Aug 12, 2016 | By Alec

Since the release of Pokémon Go about a month ago, fans of all ages have walked miles and miles in an attempt to become a Pokémon master. While it’s been extremely fun, the game also underlined the main limitation of smartphone technology: battery life. While several cool and completely thematic 3D printed solutions have already appeared on the web, Minecraft artist Spencer Kern has just completed the most environmentally-friendly version of all: a solar-powered portable 3D printed Pokémon Center that can charge up to twelve phones at once.

It’s a solution to a problem that has affected all players. After overcoming all those Pidgeys and Zubats, you finally find yourself face to face with a Ninetails or Polywrath – only to have fate play a cruel trick on you. Your smartphone battery dies. In fact, a full battery only lasts for just a few hours when playing Pokémon Go. It the logical result of the battery-draining combination of continuous GPS and mobile data use, and the only real solution seems to be an unwieldy external battery pack.

Fortunately, the 3D printing community was no stranger to this problem and quickly came up with some thematic solutions, like a 3D printed PokéDex smartphone case holding an extra battery and even a PokéBall-shaped USB charger that sits on your belt. But Spencer Kern has taken things into a more environmental direction with his solar-powered charging station.

Kern himself works for the Minecraft team in Washington, which is part of Swedish game studio Mojang (now part of Microsoft). The studio itself is deeply divided over which team is best, and as a result Pokémon Go is played a lot and very competitively. “Like millions of other people I have been swept up in the magic and nostalgia of Pokémon once again thanks to the release of Pokémon Go. It has been amazing to watch people come together and enjoy catching digital monsters out in the world with their friends and neighbors,” Kern says.

While he particularly enjoyed the social aspect of Pokémon Go (the water cooler social hub effect, that lets players meet around PokéStops), he also noticed how frustrated people got over battery life. So why not combine the two into a thematic charging station that lets players meet and talk Pokémon?

For its theme, the Pokémon Center – where you heal your Pokémon in the original games – was a logical choice. “The basic idea behind the construction of the Pokémon Center was to take a Yeti 400 solar generator that I normally use for camping, and build a decorative shell for it. The shell would then have a massive USB hub built into it so that it could power 10-12 cell phones simultaneously,” he explains.

Fortunately, Kern is no stranger to 3D design either, and built a model that would serve as a blueprint. “This allows me to quickly test out different layouts and construction methods while keeping everything scaled properly. It is also helpful to have a complete model early on because it means that I can build, test, and print all of the 3D components based on the designs of the main structure,” he says.

While the entire Pokémon Center could be 3D printed, he instead opted to save a bit of time by using common wood stock for most of the ordinary pieces like walls and supports. As such, it was largely a matter of cutting and sanding down the walls and roofs, and gluing them together to form the canvas for more detailed 3D printed components – such as the archway around the doors, the roof latch, cradle and the vents. “Some of these were designed to be functional while the rest were decorative trim elements that were too intricate for me to build out of wood. All of the parts took about 3 nights to print and sand,” he adds.

The model was subsequently completed with a paint job, though some of the truly finishing details are actually custom-made decals that were glued onto 3D printed surfaces – like the glass doors and the Pokémon Center sign. “This was much faster than attempting to paint them and it helped cover up some of the deep surface irregularities that would have taken forever to sand out,” the designer says. But they really finish the model in a way that hand painting rarely does.

But of course the real test is out on the streets, and Kern added a powerful Yeti 400 solar generator often used for camping. Once plugged into a USB hub, the final model can charge up to 12 phones at once and also features two standard power outlets. “A quick weekend trip to a downtown park provided a great test for the Pokémon Center. There were tons of trainers running around and everyone seemed to have a great time hanging out while charging up,” the designer says. While he did not say how long it would take to recharge your phone, it certainly provides you with a fantastic opportunity to brag about that CP 1150 Dragonite.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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