Introduction: Ultimate WFH Station
Working from home was suddenly thrust into our lives earlier this year, thanks to Coronavirus. Most people probably did the same in the first week, we sat on the sofa with our laptops. But this gets impractical after a while, so after upgrading briefly to the dining room table, I ended up emptying the study of junk and using the desk in it for the first time in years.
One screen is not enough, especially for the type of work I do. I took my normal workplace screen home with me, but I was still left wanting more screenspace. I also had my personal laptop, and I repaired another old screen, which satiated me for a while.
Then came the ultimate prize! A friend had a broken 43" TV and was about to throw it out. Now, with the right tools and replacement parts, nothing is truly broken. Obviously I claimed the TV and got to work.
Read ahead to see how I fixed this TV and integrated this into my WFH setup.
1x broken TV
1x 3D printer
Step 1: Fix TV
Large TVs usually have 2 main failure points. Firstly, the most obvious, is a smashed display panel. Most commonly, with damage like this, the TV itself will power on, showing the smashed LCD straight up. Whilst this can be replaced, it's the main bit of the TV so it's probably best to just get a new TV.
The second failure point is much harder to diagnose, but much easier to fix. With the power unplugged, take the back panel off the TV, there are usually 15 or so screws holding it on, and maybe some clips around the edge. Inside, there will likely be 2 main circuit boards, and maybe some other boards. One board will have HDMI inputs etc. This is the control board. The other main board will have the mains supply plug, along with some large electronic components. This is the power board, taking the mains voltage and making it usable by the rest of the TV. It's this board that endures the most heat and takes the brunt of any power spikes, therefore it's this board that is most likely to be responsible for breaking your TV.
Inspect the board, find the fuses, and look for any blown capacitors. Some capacitors will have swollen, others will have completely burst.
Once you find the burst capacitor, you have two options. 1) replace the capacitor itself, or 2) replace the entire board. Option 2 is the easiest.
The board will have plenty of text on it. Search on Amazon and eBay for this text and you'll find your board.
Mine was £8.99 from eBay. Far far cheaper than a new TV.
Buy it, install it, close the panel and turn it on. Does it work? Excellent, you've fixed your TV and can now integrate it into your WFH setup.
Step 2: What Fits Where?
Ok, so now you have your fixed TV, along with other screens. But what goes where?
ProTip: To save you maneuvering all the screens around a whole load to see what fits where, draw it up on CAD!
Fusion 360, free for makers like us, and very easy to use.
Draw up basic versions of your screens, include laptop hinges and stands. Move the items around until you're happy that everything will fit perfectly. Don't forget to give yourself space for a keyboard and mouse.
ProTip 2: Turn screens sideways. This is perfect for documents, or long email inboxes.
Step 3: 3D Print Stands
Not everything sits perfectly on the desk. Not everything needs to though. Instead of spending lots of money on a laptop stand or screen stand that doesn't quite do what you need, just design your own and print it.
For me, my newly repaired TV sat perfectly on the desk without its own stand (make sure no vents are blocked!). The second monitor had a stand that allowed it to rotate 90°, which handily lined up perfectly with the TV.
The rest of them though, they needed stands printing. 2 laptops, and the repaired old smaller monitor.
I used the layout drawing as a base, then measured everything up. I used the gap between the screen and base of one laptop to place a lip, that's all that one needed to stand up. Behind that there was a slot for the bottom edge of laptop 2, with a short back to make sure it didn't fall backwards. Again, minimum requirements.
For the small screen, I made small clip-style stands that grip the bottom edge.
And this is the clever bit: 3D printing is great, but certain elements cannot be used as structures. For anything that needs to be long and strong, use something else. Pencils, for example. Long, strong, cheap and plentiful. Just design a suitable hole into the print and use the pencils as stands.
Remember to think about the printer when you're designing stuff - no supports is ideal.
Step 4: Add Sound!
Music makes everything better. Put speakers in.
ProTip: Keep the volume control handy! When a client calls, it's apparently "unprofessional" to have Slipknot blaring. Turn it off before answering the call.
Step 5: Assemble and WFH
Put it all together, make sure the socket strip is not overloaded, and get back to work!
Ideally have the screens linked to both laptops, so you can switch them over at 5pm. Docking stations are useful for this, saves having to unplug everything if you need to use the laptop as a laptop. Docking station limits it to just one wire.
For the photos, I used http://www.whitedisplay.com/ to make all the screens completely white. Looks better than just being turned off.
ProTip: Software exists to tie multiple computers to just one mouse and keyboard. It smoothly moves the mouse over to the next computer, instead of hitting the bottom of the screen. The keyboard then types on whatever screen the mouse is on. Sadly one of these laptops is a company laptop, and IT won't let me install it :(.
Let me know how your setup has progressed in the comments.
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