Introduction: The Incredible 3D Printed Laptop Arm
Having a workbench is nice, you have more space, you can build better stuff. But, as it has been proven for decades in the IT industry, the more space you create, the more space you end up needing, the less free space you end up with. Eventually, this applied to my workshop, and I ended up with an always crowded workbench, no matter what I was doing.
I figured out that my computer was the second most space consuming item that was always present on my bench, first one being, of course, various opened beers bottles. Since I cannot do anything about that, obviously, I decided to build some kind of device to hang up my laptop, so I could have a bit more space to work and drink.
My goal was to make something fold able, that could be oriented in any possible direction, capable of handling the computer weight in a secured and stable way,
It was also a good opportunity for me to try my giant 3D printer with a useful real life project.
Step 1: Step 1: the Stuff You'll Need
For this project, you don't need much hardware, the only issue will be the tools.
-8 x M8x80mm screws +nuts
-1 M8X130mm screw
-4 skateboard ball bearings
-6 x M8x40mm screws
-Two cabinet cylinders, the one I use are rated at 20N each.
-about 2 kilos of PLA printing filament
For this project, you'll need a big 3D printer, capable of printing objects as big as 500 x 500 mm. I'm aware that this is not something everybody owns, but you have two solutions here:
-Build one, it is not as difficult as it sounds,
-Split the parts in smaller sections then use super glue to stick them together.
Anyway, the tools I used were:
-DIY giant 3D printer, 1.2mm nozzle
-A few wood chisels, to clean up the parts
-Hand drill and a few drill bits
Step 2: Step2: Design and Files
I'm not really an expert in design, so forgive me if this thing is not as sharp as an Apple thing or a Swedish furniture. Keep in mind that this is a computer holding arm for a garage, not some beautiful piece of art that you will expose in your living room.
Please also excuse my poor color combination choice, I had to finish some plastic spools. I didn't intend for this Fisher Price color combo.
This has been designed in Tinkercad. The file contains the full assembly and the separated parts, so you can directly print them, or modify whatever you want.
This arm features:
3 rotative axis, one to orient the whole arm, 2 to orient the screen (right-left and rotate on himself so you can flip from landscape to portrait if you feel the need to get weird)
1 slide axis, to incline the laptop
1 "accordeon" axis, to move up, down, front, ...
Step 3: Step 3: Print the Parts
I recommend you to use the following settings in general:
-0.6mm height per layer
-20% infill or less
Printing big objects like this can prove a bit challenging. The reason is that the plastic will want to warp, because of the difference of temperatures from the part center and the part corners (corners cool esaier, so they are cooler than the center of the part, which creates internal forces).
Usually, the warping is not too big of an issue with PLA, but for huge parts and without a heating bed, it is a whole different thing.
I print on a mirror, coated with glue stick. This usually works ok, To deal with warping, what I did was to wait for it to start appearing, then use super glue to stick those spots back on the glass. This proved to be effective, and I was able to remove the part afterwards without too much efforts. I do not recommend you to pour a bucket of glue on it though, just a little bit.
It took me something like 20 hours to print all the parts. This can be considered as a super low printing time, thanks to the 1.2mm nozzle. I think it would have takent sevela weeks with a 0.4mm one. Of course, the printing results are less clean, but there are two benefits for using 1.2mm nozzles:
-Parts strength: the plastic parts are way more resilient, can support more load without breaking.
Step 4: Step4: Assemble the Thing
This step is pretty straightforward, it is basically Lego.
First thing, use the hand drill to re drill all the holes with a 8MM drill bit. All the articulations need to be able to move freely with little effort.
Install the ball bearings on the central rotative support, then bolt the arms together. I suggest you to install the big laptop support plate last, it will be eaier this way.
The only tricky part would be to install the cylinders, because you have to overcome their strength. For this, I used what is called "muscular strength", something I've heard about but never actually wanted to try myself before. Turned out to be exhausting, I really wish I won't have to use it ever again.
So, basically, compress the cylinders, hold them in this position and clip them on their ball supports. After release, they will automatically lift the whole support.
If you find out that the cylinders are not powerful enough, you can simply adjust by sliding the support they are bolted on.
Take a good look at the pictures to see how everything is put together, it it is installed backwards it will not work.
Step 5: Step5: Grab a Bier
Pretty self explanatory, but this step is too often forgotten. I think it is a shame.
Step 6: Step6: Enjoy Your New Toy!
The only thing you'll need to do is to find a nice and convenient spot to hang the support on. Keep in mind that it needs to be solid, you'll have a 3-4 kilos laptop possibly hanging at about one meter from the wall while fully deployed, so this is a lot of effort on the wall fixings.
I've screwed mine on my workbench, it did not move ever since.
I end up using it every time I go on my workbench, and it is so convenient that most of the time I simply forget it is there, I just put my computer on it, move it around wherever I need it and concentrate on my work only. It can move up and down, forward and "the opposite of forward" (I don't know the English word for that but I guess you get the idea), the laptop can be inclined up or down, rotated on its axis and flipped. Pretty much all possible axis and configurations works and they can be locked up in position with hand nuts if necessary. The whole thing is fold able to not take any useful space whenever I don't need it.
I hope it inspired some of you guys to try and make something similar, or even use my design!
I've made mine with plastic and a fancy 3D printer, but it can be done with anything and any tool, just get creative!
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