Be sure to check out part 1 and part 2 of this guide (as well as the launch gallery itself); now, without further ado, let's finish this thing!
Before we get started here's a list of all the parts that were ordered and used on the Wii laptop, This is basically anything we didn't scrounge or repurpose from the console itself.
- Speakers - Digi-Key part # GC0351M-3-ND
- LM386-N amps - Digi-Key part # LM386N-1-ND
- (4) 10 ohm resistors - Digi-Key part # 10QBK-ND
- (2) .1 uf ceramin capacitors - Digi-Key part # 1108PHCT-ND
- 10k ohm Linear audio slide - Digi-Key part # PP3045DA-ND
- (4) IR LEDs - Digi-Key part # QED233-ND
- 30x30x10 mm square DC fan - Digi-Key part # 259-1329-ND
- RCA phono jacks - Digi-Key part #'s CP-1413-ND red, CP-1414-ND white, CP-1415-ND yellow
- 4.5 mm Tact switches - Digi-Key part # CKN9018-ND
- PCB perf board - Radio Shack part # 276-148
- Headers - Male - Digi-Key part # A30918-ND (4 pin version)
The most obscure name of apart above is probably the header. These are simply the type of pin connectors that are often found between circuit boards in devices. On the standard types each pin is 2.54mm (0.1-inch) apart. We can use them to easily connect several signals in a single plug. You can even scrounge these headers off old electronics you might have laying around (286 motherboards, old expansion cards, etc.).
A receptacle (for a header).
We can use common computer ribbon cable connectors for the receptacles of the header pins. You can also wire things up "permanently", but headers and plugs will make your hacking a lot easier as you can take things apart as you work on them.
On another note, all links found in this article are rigged to open in a new window so feel free to click away, you won't loose your place.
Routing a Case
With our case designed and files ready (as shown in part 2, along with downloadable versions of our original designs) it's time to start cutting out the pieces! If you don't already have them, download Wii laptop main layout here [AI, DWG, DXF, EMF, PDF]. So these cases aren't carved from single blocks of anything, rather they're done in many pieces which are assembled later on. The basic pieces, as we call them, are plates and walls. You can see all the plates and walls labeled as such in the art files that were included in part 2.
Plates are typically made of a thin material, usually plastic as in this case but sometimes metal. The plates "close in" the shapes and provide most of the surface area. We usually cut the plates using a laser engraver because it allows very high precision and you can raster engrave the lettering, designs, etc.
For the plates on this project we're using some simple white 0.063-inch thick engraving plastic. We usually get this from Main Trophy Supply, but there are numerous sources out there.
Walls are the thicker main portions that create the main depth of the unit. They are attached to plates to create the enclosures. Because of this depth a laser cutter won't work so we'll be using a standard bit-based CNC router. For more information on these, check out Will O'Brien's great how-to.
For the walls on this project we'll be using a very high density PVC foam called Sintra (also called Komatex by another brand) While it is technically foam, it's so dense it behaves mostly like a solid material. But because it's foam it's easy (and fast) to rout and you can also drill, slice, modify manually afterwards as well. Good stuff!
We'll be starting with the laser engraved plates. For this project we've used a Universal Laser Systems X-660 60 watt laser engraver, which can cut through a variety of materials up to a half inch thick. The files are prepared by opening them in CorelDraw and converting all strokes (the outlines of shapes) into "hairline" thickness. Then a color is assigned and by using the Print dialog box, you tell the machine to cut all strokes of a certain color (I used black) at a certain power. For thin materials such as .063 thick it doesn't take much power and you can cut through them fairly quickly.
The world still wonders though, could you cut a pizza with this thing? Has anyone ever done it? Email Ben!
A wider view of the previous shot. We've coated the plastic with transfer tape (kind of like masking tape but much wider and lower tact) to keep the front color surface of the plastic from being accidentally burned. The idea is that the tape will scorch, not the plastic beneath. On the left you can see a flare-up smear, good thing we had the tape on, 2 dollars worth of plastic might have been ruined!
This was a completely staged photo where the machine probably wasn't running and thus isn't as dangerous as it might appear. We still have all 8 fingers.
