Surface Pro 4 / Surface Pro 3 - DIY VESA-mounted docking station v2


[Don't have a 3D-printer and still want a VESA-mount? Order one at http://docks.bigcartel.com]

 

This quick DIY steps through the process to build a VESA-mounted vertical docking station for the Surface Pro 3/Surface Pro 4 using the brick-shaped Microsoft Surface Dock. Its something I've been meaning to post for a while but didn't get around to it until now. This will also be my final post on this blog - please find me at my new blog http://dancharblog.wordpress.com.

 

Why a VESA mount?

  • Reduces neck and eye strain by bringing your Surface to eye-level right next to your desktop monitors.
  • Allows much quicker docking and un-docking without fumbling with cables.
  • Reduces clutter by raising your Surface, dock, and cables off your desk.
  • Still not convinced? Check out the demo video from the v1 prototype.

 

Start by downloading the design files from GitHub. This design is far simpler than the older 3-in-1 Dock. You'll still need access to a 3D printer to print most of the parts: https://github.com/danchar4/3-in-1-dock/tree/danchar4-patch-1/SP4Dock. The Back Plate shown in this guide is made from laser-cut MDF  but sheet plastic like acrylic or HDPE will work too. You can use a saw and hand drill to make the back plate (use the .PDF template in GitHub) or a CNC mill/laser cutter if you have access to one (use the .DWG file).

 

Gather your parts:

01_SP4-dock-Parts

* Part description              Part type                      Notes                                        Quantity
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
* back plate                    1/4" sheet plastic/MDF 5"x13"  lasercut 1/4" acrylic is best                       1
* dock box                      3D-printed                     Print front face down                               1
* cradle                        3D-printed                                                                         1
* M4 nut bar                    3D-printed                                                                         2
* lock box                      3D-printed                                                                         1
* lock                          3D-printed                                                                         1
* M4 16mm screw                 hardware                                                                           6
* M4 nut                        hardware                                                                           6
* #4 1/2" machine screw         hardware                                                                           8
* 2/10" x 1/8" magnet           hardware                       http://www.kjmagnetics.com/proddetail.asp?prod=DH22 3
* 3/32" diameter pin 58mm long  hardware                       try AceHardware batt insulation hangers             1
* MS brick-shaped Dock          electronics                                                                        1
* epoxy glue                    adhesives                      to fasten magnets                                   1
* tape                          adhesives                      to secure dock electronics                          1

 

 

Install the 4 M4 nuts into the VESA mount nut bars. Fitment will be tight so you can use the M4 screws to provide leverage to sink them into the plastic:

02_SP4-dock-M4-Nut-Bar-1 03_SP4-dock-M4-Nut-Bar-2

Sink two M4 nuts into the Cradle, then fasten to the Back Plate with two M4 16mm screws:

04_SP4-dock-Cradle 05_SP4-dock-Back-Plate

Fit the SurfaceConnect cable into the bottom of the Cradle. It will be a tight fit so you might want to dab a bit of vegetable oil or other lubricant inside the 3D printed part:

07_SP4-dock-Surface-Connect-Cable-1 08_SP4-dock-Surface-Connect-Cable-2

Fasten the Dock Box to the bottom of the Cradle with 4 #4 1/2" screws. Fit the M4 Nut bars in place with remaining M4 16mm screws:

09_SP4-dock-Box 11_SP4-dock-Assembly-And-M4-Nut-Bars

Gather the lock mechanism parts:

12_SP4-dock-Lock-Parts

Fit the 3 2/10" x 1/8" neodymium magnets ensuring the polarity matches up so that the lock latches in both the closed and open position. Fit the 3/32" diameter pin as well:

13_SP4-dock-Lock-Magnets 14_SP4-dock-Lock-Pin

Test-fit the assembly, glue the magnets in place with epoxy, and allow to dry. After drying the lock should be able to flip up and down with only slight resistance provided by the magnets:

15_SP4-dock-Lock-Fitting 16_SP4-dock-Epoxy-Magnets

Fit the lock assembly on the back plate with 4 #4 1/2" screws:

17_SP4-dock-Lock-Assembly-1 18_SP4-dock-Lock-Assembly-2

Fit the Microsoft Surface dock/hub electronics:

19_SP4-dock-Electronics-Fitting-1 20_SP4-dock-Electronics-Fitting-2

Use some tape to secure it in place (optional):

21_SP4-dock-Electronics-Optional-Tape 22_SP4-dock-Complete

Test the lock mechanism with a Surface Pro 4 or Surface Pro 3 tablet (keyboard optional). Note how the magnets hold the lock in place:

23_SP4-dock-Lock-Up 24_SP4-dock-Lock-Mid

25_SP4-dock-Lock-Down 26_SP4-docked

 

Fasten to a VESA mount and enjoy your hand-built ergonomic docking station!

