Introduction: Cheap Laptop Cooler and Expansion Unit, AND Poor Man's Docking Station

About: A semi retired engineer with too much time on his hands, I just love, building and tinkering with anything electrical or mechanical. I also love chatting to people and swapping ideas. Just send me a message if…

Have you got a laptop with only one or two USB ports on it? and as a result you end up with a desk covered in wires and add on's all connected to a hub, or do you have a laptop with quite a few USB sockets, and you spend precious time plugging and unplugging dongles and leads and a whole host of other things.

Well this Instructable goes some way to resolving that, but the best bit of all it costs less then £5 and if you are lucky, no soldering required!

This instructable is limited by your own imagination.

Step 1: The Base Unit

I purchased this cheap laptop cooler from our local pound shop, and it cost..£1..!! for the money its quite a bargain and contains a blue illuminated USB driven fan and the plastic base is angled to give a more comfortable typing access to the keyboard.

Step 2: The Components

I wanted to add a 16 way card reader and a 7 port USB hub to the project. In the picture is shown the fan removed from the plastic base.

I chose to remove the insides from the casings, in my case, it was a simple matter of separating the case halves carefully with a craft knife, but some items have screwshidden under labels or rubber feet, and some have clips on the inside edes. Make sure you earth yourself on a water pipe before handling the delicate circuit board, as static KILLS delicate electronics. Put the circuit boards somewhere safe until you have finished.

Step 3: Painting

I wanted the whole thing to look as smart as i could get it, therefore i didnt want to see wires, sticky pads and glue when the job was finished. So i decided to paint the plastic parts black.

Some advice for people who have never spray painted plastic before. If you use a solvent based paint, the solvents will attack some plastics, so either use a spray paint that is designed specifically for plastic, or use what is known as etch primer, which bonds to the plastic and acts as a barrier to prevent solvent attack.

Next using very fine wet and dry abrasive paper or a sponge sanding block and water, lightly sand the surface of all of the plastic pieces until they have a matt finish, then leave to dry.

The first coat of primer or plastic paint, must be a really light and thin coat, and then allowed to dry, allow at least 15 mins between coats and the final coat must be left somewhere warm for at least 2 hrs or better still over night until the paint has really hardened, otherwise you will leave finger print impressions in the paint that CSI wuld be proud of..!!!

Step 4: Finished Items

These are the components now finished and re-assembled. The paint finish i chose was a hammer or crinkle finish which can be partly seen in this picture. I was quite pleased with the finished result.

You will see some area's on the hub and card reader that havent been painted. This is because these areas will have glue on them to stick them to the underside of the cooler. If you dont do this, the paint will lift and the parts will fall off. Just mask off the areas with sticky tape.

Step 5: Putting It All Together

Now that i have all of the components painted and the circuit boards put back into their cases, i can now start to assemble the whole unit. One tip,learned the hard way. When trying to find the best position for the hub and the card reader, do so with any leads PLUGGED into the hub, just to make sure that these plugs dont catch on the fan or the legs of the cooler.

When you are happy, just simply stick the hub and the card reader in place. Any excess cable can be neatly coiled up and zip tied, you can even use self adhesive cable mounts to hold the cables in place, alternatively a couple of spots of super glue on the cable should hold the coil in place on the underside of the plastic.

I chose to physically shorten the leads and use cable mounts.

Step 6:

This is the top view of the finished unit, my friend saw this and said.."oooh where did you buy that from?"

I just smiled..;o)

Step 7: All Done!

And here it is with my Asus netbook sat on the finished cooler, no more leads and clutter on my desk, on the left is the card reader with an SD card sticking out, and on the right is the hub with a memory stick in place, underneath pugged into the hub next to the fan is a mini bluetooth adaptor.

Not bad for less then £5 and a couple of hours of work.

Good luck with yours, and send me some pics!

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