Project I-Love-Lamp: Adafruit Qualia + Lamp

Hi dere, internet.

It’s me, the human embodiment of a baloney sandwich, at it again.

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Recently, one of my favorite sites in the whole Multiverse, Adafruit, released a new product called the Qualia Board! If you haven’t heard, this little board makes it easy to use your iPad Retina (3/4) screen, as a secondary monitor! That’s 2048×1536 resolution on a ~10 inch panel. Pretty fantastic.

I purchased one of the bareboards and got to work. (There’s also this awesome kit, if hand rolling is not your thing. The kit is pretty rad all on it’s own.) The idea is, to take the iPad screen, mount it in an iPad shell, and mount the iPad shell onto a lamp base! I did something similar in one of my previous projects with a broken Nexus 7. I really am happy with my little N7 Lamp, so I decided to give it another shot with something a little bigger.

Parts:

Adafruit Qualia Board

iPad Retina Screen

Hampton Bay Architect’s Lamp (22 in. Matte Black)

Display Port (Full Size) to MiniDisplayPort (It MUST be DisplayPort, you cannot use a converter.)

12V-9V 1A Supply

I used: iPad 1 Back Panel

(You could probably do better with an iPad 3 Back Panel, but I couldn’t easily find one for cheap enough.)

Machine Screws:

8x 2x8mm

2x 3x12mm

2x #3 Flat Washers

12x #2 Metric Hex Nut

2x #3 Metric Hex Nut

Tools:

Grinder/Dremel Tool

Power Drill with various bits

Needlenose Pliers

Philips Screwdriver (or a flat, whatever head you chose for your machine screws)

Sharpie

Sheet of 8×11 Paper

 

The Plan:

First thing’s first. Take your drill, choose the appropriate size (one size larger than the silver rivets holding the lamp head to the arm), and drill out those pesky rivets. Snip and pull the AC cord out from the body of the lamp arm.

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Next, place your Qualia board onto the 8×11 sheet of paper. Trace it with the Sharpie. The ribbon cable for the screen will exit the LCD to the left middle of the iPad backing, if you have it mounted horizontally, so you have to cut it a whole to run it to your Qualia board. Trace a smaller rectangle inside the one you made when tracing your Qualia board, about 75% of the original size. This will be the template you use to cut the whole in your iPad backing. I completely botched this part of mine, and cut the hole too big, so I added some perfboard to mount the Qualia to.

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Be sure to add some insulating material between the Qualia and the iPad backing. It’s conductive aluminum, and will potentially short it, otherwise. Test fit your iPad screen into the backing, make sure the ribbon can reach the board easily. It should not be bent in a strange way, or it can be damaged. It’s very easily broken, so be careful when handling the ribbon cable. Mark the 4 holes of the Qualia on the iPad backing (using your 8×11 sheet), and drill them using a #2+ drill bit. Mount the Qualia using 4x of your 2x8mm machine screws and the corresponding bolts.

Place your 8×11 sheet up to the end of the lamp arm, and mark the paper for the two oval holes. Use this as a template to drill the two holes in your iPad backing, where you’d like the arm to mount. I chose dead center (because the arm can go portrait/landscape). Use a #3+ drill bit. Place the 2x 3x12mm screws through the end of the lamp arm, through the iPad backing, put on the 2x #3 flat washers, and then thread on the #3 nuts on both screws. Make sure these are secure.

Now, place your iPad screen atop the 8×11 sheet of paper. Mark the 4 holes for the mounting bracket. Double check once more that the ribbon cable from the screen reaches and plugs in properly. Now, place your paper atop your iPad backing, and drill out the 4 mounting screw holes. Same drill bit that you used for the Qualia mounting points. Put your other 4 2x8mm screws through the backing, thread a single nut on each screw. Now, place your iPad screen onto those 4 bolts. Put another single nut on each screw to secure the screen in place. Connect your screen ribbon cable.

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Plug in your DP and power cables, and run them down the arm. I secured mine with zip ties. Just make sure you leave the appropriate amount of slack on the cables, so that the arm can flex properly, or you’ll limit your motion.

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Kapow! Done!

 

Post-Mortem:

I love that this thing articulates. My at-home desk is a very small table, and previously I did not have enough room for a second monitor. I’m addicted to having one thanks to my work-desk, so this totally beats that problem. It’s a neat little gadget. It could be a lot nicer looking if you used a donor broken iPad 3/4 as your shell, but I only spent 15$ on the iPad 1 backing, which is pretty cool for a sweet piece of a aluminum like that. Same goes for finding a 10 inch capacitive touch panel to place over the screen, but… that’s not that easy.