Aperture Laboratories radio from Portal


Active Member
My first video game related project was to make the Aperture radio from the video game Portal for my kids to use as a cosplay prop at Otakon 2009.


The first step was to get some real clear screen cap’s of all the orthogonal views of the radio.


Then I created a true to scale 3D model of the radio. The software I used was SolidWorks:


From the model I created a set of detailed drawings from which the parts can be fabricated:


Including the cross section slices at 1" elevations.


These cross sections were printed out full scale and used as templates to cut pieces of 1" foam.


The pieces of foam were then laminated to form a core:


The core was then sanded to shape (I kept a spare core).


A layer of fiberglass was then applied to the core. A cavity was carved out for the electronics


The electronics were taken from an old Polk Audio PC speaker set


The amp was wired to a mini MP3 player that will loop the music from the game. A pair of 9 volt batteries in parallel powered the amp and LEDs.


The front of the radio is a sandwich of a pressed hardboard face plate, printed transparency, acoustic fabric and a clear sheet acrylic backing illuminated by multiple LEDs. The original idea was to use translucent cyan acrylic and or cyan LEDs, but I didn't have time to acquire these before my deadline so I used what material I had on hand.


The shell was wet sanded and painted. Some small blemishes were intentionally left behind since the radio in the game had marks from wear and tear.


The electronics and the face plate were mounted vertically in slots routed into a plywood base. The MP3 player was mounted with Velcro for easy maintenance.


The antenna, knob and mount for the volume control/switch were machined from scraps of plastic. The volume control/switch was also salvaged from the Polk Audio speaker. The antenna is also used as a push button to operate the MP3 player mounted directly below it.


Other details included the use of custom water slide decals for the bar code on the back,


an Aperture logo stenciled on the face plate,


and an Aperture Laboratories sticker on the bottom


The unveiling at Otakon 2009 on 7/17/09 (making a note here, huge success)


I am currently working to update this project with better illumination for Otakon 2011. I have acquired the cyan acrylic but am not pleased with the diffusion of light from the LEDs. I am also trying electroluminescent (EL) wire. The appearance of the EL wire is stunning but the inverter required to use it creates a high frequency whine in the amplifier. Most annoying.
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Great work. I was just playing Portal 2 the other day and was thinking about trying to make a radio. :thumbsup
Instead of EL wire would an EL sheet work for back lighting the display? Maybe you won't get the humming sound with an EL sheet since (I could be wrong) they don't use an inverter.
Instead of EL wire would an EL sheet work for back lighting the display? Maybe you won't get the humming sound with an EL sheet since (I could be wrong) they don't use an inverter.

An interesting idea, I didn't know EL sheets existed. I did some quick research into these and from all I found they too require alternating current (which would require an inverter). In my tests with the EL wire the problem is not with the inverter itself. It is the EL wire that acts an antenna emitting the interference.

I will have to acquire some EL sheets and try them out, see if they have the same issue.

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Oh, that is too cool. I love your approach as well (SolidWorks -> Layout Drawings etc.)
Looping the game music is perfect...
Someone has PM'd for details on the laminated foam core so I'm posting the answer here so others who are interested may benefit.

I made the foam core out of 1 inch thick blue polystyrene foam insulation sheets. I used this mainly because I had them on hand. In fact 90% of this project was made from scrap materials from other projects and miscellaneous junk I had lying about.

I created a to scale 3D model in SolidWorks, a mechanical engineering software. In there I created cross sections at 1 inch elevations representing each layer of foam.


Each of these sections was printed out to scale and then used as templates to cut out the foam layers.


Because of the shape it would normally be difficult to properly align all the sections relative to each other. The trick I used was to have two 1/4 inch holes in each section and insert 1/4 inch steel rods to align them all. In this case the location of these holes also established the location for the knob and antenna (core on left).


I then applied Gorilla glue and placed some scraps of steel on top of the stack as weights.


Those of us that are familiar with polystyrene know that it is adversely affected by the solvents in fiberglass resins such as those in Bondo. To prevent my core from melting I coated it with latex paint, which does not react with polystyrene and formed a protective film (core on left). I then applied a layer of Bondo to the latex covered core (on right).


After the Bondo hardened I used hole saws in a drill press to cut the holes for the antenna sleeve and knob base using the 1/4 inch alignment holes as pilots.
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Looks exactly like the one in the game. I saw one like that on youtube that had a little more of a plastic sheen on it. Could just be the lighting though.
EL sheet doesn't operate any differently from EL wire. You still need an inverter. A higher quality inverter may not create the whine in your amp. Still the radio is beautiful. Very nicely done.
It's obviously quite a bit to ask for, but do you have measurements of the radio that I could use in my own one?
I'm doing more research now but it would just be really helpful and awesome just to skip the step of measuring everything

EDIT: In the time that it just took, I now have the measurements, estimated 310mm tall, not including antenna, 440mm wide.
Now that I actually sat down and thought about it, I actually need more help on materials, because I'm not as experienced with that aspect.
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