Surface Pro 2017 / Pro 4 / Pro 3 – VESA-mounted ergonomic docking station

Don’t have access to a 3D-printer or public maker space and still want an ergonomic VESA-mount? Order yours at http://docks.bigcartel.com.

 


This quick guide steps through the process to build a VESA-mounted vertical docking station for the Surface Pro using the brick-shaped Microsoft Surface Dock.

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.

If you purchased a dock from http://docks.bigcartel.com, start at step 8.

Otherwise folks with 3D-printers can start by downloading the design files from GitHub. This design is far simpler than the older 3-in-1 Dock. 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).

Full Parts List:

  • 3D-printed parts (0.2mm layer height 25% infill):
    • cradle
    • dock box
    • lock housing
    • lock latch
    • 2 nut bars
  • Hardware:
    • 6 x M4 14mm screws
    • 6 x M4 nuts
    • 4 x #4 1/2″ machine screws (to secure lock mechanism)
    • 4 x #4 5/8″ machine screws (to secure dock box – do not use these to secure the lock housing!)
    • Optional: 3 x 2/10″ x 1/8″ cylinder magnets
  • Other parts:
    • 1/4″ sheet plastic or MDF 5″x13″ laser cut or machined for back plate
    • MS brick shaped dock electronics
    • Optional: epoxy glue for magnets
    • 3″ length of duct tape
    • ~60mm length of 1.75mm filament for lock latch rotation axle or 3/32″ diameter metal pin
    • zip-tie to secure cables
  • Tools:
    • #0 Philips (+) screwdriver

 

1. Count your parts:
01_SP4-dock-Parts

2. Gather the lock mechanism parts:

12_SP4-dock-Lock-Parts

3. Optional: Test fit the three 2/10″ x 1/8″ neodymium magnets ensuring the polarity matches up so that the lock latches in both the closed and open position. Remove magnets and dab epoxy glue into the magnet receptacles. Insert magnets and dab glue on top and press magnets into the receptacles. Clean off excess glue. Wait 1 hour for the epoxy to set. Fit the 3/32″ diameter pin or printer filament to serve as an axle:

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

4. The lock will be able to flip up and down with resistance provided by the axle and magnets if installed:

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

5. Secure the lock assembly on the back plate with 4 #4 1/2″ screws. Longer length screws will not fit and may split plastic part if forced.

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

6. Install the 4 M4 nuts into two 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

7. Sink two M4 nuts into the Cradle, then fasten to the Back Plate with two M4 14mm screws.

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

 

 

8. Fit the SurfaceConnect cable into the bottom of the Cradle:

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

9. Fasten the Dock Box to the bottom of the Cradle with 4 #4 5/8″ screws. 1/2″ length screws can also be used.

09_SP4-dock-Box

10. Fit the Microsoft Surface dock brick:

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

11. Use duct tape to secure the brick in place:

21_SP4-dock-Electronics-Optional-Tape

12. Test the lock mechanism with a Surface Pro 3, Pro 4, or Pro 2017 tablet. You can fold the keyboard around the back if you wish:

23_SP4-dock-Lock-Up 25_SP4-dock-Lock-Down

13: Fasten to a VESA 100mm x 100mm mount using two nut bars and 4 M4 screws:

27_SP4-docked-VESA-1

14. Wrap bundle of cables behind dock with zip-tie and enjoy your hand-built ergonomic docking station!

28_SP4-docked-VESA-2

 

Optional: optimizing screen resolutions in Windows 10

Optional: enabling landscape docking 

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19 thoughts on “Surface Pro 2017 / Pro 4 / Pro 3 – VESA-mounted ergonomic docking station

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    1. 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.

      Like

      1. 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

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        1. 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.

          Like

  1. 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.

    Like

  2. 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

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    1. 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?

      Like

  3. 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.

    Like

    1. 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.

      Like

      1. 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

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      2. 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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  4. HI Dan, is it possible to have the CAD files uploaded to GitHub as well as the STLs? I’d like to modify things a little bit: changing magnet holes to 1/4″ (easier to find) and I’d also like to round the ends of the nut bars. the first time I tried assembling, I ripped a bunch of keys off the TypeCover. Fortunately they popped back on 🙂

    I also found I had to lengthen the backing board by 3mm to make the hinge lay flat/lock the tablet in. Currently 2 pieces of 1/8″ MDF, but now that we’ve got the fit right, I’m going to get one cut out of 1/4″ acrylic for better rigidity.

    Cheers!

    Like

    1. Hi Mark.

      Yes we did the design in OnShape. Let me see if I can make a public project file for it. Or I might just upload a few additional versions of those parts. Its fine to use the dock without any of those parts btw – the nutbars are simply for ease of assembly and the lock only provides minimal protection for the tablet falling out. I was planning on doing a full re-design of the locking mechanism one of these days…

      Interesting that you had to lengthen the back plate by 3mm – I have not had that feedback before. Does it matter whether you dock with the keyboard folded around back or not? Another approach would be to key out the two M4 holes at the bottom or the 4 M3 holes at the top to provide for some adjustment.

      Dan

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      1. Yeah, I dunno what caused the length issue, but with the tablet in the cradle (with type cover) the flappy part of the hinge was up at an angle a bit. I took a photo with a ruler and sent it to the guy who’s been printing and cutting for me, and he sent me back one that was 2mm longer and one that was 3mm longer, and the 3mm one worked like a charm. Just waiting on the acrylic backboard to get cut now and then doing a final assembly and then will re-route wires, etc.

        thanks again, and have a great weekend!

        Like

      2. Le sigh. so I had the acrylic backplate delivered today, and I took apart my prototype and re-assembled with the acrylic backplate, disconnected all the wires for my dock, assembled it and… it didn’t work.
        I used an SP3 through all the testing and it worked flawlessly, but when I try to put my SP4 in it, I don’t get the charging LED, nor any connectivity.If I grab the tablet and tilt it forward, the charging LED comes on and I get power & ethernet, but neither of my monitors will come to life.
        I wedged the SP4 in with a piece of cardboard, but no dice, same as holding it. Disassembling the whole thing and plugging the dock connector in to the SP4 makes everything work as expected. it’s almost like the dock tab isn’t making a full/proper/flush connection with the connector slot. :/ #SoClose

        Like

        1. Hi Mark, sorry you’re running into these problems. Can you snap some close-up photos of your SurfConnector out of the dock as well as installed in the dock from left and right sides? I had one customer that had a defective connector where the metal part was not parallel to the plastic bits so everything was misaligned. It may be possible to workaround such an issue by filing down the cradle a little bit internally. The cradles I print out fit both SP3 and SP4 OK – I test fitment of each kit I sell. If the SP4 isn’t seating all the way in with your print, you can file the edges of the dock down a little bit on the left side.

          Like

          1. This is half the fun of creating though! 🙂 I just received 2 more docks this morning, so I’ll try setting one of those up in the dock and see if it makes a difference… if it does, I’ll just replace my dock with one of the new ones and issue my dock to someone else 🙂

            Like

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