Apr. 17, 2015 | By Alec

While most of us use our 3D printers to build fun little accessories and tributes the upcoming Star Wars movie, we are constantly reminded that it’s a perfect technology for manufacturing original electronic contraptions as well. Just look at this inspiring project by Dutch part-time magician Daniel Spies from Rotterdam. He has brought the eighties back to life with his Nin10do game station: a 3D printed console that uses a Raspberry Pi to play all those classes that made the NES such a revolutionary machine in its day. For why shouldn’t we be able to play Mario on an HD TV?

As Daniel explains to 3ders.org, he is a man of multiple identities. Working in musical instrument retail by day, his real passion is magic. ‘At night I perform as a magician doing Close-Up-Magic. I also build illusions and tricks for other magicians,’ he explains. In a way, that magic is simply part of his creative mind that touches many different aspects of life. ‘I am very fond of people with creative minds and love to see what people are creating. Doesn't matter if it is art, music, food, writing or technology. I just love to watch passionate people and artists,’ he says.

A few months ago Daniel decided to order a Raspberry Pi model B+, as he was considering incorporating it into his magic. ‘I was very enthusiastic about it. To control lights, motors etc with a simple scripting language would be great for complicated magic tricks! But when I was learning to write Python I saw many video's in which guys are hacking the original NES console and installing a Raspberry Pi in it,’ he explains.

As many of those projects look at bit amateurish, Daniel decided to undertake such a cool project himself. ‘I thought that creating a professional looking gaming console on which I could play my favorite old school games would be a great choice,’ he explains. But to ensure that this is an educational project for magical purposes as well, Daniel forced himself to include programmable LEDs and a stepper motor for the lid as well. And after reading an article on 3D printing hubs, deciding on a manufacturing technology was easy as well.

But before kicking off, Daniel wisely gave himself a series of tasks to complete to ensure he got everything out of the experience that he could. Firstly, the Python script must be written in such a way that it can run emulator programs in the background without sacrificing speed Secondly, a fail-safe option had to be built into his stepper motor design to ensure that the lid can be opened and closed automatically by hand and automatically, but in such a way that it doesn’t jam up with accidentally opened or closed twice. Thirdly, the console would need a proper on/off switch reminiscent of classic consoles that can also be used without damaging software or the sd card. And finally, to ensure Daniel becomes familiar with 3D design, the whole case must be drawn in CAD software and be fully 3D printable.

In short, it was an ambitious project for an inexperienced maker, but a very educational one. After hours of design, the container of the Nin10do was ready to be printed, for which Daniel enlisted the services of 3D printing hub Printics. ‘They were really helpful. The print is done in XT Co Poylester and not in the more common available PLA or ABS. They sent me a sample in both PLA and XT and the difference was pretty big,’ Daniel explains. ‘The company did a great job getting rid of the access printing material (support) and I finished it in about 30 minutes.’

Assembly itself was fairly easy enough. An off the shelf 4mm cylinder and gear wheels were built into this console, as well as the Arduino, power cables, and SD-card port and four USB ports to serve as outlets for the controllers. The result looks absolutely wonderful, as you can see. The exterior looks professional, and the stepper motors and LEDs give the whole console a sleek appearance. With the press of a button, the lid opens to reveal the four USB ports, in which SNES controllers can be inserted.

However, the software portion turned out to be very difficult to get to grips with. ‘It was hell to get it working. Although the design was thought out well en detailed the first software tests where horrible,’ Daniel says. After solving a poetic ‘1001 issues’, even this portion was successfully completed. The Linux-running Arduino can currently run various Emulator programs, not just from Nintendo. ‘LucasArts games, Monkey Island, Nintendo, Atari, Apple II, Prince of Persia, Kings Quest, Sierra Games, you name it, it’s on there,’ he says. The ARM-soc in the Raspberry is quite overpowered too, enabling the games to run more smoothly, though Daniel did add cooling elements to the processor to avoid overheating.

As you can see in the clip below, this very inspiring console can be played very easily, and the games look great in HD. While the entire project was quite costly (300 euros including the Raspberry), how many of us can say they have a unique 3D printed games console?

Daniel talking about his Nin10do (in Dutch).



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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mw wrote at 4/17/2015 9:12:35 PM:

The hardware switches in the middle of the story. Which is it, Raspberry Pi or Arduino??

mortimore wrote at 4/17/2015 1:21:04 PM:

I think it is based on a Raspberry Pi, not an Arduino.

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