Engineering student 3D-prints workstation components [Setups]

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Vincent Belotti's setup includes 3D-printed elements and Nintendo-inspired decorations.
This setup includes 3D-printed elements and Nintendo-inspired decorations.
Photo: Vincent Belotti

Vincent Belotti, a mechanical engineering student at Farmingdale State College on Long Island, New York, has a colorful setup — and we’re not just talking about his screensaver. He 3D-prints some of the components in it himself, and he can’t get enough decor related to his favorite games.

3D printing as a hobby

As an engineering student, Belotti has made 3D printing into a hobby. He uses his MacBook Pro to model and slice prints that become components to enhance his setup. They include an Apple Watch dock, shown on the right side of his desk in these photos, and 3D figurines on the shelf above his monitor.

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Colorful setup, colorful uses

Belotti uses his MacBook Pro and  27-inch LG 4K monitor mainly for media consumption, he said, but also for schoolwork.

“In my setup, movies, TV shows and even 4K YouTube videos really pop,” he told Cult of Mac. “My tried-and-true Bose QC25 headphones are what typically provides the audio experience, and they’ve served me well since I got them years ago.”

He often keeps the community and collaboration app Discord or a video on his laptop screen while working.

Optimized for an engineering student

As a full-time engineering student, Belotti makes good use of his gear. Using Boot Camp, he works in professional programs like Autodesk’s Inventor and AutoCAD.

He often brings his MacBook to school when he works on projects. When he’s home, all he needs is a Thunderbolt 3 cable to continue his work on his dual-display desktop.

And gaming, of course

Belotti said he also enjoys gaming from time to time. He plays some less-demanding games on Windows, but with a push of a button he can use his main monitor with his Nintendo Switch.

“On the right-hand side of my desk, you can see the Switch setup on the second shelf with a third-party dock that still does the job just about as good as the real one,” he said.

Setup likes and dislikes

Belotti said the best thing about his setup is how far it has come and how much it has evolved — all while centered on the same MacBook.

“When my MacBook was brand-new, my setup was nothing more than the same desk and the MacBook by itself,” he said. “Now I’ve been able to make that same MacBook the powerhouse of an entire workstation.”

What he dislikes about the setup is the lack of physical space.

“My setup mainly revolves around the same desk I’ve had since 2009,” he said. “I really try to use almost every square inch I have available to me. The lack of space has confined me in the process of getting my setup together.”

For instance, he said, his MacBook is not physically on his desk, so it sits further away from him than he’d like.

Recently, he wanted to invest in a wide mousepad to rest his keyboard and mouse on. With his small desk that wasn’t possible, so he had to settle for the biggest mousepad he could find that fit.

“You can even see in the photos that I had to set my right speaker on top of it for the mousepad to fit,” he said. “I even had to get creative in some spots. For instance, my headphones are hung on an ElevationLab Anchor slightly behind my monitor.”

Special touches

Belotti's prized Nintendo figurine stands under the monitor. His 3D-printed Apple Watch stand is at right.
Belotti’s prized Nintendo figurine stands under the monitor. His 3D-printed Apple Watch stand is at right.
Photo: Vincent Belotti

More than many folks, Belotti puts a lot of effort into making his setup his. That means including lots of things he enjoys, like Disney and theme park memorabilia and all-things-Nintendo used as decoration.

“I’m quite the Nintendo fan. Some highlights showing this off include the Blathers Amiibo under my monitor,” he said, noting the Nintendo figurine. “I actually got this Amiibo at Five Below, which also happens to be the source of the LED light strip behind my desk and the cheap USB hub above my Thunderbolt 3 dock.”

Belotti also pointed out the Nintendo Game Boy Advance SP, DSi and 3DS that he still uses on his top-right shelf, alongside his fifth-gen iPod classic. Next to those he has a copy of Rhythm Tengoku, the first game in his favorite Nintendo franchise. On his top shelf sits his Newton’s cradle, the only thing dating back to when he first got the desk nearly 12 years ago.

The second shelf up is like a shrine to Nintendo.
The two shelves are essentially a shrine to Nintendo.
Photo: Vincent Belotti

Challenges

“The hard part about getting any setup done is the research,” Belotti said. “I feel as if I’m a bit more neurotic than most, but I often do weeks of extensive research after adding to the setup. For instance, choosing the right monitor took me months of weighing my options and asking for opinions.”

Another challenge, perhaps especially for a college student, is cost. Belotti notes his gear isn’t top of the line, but costs add up fast anyway.

“For instance, a USB-C versus a quality Thunderbolt 3 dock, such as the one I went for, can be the difference between $80 and $250. But if I wanted my setup to work the way I visualized it, I had to get what I needed.”

Future plans

The biggest thing Belotti plans for his setup is to add a PC. He still plans on using his MacBook Pro as his primary machine, but he wants options.

“The main reason I want a PC is to further future-proof my setup,” he said. “Like many, I’ve been fawning over the new M1 Macs and am eagerly awaiting a 16-inch model.”

Going solely that route, however, he’d lose Boot Camp and the many Windows applications he needs. So he wants his ideal future setup to let him plug a PC into his 4K monitor and probably also work with the mouse and keyboard he already owns.

Speaking of keyboards, though, he’s eager to experiment further with mechanical ones likes his Keychron K8.

“I plan on lubing and installing new switches to really experiment and have fun with what mechanical keyboards can offer,” he said.

Finally, he hopes to get a bigger desk at some point. After all, he needs space for all those 3D-printed elements and decorative gaming keepsakes.

Shop these items now:

Computer gear:

15-inch MacBook Pro with i7 processor

CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt 3 Dock

Keychron K8 Mechanical Keyboard with Gateron Brown Switch

Logitech MX Master 3 Mouse

LG 27UL600-W 4K Monitor with HDR

Seagate Backup Plus Hub with 6TB of storage

Audio gear:

Logitech Z200 2.0 Speakers

Bose QC25 headphones

If you would like to see your setup featured on Cult of Mac, send some high-res pictures to info+setups@cultofmac.com. Please provide a detailed list of your equipment. Tell us what you like or dislike about your setup, and fill us in on any special touches or challenges.