Introduction: 3D Printed Adjustable Standing Desk for Under $50
Sitting is the New Smoking.
There has been lots of research showing that people who sit all day have higher incidents of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. As a designer, I often am sitting 8 (or like 4) hours a day or more at the computer. While I am active as well, apparently sitting is so bad for your health that it kills you faster IN SPITE OF HOW MUCH YOU EXERCISE AND EAT WELL. Interesting enough for me to think about ways to improve my day-to-day work situation.
This information is not that new however, and has led to a standing desk semi-revolution, with a variety of ergonomic and stylish solutions. While it would be easy to design a desk just meant for standing all day, it also can be very taxing and there are just times you need to sit, so the best way to have less sitting in your day is to have a height-adjustable desk. The main problem is that these contraptions range from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars.
But there had to be a better (see: cheaper) way for an engineer like myself, and that led to this project. I give you the 3D printed adjustable standing desk, made with custom 3D printed parts and some basic hardware from Home Depot, for under $50.
Inspired by height-adjustable work out equipment I saw at the gym, this desk uses a pin and track system with a wall monitor mount and a 3D printed carriage, base, and clamp. This design can raise a monitor up to 3 feet with many different height and configuration settings. For using basic plastic parts for it's main components, it is surprisingly strong and works incredibly well.
You'll find this design to be aesthetically pleasing, with lots of thought into the design and very clean and flush bolt mounts that make for a beautiful finished item that any DIYer would be proud of.
Step 1: Hardware Material Purchase and Other Things Not 3D Printed
This Instructable is sharing, through trial and error, how I came up with my own standing desk design and the process/materials for it. Your design may differ and therefore what you choose for materials may be different, but this project is a proof-of-concept that you can combine 3D printed materials with hardware to make something strong and functional, so feel free to take it and go any direction you'd like with it!
For my build, I purchased the following materials:
(21) 3/8" hex nuts* --- $2.52
(12) 3/8" hex bolt, 1" in length --- $2.40
(5) 3/8" hex bolt, 2.5" in length --- $2.00
(3) 3/8" hex bolt. 3.5" in length --- $.90
(2) 3/8" hex bolt, 5" in length --- $1.30
(2) 1/4" hex bolt, 1.5" in length --- $.24
(2) 1/4" hex nuts --- $.20
(1) Adjustable TV Monitor Mount ** --- $13.96
(1) 36" Perforated Steel Box Tube --- $17.77
(1) Some felt or other material to protect desk from base --- had some lying around, but very cheap otherwise
---TOTAL COST OF MATERIALS = $41.29---
These are some other helpful things to have as well:
-Calipers that measure in mm and have a decimal point (I personally love cheapo jewelry calipers you can find at Harbor Freight)
-Drill and drill bits (3/8" and 1/4" for this design)
*I personally felt 3/8" seemed more than solid enough for all the major component parts. I probably could've gotten away with 1/4" though. The two 1/4" screws are the size that fit the monitor mount I chose.
**The monitor mount was purchased off amazon, and was not the cheapest/lightest one available. However, I chose it because Its extends up to 14 inches (although I honestly wouldn't extend it that far), swivels, and rotates. It also makes it easy to grab it to adjust the screen height. And as a kicker it comes with a 10' HDMI cable. Win, win.
Step 2: Design a Desk Clamp
NOTE: To design your own, you need to be able to model in a precise fashion. I personally use Rhino, however most other drafting programs should work fine. You need to be able to model in decimals of millimeters. All the 3D printed parts are available to download in their respective steps, feel free to use them to assist you in your modeling.
The goal of the clamp is to hold our entire contraption to the desk. You want your center of gravity to be over the desk, so that it is not going to ever come off. You are also going to want your clamp to fit VERY SNUGLY to the desk*. In my attached design, I purposely over-engineered everything as far as thickness so that there would be no worries with the strength of the whole device.
HOW TO DESIGN YOUR OWN
1. Measure your desk thickness so you know what your clamp needs to fit around. My desk measured about 21.5mm, but I left additional room for felt material to fit underneath so I wouldn't harm the surface.
2. Measure the bolt size that will connect your base to your clamp (as well as the placement and number of them you'd like). Also keep in mind how you are going to connect the nuts and bolts in the final assembly stage (Your design needs extra room for your tools to fit). In my design, there is space underneath the clamp for a wrench to fit in to tighten the nuts.
3. Make sure that the tube will be over the desk as much as possible in your base design. The center of my tube is about 3 inches from the edge of my desk.
4. Decide what shape you'd like your clamp to be, preferably something that uses the least amount of plastic but is also strong. I went with something that looked attractive and was easy to 3D print in 2 parts, lessening the chance that the whole thing would be ruined if a single print messed up. Also, it needs no supports to be printed.
*In general, when designing for 3d printing, I've found a .3mm offset will give you a tight fit and .6mm will give you a loser fit (for example, if you are designing a hole for a 10mm diameter bolt, you should 3D print your hole at 10.6mm). Keep this in mind when designing something to fit around something else, such as your base to your desk.
