Crafty engineer 3D-prints a portable NES
It's not quite as small as a Game Boy, but this homemade portable Nintendo Entertainment System is something we'd never want to leave home without.
We loved the NES modded with a built-in screen, but it looks like former computer science Ph.D. and current software engineer Dave Nunez has done it one better. He's created a portable NES, which he calls the NESPo, almost entirely from the ground up.
Rather than cannibalize an existing NES ("Call it honor among the elderly," Nunez said), he started with an NES hardware clone known as a NES on a chip (NOAC) called the NES Retro Entertainment System (RES). This would form the guts of the machine.
For NESPo's screen, he used a 4.3-inch color TFT camera screen that plugged into the RES, and to power it, he picked up a 1500mAh NiMH rechargeable battery that gives the device around two hours of gameplay. For a speaker, he used a LM386-based amp module. Once that was all put together and tested, the next step was creating the case.
This is where the 3D-printing part comes in. With the components all measured, Nunez put together a design in CAD modeler OpenSCAD. There were several pieces that needed to be printed along with the front and back of the case: a separator tray to hold the components in place so they don't knock around; support beams to provide better, well, support; switch supports to hold the buttons in place; the D-pad and buttons; and the power light, which is also NESPo's logo.
Using PLA filament and a Makerbot Replicator 2, all the parts took around 14.25 hours. This is not including the test pieces, which had a few problems, such as incorrect sizing.
Then there was assembly, which really wasn't as easy as it sounds. Nunez managed to break two TFT screens. For front and back plates, he used laser-cut acrylic sheets, which have a little more structural integrity than 3D-printed plates. His piece de resistance was the light-up logo on the NESPo's front.
All in all, the project took him about two weeks; but given the step-by-step process rundown on his blog, we're surprised it didn't take a lot longer. That seems like a complicated job. But, hey, now we have instructions (more or less) on how to make our own! Or we could be boring and uninspired and just buy a factory-made one from ThinkGeek...