Introduction: Laser Cut IPod Dock

About: I run an online laser cutting and etching service in Australia. I am adding open source laser cutting designs for people use and be inspired by on Instructables.... Enjoy!

This Instructable covers the design and construction process used to create a neat laser cut dock for your iPod Nano.  The dock made in this Instructable is constructed from 3mm MDF, however other 3mm materials can be used (Clear Acrylic etc).

The design was created in Corel Draw X4, the design can be adjusted to suit other iPod models.

The dock design uses the original USB Sync cable that was supplied with your iPod.

Step 1: The Inspiration

The people at Apple are kind enough to include a USB sync cable for FREE with every iPod. It certainly does the job of interfacing the iPod with the PC, but not much more. It tends to just flail around on your desktop looking sad and silly. I decided to design a dock to mount my iPod Nano (Gen IV). By using the original cable I saved cost and simplified the design!

Step 2: Rough Design

unimportanttage grab a pen and a stack of paper (preferable graph paper like mine - makes your drawings look more technical). Laser cutting produces 2D parts, but with some imagination you can create 3D objects, and often without any fixings at all!

I started this design by deciding how to locate and fix the sync cable. The design basically forms the cable in to a wave that has a few pinch points designed in that hold the cable firm. A few measurements with the Vernier Calipers revealed that my iPod Nano is 6mm thick, this was great as I could employ two 3.0mm thick plates as the centre section and sandwich these with a further two plates of the same thickness. So now I knew that I was making a design from 3.0mm plate, the material was unimportant.

I needed a way to hold the four layers of plates together! I decided to use a number of methods. Firstly the plates slide into two perpendicular parts that form the 'legs'. There are two small blocks that sit into slots in each sheet, these link the sheets and stop any movement between them. Finally the legs have two nodules that link into the hole where the peg goes, this is an interference fit that creates a clip together design. Confused? look at the photos and design file.

Step 3: Vectorise the Design

For this design I used Corel Draw X4 but any vector graphics package would do (Try InkScape - It's FREE!). Once you are finished drawing the outline of each part, check the line width and thickness, in particular look for lines that overlap. Now it is time to add some interest to a clever but boring product. I added some vector etching lines to the leg parts, remember to flip one part so that the etching will end up on the outside of both parts when assembled. I also added some vector art to be 'raster' etched on the front of the dock.

You will need to check the file settings for the laser cutting service you are using.  This product was made by me ( HiTech Antics ) but I only service Australia, if you are in the United States you could use Ponoko or Pololu  Each company will have a specific set of rules to set cutting and engraving.

Before going any further, review your design. Visualise the assembly in your mind. Try and make sure that there isn't anything you have forgotten or overlooked. If possible, print the design out 1:1 and cut out each piece, this will give you a good feel for the scale and other things that can't be achieved by staring at the screen. It is also a good time to fill up your sheet with other nick-nacks (like keyrings or jewelry), I added a zombie head, just because!

Step 4: Upload to Your Favorite Laser Cutter

Now it's time to upload your file to a Laser Cutter of your choice.

In the case of HiTech Antics you will need to select the material, thickness, sheet size and then upload the file, before paying.  Other services work in a similar way.

The parts will be made and shipped to you.

Step 5: The Parts Get Lasered

The images attached here show the job in progress.  The lasers used for this sort of thing are the sealed C02 type (80W in this case).  Transfer tape is applied to the top and bottom surfaces to protect from smoke damage, this is peeled off later.

Step 6: Remove Tape & Review Your Parts

So now you have received your parts in the mail.  Remove the outer layer of transfer tape that is holding all the pieces in a sheet.  Now each part needs to be separated and the tape removed.  Finally you have all of the pieces sitting in front of you, sans tape.

Step 7: Assemble Your Dock

Now, starting with the two inner pieces, lay the cable into the channel as shown.  Each of the centre pieces is slightly different, there is a correct way.  Sandwich the inner pieces between the outer pieces, making sure the engraving is on the outside.

To link the pieces together drop the two small pegs into the two matching holes.  Now slide the two 'leg' pieces on.  The legs have vector engraving that should be on the outside.  You may need to pry the slot in the legs apart as this is a snap fit (the lugs are an interference fit with the holes).

Step 8: Finished - Enjoy!

Now you can sit back and enjoy your creation.  If you feel like it you could always seal the wood with some lacquer.  The dock certainly cleans up your desk and looks better than the plain old cable.

The file (in CDR & DXF format) have been added to this Instructable.  Feel free to use & modify.  Please let me know if you enjoyed this Instructable!

Step 9: Now, in Acrylic!!

Here is the same design in 'Smokey' 3mm Acrylic.  Helps to show how the dock goes together and how the cable is used.  I slightly adjusted the design as the acrylic is not a flexible as the MDF so the clipping feature needed to be reduced.