 

The assembly was more difficult than the disassembly.  There were several of the connectors on the main circuit board that were very difficult to access.  Trying to plug the ribbon cables back in and secure them properly in their sockets was tricky for a few of them.  I had to work slowly and be patient.  Even so, I began to get frustrated and had to walk away from it for a while.  I came back the next day and was able to complete the assembly:

 

26CamerqaReassembled_zpseb66b9da.jpg

 

And now the moment of truth.  I held my breath, put a battery in it, and powered up.

 

28MomemntofTruth_zps027ea4a4.jpg

 

Woohoo!  I have to admit, that was a good feeling.  I also opened the shutter and, without a lens, saw a nice blurry field of light, heavy in the red - which is expected due to the filter removal (remember the filter removal? :grin: )

 

-Dan



#25 Midnight Dan

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Posted 15 August 2014 - 07:06 PM

Next step was to finish the cooler assembly.  I started by placing insulation strips around the TEC plate on the aluminum bottom plate.  I smeared the cold side of the TEC with Arctic Silver thermal grease and put it into place:

 

27TECandinsulation_zps329946a7.jpg

 

I then used the Arctic Silver on the hot side of the TEC, and put the heat sink into place.  I slid some pieces of shrink wrap over the screws to provide a little thermal break between the screws and the heat sink.  When I purchased a 12V Fan for the cooler, I also purchased a silicone vibration pad to help isolate any fan vibrations from the rest of the system, so I put that in place too. 

 

29BuildingtheCooler_zps3f2b599b.jpg

 

And finally, the completed cooler with the fan.  Note that in addition to a nut and washer on each screw, I also used a rubber washer as an additional guard against transmitting vibrations down the screws:

 

30CoolerComplete_zps51965cc9.jpg

 

-Dan








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