Introduction: MoDeO - MOdular DEsk Organizer

“Nearly every man who develops an idea, works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That’s not the place to become discouraged.” – Thomas Edison

An idea usually comes up when there is a problem: A messy desk, which was once well sorted, just appears as a perfect place for a new idea. But why is it now so overloaded? Simple answer is, that once i had not that much pens or a hole puncher on it. Seems like not the old stuff on the desk is the cause, it's new stuff which i'm adding there from time to time.

Therefore my penholder needs to be bigger, i need more space for my set square and all my other stuff. An adaptable shelf with special storage mechanism for actual and future desk stuff could solve the problem and clean my desk up. So it's time to develop the worlds first fully 3d printable modular desk organizer, in short MoDeO!

Step 1: Put First Thoughts in a Mind Map

Simply having an idea isn't enough to get started with developing a complex product. Since my aims are quite ambitious, a good product planning is necessary, otherwise sooner or later you will lose your self in a bunch of half ideas, some concept drawings and a lot of problems, you can't solve at that time. So what are exactly the aims and product details?

Start making a simple mind map. Put all your thoughts on your idea together, maybe you'll get some new detail ideas by simply creating that mind map. Don't skip this simple method, you'll regret it as soon as you start to make concepts of your parts! While creating parts in CAD you will have a look from time to time on your mind map, just in case you forgot maybe an important detail.

Step 2: Make a List of Requirements Based on Mind Map

Now that you have brought your ideas on a sheet of paper, it's time to sort them. Decide, which ideas you really want to work on, which can be classified as nice-to-have and which ideas are not useful. Try already to define some boundaries like amounts, sizes and so on. This will help you later to choose correct sizes and details for your constructions. Note: The more you define at that point, the less you'll have to rework components later. And trust me: You will rework components often enough. In summary this list is a useful help to reduce your designing work.

Some of the most important aspects, which have to be fulfilled are:
- fully 3d printable (you just need a 3D printer, nothing else)
- almost no need of support structures (sometimes it can't be avoided)
- modular (just print the modules you want to use)
- able to withstand a loading force of 100 N (~10 kg) on each platform (up to 3 levels)
- printable on most common 3d printers (RepRap Mendel, Replicator 1 and 2, Orca Mendel, ...)
- storage modules for pens, letters, note pad and other desk stuff

Step 3: Concept Drawings

It's time to start the CAD software? Not yet! Just starting to design some pieces, which maybe will fit together is possible, but the result will be quite unsatisfying. You'll be unhappy and demotivated, because there looks something bad, here is something too big and best would be to just cancel the whole project. In order to avoid that situation you should make some concept drawings of your ideas. Ask yourself: How do i want to realize my details from the list of requirements?

Make two or three drawings of mechanisms and solutions for the most important details like: How to solve the modularity? What frame design will i use? How can i store my pens without wasting too much space?

Try to keep in mind important designing rules like: Is this structure printable? Do i need a support structure for the print? If yes, can i turn the component around to avoid the need of a support structure? Is my part small enough to be printable on my chosen 3d printers? Can i separate one part into two parts, so it's easier to print? How do i assemble those parts?

Step 4: Starting With the Cube

After all those preparations now it's time to start your favorite CAD software. For this work i used the CAD software Autodesk Inventor Professional 2014. Since your requirements are in a list and you have concept drawings, choose the one you like and get ready to transfer your ideas to the virtual world.

I decided to start with the connecting corner cube and afterwards adding the frame. This creates the boundary for the inner parts like shelves, modules for pens, mobile phones and other stuff. The cube itself has some interfaces for connections: top and bottom surface have a circle hole for the frame. Further there are 4 little pins, so you can even stack the cubes on top of each other, could be maybe useful. The most important and difficult part was the realization of horizontal connections. I added a tongue and it's negative shape around the cube, so you can stick it together, while i always had to keep in mind an important detail: how to print it without supporting structures?

Solution: I included 45 degree bevels. It has to be printed from back to front. The only problem could be the circle hole, which could use some support structure, but first printing tests have to show, whether it is really necessary for the 2cm * 2cm cube.

