While public tastes for furnishing, design and architectural styles are constantly changing, some periods simply seem more memorable and enduring than others. One of the most iconic design styles is the aesthetic that originated in the United States during the prosperous 50s and 60s, commonly referred to as Mid-Century Modern. Although it has design roots close to turn-of-the-century European architectural styles, particularly German Modernism, Bauhaus, and Scandinavian architecture, Mid-Century Modern architecture is widely regarded as an American movement.
Mid-Century Modern was the first time that the American style was adopted so widely outside the country, and American designers and product manufacturers drew heavily on it. So it’s no shock that classic and vintage products of the mid-century modern era are both highly collectable and still widely desired and loved. It was his love of vintage electronics from the 50s and 60s that inspired New Jersey maker Greg Williams to create his 3D printed miniature television. His working miniature television looks like it came straight out of the pages of a 1950s copy of Good Housekeeping. And not only does his miniature TV look pretty authentic, but it also really works.
“While I was looking for a design for the TV to copy, I thought, ‘Would it be cool if this really worked?’ So I started looking for options to play videos on a small screen. Most of the options I found were either too big or relatively expensive for a little gem like this. I have a mountain of waste that I reuse for other projects; I knew I had to have something that would work. Then I remembered an old Creative Zen media player I had in 2007. I gave it up when I bought my first smartphone and it’s been collecting dust ever since. It has a nice little color screen and can play videos. Once I found that, I was inspired to create the television, ”Williams explained.
Williams began by taking measurements of Zen and designed the TV around it using Autodesk 123D. Normally Williams designs projects with multiple mechanical parts that require fairly precise dimensions, but for his mini TV he kind of winged it and just designed what felt natural to him. His final design, while clearly heavily inspired by the mid-century modern TVs he loves, is not based on any specific model or brand. Its only real design limitation was the need for the TV cabinet to fit and conceal the Zen media player it used for the screen and speakers it attached to it.
Once his design was complete, he printed them on the Ultimaker 2 which he uses in his daily entomologist work for the Rutgers Center for Vector Biology. He was originally going to print the parts using natural, lifelike colors, but given the small size of the TV, he decided to use more playful colors of PLA from the MatterHackers Pro series. Almost all parts were printed with 0.1mm layer height and 15% infill, some of the smaller details needed to be printed at higher resolutions.
Here’s a video of the finished TV in her new home, her daughter’s dollhouse:
The assembled TV is even smaller than it looks in these pictures (I blame the accuracy of the Ultimaker printers for this) measuring a tiny 3.2 “wide by 1.2” deep by 2.9 “high. The screen of the Zen 2 ″ by 1.5 ″ fits securely inside the TV box. In addition to using the Zen as a screen, Williams reused the speakers from an old headset and a connected directly to the media player. The Zen’s SD card slot, USB input, headphone jack, and power button are all accessible through a series of cutouts it designed on the side of the case. then the media player with old TV shows downloaded from The Internet Archive which it saved to a removable SD card.
The Zen itself is operated by the set of small scale buttons and TV dials on the front of the TV cabinet. The front panel of the TV was printed quite thin, with several bumps on the inside that push the buttons on the Zen. Williams says that while the current design works, he needs to remember where all the Zen buttons are and in what order they should be pressed. If he needed to redesign the TV, he said he would most likely turn the front of the TV into a small, hidden door that could be opened to directly access Zen. But he put all his 3D files on Thingiverse so that everyone can customize it for their own projects.
While he probably won’t be able to find enough outdated Creative Zen media players to make more small TVs, he’s not done with the idea just yet. It plans to design more similarly styled miniature televisions and will incorporate an inexpensive and readily available video display rather than repurposed electronics.
Williams said he is currently evaluating the options and once he chooses a room that is right for him, he will design new TVs and post a construction diary online so that other people can create their own. Let us know what you think of this Mid-Century design on our 3D Printed Miniature Retro Style TV Thread at 3DPB.com.