Secured MacBook Air With Portable External Monitor




Introduction: Secured MacBook Air With Portable External Monitor


Splitting my time between the lab on campus, the office, and home left me wanting to have one consistent development setup so that I could reduce my productivity volatility.


  1. Dual Monitor - Having been spoiled with multiple monitors for too long, I am not going back.
  2. Light and Portable - The whole setup needs minimal assembly and be able to fit in my backpack.
  3. Secure - There have been a number of laptop theft notices on campus in recent months. While theft is not totally preventable, a simple lock should reduce this risk to acceptable levels. However, the MacBook Air does not have the standard Kensington Security Slot, so I will need an alternate means of securing the setup.

Outcome Features

  • Vertically Stacked Dual Monitors
    • The ASUS HD Portable was almost exactly what I was looking for and gets you 90% of the way there. However, since it must be put to one side of the laptop or the other, I never seemed fully utilize its capacity. This was further compounded by its lower resolution relative to the Air.
    • Raising the monitor to eye level shifted it's use to almost 50%.
  • Non-Invasive Theft Deterrence
    • Most Macbook Air lock systems either require buying an expensive special case, a large mount, or installing a special clip that has a chance of scratching the laptop.
    • While the Snake Laptop Lock is slightly bulky and will prevent the laptop lid from being closed while engaged, it is well engineered and gave me a solid base upon which to mount the monitor. In addition, it also allowed me to use whatever case I wanted.
  • Minimal Size and Setup
    • The only real additional components necessary to setup the monitor are the two aluminum rods since all of the brackets are epoxied.
  • Balanced
    • The monitor is placed just far enough forward to put its center of gravity at a point to where the setup can stand on its own without tipping.

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Step 1: Materials

Step 2: 3D Printing

3D printing was amazingly inexpensive, quick, and convenient.

  • The original STL files for the project are available on github.
  • I used 123D Design, which is a free (i.e. basic) designer made by Autodesk. It worked well enough, but the native Mac app was a little buggy, so I would suggest checking out some of the standard modelers like 3dtin, Sketchup, or OpenSCAD.
  • Initial iterations of the brackets did not include the extended wings, but it became very apparent that I was going to need to increase the surface area in order to get a firm bond.
  • The print material is PLA and was produced on a MakerGear M2 (medium resolution).
  • The 3D Hub I chose had everything printed and ready for pickup in 36 hours.

Step 3: Asus Bracket Mounting

  • Trace out the areas where the brackets will be mounted.
    • As seen from the picture above, this will be about 5mm from the side and 40mm from the top of each corner.
  • The finish on the back of the monitor is pretty slick, so I used a fine grit sand paper to prep the area before applying the epoxy.
  • A little epoxy goes a long way, so try to apply as thin a layer as possible to prevent overflow.
  • Let it cure for 24 hours.
  • The brackets add a little bit of bulk to the original case, but the monitor still fits securely.
  • The small side bracket and cable is really only designed to prevent walk-by theft, but it is better than nothing.

Step 4: Snake Bracket Mounting

  • Mounting the snake brackets is relatively straightforward.
    • As seen from the pictures, the brackets are fixed 40mm in from the ends of the mount.
    • Remember to clean the area before applying the epoxy.
    • Let it cure for 24 hours.

Step 5: Aluminum Rods

  • The original rod from Home Depot was 36 in. and the final length I went with was 17 in.
    • This length provides just enough clearance for the webcam to still be visible while keeping the center of gravity low.
  • Getting the lengths to be equal is much easier if you first cut 2 in. off the 36 in. bar and then cut that in half. Even a small difference in the lengths will cause a slight tilt of the monitor.

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