Step 3: Design a Base for the Pole
The base needs to connect to your clamp as well as secure the pole. Since the pole we purchased is perforated, all we need to do is design a base that will bolt into to it as well as the clamp. My design base has room for 5 holes in the tube that will bolted into the base.
HOW TO DESIGN YOUR OWN
1. Use your clamp design to determine where to put your holes on your base for using bolts to unite the two.
2. Measure the tube so that you can design it to fit into your base. My design also has material in the middle of the tube, to make it more secure. However, the more I think about it, the more I think it is probably unnecessary, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.
3. Measure the holes and distance apart they are from one another on the tube. For my design, I staggered their placement, switching sides while going up the base.Five bolts connecting the tube/base works very well.
Step 4: Design the Carriage System
The carriage needs to simply connect to your monitor mount and be able to very freely slide on our tube. I chose a mount that had a very wide gap between the top and bottom bolts for connecting it, so I made a top and bottom carriage for the project (easier to print then one big one).
The final design I came up with is a little funny, so I'll go ahead and explain it:
The carriages are designed so that they are assembled with the bolt to connect to the monitor mount to be inserted first, and then the other 4 bolts to tighten the carriage to be applied to hold it tight. This design is necessary because there is not enough allowance to fit in a bolt sideways with the space allotted for the tube. Not making a whole lot of sense?See illustration in the beginning of this section.
The bottom carriage is also bigger so that the whole thing can sit on the top of the base without needing a pin to hold it up to the minimum height that I use it for.
HOW TO DESIGN YOUR OWN
Use your base guide for the size of the tube slot. Devise a way to have a bolt connect to the monitor mount. Simple enough.
Step 5: Print. Everything.
This may take a while.
I printed with 4 shells and 30% infill, which resulted in very strong and heavy pieces. The 4 shells is ideal because we will later drill out the holes a bit so the bolts fit perfectly.
Also attached is a file for a wrench that will fit some of the tighter spaces in the design and one for some of the deeper spaces. I had to come up with these when I realized my tool wouldn't fit the space I had designed for it, and I didn't really want to redesign anything. Pretty sure custom tools is why NASA wants 3D printers in space.
Step 6: Assemble!
Now that we have everything we could possibly need and more, it is time to put this thing together!
Use the 3/8" drill bit to drill out all the holes in the plastic. It should be like butter to drill. Also, if the holes in your steel tube are smaller than 3/8", drill them out too (mine were 1/4").
Use two 3/8" 5inch long bolts and nuts for the corner of the clamp and two 3/8" 3.5inch bolts for the middle. Tighten all the nuts.
ASSEMBLE BASE AND TUBE:
Slide the square tube into your 2 base halves connect with your five 3/8" 2.5inch bolts and nuts.
CONNECT CLAMP AND BASE:
Place four 3/8" 1inch bolts into your base. Guide that assembly into the clamp. Then take each nut and tighten it to the bolts. This can be tricky as there is not a whole lot of room, go ahead and use the bigger 3D printed wrench to help you out.
You are going to place your carriage so it is sitting flat and facing upright. Take one of the 1/4" 1inch bolts and place it in the half hole for it. Take the top half of the carriage and sandwich the bolt between the two. Take four 3/8" 1inch bolt/nut combos and tighten the whole thing. Do this process for both carriages. One of the carriages may require a deep socket or one of the 3D printed wrenches.
CONNECT CARRIAGES TO MONITOR MOUNT:
Pretty simple, just connect the carriages to the corresponding holes in the monitor mount with the 1/4" nuts.
PLACE ASSEMBLED DEVICE ON DESK:
This thing is assembled! Use your felt/material and place it on the desk
CONNECT MONITOR AND YOU'RE DONE!
Using the screws that came with the monitor mount, connect that screen to your new standing desk. This might be a two person job, so find an assistant. Congrats on your new awesome thing and high five your helper! Then maybe give them a tip or buy them dinner. Or help them build their own standing desk...
RAISE AND LOWER THAT SCREEN AT YOUR OWN CONVENIENCE:
Enjoy lowering and raising your monitor all the time, even if it is just for fun or to show off to friends how awesome you are. Use the extra 3/8" 3.5inch bolt as a pin to lock your carriage into any position on your tube!
This design is not absolutely perfect, and if I started from scratch again there would be several things to change. However, it works great for its intended purpose and I couldn't be happier with it.
How much weight can it really hold? This is a great question that I'm not sure of. For reference, I use it with a 13lb 24" monitor and it works great. The monitor mount also weighs 1.5lbs, so that is 14.5lbs three feet in the air and it is as solid as can be.
Currently I have 2 of these monitor mounts. I've played with the idea of running another tube across both of them as a place to put speakers, run track lighting across, add accessories, etc.
Also, this design does not necessarily address what to do with your keyboard and mouse. That is a design for another day and for people smarter than me! I just use a box right now.
So hopefully this project inspires you to make an adjustable standing desk for yourself or at least shows you how 3D printing plastic can actually lead to something that is USEFUL and STRONG. Glad you took the time to read it, please feel free to post any questions or thoughts at the bottom!