Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Riser Recycling

If you build multi-GPU servers, you'll likely encounter flaky or bad risers.  I've had a bad riser where I could see a burned trace on the PCB, and I've had flaky risers that appeared to be caused by poor soldering of the ribbon cable.  While the problem risers may not work with a GPU, chances are the power connectors are still good.  The riser shown above has a 6-pin PCI-e and a 4-pin molex connector, both of which I tested for continuity with a multi-meter.  With some fresh flux I was able to desolder the ribbon cable, so I could re-use the riser as a PCI-e to molex power adapter.  If you are wondering what I would use it for, look at the photo below.

Heat has caused the yellow 12V line to turn brown.  The cable was plugged into the motherboard's supplemental PCI-e power which is used when more than two GPUs are plugged in.  Each GPU will usually draw between 50 and 75 watts over the PCI-e bus, which is pushing the 18AWG (or even 20AWG on some power supplies) cable well beyond it's recommended rating.  By plugging the next molex connector in the chain into the riser, and by providing power to the 6-pin connector on the same riser, current will flow into the motherboard molex connector from both directions.

With the current through the brown wire cut in half, the power dissipated (and therefore the heat generated) is reduced by 75%, since P = I^2 * R.

Supplemental mod

Bitcointalk user BChydro questioned the current-carrying ability of the riser PCB, which turns out to be rather poor for the 12V trace.  The solder mask over the 12V trace was starting to turn brown after only a couple days of use, and a thermal image shows the trace getting hot.

To solve the problem I added a 18AWG jumper wire between the 12V pins:

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