Cable Management

October 11, 2019

Recently I posted this update about designing and printing a cable organizer for my desk at work. It has done wonders for making my cables look more organized, as well as keeping them firmly in place. While this was a great start and prevents any need to recover fallen cables from under the desk the need for proper cable guidance was far from finished. I still had another desk opening and 3 monitor pass-throughs that were in need of some attention.

As long as I have owned Dell flat-screen monitors the have included some form of cable management. Generally, this is in the form of an opening in the monitor stand for cables to be passed through. Although this is much better than having loose cables, it doesn't make that opening very tidy. When the only cables required are power and signal it's not that bad, but since Dell monitors also include USB hubs, you could have up to four downstream and one upstream USB cables. That's seven cables to manage. Fortunately, the most I have going through a single monitor stand is four.

Working with rough measurements from a ruler I started modeling a plug with a hole for each cable. To gain access to pass the cables through I split the model in half. Since the model needs to be able to realign a sphere was used to create a bump on one side and a recess on the other, keeping it symmetrical. The print was prepared, but some dimensions of the stand were bothering me, so I took one of my stands over to the makerspace to use one of their digital calipers to get more accurate measurements. While some of my measurements were close, I was disappointed to have my suspicions confirmed that the opening was not a straight hole and instead tapered as it went. Justin, the manager in the makerspace, offered to help measure the opening using the Zeiss Contura. Similar to the probe used by the CNC mill to obtain precise coordinates, this operates to locate a point in X, Y, and Z planes. With the companion software, the user can specify what shape is being measured and it will construct a model of that shape. For example, my stand has a curved front and rear face. By telling the software that it should treat the points it receives as a cylinder and touching points along the face the software will reconstruct those points into the cylinder and report things like radius and angle of lean. This is very helpful when trying to recreate the stand in a model. 

Armed with this knowledge, I went back to my computer and didn't touch the project for a while. Luckily, I had recorded the measurements in a file so when I restarted my model from scratch I didn't have to remeasure the stand. Starting with the hole radius in the rear and projecting upward at the 4-degree angle we measured on the Contura. The rest of the model came together smoothly, having been designed once before. After living with this upgraded cable management situation for a little while, I decided that my two side monitors needed some attention as well. I wanted a different design, one that was visually more interesting. After watching a few tutorials on YouTube I settled on a hexagon pattern for the front while keeping the rest of the design largely the same. When choosing a color to print in, I chose black specifically so that it would blend in better with the stand. I am very pleased with the results. After being pressed together the parts fit together very well to create the illusion of being one solid piece. To finalize the set I printed another of the hexagon caps and a cable guide in black. I think I can finally consider my cables managed, at least above the desk.