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Photo May 09Many people already think of 3D printing as the closest thing to real life magic, something is imagined and presto it can be printed! Obviously, the process is somewhat more complex than that, but I have to admit that no matter how many times I see it, the sensation of watching it never fails to bring me back to the wonder I felt as a kid at the NY circus when a magician would approach me and pull what seemed like miles of silk scarves out from just behind my ear.

For Mario, a professional magician, the connection with the technology was a natural.

“My whole show is a testament to my passion for making and creating,” Mario said. “Most of my props are handmade, and there are tons of 3D printed elements. My MakerBot has changed the way I build and opened up so many possibilities for me with my creations.”

Mario’s latest creation is a 3D printed cell phone that, despite looking like something pulled directly from a cartoon into reality, actually works. The decision to create a 3D printed phone arose from dissatisfaction with the time he was spending glued to his smartphone and the lack of non-smartphone options available. First, he tried to conjure his own phone from scratch, but the parts alone wound up costing over $100.

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Then, as if by magic (okay, I promise that’s the last magic-based pun), he realized that the old flip phones could be reused as the guts for his improved version and at a significant reduction in cost. He bought an AT&T flip phone from Best Buy, available for a whopping $18.99 (or $1.00 with a one-year service contract), and used the existing configuration of the buttons as a pattern for the 3D printed case. Having created the files in TinkerCAD, Mario says that the next step will be uploading them to Thingiverse to share with others. He has a version using a Samsung phone on Thingiverse already.

The end result, printed in bright green, is a rectangular phone, complete with screen and stylized buttons. And it’s quite a conversation starter.Photo May 09-3

“It’s my only phone, so I use it all the time, and it’s great! I also love the conversations that start when you have a 3D printed thing in your hands. The phone is something that instantly connects me with other makers and people interested in 3D print technology. It’s bright and colorful and unique looking, and it has sparked so many conversations,” Mario says.

The phone peels away all of the studies of ergonomics and sexy styling of today’s smartphones in favor of functionality and a retro appeal. This aesthetic is becoming a trademark of a segment of the maker movement as people work to create retro gaming devices and toys. And, oddly enough, this isn’t the first magician to make his mark in retro fashion. Last month, we covered the creation of a Nintendo gaming system by Dutch magician Daniel Spies (warning: this article also contains its fair share of magic-related humor).

The sacrifice in connectivity made by bypassing a need for ‘smart’ functions gives Mario just the break he needs to devote more energy to making and less to aimless wandering in the ether of the web.

It probably isn’t terribly comfortable to hold or have pressed up against your ear for long periods of time, though. And that’s actually part of the point. Would such a phone appeal to your senses? Let us know what you think of Mario’s magical device at the 3D Printed Retro-Looking Phone forum thread at 3DPB.com.

 

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