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Design engineer creates a 3D printed portable Nintendo 64
Posted by 3DP4E
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By Simon | 3ders.org

Although gamers have never had as many game options as they do today thanks to huge collection of games for nearly every hardware platform ranging from XBox and PC to Playstations and even iPhones, many gamers still find themselves resorting back to ‘retro’ platforms for a variety of reasons. Among others, the nostalgia of playing more ‘simple’ video games can be just as satisfying as playing games for the very first time.

Thanks to the advance of computers combined with the ability to create custom hardware components for a very low cost, many of these gamers have resorted to creating their own portable game systems using 3D printing. Of course, not everybody has the time to build their own portable video game system from scratch, but thankfully makers like Chris Downing are more than willing to satisfy the retro gaming itch with custom builds.

Downing, who describes himself as “a hobby enthusiast who has begun to love and understand electronics in a way that has opened my mind to countless possibilities,” counts legendary hardware hackers and modders including Ben Heck and John Grayson among his idols.

– Chris Downing

For his most recent project, Downing took on the challenge of creating a console mod for a portable Nintendo 64 - a project that relied heavily on a combination of CNC machining and 3D printing.

Although he had made an ‘N64 Portable Commission’ before, his latest iteration was able to build off of the skills he learned in his iteration with some slight design modifications, with the most prominent being the use of a PAL system for a power output due to the client being in the UK as well as a different screen size.

Aside from the integration of the PAL system as well as the modification to the screen size, some of the more subtle features of the portable console design included better ventilation for the regulator and system as a whole with a new vent panel cut into the top and a vent in the back, custom brackets for all loose components like the audio amp and regulator for more secure mounting and less wire stress, custom home cut PCBs for the buttons, d-pad, headphone switch and power jacks, and the use of PLA material for the 3D printed body and face of the casing instead ABS to prevent warping.

“As I said before, this system was built using several different fabrication methods, the two most prevalent being 3d Printing and CNC machining,” explains Downing in a recent blog post.

“This used the case making method I like to call ‘Plate & Bracket’ which is a modular approach to case making that I’ve been implementing for the last few projects. Essentially this is just like it says, rather than printing a full case half with the edges and face all in one, I’ve found that printing edge brackets and using a separate face plate that is attached to them, the fail rate of the print drops dramatically and it adds a bit more flexibility to the build process.”

– Chris Downing

Since he was milling his own PCBs, Downing took a few extra steps to make sure that the quality was where it “needed to be”. According to Downing, this increased the strength to the system while also reducing the number of ground wires to free up space.

Needless to say, the final N64 Portable Commission not only looks great on the outside thanks to Downing’s dedication to producing high-quality 3D printed parts, but the interior components are just as considered as well, too.

While there’s no word yet on how his client across the pond feels about the design, it’s safe to say that he’s just as impressed as we are.

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Posted on May 4, 2014
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