Even 9 years after the last iPod classic left the factory, new parts still appear now and then. Back in 2020, /u/dianexis on reddit showed off a completely transparent iPod, using a 3D printed rear panel made of acrylic plastic. I came across the post, and it was amazing how well made the clear plastic turned out. More amazing though was his Bluetooth, wireless charging-enabled version (both features taking advantage of the now non-metallic enclosure, allowing for electromagnetic signals to pass through much more easily).

I’ve tried out getting 3D printed parts for iPods before, but there’s multiple difficulties. Firstly, you need to produce an exact replica model of the part. Anyone who’s fitted poor quality click wheels will know how tight the tolerance on the original parts were – fractions of a millimetre can turn a tactile click wheel button into a completely rigid, useless plastic circle. The screw holes on the rear case, if they’re just slightly misaligned will cause the hold switch or the headphone jack to sink too far into the casing, making them unusable. So you need a good 3D model, otherwise your parts will be fraught with all kinds of tiny, frustrating issues.

Not only that of course, but you also need a good printer (or printing service) and a strong enough material to print the part out of. I’ve got a small collection of front and rear panels, from different printers and out of different materials. I haven’t found a setup that makes them good enough to replace metal yet (i.e. even the new metal stock that, while good, isn’t up to the original quality control itself either)

Of course, there’s not really a reason to go for a plastic iPod housing, at least there wasn’t until such a good transparent model was shown! Someone recently contacted me and asked if I could build them a fully transparent iPod, like the one /u/dianexis made, with all the Bluetooth bells and wireless charging whistles attached as well (also, a request for waterproofing – alas that wasn’t quite in the budget…)

Wireless charging turned out to be a bust quite quickly. I wasn’t able to find a decent coil that I thought was safe enough, especially within the turn-around time. However, thanks to /u/classicsarerelevant and his internal Bluetooth kit, I was able to install Bluetooth connectivity, in addition to an expanded capacity battery, custom coloured wheel and Rockbox.

Overall it was a long project, but not as troubling to complete as other iPods have been. Especially with the recent transparent front panel production runs being much higher quality than they have been historically, I think clear iPods look sleeker than ever!

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