3D Printing A Cassette Is Good Retro Fun

The cassette is one of the coolest music formats ever, in that you could chuck them about with abandon and they’d usually still work. [Chris Borge] recently decided to see if he could recreate these plastic audio packages himself, with great success.

He kicked off his project by printing some examples of an open source cassette model he found online. The model was nicely accurate to the original Compact Cassette design, but wasn’t exactly optimized for 3D printing. It required a great deal of support material and wasn’t easy to customize.

[Chris] ended up splitting the model into multiple components, which could then be assembled with glue later. He then set about customizing the cassette shells with Minecraft artwork. Details of the artwork are baked into the model at varying heights just 1/10th of the total layer height. This makes it easy to designate which sections should be printed with which filament during his multi-colored print. And yet, because the height difference is below a full layer height, the details all end up on the same layer to avoid any ugly gaps between the sections. From there, it’s a simple matter of transferring over the mechanical parts from an existing cassette tape to make the final thing work.

It’s a neat trick, and the final results are impressive. [Chris] was able to create multicolored cassettes that look great. It’s one of the better uses we’ve seen for a multi-colored printer. This would be an epic way to customize a mixtape for a friend!

We’ve seen some great 3D printed cassettes before, too, like these retro reel-to-reel lookalikes.

9 thoughts on “3D Printing A Cassette Is Good Retro Fun

  1. The compact cassette was definitely superior in one fashion. You could replay them with a simple electromechanical system and they kept their place when power was lost – making them perfect for audio books. Until low-cost and low power digital audio systems came about, cassettes were the best way to send audio to off-grid areas. HaD has an article about crank-powered cassette players somewhere.

    1. And you could **record** onto them, very easily and repeatedly, and another hour or two of storage was fairly affordable for the time if you decided you wanted to keep something for awhile. You could record a lecture in college, hold onto the tape awhile, and then record over it when you were done. Or, instead of only owning a small number of songs and only playing them one album at a time, you could have a playlist. Maybe some of the songs came from the radio or a borrowed cassette, but you’d buy the ones you could, especially when there was anything decent in the box like art and lyrics. And the box wasn’t so thin as the CD’s, so it was easier to read, but it was squatter and not really that much more voluminous as a result.

      Mind you, if you had a 100-cd changer, that would save a lot of room and time, as did the ability to cycle through the tracks on CD’s and avoid rewinding and such. But I never thought they were small enough to carry on your hip even if it weren’t for the skipping problems every time you bumped the walkman. As a way to buy music, I do favor CD’s now, since that’s the quality a lot of music is made for originally, and they’re a good way to store a backup while you actually use the compressed digital rips instead. If you can buy a high quality digital version, that’s also usually fine although you miss the other benefits. Maybe vinyl mixes can sometimes be better, but then I’d want a digital copy made from it by someone with fancy equipment, and how’s that going to go license-wise? They make it more annoying now.

    1. You need more than tape. You need: the padding that protects the tape while rolling not to get damaged by friction with the hard plastic of the case (it used to be a wavy sheet of transparent pastic being also the window that allowed to see the tape spools, in this video is opaque), the rollers onto which the tape is wound (when casettes were plenty, I never managed to remove the pin holding the tape and put it back with tape – like you need if starting from scratch), the two small plastic roller from the corners, the iron/steel shield from behind the small copper spring holding the foam cube pressing the tape on the reader head, the copper spring with the foam, the 5 screws, the label, the case.
      If I remember well, the 90 minutes tapes may had the internals rearanged a bit to accomodate the bigger spools.

      This project allows you to pimp your casette, not to build new ones. If the plastic parts can be 3d printed, if the steel shell maybe cut from some 1mm sheet, you don’t have a source for the copper spring. And the case is not an easy print as the originals were cracking easy, the tabs holding the pins that connected the two halves of the case were easy to break and at least one halve was transparent so you could see the label.

  2. Now what we *really* need is for some makers to create a new cassette recorder mechanism that can serve as a replacement for the Tanashin mech used in today’s machines, while hopefully incorporating some of the fondly-missed features of the past.

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