There’s never been a better time to be a kid–or a kid at heart–than today. The ongoing tech explosion of ideas and innovation has had a most empowering impact on the way we think of ourselves as consumers. Basically, it’s becoming a matter of “if you want it, you make it.” No longer must you choose between the most and the least disappointing when contemporary technology facilitates customization more than ever before.
3D printing has been a major contributor to the “not only can you make it but you can customize it” aspect of the DIY revolution taking place. On the front lines in that revolution are innovators like James Drachenberg, founder of Dragon Mountain Design. Drachenberg, a mechanical engineer, exemplifies the new “Renaissance Person.” In addition to having important manual skills critical for a mechanical engineer, he knows his way around digital design work, including 3D modeling, and he’s embraced 3D printing fully.
Drachenberg, who hails from Phoenix, Arizona, decided to indulge another evidently lifelong passion–handheld gaming–when he set out to custom design his own Game Boy. If you recall the original Nintendo Game Boys, they were pretty standard looking–rectangular, and available in a few different colors. Drachenberg’s custom-designed handheld gaming device, Drachenberry Pi, is anything but that. It has a distinctly industrial appearance, like something you’d use to order up your lunch if not guide the ship as you’re speeding through deep space.
If you’re reading to take on this project, you can find the .stl files on Drachenberg’s blogsite or on MakerBot Thingiverse. You’ll also need to pull together the materials and tools. Your shopping list will include the following items. Note that nearly every single component can be found on Adafruit, who’s not only on the front lines of the tech revolution, is a high-ranking officer within it all. This list includes catalog numbers for most of the components:
– Raspberry Pi A+
– 2.8” TFT Touch Screen (Adafruit 1601)
– PowerBoost 500 Charger (Adafruit 1944; Alternatively, James suggests 2465 “might be better for this. Also,” he adds, “hold onto that female USB connector. We’ll use that, too.”)
– 3.7v 2500 mAh LiPO Battery (Adafruit 328; Drachenberg began with the 328 and switched to the 353, which, he noted “changed up the aesthetics of the project a bit.”)
– Perma-Proto Half-Sized Breadboard (Adafruit 571)
– 12mm Tactile Switch Buttons (Adafruit 1119), 4 ct.
– 6mm Tactile Switch Buttons (Adafruit 367), 4 ct.
– 6mm Slim Tactile Switch Buttons (Adafruit 1489), 2 ct.
– SPDT Slide Switch (Adafruit 805)
– Female-Female Jumper Wires (Adafruit 266)
– USB Type A Connector (Adafruit 1387)
– Heat Shrink Tubing (Adafruit 1649)
– Wifi Dongle for Raspberry Pi (Adafruit 1012 or others)
In addition to the Adafruit components, you’ll need some basic tools and hardware, which Drachenberg lists on his blog. You’ll also need a Dremel, a soldering iron, and basic soldering skills, a 3D printer or a favorite online 3D printing service like Shapeways or access to a 3D printing community like 3D Hubs.
Like a good engineer, Drachenberg is thorough, his instructions easy to follow and his diagrams enormously helpful. If you’re new to electronics like the components he used for the custom Game Boy, consider this project an invaluable learning experience. After all, rather than perpetually wondering how your favorite gadgets work, now you’ll know. Plus, you’ll be able to fix them if something goes wrong! Prepare yourself to learn how to configure your amazing little computer, the Raspberry Pi while you configure the input buttons and get set to put it all together.
Once you’ve assembled your customized Game Boy, the only thing left for you to do is play. That’s one area where Drachenberg probably can’t help you but, like the project itself, practice makes perfect and you’ll eventually be as good at playing the game as you were at making the Game Boy itself!
Let us know if you take of this project in the 3D Printed Custom Game Boy Forum thread on 3DPB.com.