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Retro FM Radio Combines Old-School Electronics Kit With 3D Printing Technology
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By Debra Thimmesch | 3D Print

Maybe you’re one of those people like me who got an MP3 player with seemingly infinite memory and then, when you loaded your music library, the device seemed to mock your paltry collection. A pie chart revealed that it would probably take you years to fill the thing. I like music but I also like simplicity and the good old days of listening to the radio and waiting for my favorite song to play or for something new to crop up.

It seems that UK-based product designer and 3D printing enthusiast Mark Ledwold shares that sentiment. Ledwold posted a recent project he completed on the maker site MyMiniFactory: It’s a Retro FM Radio complete with a handle and a great little speaker, so it’s portable, recalling the era of the boom box. The 3D printed radio is smaller than the boom boxes of yore, however, so it’s more pop than boom, but its appearance and portability make up for the less intense sound.

Ledwold found the kit on Kitronik’s website. Kitronik, which is located in Nottingham, England but is largely web-based, offers a variety of kits for makers of all levels of experience and know-how. The company’s founders, Geoff Hampson and Kevin Spurr, both with engineering backgrounds, spent a great deal of time designing electronic products and assisting in soldering activities at tech camps and scouting events. In the process, they noticed a real dearth of resources for people just starting out in electronics. In response to that notable absence, they designed a range of electronic projects kits and, soon thereafter, Kitronik was born. Since the company’s establishment in 2005, they’ve sold over 870,000 electronic project kits.

The FM Radio kit is one such extremely affordable kit. Ledwold paid £12 (about $18) for it. In addition to the kit itself, which features a step-by-step assembly guide and includes a circuit board that is clearly marked, you will need a soldering iron. The beauty of the kit is that you don’t need previous knowledge of electronics to build the radio or most any of the other kits. In fact, that’s the point: It’s about hands-on learning.

That’s the inner workings of the radio, anyway. But what about the cool retro appearance? Undoubtedly, the folks at Kitronik would heartily endorse Ledwold’s embellishment of the somewhat bare bones radio.

“Although the kit was easy to put together,” he recalled, “It wasn’t much to look at on its own!”

– Mark Ledwold

As he’s an experienced Solidworks user, he decided to create a case for the radio and, as he’s an ardent advocate of 3D printing, Ledwold didn’t hesitate to apply his 3D printing know-how to this project. You can download the .stl files on the MyMiniFactory project page.

“Retro style designs interest me as they rebel against the clear-cut minimalism of a lot of products today,” he explained of the aesthetic.

– Mark Ledwold

He went with curves, larger, bolder features, and a retro color scheme for the case for his radio, which measures 180 x 105 x 45 mm (or roughly 7″ x 4″ x 1.7”), so it’s about the size of one of the old transistor radios rather than of boom box proportions.

The radio case isn’t all looks, either–he designed for functionality.

“The curves running around the edge of the case also act as clips keeping it together, it’ll survive bumps and knocks without coming apart – so you don’t have to worry about bringing it about with you,” he noted. “The handle is also more than just an aesthetic addition, the clips and pins I made to put it together allow it to rotate and are sturdy enough to easily carry the radio around.”

– Mark Ledwold

Since it’s 3D printed, the material is durable but also easily replaced by a new case if the retro look loses its appeal. Do you have any ideas for another case that might add to the radio? Is the retro look more your thing? Let us know in the 3D Printed Retro Radio forum thread over at 3DPB.com.

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