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Anchoring Power Strips at Duke’s Innovation Co-Lab

Alexander Liu

Alexander Liu

AI Disclaimer: This post was written with the assistance of a LLM. However, the thoughts and opinions remain my own.

On a recent trip to visit my friend Celine in Durham, I spent a considerable portion of my trip tinkering at Duke's Innovation Co-Lab. One tool that particularly intrigued me was their documentation station, a table equipped with paper backdrops and lights. I’ve been experimenting with Apple's Object Capture API lately, and this was great opportunity to take high-quality photos for testing - 643, to be exact.

Naturally, spending so much time in a maker space, I had to make something before I left! Along the lines of leaving with a positive impact, I created a simple 3D printed part to center power bars on the workbenches we just finished re-finishing.

Goal

A rough floor plan of the Co-Lab room where the workbenches and power strips are located. Each group of four tables has a dedicated power strip, which are marked by a blue line in this diagram.

During our time at the Co-Lab, we mainly used these power strips for charging devices and powering small power tools. Keeping these power strips stationary and centered would enhance tidiness and efficiency, ensuring they stay centrally accessible for all users.

Proof of Concept

After some quick measurements, I sketched out a part that would fit between the tables and hold the power strips in place. Celine translated my sketch into Illustrator for laser cutting, and we cut the part out of 1/4 inch thick plywood. After testing and tweaking, we decided to cut five more, totaling six pieces. I then hot-glued sets of two together to form three parts.

a long metal power strip with black outlets held between two wooden tables with laser cut parts
The power strip held between two tables with our laser cut prototype.
3 laser cut plywood parts designed to hold the power strip. the part has some resemblance to a football goal post
The initial laser cut prototypes had slightly off center stems. This'll be important for later!

While this was a great proof of concept, cleaning the char off the parts and aligning the pieces was far from perfect, leaving room for improvement.

Iterating

Ultimately, my goal was to create something durable that would stand up to the cyclic forces over time. Hence, the 3D printed model had a wider stem and larger contact area with the power strip. We also decided not to constrain the power bar laterally, considering this a feature rather than a bug.

black plastic clip securing a power bar with a power adapter plugged in
black plastic clip resembling a football goal post laying flat on a wooden table
black plastic clip with the stem inserted between two wooden tables
3d model of the clip. the object is blue with black edges, shown in an isometric fashion 3d model of the clip. the object is blue with white edges, shown in an isometric fashion
The aptly named football.stl.

Reflection

Overall, I’m really pleased with what we achieved with just two iterations. One oversight that might be evident from the images is the height of the clip. I didn't realize until after the prints had completed that I forgot to dimension the height (oops).

We also discovered that the center post was slightly off-center in our initial laser cut prototype. However, this little mistake got me thinking. What if we intentionally set the posts off center, resulting in a preload when placed between the tables, to keep the power bars even more stable.

During final installation, I also noticed there were slightly protruding rivets. In a future iteration, these could be used to more securely attach the part to the power bar.

The power bar has 3 sets of rivets, located at the ends and center, that can be used for snapping and positioning.

While these clips don't come close to the model rockets and embroidered creations I witnessed in the lab, I hope they serve as an elegant solution for a (somewhat) practical problem.

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