Step 5: Adding a Frame

It's time to add the frame. After some FEM stress tests i decided to use a pillar thickness of 5 mm. These can withstand even forces over 200 N, since the computed stress is around 12 MPa. ABS and PLA should have a tensile strength between 10 and 60 MPA, depends of course on the used material and quality. Since i apply a compressive force, the strength limit should be way higher. Therefore the 5 mm thickness of the pillars should be strong enough to carry my desk stuff.

Of course it's just a calculation and the parts still can fail due to some details i haven't considered while designing the pillars and frames, but 5 mm should be a good indication. Despite i split the frame into several parts in order to stay in the maximum build area of common 3d printers. There could be a little supporting structure necessary for the crossed frame parts.

Step 6: Adding Shelves for First Usage Possibility

One last thing is missing to start using MoDeO: Proper shelves, to be able to put my desk stuff on it. Since the printers have only limited printing space, i had to accept the fact, that placed boards are a bit too short in width, but that's acceptable for me, since i don't want to redesign all other parts and the impact on stability shouldn't be that big.

Even if i didn't mention it, i already spent till that point hours on designing and maybe twice the time for redesigning the cube and the frame. I decided to show here just the final versions of the parts, not the whole redesign details. I just wanted to mention it here, since my list of requirement helped me already a lot to avoid many more problems. Probably i would have given up my project at that point without the list, since the redesign effort would be way too high for my motivation.

Finally i added 9 holes with a specific shape. In my opinion it would be a bad modular desk organizer, if you had to print all shelves again just to be able to connect modules with it or realign positions. Despite: Those holes aren't that big, so most of my stuff shouldn't fall through those, when i use these shelves just as they are.

Step 7: Creating the First Module

Of course the most important function is to hold all my pens and pencils in an easy reachable position. I just calculated round about, how many of those i have, measured how big they are and created a frame, which i can connect with my shelf. You can store thin pencils, pens, thick and very thick textmarkers. Of course it's possible that some shapes of special pens just don't fit, but since i designed the pen holder to carry my pens it doesn't mean it can also carry all of yours. Some modifications may be necessary to adapt this module to your needs.

The foot may require a supporting structure, since the angles are below 45° in some areas, if you print it from front to back side.

Step 8: Many Modules, Many Possibilities

While you continue to design all those modules you planned to create, you realize how time passes by. But since everything is modular it's way easier to create those parts in order to fit together. So far i created following modules:

- Notepad storage: Put all your note pad sheets inside
- Pen holder: Probably the heart of MoDeO, which can store hopefully almost all types of pens
- Bottle opener: Just in case you need to open your beer bottle without your teeth
- Sticky tape tearer and sticky tape place: Your sticky tape has found a new friend
- Sticky tape reserve: Store all your unused sticky tapes
- Place for hole puncher: keep your hole puncher always in range
- Place for stapler: My stapler fits perfectly into that spot, maybe yours too?
- Place for CDs: Hang up your most important CDs
- Deposit box: Everything, that has no special place, goes in here
- Memo holder: Important memos? Put them in here!
- Adjustable mobile phone stand: Whether you got an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy, all phones should find here a safe place
- Wallet holder: Where is my wallet? Of course in the wallet holder!
- Letter holder: Sometimes you store some important letters for a while

Step 9: What Brings the Future?

But that's not all: Since modularity was important for this project, new modules can easily been created. Maybe you want to have a cup holder or a special place for your pen drive? Or maybe some day there will be a new product, which has to be placed on the desk and needs a nice place? Maybe your wireless devices like your mouse needs a new home? Or how about enlightment with LEDs? Realizing all that ideas shouldn't be too hard.

E.g. if you don't like the default pillar style of the components, try maybe the "Ancient Roman Architecture" components? Since i'm not that creative, maybe you can think of other shapes, which would be much better than those i have created.

Feel free to comment on that instructable and if you like it, please vote for it. I offer the STL files for this project in 1:1 scale, but since i have no possibility to print MoDeO parts on my own, I'm neither able to check whether all parts fit perfectly together nor whether they are printable without problems.

Estimated need of printing material for complete MoDeO: 0,6 kg ~ 15€ / 20$

For rendering purposes i used also CAD files from, thanks for it:
iPhone 4 by Chase Muller:
Pencil by Diego Bernardi:

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