Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Replacing DS touchscreens (part I): When it all goes wrong

The other day I was talking about the cheapie touchscreens from DealExtreme:


I bought a few for experimenting with, and one for replacing the touchscreen in my sons' Nintendo DS, as that touchscreen has developed problems.

To find out how to replace the touchscreen, I watched these guides:



They make it look so easy!

Anyway, I successfully opened up that Nintendo DS, and was able to split the old touchscreen from the LCD and replace it with a new one. The problem came when I tried attaching the new touchscreen to the connector on the PCB. That connector has a tiny black plastic lid, and unfortunately for me, one of the legs on the lid broke off.  You can see the connector here:

That connector is tiny as!  To give you an idea of scale, the touchscreen ribbon cable you can see in the lower left is 2.5mm across: Just 1/10th of a inch!

Without the lid, the connector doesn't push down on the touchscreen cable, and the touchscreen doesn't work.  What to do?  Without a working DS, my kids will kill me!

I thought of trying to hot-wire the touchscreen cable to the board, either directly or via four tiny wires, but I couldn't think of a way that wouldn't risk damage to the PCB, so I decided to buy a new connector.

The first place I looked was SparkFun.  I found this connector:

(Click on image to go to the product page)

Although the shape is different, they are only about US$1 each, so I bought a few.  Actually, I bought them from SparkFun's local distributor, Little Bird Electronics.

The connectors arrived in about a week, and when I got them, I noticed something rather unfortunate: The connectors on the Nintendo DS PCB are designed to have the contacts on the touchscreen facing down, whereas the SparkFun connectors are designed to have the contacts facing up.  I don't think that's going to work!

In order to confirm this, I spent more than two hours at our hackerspace, soldering wires onto those four pins under a microscope.  And yes, that connector is the wrong way around and not suitable.

So, I did some more web digging, and found a company called Golden Bridge in Hong Kong.  It seems they're not dissimilar to Deal Extreme, and they have what appear to be the proper DS connectors:

(Click on image to go to the product page)

I ordered a few connectors a week ago, and I'm waiting for them to arrive, which they should do any day now.  Unless they arrive tomorrow, I won't get them in time to solder at hackerspace.  Which is unfortunate, as if my kids don't get their DS back soon, I think I'm going to be buying them a new DS.  Either that or I think I'll have to leave home...

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