Springlift is a project to enable anyone to build his or her own fully customized sit-and-stand desk using simple, easily accessible tools and components. A novel desk design and a fully functioning product have been developed.
One of the advantages of the new design over designs currently dominating the market is that the new design does not include desktop break handles or levers. A customizable 3d model and fabrication details are openly available.
During fabrication, drilling holes into stainless steel is the only task that requires a machine tool (drill press), everything else can be done with simple manual tools like a saw or rasp. The components that are maybe the least easy to acquire are a pulley and springs, still easily available in plenty of shops.
springlift frontspringlift front
springlift sidespringlift side
springlift with old and heavy monitor
springlift with old and heavy monitor
springlift in sunlightshelfs shielding sunlight from the left
Lot of jobs today, like office jobs require people to sit while working. Sitting for long periods of time is a risk for anyone's well-being, it is healthier to introduce occasional standing periods during the working day. One needs special furniture to support the switch between sitting and standing. So called sit-stand desks have been developed in recent years to address the demand for this modern way of working.
There are three main types of sit-stand desk available on the market: electric, manual power or counterbalanced (spring assisted) desks. Let us describe each type briefly to see improvement points in their design (see also the Core77 Standing Desk Shoot-Out at the Core77 website for a review of some desks). Electric desks apply electric actuators controlled by a button to raise the desktop. Electric desks have a massive frame and a high load capacity. The motors are noisy though, they need electric power and power cables to work and it can take about 10 seconds to switch between sitting and standing positions. Desks raised using manual power (cranked up) are pretty slow too. Counterbalanced desks are fast and very easy to use, when not counting the tuning of spring forces in them needed when the load changes on the desktop - usually only once when setting up the desk. Spring assisted desks can have a tricky lifting system. As a consequence, the vertical range of height adjustment can be too short, or the desk can be very expensive.
In all the three classic design types, there is an additional break or lock handle or lever mounted underneath the desktop which needs to be pressed to allow the desktop to raise and lower. The break handle is then released when the desktop should stop moving and fix its position. Using the break handle is cumbersome, since it is prone to get pressed or released a little too early or too late, so that the desktop arrives at a level a couple of inches lower or higher than optimal. In fact, in environments, where the desk is used only by a single person, such as in a home office, continuous height adjustment is not necessary – it would be sufficient to set the desk only in two fixed, customized positions, namely the sitting and standing positions. Being able to fix the desktop everywhere in between is usually superfluous from the user's perspective. Thus, the break handle is rather a technical necessity (to fix the desktop in the standing position), it does not add value for the user. Width this observation in mind we designed a desk without any handles or levers for desktop breaks.
Other design objectives were quick raising and lowering of the desktop, stability and easily accessible tools, components to build, among other things. Quick operation is important as the user usually wishes to work continuously even when his or her body requires immediate change of position. Also, in highly collaborative environments like startups, it is handy to raise the desktop quickly when a colleague approaches the user with a laptop to show and discuss a quick thought or idea.
During development, one of the technical challenges was stability. As we aimed to deviate from designs using break levers, we needed to come up with an idea to fix the desktop in the end positions on the sit and stand levels. We needed four other design studies and prototypes (see some of them in pictures attached) to arrive at the current one that solves this stability problem. The idea is to apply spring force to lock the desktop at the end of the transition. Thus, the role of the spring is twofold: first, to counterbalance the weight of the desktop and any material thereon, second, to pull and lock the desktop into its final position near the end of transition. Also, the swing-like pivoting has a very smooth dynamics: the user does not need to apply more force than 15% of the weight lifted, allowing to raise and lower with one hand only.
A unique part of the desk are the shelfs on the side. Their purpose is to cover the pivoting arms and to extend the main desktop with some stable, fixed storage surface. In sitting position, the shelfs provide some privacy and shield visual distraction or excessive light coming from the side direction.
The third major design objective was that anyone, not necessarily skilled in the art, is able to fabricate his own desk according to documents we provide. That brings the well-known advantages of local manufacturing, like no shipping needed, keeps from off-shore supply chain independent, ability to control quality of parts, etc. Furthermore, it allows to create the desk with custom dimensions and capacity, using custom material. The most important point maybe is that building the springlift desk in a do-it-yourself (DIY) way is a project that is social, entertaining, extremely satisfying, sometimes even a recreational activity with a beautiful and useful result at the end. Especially for those who have no or little experience in metal fabrication or machine building is it nice to learn about DIY tools, basic fabrication techniques (in an open workshop nearby, for example), explore components needed, shops selling them and finally assemble the desk. The difficulty of such a building project is highly scalable though, one can easily delegate parts of it to experts. And, in the end one has a good desk for a lifetime – since the user built it by himself or herself, it will perfectly fit ones needs and he or she will not need to call an expert to maintain it.
The springlift desk has a very detailed 3d model. The model is to scale, it is generated by a parametrized software program. Some of the parameters are the desktop size and height of sit and stand levels, allowing easy customization of the dimensions. The program can generate a layout of components to fabricate, with accurate dimensions and coordinates.
How is the manufacturing of a springlift desk look like? The raw elements for the frame are stainless steel square tube, flat bars, pipes, L-profiled angles, threaded rods, wire ropes. Some elements are made of aluminum and ordinary steel. One cuts the elements into pieces of appropriate size (available from a customized 3d model) and drills holes into some of them. Drilling holes into stainless steel is maybe the most advanced task in the process, still easily done with a drill press after some practice. In fact, drilling holes into stainless steel is the only task that requires a machine tool, everything else can be done with simple manual hardware tools like a saw or rasp! An open workshop can be an appropriate place to get the metal fabrication tasks accomplished. After acquiring other components like screws, chains, carabiners, wire rope fittings, bearings, pulleys and springs, the desk frame can be assembled. The main assembly component is the screw, thus the desk can be easily disassembled and transported. There is no welding involved. The desktop and shelf panels can be bought in given dimensions in a woodworking shop, one is encouraged to use recycled materials.
A. Technical details
Let us describe some of the technical details of the presented instance of the product. Note that other embodiments might have different specifics according to the preferences of the person who builds it. The liftable desktop has a weight capacity of approx. 26 pounds (12 kg) and a size of 39.37 x 29.53 inches (100 x 75 cm), enough to accommodate a 31 inch monitor screen or two 21 inch screens of a recent generation (along with smaller items like keyboard and mouse). Stand level is 46 inches (117 cm), the sit level is 29.13 inches (74 cm). The shelfs are 8.5 inches (21.6 cm) wide, which is the width of a standard letter.
The author of the springlift desk has a background in software engineering. He would like to express his gratitude to Zoltán Torma and Sándor Manno for the very valuable experience they shared regarding metal fabrication and for the inspiring conversations about machine building techniques. I thank to Difilton Arc Kft. for providing access to their workshop.
I've never seen anything like it before and I think it's a great idea...I particularly liked the simplicity of use.
Very, very simple and elegant approach to the functionality. I feel like the choices of materials for the project really makes it seem like it's something I can go down to my local hardware store, pick up the parts, and build my own desk. I think this is a fairly contemporary issue and it is really great that there is a design out there that will help us make one on our own.