Make your own MacBook docking station slash adapter holder slash cable sorter thingy

by Chris Renner on 24/08/2012

Problem:  New Macbook Pro, two offices, lots of peripherals/monitors/etc to plug in and disconnect at least twice a day.

I plug in four to five different items into my new MacBook Pro with Retina Display every morning when I get to work.  All of these get unplugged at the end of the day, or alternatively when I leave to go to my other office on the other side of campus, in which case I’m plugging/unplugging stuff four times in a day.

Aside from the tediousness of it, there’s also the issue of keeping the two display adapters in the proper order so my external displays aren’t swapped back and forth every time I plug in.

This is a pain to manage several times a day

This is a pain to manage several times a day

Potential solutions:

Henge Docks:  Their MBP w/Retina product isn’t out yet

Twelve South BookArc Pro: MBPr solution also not out yet, and though it includes a cable holder, it doesn’t give you a way to keep the cables in the proper port order.

Kickstarter W1PPS:  This looked cool but failed to get funded

Matrox DS-1 Thunderbolt Dock:  $250 and not out yet. Also only handles one display (only one Thunderbolt out), so I’m still going to have at least 3 cables (Magsafe, 2 TBs).

Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock: $400! and not out yet.  Also only handles one display (only one Thunderbolt out), so I’m still going to have at least 3 cables (Magsafe, 2 TBs).

Homemade solution: InstaMorph Moldable Plastic

IMG_0596

6oz container of Instamorph pellets

The instamorph pellets at room temperature

The instamorph pellets at room temperature

Check out the pictures below of the 0.1 version of my homemade dock thingy:

The dock thingy inserted into the MacBook Pro

The dock thingy inserted into the MacBook Pro

I have some gaps between the adapters I need to seal up, and the MagSafe slips out too easily, but otherwise this is a good version 0.1

I have some gaps between the adapters I need to seal up, and the MagSafe slips out too easily, but otherwise this is a good version 0.1

Yes, its hideous, but it took a total of 5 minutes of work.  Turns out the hot water outlet on the office coffeemaker is the exact right temperature needed to soften the pellets.  Just pour the pellets into a ceramic cup (don’t use paper or styrofoam unless you want the plastic to stick to the cup), then fill the cup with hot water.  Once the pellets turn clear, they are ready to be formed.   Poor the water out of the mug and then extract your mass of plastic.

I “cooked” too much plastic (about half the 6oz container) so I broke the glob in half and put the rest back in the bottle.  I rolled the remaining part out with my hands like you would have in elementary school when making a snake with art clay.  Then I wrapped it around the cables, being sure to press down around each adapter end and especially in between them.  After that’s done, you let it cool until the product turns white again.  If you mess up, just re-heat the product and start all over again.

This only took about 1/4 of the 6oz container, so I have plenty of pellets left to make one for my other office and will still have 3oz of Instamorph to piddle around with.

There are 12 comments in this article:

  1. 30/08/2012Make A Custom Laptop ‘Docking Station’ Out Of Mouldable Plastic | Lifehacker Australia says:

    [...] Make your own MacBook docking station slash adaptor holder slash cable sorter thingy [Chris Renner] [...]

  2. 31/08/2012m@nu says:

    just had the same idea a few days ago. but i’m still wondering if the plastic could be removed from the cables without any problems again? doesn’t reheating damage them?

  3. 31/08/2012Chris Renner says:

    Yeah, I just ran into this issue. My original pictured above slightly mis-aligned the display adapters. I ended up ruining the adapters by *gasp* dunking the whole assembly (disconnected from devices of course) into a bowl of hot water.

    Once you roll the plastic into a long cord and then fold it over the cables, it seems to not bond to itself perfectly, so it wasn’t necessary to completely melt but just to soften, then the whole thing snapped open on one end and I removed it kind of as a clam shell.

    I would recommend using a cigarette lighter to locally soften the plastic if you need to ever remove the cables. Alternatively, use some wax or clay to protect the cable ends and then dunk in water.

    Also, the less plastic you use, the easier it would be to pry apart and remove later.

  4. 2/09/2012Tim says:

    I’m sure this would be better if you made some type of mold out of wood, rubber, foam or something like that? This was the first thing that came to mind when I saw this project. I don’t use alot of adapters so I wouldn’t need this but I might try to make a mold for the DIY’ers that do need something like this.

    Cool idea, just looks terrible. :)

  5. 3/09/2012Chris Renner says:

    Well, not sure there’s really a point to making a form for the plastic, it is much too thick to pour into a mold or form. You essentially hand-form it.

    I know its ugly but I spent literally 5 minutes on it. If one were to spend serious time on it, I think better results would ensue.

  6. 11/09/2012Cole Flournoy says:

    I think I have the exact solution for this! I just published it on Quirky — basically, if it generates enough excitement they will actually make it. Please Vote and comment on the Quirky page so we can get this thing to the top and get it made. Chris – if you get a ton of people to vote on it and it gets made, I will get you one for free! Check it out here: http://www.quirky.com/ideations/297651

  7. 11/09/2012Chris Renner says:

    That’s awesome Cole! Let me check out your link and I’ll plan to do a separate post/write up of it.

  8. 11/09/2012Cole Flournoy says:

    Fantastic Chris, that would be awesome if you do a separate write up for it! I will definitely send you one if we can get it made!

  9. 14/09/2012Cole Flournoy says:

    The product has now moved into “under consideration” on Quirky — this means Quirky staff has picked it out and will now vote if it will go to the next step! http://www.quirky.com/ideations/297651

  10. 28/09/2012thecolor says:

    You could set the cables up (for perfect placement) and then pour a clear plastic shell around it (say in a box mold). You can get a clear liquid plastic solution at places like Joann’s and Michaels.

    Easy enough, holds (’cause it’s hard plastic once it’s solidified) and you could add a light or something personal in the plastic for whatever or just leave it translucent. :)

    It’s typically used to hold flowers up in a case and appear as if the vase has water in it.

    Instructions for making “fake water” out of resin:
    http://devrin.org/clearesinnstr

    And ONE product. I’m sure there are others:
    http://devrin.org/resin

  11. 6/12/2012David Rogoff says:

    Hi.

    Just saw this and like the idea. What about just using hot glue? Easier to get (lots of people already have it) and to make and re-do if you make a mistake.

  12. 22/10/2013Ali Quigley says:

    Hi Chris! Last summer you spoke with Cole Flournoy about his DeskDock project and even did the write up above. I wanted to reach out and let you know that we launched DeskDock (Now known as ZenDock) on Kickstarter and did really well. We’ve since opened a webstore (www.zenboxx.com) and are now accepting pre-orders. I wanted to extend a special offer to you and your readers for $20off to thank you for all the great feedback you provided early on. We’re super excited about getting the product out and hope you’ll check us out. Please use the coupon code LaunchSale107 during the check out process and know that we are offering free shipping in the US as well. Thanks again and hope you’re doing well!

    Ali

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