Next we move onto something a lot messier: a larger, bit-based CNC router. This is being used to create the thick side walls of the unit. Two different thicknesses of material are being used: 0.5-inch and 0.75-inch. Some materials, such as this, only come in so many different thicknesses so you have to keep that in mind ahead of time when designing. This Sintra, for instance, was not available in 1 inch thick, but that's ok because the main body of the Wii laptop is designed to be 1.25 inches thick, so we're using a .75 inch layer connected to a .5 inch layer. The portion that holds the screen is .5 inch thick as well.
Pieces of Sinta cut with the router. The waste of this process doubles as artificial snow that looks almost as fake as the stuff seen in Die Hard 2 -- a movie we have somehow managed to mentioned twice during this series. Maybe we can go for a three-peat, keep a sharp eye.
The small screw holes were drilled with a 0.063-inch diameter bit and the main pieces themselves cut with a 0.25-inch diameter bit. As you can see we were too lazy to latch on the vacuum attachment and quite a mess has resulted. The chewed up plastic actually helps a little bit through, as the pieces are cut the waste tends to stay in the grooves and keeps the thins pieces in place as the cut finishes. That's a lot better than them flying out or hitting the bit! The reason we routed 0.063-inch screw holes is because we can manually drill them out later to an exact size we need, instead of monkeying around doing it the big machine.
Building the Case
After the plates and walls are cut (and cleaned up) it's time to stick them together so it actually resembles something. Even though they were cut with different machines everything is still quite accurate and sized the same because it's all computerized. Unless otherwise noticed, all the connecting is done with liquid super glue and then a thin layer of hot glue on the inside seam. [If you were expecting something other than hot glue from Ben Heck you must be new here. -Ed.]
We kept the Wii sports disc in the unit at all times for quick testing action. Not because we forgot to take it out.
Before we go any futher (insert Meatloaf reference here) it's good to check and see if the Wii assembly actually fits in the case. At this point we've realized a mistake we made. The lower left screw hole is overlapping (or rather, wants to be in the same place as) the edge of the disc drive. Good thing we checked, but so much for our "spotless" record! We can solve this slight oversight by sliding the entire Wii assembly a bit to the right. Luckily thing there's extra room on the right side of the case. This is a great example of why you should always allow yourself wiggle room, if possible.
It's starting to look like something... oh crap, we forgot the GameCube memory port! Somebody prepare the tar and feathers, quick!
A close-up of the plate going around the GameCube port. It also covers the front control buttons. As you can see, the circle shape on the end of the plate covers up the ugly square hole that is in the wall. Ha ha sneaky! For the best aesthetics it's a good idea to keep all shapes in relation to each other. In this case, the outer circle shape of the plate is made to be twice the diameter of the Gamecube port, but they both have the same center. This gives everything a clean, industrial looks that may not seem very "artistically creative" but instead does something much better -- it looks right.
The piece shown above is called Main top of screen in the art file. In part 2 we talked about how the back of the LCD had a small circuit board that was thicker than the rest of the screen, here we can see the recess we're making to accomdate that. Attached around the hole in the center of this plate is a thin wall laser cut by acrylic (the piece labeled by its thickness as 0.188 clear on the file) with yet another plate on top of that ("screen riser").
We leave a lot of the protective tape on for as long as possible, to protect the surfaces as we work on the unit. Kind of like that plastic crap inside new cars.
The other side of what we just put together, along with another vinyl Wii logo. By making this raised portion centered and fairly well placed it looks like we only did this for aethestics (or so we hope) -- but again, it allows us to make most of the lid thin and only thick where it needs to be, rather than having the entire lid portion be thicker. This is much like modern LCD monitors and TVs, where most of it is thin but there's a buldge on the back for the electronics.
- Thread the screw through the outer hinge (from the base of the unit), and place the toothed washer on it.
- Place the lid portion down and move the screw through it.
- Fasten the stop nut (and washer if you wish) on the other end and tigthen until the hinge holds the lid in an open position. This is best done by hold the stop nut with a clamp or pliers and advancing the screw with a drill or ratcheting driver.
The top portion of the Wii case, with the screen portion and hinges attached.
With the main portions of the case assembled we can now begin to wire the unit together, starting with the front buttons. If you recall from part 1 we extended wires from the original tact switches so we could put the power, reset, sync and eject buttons elsewhere, well, this is the elsewhere.
- We begin by carving a wide hole in the wall just behind the button holes on the front plate of the unit. The PVC plastic can be carved easily with an X-Acto knife.
