Aug. 28, 2014 | By Alec

Many of our readers will have spent a lot of time looking for a cool and exciting 3D printing project at one moment or the other, but many ideas often stay theoretical. Is this worth the time and effort? Can I make this as cool as the photos? But doubters, rest assured. Here's a project that is exciting, challenging but also quite do-able even for those with little experience: Print your very own, working and customizable minicomputer.

Over at electronics shop Adafruit, Noe Ruiz has posted a very accessible and easy to follow guide to a 3D printed computer project, that will allow you to construct a basic but customizable computer with a 2,8" TFT display that is capable of running old school Mac Apps like Mac Paint. The whole construction can be printed an assembled over the course of the weekend, making this an inexpensive and manageable project.

And for those worrying about the hardware: enter the Raspberry Pi. This credit card-sized single board computer is inexpensive and is capable of performing all basic functions of a desktop computer. It was originally released in 2012 as a tool for teaching basic computer science and programming in children, but its affordable price, compact size and manageable design make it a staple for small computer projects like weather stations. It can be powered with a usb charger and is capable of running a version of MinivMac, that can emulate Mac OS 7. This in turn will allow you to run basic Mac Apps, which are open-source and free to modify and download. And while MinivMac doesn't support audio, this can easily rectified by customizing your pc with small internal speakers.

Aside from the Raspberry Pi and a 3D printer, you only need a few other items to complete and customize your very own portable pc. These items are also inexpensive and easily ordered online:

PiTFT 320x240 2.8" Touchscreen
6600mAh Lithium Ion Battery (Optional, but will make it a portable device.)
Slide Switch (Optional, but will make it a portable device.)
Powerboost 500C (Optional, but will make it a portable device.)
Stereo Class D (Optional, but will make it an awesome audio device.)
Thin Speaker 8ohm 0.25w (Also necessary for the tunes.)
Panel mount HDMI cable

As for 3D printing, you'll need a few basic parts to create flashy housing for the Raspberry Pi, the wiring and USB ports. Ruiz provides an excellent overview of the parts and settings needed for his desktop mini-me, but you can always design your own to emulate your own pc. Any 3D printer capable of working with either ABS or PLA material can be used, though Ruiz recommends using PLA to avoid any warping. He also designed his desktop dwarf to fit together with tiny magnets, but small screws are not illegal to use at all. Printing should take more than eight hours or so.

After printing (and customization), just follow Ruiz's very simple guide to fixing the power circuit, downloading installing the free software and assembling your pc. All steps are explained with diagrams and pictures, making this guide very easy to follow. And as limited soldering is required, even people with little technical experience can easily finish this very cool project in a day or two. Curious? Check out Ruiz's guide here, and if you're looking for more examples check out this similar construction. The latter doesn't use 3D printing, but might be worth something as a reference. Good luck!

Also check out this introductory video:

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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Kyle wrote at 2/20/2017 8:30:43 AM:

I think you should sell some on ebay.

ModernGnome wrote at 8/28/2014 7:03:12 PM:

Better to run Basilisk II Mac emulator, which does support audio. Here it is running on Raspberry Pi:

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