Apr. 6, 2015 | By Simon

For anybody who can remember when the first smartphones came out such as the original Blackberry, the technology was groundbreaking and changed the way we interact with each other and the world-at-large.  Over the years, the various iPhone models have updated to make living in a connected world that much easier - so easy in fact that some are able to work directly from their phones by simply using any number of apps and email.  

But just like most other products and technologies that exist these days, the combination of microcontrollers, 3D printers and some basic soldering know-how have enabled a new generation of Makers to create these products that were seemingly only able to be produced by tech giants only a few years ago.  Today, users are able to create their own computers, video game consoles, drones and more thanks to not only the available (and in most cases, affordable) microcontrollers and 3D printed parts, but also the expansive collection of tutorials and build instructions that exist online and at a variety of community workshops or hackerspaces that are growing on a seemingly weekly basis around the world.  

One of the more recent projects that makes use of existing Maker technologies to create an otherwise complex product is with the tyfone: a DIY smartphone that anyone can make.

The project, which features fully-detailed build instructions over on Instructables by user Mach_5, uses a Raspberry Pi as an on-board computer and utilizes a 3.5-inch touchscreen.  To be able to make calls, send SMS messages and receive other updates including the time, the phone uses an Adafruit Fona.  In order to connect to the internet and cellular networks, the phone includes a USB wifi adapter.  Finally, what would a smartphone be these days without a decent camera?  The tyfone makes use of a 5 megapixel camera module that enables it to take HD photos and send them to any number of cloud accounts using the onboard wifi.  Of course, all of these components are enclosed in a 3D printed case.  

To begin the build, a user simply needs to acquire the necessary hardware components and free downloadable STL files.  The list of components for the project is conveniently linked for purchasing from third-party retail establishments and include the Raspberry Pi A+, the Adafruit FONA uFL Version, the Raspberry Pi Camera, a GSM Antenna, a 1 W 8 ohm Metal Speaker, a USB Wifi adaptor, a Lithium Ion Battery, among other components.  

While awaiting the shipment for the components, users can 3D print their enclosure by downloading it directly from Thingiverse.  In the case that a user doesn’t have access to their own 3D printer, the files can simply be uploaded to a 3D printing service provider such as Shapeways or 3D Hubs to get them printed elsewhere.  Additionally, Mach_5 has even supplied the original SolidWorks files on his Github account in the case that somebody may want to change the design of the enclosure to better suit their individual tastes.  

Once all of the components have been acquired and the 3D printed parts are printed, all that is needed is to wire the circuit - which is detailed in-full with a colored diagram - and a SIM card (such as those available from T-Mobile) to the Adafruit FONA module.  Finally, an SD card is installed to provide storage and the Wifi adapter is installed before the final step of installing the included Python-based software.  

For users who are looking for something outside of the box or otherwise create a fully-customized design with their own industrial design and graphic design (logo) touches, this is a perfect starter project for entering the world of hardware design and making the most out of what microcontrollers and 3D printing have to offer.  

See the instructions in-full over on Instructables.  



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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