- The little buttons are glued to thin pieces of plastic in groups of 2. We used the plastic from an Xbox 360 controller wrapper, but anything fairly thin (such as a soda pop bottle) will work. The reason we glue two buttons to each piece of backing plastic is so the buttons won't rotate.
- Two layers of 0.063-inch plastic are glued to either side of the hole to create a lip. This will hold in the tact switch plate we'll make in a moment.
- Glue the four 4.5mm tact switches to a long rectangular piece of plastic as shown above. Line them up to the button holes, you can do this easily by holding the blank plate up behind the holes and markig a mark on it through the opening.
- Solder the wires coming from the motherboard to the tact switches, 2 wires per switch, just like on the other end from part 1.
Final prep on the motherboard
At this point we'll attach the last fews things that need to go back on the motherboard.
At the top of the photo is the end of the wires we attached in part 1, which also contain the audio / video signals as well as power for the sensor bar.
About that dirty gray mousepad...
You've probably noticed the gray mousepad that appears under items in many of the photos and thought "Why is that there and man are we sick of seeing it!" See, we use it as a soft backing to keep the surfaces of things from being scratched as we work. Perhaps someday we will replace it with a new one, but we have to warn you it'll be the same design -- we got a stack of them one day when a store switched owners. Try using an old mouse pad on your work bench, it's very helpful. Now with that mystery explained we'll continue.
Installing the LCD screen
Now that the base of the unit is pretty much ready to rock and roll we can move onto the LCD screen portion, starting with the volume slider, which amazingly has been photographed in front of a gray mousepad.
With that in place we can install the screen. Sometimes we make certain edges of the walls of the case the exact size to position the screen, but again it's good to have a wiggle factor. In this case, we made part of the walls form a "bottom reference" for the LCD glass to rest against, but the left and right was open. (Take a look at the art file to see this.) So that gives us a basic idea of where to put it, and here's exactly how we suggest doing the rest:
- Place the screen into the case basically where it should go.
- Put decent-sized blobs of hot glue on opposite corners of the screen. I'd say peanut-M&M-sized-blobs should suffice.
- Quickly lift the case above your head and look at the screen. Use your fingers to align it so the 4 corners are straight and no metal edges show.
- Hold that pose for about 30 minutes as the glue cools. Use Zen/breath holding/whatever to remain still. (Do not attempt this near mosquitoes.)
- With the screen now temp locked in the right postion, go back into the case and secure it permanently as you best see fit. In our case -- you guessed it -- more hot glue.
Wiring up the audio amplifier
OEM (original equipment manufacturer, in case you ever wondered) LCD screens are great and all but they don't usually come with a sound amp like a pocket TV or PS1 screen does. Let's make our own! Keep in mind this can be used with all sorts of electronics projects, so bookmark this page or something.
Or take a look at this PDF for wiring info.
- Connect ground and +5 volt power signals to the LM386 as indicated in the schematic.
- Connect a 10 ohm resistor and .1 uf capacitor in series between pin 5 and ground.
- Connect pin 5 to one terminal of the speaker, the other speaker terminal to ground.
- Wire the power, video and ground signals to the LCD as indicated by its original instructions (can vary by manufacturer).
- It's a good idea to keep the pink and white high-voltage bulb wires as far away from other signal wires as possible to avoid interference.
- Solder a single wire to the metal shield of the LCD and connect this to ground (on either the LCD or audio board) to help reduce noise, especially on the audio. The LCD didn't come stock like that, but we attached the wire and it helped quite a bit.
- As with the slits on the rear portion of the case the speaker openings have been lined with plastic screen door mesh. This allows sound (or air) through but "darkens" the hole, much like sunglasses, and hides what's behind.
Many how-tos have already gone up around the 'net about making your own sensor bar so I'll only touch breifly on it.
- Group (2) IR LEDs together per side. Wire each group of 2 in series, that is, the positve lead of one into the negative lead of the next.
- On an LED the positive lead is the longer one.
- Connect a 10 ohm resistor to the postive lead of each group.
- Connect +5 volts to the 10 ohm resistors and both negatives of the groups to ground.
The Wii laptop, in near final form.
We now have all the pieces of the Wii laptop project done so it's time for the final assembly where we'll do some finishing tasks and screw everything together.
Well there you have it - the very detailed description of creating a Wii laptop. Hopefully it wasn't too boring and you learned some good hacking tips along the way. And remember, when in doubt -- hot glue it. We'll see you next time!