27_SP4-docked-VESA-1 28_SP4-docked-VESA-2

I'm happy to answer any questions.

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Comments (13)
  1. brock Smith says:

    hey can this go in landscape view i like your design but i never use my tablet in portrait view.

    1. Danchar4 says:

      Hi Brock, yes it can go into landscape view, however the magnetic lock is not very powerful so there is a chance it can dislodge especially if you frequently use the touch screen. The previous model provided a true locking mechanism to hold the tablet in any orientation but the design was far more expensive and complex.

      Can I ask why you do not use your tablet in portrait view? In the lab and with user testing we found that many folks did not use portrait view simply because it wasn't practical. This dock mated with an external monitor make portrait viewing practical and much more ergonomic since you get so much more usable screen real-estate for windows applications.

      1. Pat says:

        I also use the landscape view for working on excel spreadsheets.
        I have another question. I guess my docking station must be olde cause it is much bigger than the one you show. I guess this wouldn't work with my docking station.
        May I ask another question? What is the name of the monitor (sorry but I just can't think of the correct word to describe this) holder that is shown? Is there one that somehow would work when you are sitting on your couch? I get frustrated that all lap desks and other lap desks don't bring the computer, Surface Pro 3 or iPad, high enough not to strain my eyes. Thanks

        1. Danchar4 says:

          Hi Pat, you can use the older dock to build one of these as well. Instructions are here: https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/danchar/2015/06/30/3-in-1-dock-a-microsoft-garage-project-for-surface-pro-3/

          The arm that is shown is this model from Monoprice: http://amzn.to/2gMy2oN

          To use at a couch try this stand: http://amzn.to/2gMA3kM plus this adapter for your SP3/SP4: http://amzn.to/2hjj4aU. I haven't used these personally, but I understand the holder just clips into the stand.

  2. brock Smith says:

    I love playing games and usually play hearthstone on my tablet for the touchscreen. I didnt think windows would be good in portrait mode i guess i need to try it some more.

  3. Elliott says:

    Hi. Is the vesa mount holes 100 apart as they are coming up at 90.8 (I am getting a friend to cut this out)
    Also what "microns" is your dock printed at? Thanks

    1. Danchar4 says:

      Hi, yes the VESA hole spacing should be 100mm. Maybe I messed up the scaling when exporting the file. Are you using laser-cut or CNC mill? What SW are you using for the cuts?

      1. Elliott says:

        Hi, I think its the trans atlantic coversion.
        When converted to inches it all comes out fine.

        1. Danchar4 says:

          Oh good, thanks for the update. I wish the USA would convert over to metric already...

  4. Chris Goode says:

    Hi Dan:

    I having some problems with getting the back plate manufactured. The DWG file appears to be incorrectly scaled and when I send it to the vendor they say that they can't use it. I'm using AutoCAD360 to look at the file and the dimension appears to be about 25x off.

    1. Danchar4 says:

      Hi Chris,

      Sorry for the trouble here. I believe the issue is metric conversion. Try loading as inches instead of mm. I'll see if I can get a new file posted that is in the proper measurement.

      Curious how many units your vendor will be making and how much they are charging? Are you using acryllic or another material? Laser, water, or cnc for the cuts?

      The photos show laser-cut MDF, but I made a bunch by hand with just a drill, Dremel and circular saw. Customers have been happy so far.

      1. Chris Goode says:

        Hi Dan
        Thanks for your prompt reply - I didn't think about the metric issue.
        I'm building two sets, one for myself and one for my son. Hes getting the 3d printed parts done and I have the laser cut and assembly job.I decided to use mdf because I can finish as I would like. The other option was aluminium and have it black anodized but that was a little expensive. I having them laser cut. The price is $NZ50 for the pair.

        Chris

      2. Chris Goode says:

        Just thought I'd let you know I also has a problem with the laser cutters. This was a file version problem the couldn't use the latest file version of dwg. When I downgraded everything came out fine - except from a slight fit problem between the back plate and the bottom assembly.

        Cheers

        Chris

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