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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

Portable NES created with 3D printing

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CNET Editor

Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

(NESPo complete left image © 2013 Dave Nunez. Used with permission of Dave Nunez. All rights reserved.)

It's not quite as small as a Game Boy, but this home-made portable Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) 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 PhD and current software engineer Dave Nunez has done him one better. He's created a portable NES, which he calls the NESPo, almost entirely from the ground up.

Rather than cannibalise an existing NES ("Call it honour among the elderly," Nunez said), he started with a 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 colour 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 modeller 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 about; 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 and a quarter hours. This is not including the test pieces, which had a few problems, such as incorrect sizing.

And 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 pièce de résistance was the light-up logo on the NESPo's front.

All up, it 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...

Head over to Nunez's blog or his Flickr page for a lot more detail on how this wonder was accomplished.

(Rear half components image © 2013 Dave Nunez. Used with permission of Dave Nunez. All rights reserved.)


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Augustine AlanG posted a comment   

seems like alot of wasted space there

Couldn't make the boards closer? Could have made it more ergonomic.

I like the use of this idea to push more 3D printing, but people have been modding even N64s, Dreamcasts, Gamecubes, etc, for a loooong time.

And many of them were made smaller and more aesthetic

Not disrespecting the guys build, just sayin, these mods are nothing new, even if the application of 3D printing makes the case easier to design


MichaelO2 posted a comment   

Could you make me one? :)

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