Introduction: Building an IPad Mini Cart .on the Cheap

Picture of Building an IPad Mini Cart .on the Cheap

Setting up an iPad mini mass deployment and most of the budget already got sunk into iPads before you realized you needed a cart? Well, here's a handy guide to solve that problem as cheaply as possible, a home made iPad mini sync and storage cart. This particular setup will be used in a college environment on a very small budget. 

Step 1: Design Overview

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Here is an overview diagram showing the case as assembled and a parts diagram. 

Step 2: Parts List

Picture of Parts List

Here's the parts list used in the previous step with links to amazon and prices paid at time of purchase. 


iPad Mini Cart Parts List

8 USB Hubs DUB-H7 7-PORT USB 2.0 HUB

$27.06 x 8 $216.48

1 Tripp Lite Power strip

$26.99 x 1 $26.99

1 Zip ties

$6.35 x 1 

1 6' extension cord Industrial strength, as it gets plugged in and unplugged a lot.

$10.63 x 1 $10.63

1 Pelican 1630 Case 

$203.99 x 1 $203.99

PVC Pipe used as conduit. but I think something like this monoprice wire flex tubing might have been a better choice if done over again as it lets you divide bank A and B into separate runs.

Step 3: Putting It Together Part 1

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Start with the cutouts for the Pelican 1650 case. You want to make cutouts for the iPad mini's and the D-Link USB hubs. We also did a cutout for a length of PVC pipe as conduit. As mentioned in the parts list running smaller parallel conduit for banks A and B might work better for cable management.
 
When cutting the pick N' pluck foam something long, thin and dull like the back of a long saw blade works great to separate the foam. Using the dull back lets you separate the precut foam without adding any new cuts you don’t want.  Make sure to go slow and use a marker to mark off where each cut should be made.  Thicker foam might be an even better option but that requires custom molding.

Step 4: Putting It Together Part 2

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Here's the cart with the PVC cable run. A few key things learned:

1. Label all cables first. This is really important so you know what cable goes to what and you don't have to spend an hour figuring this out.

2. Make sure you have your cables paired in an A-B bank or a naming system you choose but stick with it two banks of 20 each. This makes things much easier for configuring the USB hubs for cascading so the computer can see all 40 at once.

3. You can practice and not have to worry about screw ups in the cut on the first set of foam by hiding it as the bottom section of foam..

Step 5: Putting It Together Part 3

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Now that you've run the wires through the conduit it’s on to the last step. Wiring up the iPad mini’s to the USB hubs. Don’t forget you’ll need to be using USB cascading so the computer can see all 40 at once.

A few more tips: 

Numbering each iPad on the actual unit helps quite a bit when tracking down problems.

Color coding each bank of 20 using zip ties helps keep things in order,

the iPad's will charge off the hubs but it's pretty slow so you'd want to leave them overnight.

Now sit back and reflect  on how much you saved by looking at these commercial carts and saying you could build something better..

Comparisons:  

Bretford PowerSync Cart for iPad 
$2,599.95
DS-IP-TC16 Charge and Sync 16 iPads
$1869.00

Comments

kayos (author)2014-10-03

I like your idea here but what about temperature? There's no ventilation, do the iPads get hot?

THEEDITOR123 (author)2013-12-09

Please tell me you cut a groove in the top so you have a place for the end of the lightning cable to go so that you don't break the port? Nothing personal, I just heard the voices of 40 iPad mini's crying out to me.

tbarf (author)2013-08-07

Hmm Now it works weird. Anyway it's 40 ipad mini's. Thx for pointing out the typo fixed.

Simple, We are on a fixed budget and most of it went to the mini's saving any money we can helps dropping 2k on a cart just wasn't in the cards.

John, Thx for the comment lots of good info. Those hubs look great but then I saw the price yikes. My understanding is even though we are only drawing 500mA because we are using mini's it shouldn't be a big of a deal just because we are dealing with much smaller batteries.

tbarf (author)2013-08-07

I can't seem to reply to comments it just keeps asking me to solve the CAPTCHA

goingforthewin (author)2013-08-03

how many ipad minis are there?

JohnDyers (author)2013-08-02

Clever idea. Just be careful of two things: (1) The D-Link hubs do not provide enough power to each port to charge the minis with any speed. Even if they got the 2.1A per port provided in the standard old iPad charger, they would still take a long time to charge. At 500mA per port they barely charge at all. (2) We built something like this using a Datamation hub (which worked beautifully but is more expensive) but the camera case foam retained a lot of heat and we were worried about the minis burning up, not as a fire but exceeding the temperature requirements set by apple. Apple told us it was a problem. We also noticed that the foam was not very dense so it pilled and lost its shape with use.
This is a good, cheap solution, but be careful of your expectations.

SimpleSean95 (author)2013-08-01

If you can afford that many iPads I don't think you'll be too concerned with the price of the cart. Lol

tommyfun (author)2013-08-01

$6.35 = $6.35 not $ 12.70

bigwhitebear18 (author)2013-08-01

Excellent DIY project and Instructable.

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