PCBs, PCBs, PCBs

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Pictured above is all the PCBs for my new shiny WiiBoy I’ve been working on. I ordered them from JLCPCB (which has been a really great service so far). I used a solder template and placed the components by hand before using a hot air station to reflow it.

The most exciting pcb (in my opinion), is the one on the very top, it’s a USB-C Power Delivery and Data Multiplexer. In other words, it allows me to charge the batteries and use an internal usb drive all through the one USB-C port. I haven’t tested all the functions yet but I did successfully negotiate 15v out of a USB-C charger so I consider that success for now.

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It’s a 4 layered PCB which I’ve had to do a few times now so I’m starting to get the hang of it.

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Well the design is going great so far. Hopefully the testing of the PCBs will go smoothly. On track for an MGC release…

A Brief History of the WiiBoy

Some would argue that the WiiBoy first began as far back as 2013 during my very first GameCube portable called the “DMG Cube”. Fitting a GameCube in a DMG housing was no easy walk in the park even without internal batteries. The DMG Cube was sold and has past through various owners over the years. Believe it or not, it’s still in excellent working condition after it popped up for sale on Ebay earlier this year.

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Moving on, the WiiBoy is one of my oldest and on-going projects. Taking root in April 2016 for the BitBuilt Summer 2016 modding competition, the WiiBoy would be a Wii inside a DMG gameboy housing with batteries.

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Rev1 was finished in about 3 months but I wasn’t entirely satisfied with it. Still time left in the competition, I began the WiiBoy rev2 taking into account what I learned from the first model to improve the heatsink and overall quality.

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Rev2 was cleaner all around and after accomplishing the “LMAO” Wii trim, it had room for double the batteries of the first one.

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The WiiBoy rev2 was voted first place in the 2016 Summer competition, a time where custom pcbs were still nonexistent in the modding community. Oh the times have changed.

January 2018, In preparation for my MGC (Midwest Gaming Classic) display, I decided to make an appearance with a brand new WiiBoy rev3. This one was designed again from the ground up utilizing 3D printing and custom pcbs. My modding buddy Chris Downing was nice enough to lend me his fancy Form 2 SLA printer to attempt and achieve an OEM looking console. With only a few weeks left before the convention, I rushed out the pcbs and threw together a prototype WiiBoy rev3. It wasn’t perfect by any means but it definitely caught some eyes at MGC.

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The WiiBoy rev3 at MGC alongside the PiiWii Pocket, GS2, and an N64 portable I have not yet unveiled for some reason.

MGC came and went and I could not get the amazing quality of the Form 2 out of my head so I purchased the new AnyCubic Photon resin printer. Boy I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. Turns out low power resin has awful warping qualities on large prints and after throwing money at various different resin brands, I failed at getting any passable case from the investment. The printer had failed the WiiBoy although it was still a great learning experience and I certainly don’t regret it.

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The WiiBoy continuously challenges me and for that it holds a special place in my heart. There is no doubt it will be seen again, maybe even at MGC 2019…

 

Last commissions of the year completed!

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It’s been a busy few weeks to get these 2 PS2 portable commissions completed and shipped for Christmas. It helps that they are both the same unit but the case work painting was intensive on both of them. Anyway they turned out really slick and clean, possibly my best units so far.

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The wiring is very dense but I tried to keep it as neat as possible. It’s wired in a way so that I can bend the motherboard over to access both sides of it. Same for the battery, it can be moved out of the way to wire the next part. The result keeps it neat and manageable to repair if ever needed. I hope the customers enjoy them!

Improving the “Improved PS2 Portable”

One of the reasons why I don’t do many completely unique commissions anywhere is because sticking with the same design gives you the opportunity to make iterations and really fine tune your design into a solid product.

About a year ago I came out with my “flagship” PS2 portable for commissions. Since then, I’ve built several of them and I am now starting my 3rd iteration of the design for my latest commission.

Most of the changes are minor internal changes for mechanical strength like the new screw posts. The previous models used screw pegs that extrude from the top half of the device all the way to the back of the device. I’ve changed it for a buried screw type post. The post uses the strength of the case instead of relying on a tall screw peg that can snap in half if over tightened. ps2screw

Looking at the front half of the assembly, everything is now mounted with screws which are far cleaner and less likely to fail than various glues. There is simplicity in a build with no custom PCBs. I’m enjoying it while it’s still acceptable to do because it drastically decreases the development time and complexity. Besides, it is a tried method and very unlikely to fail without the additional electronics.

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Finally, I have made one external aesthetic change, swapping the start/select controller buttons from the buttons from an actual PS2 controller. It gives it a more Sony vibe. Now it’s time to get building. There are a few more improvements to it but I’ll talk about those if I can have this one wrapped up in a few weeks.

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New Synthesizer in the works

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With all the hype around polysynths this week, I thought it would be a good time to share that I’ve started my own analog polysynth project a few weeks ago. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while but have put it off because I know it will take a lot of time and be expensive to finish. I think I’m up to the challenge!

I’ve planned out most of the synthesis architecture. 2 VCOs, a filter, and plenty of VCAs for control. The envelope generators, LFOs, and other modulation will be done in software. My first goal is to work towards an SPI programmable monophonic analog synth voice. Then to make it polyphonic, I’d tie a few of them together with a master SPI unit that gathers preset data from the control panel, keyboard, and other inputs.

An early model showing all the routing options. I will be adding onto it and revising it when I create the schematic for the voice card.

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What I think makes this architecture interesting is that VCO1 will be a triangle core, and VCO2 a sawtooth core. This allows me to implement two different oscillator syncs that work differently for each core. When synced, the sawtooth core is reset to 0v, but the triangle core output is reversed. It is a subtle effect, but I think it will be cool and there is a lot of variety I can do with this approach while keeping the part count down.

I’ve borrowed the waveshaping circuit from the Micromoog, I think it is very clever! It allows a continuously variable waveshape from saw to square to narrow pulse using just a transistor and 3 op-amps!

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And here’s the triangle wave going through the same wave shaping circuit. The outputs look good so far.

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After breadboarding a basic LM13700 VCA circuit, here is a sawtooth wave whose amplitude is modulated by a triangle wave, it works!

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A lot of work to be done. That’s all for now.

Another Wii portable completed

The G-Wii is a Wii portable I’ve been doing on commission for quite some time. Even though I’ve been putting a lot of effort into custom PCBs lately, this one is assembled without any custom parts! It’s a relatively easy build so I have decided to release all the CAD files including complete SolidWorks assembly and STLs for 3D printing. A simple Wii portable foundation for beginners to get started is something that’s been needed for a long time so I hope to see more Wii portables being built. You can grab the files here

A little more about the process:

After modeling the case on the computer, I 3D printed it in PLA, applied bondo, and sanded it until it was as smooth as possible. I used several coats of primer to achieve this.

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I had to relocate the MX chip in this build so that way I could use Nintendont compatible with the OEM GC memory card since the customer requested that feature. I am not generally a fan of using hot glue, however I used it just this once for temporarily holding down the USB port mount until it could be screwed in during the final assembly.

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It’s all hand wired together which shows is still relevant in this age of custom PCBs. I used 4x 18650s to give about a 4 hour battery life. The VGA screen looks great with the VGA patches

To avoid more glue, I designed 3D printable mounts for all the parts I could and secured them using M2 screws.

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Thanks for reading. I’ve got some big projects coming up and I hope to keep this up.