Written by: Enrique Garcia, Application Engineer
I was a kid of the 90s and if I had to say what the equivalent of the fidget spinner was back then, I would say it was owning a Tamagotchi virtual pet. When you needed to fidget with something, or had a minute or two and couldn’t sit still, you could play around with one of these.
If you are not familiar with these virtual pets, they were small keychain sized devices with an LCD screen that ran on button batteries. If that description didn’t sell you on them, then let me share with you the story and promise we were given as kids for these things:
“Imagine having your very own self-contained life-support pod for a baby alien creature that fits in the palm of your hand. It is your responsibility to take care of it, play games with it, and watch it grow. That LCD screen is the window to your creature’s world.”
These little egg-shaped toys were so fun to collect since they came in many colors and designs. Seeing them grow and evolve gave you a sense of accomplishment and attachment to them. The trouble was that they required you to take care of them or else they would die if left unattended for too long.
In the summer of 1997, my sister and I were carrying our Tamagotchi toys everywhere and, all summer long, we were leaving a trail of dead ones along the way. We would forget about them just long enough to find the tiny screen showing a sad little gravestone with a ghost and have to start all over. Later, I remember smuggling mine into school every day during the first couple of weeks and eventually getting caught when it started beeping in Mr. Brittain’s 6th grade class. I had to leave it in his desk and pick it up at the end of the day. By then my poor little alien was long dead. I could never get mine to live past a couple of days.
In retrospect, Tamagotchi virtual pets were maybe closer to the pet rocks of the 1970s. They were a huge fad for a year or two and silently faded into oblivion once the button batteries died or when the thing fell in between the couch cushions never to be seen again.
Fast forward twenty-one years to present day and Bandai has re-released the original Tamagotchi Virtual Pet this year. So I decided to get one and try to redeem my bad track record of dead Tamagotchi toys from my childhood.
Once I got that Tamagotchi in my hands, it instantly brought back memories of middle school and simpler times of Tamagotchi annihilation. I knew I had to do something to make the device more accessible to me so they wouldn’t die as easily this time around. I used SOLIDWORKS and my 3D printer to help me out.
The Tamagotchi has a built-in watch feature so it knows when it needs to go to sleep, wake up, ask for food, etc. My thought was to design and 3D print a watch-case so I could just pop the pet in there and wear the Tamagotchi as a watch. I would have easy access to my pixelated alien pet at the flick of the wrist.
First, I had to get some dimensions off the new Tamagotchi I purchased so I could model an envelope space that would represent the Tamagotchi to design my case around. This would be one of the hardest steps in the process as the Tamagotchi’s egg-shape is not consistent in any direction. It is flat on the back and has more volume toward the bottom of the product to include space for the buttons. I started my project by taking pictures of the front, side, and top profiles of the Tamagotchi. I then took as many dimensions as I could to use as reference for my design in SOLIDWORKS. Next, I imported these images as sketch pictures into SOLIDWORKS to create the below envelope.
I really liked the facetted look of the envelope I ended up with and so I sculpted a similar but thicker version of the shape to be used for the actual case geometry.
I then used the “Combine” feature in SOLIDWORKS to core-out the compartment intended for my virtual pet and used the split line tool to cut the part into two halves. Next, I used the “Lip & Groove” feature to create an adequate male-female interface so the two halves of the case would lock together securely.
Next, I activated my front view sketch picture and adjusted the cutouts for the screen and the buttons. I have adjusted the button opening layout and screen cutout designs multiple times to get the most easily accessible opening to the buttons but also to prevent accidentally activating them during every-day wear.
Lastly, I extruded and sculpted the watch lugs and band geometry to fit an 18mm NATO watch strap.
I chose the NATO strap design as it will loop on both ends of the watch case at the lugs and prevent the virtual pet from falling off the strap entirely if one of the lugs should fail during wear.
Another modeling decision I made was to add the watch strap geometry to the top (red) half of the case to more firmly secure the Tamagotchi inside the case having it sandwiched between the top of the case and the wearer’s wrist. Using the combine tool again, I cut into the bottom half of the case to fit around the lug geometry giving the watch case more rigidity at the lugs and making it easier to align the two halves of the case when snapping it together.
Tip: When you use the Combine tool, you end up consuming the solid body used to create your geometry. In this case, the top red half of the model would be consumed using the subtract option. To get around this, create an exact copy of the body first using the Move/Copy Body feature and use the copy to perform your Combine feature.
After spending several hours printing and then doing some sanding the inside of the case to prevent scrapes, it all came together nicely. All the clearance checks I did in SOLIDWORKS checked out nicely on the 3D print and I was able to fit my new pet in its case on the first test fit.
The Tamagotchi has been living on my wrist for 11 days now and, amazingly, still hasn’t died. That is by far the longest I’ve kept one alive! The case has held up very well so far with every day use, including a weekend trip to Las Vegas which is a test in itself. Aside from being a bit on the thick side, it has proven to be a very practical timepiece for what it is. For the watch collectors out there, I would call this as a nostalgic quartz movement with a virtual pet complication! See the pictures below.
This has been a very fun project and has met its design goals. I can crack the case open easily and take my pet out and carry him in my pocket for the day then pop it back in the case to wear the next day. Most importantly, it has saved my Tamagotchi’s life so far since it is now so easily accessible with a flick of the wrist.
Hopefully my Tamagotchi will pass away of old age this time after living a long and happy life instead of dying of starvation and depression like the countless others before it 20 years ago.
Only time will tell.