Introduction: Borderlands Raspberry Pi
So I was in a game store one day and saw this Borderlands prop in the clearance section for $20 and couldn’t resist buying it. After about a week I thought to myself “I could totally gut it and cram a pi inside”. That’s when my adventure began to make a real life Borderlands Echo Device.
I went out and got an Adafruit display and started prototyping. I ended up getting the 3.2” display so it was easier to see and use with a stylus/finger. The 2.8” display just looked to small compared to the 3.2” when I was in the store. So this is technically a 1:1 scale prop with the exception that the screen is slightly larger.
I slowly prototyped when I had the time. At one point I was trying to keep the original lights and sounds but that wasn’t happening so I ripped them all out. Then I was thinking about having a speaker for the Pi. I probably could have made space for it but it probably would have drained the battery. Also I really didn’t need it to make sounds or anything although it is possible. Plus there’s also Bluetooth.
Although it’s kinda hard to gauge with the prototyping this should take about an hour to complete maybe two.
Borderlands 3 Echo Device
from Chronicle Collectibles
Micro SD card loaded with a Pi image
Adafruit PiTFT 320x240 3.2” display
Wireless USB keyboard with trackpad
Cell phone power bank
2 short micro USB cords
Needle nose pliers (or Dremel)
Painters tape (not necessary)
Hot glue gun and glue sticks
Phillips head screwdriver
5/64th allen key
Vise (not necessary)
Step 1: Gather Up All Your Parts
I’m using a Raspberry Pi Model A+ for it’s square shape to give me a little more space to work with. It’s running the latest Pi OS along with the installer script for Adafruits Pi hat. All the info you need for the display is here but it really breaks it down at page 12.
While it’s not totally necessary since it’s a touch screen I’m using an Inland mini keyboard with trackpad for typing. You can find an OS that’s made just for touchscreens if you want.
It’s all powered by a cell phone power bank. I had a bunch laying around so I just picked one that fit nicely. You can use any kind that you can cram in there. The bigger the battery the less space you have to work with but it will stay powered longer.
Step 2: Disassemble
First things first. Make sure you have a small container for all the screws. It can turn into a real mess real quick. Keep them altogether. It doesn’t matter what it is. I’m using an Easter egg because that was the first thing I saw laying around when I was ready to start.
There are a total of 6 allen screws. The 3 on the front and 2 on the back of the rubber piece need to be taken out with a 5/64th allen key. Then there’s one allen screw in the middle of the door for the batteries. It’s a dummy screw that doesn’t need to come out. It’s just there for aesthetics.
There’s one phillips head screw to open the door for the batteries. Then there’s 2 more phillips head screws holding the 2 halves of the body together.
The black rubber pieces on the top and bottom are glued in place. Gently pull them off. I’m not to concerned about glueing them back because the allen screws will hold everything in place. Also I want to be able to take it apart easily if I want to work on it in the future. Lift the top rubber piece up gently. It’s glued in but snaps right back into place. Now lastly pry apart the two halves of the body from the right side. Congratulations you made it inside!
Step 3: Gut and Glue
Once your inside there are 2 small circuit boards with wiring that need to be torn out. Then there’s a rectangular piece of white plastic where the display goes. Tear that out.
Now some of that plastic inside needs to be taken away to make space for all the electronics. You can use a Dremel to remove the plastic inside if you want. I have a Dremel but I was just to lazy to use it so I used needle nose pliers to break away the small pieces of plastic. It’s inside so it doesn’t need to look pretty.
Also I wanted to try to keep this as cheap and easy as possible to make. Once you open the body and remove the circuit boards all the buttons and 2 black pieces for the sides come right out. Nothing's holding the 3 buttons on the front in place except for the circuit boards that you just ripped out.
So hot glue the back of the buttons in place applying pressure until it dries. The black side pieces will be kept in place when you put the 2 halves of the body back together.
Step 4: Battery
There’s a piece of white cardboard up top covering the inside of the cartridge for the echo device. Tear that out because it’s a great spot for a battery.
I carefully put the power bank in my vise and slowly gave it just enough pressure to crack the casing open revealing the goodies inside. No matter what kind of power bank you use make sure you align it in the vise in a way that will evenly distribute the squeeze.
Having a vise is not totally necessary. It’s just a lot easier. You could probably get away with using needle nose pliers and/or a small flathead screwdriver if you’re very careful.
My battery didn’t fit inside with the casing so that’s one reason why I cracked it open. The other reason is I needed the batteries to go vertically up into the cartridge but needed the circuit board flipped at a right angle to access the power button and charging cord by removing the battery door on the echo device. First I wrapped them in electrical tape to hold them together and then a little bit more until they snuggly slid into place.
Step 5: Battery Board
Now I can place the circuit board from the battery in just the right spot. The right spot for you depends on what kind of cell phone power bank you have and the size of that circuit board.
On the inside they’re pretty much the same. There’s the battery and 2 wires connected to the board. Depending on where you put your battery you will want to move the board freely to run it all out through the battery door on the back of the echo device. I had a flatter battery that I could fit in the bottom but it had less power.
Make sure you put the circuit board deep enough so the battery door on the back can still close. When the board is in place hot glue it in making sure not to get to close to the power button or ports.
Step 6: Adding the Pi and Display
While prototyping I would use a piece of painters tape to hold the display in place while I was working on it. It’s not necessary it just made it a little easier to work with sometimes.
Having the display hat for the Pi is so nice and easy. It clicks right into the gpio pins on the Pi making a yummy electro sandwich. Hold the display hat in place through the hole on the front while attaching the Pi from the inside. Once they were sandwiched together I put a dot of crazy glue under each corner of the display and aligned it.
Step 7: Cables
The shorter the better. There’s not a lot of space to work with now. I had 2 micro USB cables laying around that were just a few inches long.
Attach one (black) cable from the micro USB port on the Pi to the USB port on the battery circuit board. Attach the other (white) cable to the micro USB port on the battery circuit board. The other end of that (white) cable is just tucked into place.
With all the electronics in there you can tuck it in nice and snug in a good spot where you can easily grab it. When your ready to charge the echo device just pull that (white) cable out and plug it in. When you’re done charging simply tuck it back into place.
Step 8: Reassemble
Now that everything’s crammed in there take the 2 little black plastic side pieces and slide them into place. Then gently close the 2 halves of the case. Slide the bottom rubber piece back into position and tighten the 3 screws on the front and 2 on the back with a 5/64th allen key. Then slide the top rubber piece into position. Those 2 rubber pieces will hold it all together.
Step 9: Finished
Now you’re ready to power on your Echo Device and have fun. After finishing this build there are a few modifications that I might make in the future. Maybe I’ll add a speaker. I’m definitely thinking about taking the keyboard apart and painting it yellow to match the whole Borderlands theme. The display is bigger so there’s no trim or frame. I think it still looks okay though. I might figure out how to make a frame for it one day. I could make the charging process easier by getting a male micro USB to female USB cable. Then I could hot glue the female USB port so you could just plug in to charge.
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