Introduction: Construction Site Laptop

Picture of Construction Site Laptop

I have spent he last few month both working on a large construction site and living directly opposite one.

One thing that constantly strikes me is the vulnerability of laptops used in these environments.

I know that ruggadised laptops exist (I have had the pleasure of owning one once) but they are prohibitively expensive, especially considering the basic use most site laptops get.

I decided to raid the old bits laying around my shed, attic and workshop to come up with a solution that would cost me nothing...

I started out with an old (not that old but surplus to requirement and disused) Toshiba Windows 7 laptop.

The aluminium case is one that I used to use to carry some test equipment that has long since died.

I scavenged the power cable and re-winder from an old vacuum cleaner who's motor was burned out and the multi-way plug board was from an old extension lead that had its cable damaged on one job or another.

I also used some polycabonate and some LED strip lighting, these were items I had laying around from old jobs.

In the last step of this instructable I will provide some links for free software that would come in handy on a building site.

CAUTION & WARNING:

This instructable deals with working with mains voltage and hacking electrical equipment, please only carry out works if you are competent and able. Also please refer to any local wiring regulations as what I have done here may not apply in your area.

This instructable also deals with the opening and drilling of your laptop caseing, this will certainly void any warranty you have and please don't do it with your everyday laptop (if you want to maintain its condition).

I do not know if this set up would be subject to inspection by major contractors when going onto sites and may be turned away for any number of reasons.

Forewarned, lets go...

Step 1: Mount the Laptop

Picture of Mount the Laptop

I was able to confirm that my laptop fit completely inside the lid of the toolbox.

Start by removing the front bezel around the screen.

Position the laptop such that the screen can open and close comfortably and without straining the hinges.

Drill through the casing, being careful not to damage any cabling or the laptop screen.

I reused some of the self tapping screws from the vacuum, I had them, they would work, they were otherwise going in the bin and I liked the torque screw heads.

I ran in the screws which are obviously far too long. I show the steps for releasing the screen and I used my dremel to trim the screws back.

I then re-assembled the laptop and powered on to test if the laptop still worked, success...

Step 2: Power Re-winder

Picture of Power Re-winder

I needed to make a space in the box for the power cable re-winder

I marked out a section on the side of the box for the plug to to exit through.

I cut this with the dremel, but as I went on with the fitting I needed to make a couple of adjustments, you will see the original markings in the first image and the final hole in the third. A note here, the dremel while doing a wonderful job cutting the box, caused a huge amount of smoke and set off the smoke alarm in my house, so maybe take this one outside to do...

When mounted, the output for the power was coming from 2 blade connectors on the top of the reel, obviously this was dangerous so I used fully insulated crimps. I was still weary of the power being that close to my hand so I made up a shield to go around the inlet from some polycabonate that I cut with a hacksaw and bent using a heat gun. I did not provide detailed pictures for this step as I made a horrible job of it and I think it looks not to bad from far away :-)

I also had to use a step drill to make a 20mm hole in the shield, this allows you to put your finger through (in a safe place) and trigger the re-winding mechanism. Some vacuums use a pull out then pull to return system, I think this would be better.

I mounted the shield and the power block with some hot melt glue.

The shield also doubles as a support for the laptop keyboard when the unit is open.

Step 3: Light It Up

Picture of Light It Up

I added an LED strip down one side

This is important as especially in Ireland, in December, sites are getting dark by 3pm and this laptop has not got an illuminated keyboard.

In the image is to powered off a cordless tool battery as I have not yet scavenged a 12V power supply for it.

Step 4: Software

After all that work, what good would the laptop be without software?

I didn't pay anything for the hardware so why start now?

The following are software packages I have downloaded and are of particular use to me, feel free to add and suggestions in the comments.

Autodesk DWG TrueView

Project Management 2 Plan

Open Office

Measurement Unit Convertor

Skype

Step 5: Load Up and Go

Picture of Load Up and Go

There is some space left underneath the laptop for files or equipment.

Fort example I put my digital multi meter and my video boroscope inside, these suit me but you can add what you need.

I was considering making a plate like the one I used in this bag but it wedged in so there was no need.

Have fun.

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Bio: I am an automation engineer but I will give anything a go. I don't know if you call if pessimism or just being an ... More »
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