The Case - Page 1
The first step was to design the look on paper.
I went through a few iterations, most were of the horizontal orientation. Why? Because vertical units, like the Game Boy, are not comfortable. You have to bring your hands very close together, curling your fingers to hold the unit, because it isn't wide enough for your fingers to hold it up in a natural way. Your wrists also have to turn at a 45 degree angle, which can be strenuous after long periods of time. To be fair, Game Boys are aimed at kids with much smaller proportions and higher tolerances for hand comfort. The Atari 2600 CE is designed for adults, so I am using my own comfort to assist in the design of the case.
The next step is to sculpt the design in wax. Wax is hard, yet easy to carve/ shape. Another benefit is that if you make a mistake, all you need to do is melt some wax and fix it! There are some drawbacks. First, getting a nice, smooth surface is nearly impossible, because you can't really sand wax. The other is that wax is somewhat brittle, so trying to sculpt the interior and exterior with the same wax is not going to work.
No fear, because once I have the exterior crafted, I'll create plaster exterior molds of the top, back and bottom (this will be a 3 piece case so that I can correctly mold the outputs in the back, especially the cartridge port).
Then, from those molds I'll use polymer clay (Sculpey III) to create a thin shell for each of the 3 pieces. With the Sculpey I'll create the internal ridges and surfaces needed to support the internal hardware and the holes for different switches, buttons, and the like. I will also create the structures necessary to merge the three pieces into one unit (ridges, screw posts, tabs). The clay will then be baked in the molds to harden it, and removed. Once hard, the internal structures will be detailed and finessed, then the outside will be sanded, polished, and detailed.
When the clay negatives are finished and tested for assembly and component fit, I'll make the final interior and exterior pour molds for each piece.
With the final molds cured, I'll pour a test case with clear polyester resin, and test it for assembly, component fit, details, etc... This will likely become the case for my prototype unit for full functionality and ruggedness testing.
With final molds and negatives, I'll be able to make cases easily, and relatively quickly (determined only by the number of molds in production). It take about an hour for the resin to cure to the point where I could remove it from the mold, but the longer that I leave it, the stronger the casting. In reality, I'll let each casting cure for an entire day before removing it, I want the units to be very rugged.
That's the plan - the following pages will document the process as it happens, the problems, and the successes.
Comments? Questions? Answers? Email me!