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#1
I give up fixing my Virtual Boy, it's too hard
Posted on: 2013/9/5 6:50
Nintendoid!
Joined 2013/3/25
217 Posts
Long Time User (6 Years)
Here's some pictures of the patient, it's terminal.

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(screenshot brightness/contrast adjusted, I've never had to take a picture of a VB screen before)

I've been picking away at this VB on and off, hoping it isn't actually as hard as it looks, but I give up now. First it was the disintegrating ribbon cable that I pitched out, then it was trying to hand wire the display to the main board, which is where I've reached my limit. Clearly the VB is well beyond my capabilities, and I've had to solder rather difficult things before. The above pictures were the best I could do, given the tools I have and the ridiculously tiny soldering required. I'm not even gonna try to solder to the other side, seems the ribbon cable has a nasty crease in it, it barely displays anything.

I don't know what else to do at this point. Sell it for parts? Forget about it? I guess if I offered enough money, maybe someone on here could fix my Virtual Boy, but I doubt that, I've pretty much buggered this thing up permanently. I'd be surprised if anyone could fix it now. Well, I guess the right display is still fine, it's the left one that's been soldered to death. None of the traces burned but it's a mess.

What do you guys think I should do now?
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#2
Re: I give up fixing my Virtual Boy, it's too hard
Posted on: 2013/9/5 7:28
Nintendoid!
Joined 2012/7/20
USA
154 Posts
Long Time User (7 Years) Top Donator: 1st30+ Game Ratings
Wow, kudos to you for trying to hardwire everything with individual cables. Looks like quite a labor intensive repair thus far. If it's not working after all that, it seems like you might not be able to turn back. Your best bet might be finding new led/ribbons on eBay and having someone on here solder them for you...or you might also find some useful info on this thread if you'd like to try it yourself. DogP outlined some useful tips on post #170: http://www.planetvb.com/modules/newbb ... SC&type=&mode=0&start=160
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#3
Re: I give up fixing my Virtual Boy, it's too hard
Posted on: 2013/9/5 7:45
PVB Elite
Joined 2003/7/25
USA
1507 Posts
PVBCC 1stCoderContributor#3 PosterHOTY09 EntryLong Time User (15 Years) App CoderPVBCC 2010 EntryPVBCC 2013 Entry
This is kinda related to something I've been working on for someone else here. They damaged their original cable beyond repair, so my original plan was to draw up a 1:1 exact copy of the cable, so I could print/etch it, and cut/splice it together. The 1:1 copy was very tedious to get exact, because some of the traces near the ends are curved, and the gap isn't consistent, etc... but what I did do was make the ends and the middle exact, so you could either reproduce the entire cable, or any portion of it and splice it at any straight run of the traces. Here's a rendering of it:
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It seems like you have some pretty good soldering skills, so here's my opinion. Rip up all the wire you soldered and pull the socket from the motherboard. Solder the replacement flat flex cable (discussed above) to both the display and motherboard. It's MUCH easier to solder a cable with traces already perfectly aligned, than trying to solder individual wires. Then use some kapton tape, epoxy, or whatever to provide a little bit of strain relief.

The reason I suggest pulling the motherboard side socket is because my experience with flat flex cables that I've printed is that it's a little bit thinner then the stock cables (and you'd need to add a stiffener to push into the socket), and the exposed copper oxidizes quickly, making poor contact (liquid tin might help that). Also, I print single sided, and if you want the contacts down for the connector, you'd need the contacts down for the display side. That makes it really easy to get solder bridges, or other inadvertent shorts.

Of course you're gonna ask... "so how do I get one of these cables?" Well, I'd be glad to mail you one, except that I haven't successfully printed one myself yet. The laser printer I usually print boards with hasn't been sticking very well, and has been leaving lots of pits, so I'm guessing the last time I replaced the toner, I got the cheap stuff (well, I bought the cheapest stuff I could, so yeah). ;) So, I gotta try another printer and see if I can get better results. I just haven't gotten a chance to do it.

On the other display, I'd just solder it the traditional way. I doubt that the kink has broken the cable, unless you can clearly see otherwise. It's common for the display to seem completely dead, just because of bad contact at the display.

Just curious... why didn't you try the normal solder method on the first display?

DogP

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#4
Re: I give up fixing my Virtual Boy, it's too hard
Posted on: 2013/9/5 20:17
Nintendoid!
Joined 2013/3/25
217 Posts
Long Time User (6 Years)
Thanks for the replies guys. Yeah a new ribbon cable definitely looks the way to go, the only hard part would be getting the ribbon cable socket off the main board. Well, that and getting a ribbon cable I guess haha. I have no way of printing something like that, I'd have to wait for someone else to start making them. Let me know if you get that printer working again.

I did actually try to use the original ribbon cable for the left display, it's just I didn't have a fiberglass pen or anything so I tried to burn away the plastic, the cable got really mangled and was hard to work with. I tried to make the best of it but I gave up after that and switched to wires, which at the end of it all, weren't actually better than the ribbon cable... I could try the soldering method again on the other cable, but I figure the same thing will happen again. Those ribbon cables are extremely, extremely fragile, they don't take heat very well.

I need to find a thinner tip for my iron some time... That's part of my problem here. It can easily touch two traces on those ribbon cable solder pads.
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#5
Re: I give up fixing my Virtual Boy, it's too hard
Posted on: 2013/9/5 21:46
VB Gamer
Joined 2013/5/18
41 Posts
Long Time User (6 Years)
Sometimes we just have to admit the truth. Ha. As a collector I've been able to proudly say there's only been one platform to break beyond my ability to fix. (The laser on an original PS1.) Fixed my PS2 DRE by cleaning the lens, rid the NES of the blinky problem by replacing the 72 pin connector, and so on.

Not too long ago when I dug out the VB after years of hiding in its box I found the display issue and upon opening the system realized it wasn't going to be a job for me. I have experience soldering but the fine detail here was definitely too much for the cheap ass iron I bought at Radio Shack. I've one tip and the iron only 2 temp settings. Taking a crack at it 'may' have paid off but chances were better I'd screw something up that's getting harder to replace.

As long as the boards are good there should be a way of fixing it. It's only a connection whether it's through a ribbon cable or not.
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#6
Re: I give up fixing my Virtual Boy, it's too hard
Posted on: 2013/9/5 23:33
Nintendoid!
Joined 2012/10/16
201 Posts
Long Time User (6 Years)
I'd love a new cable if you can make it work.

You repaired my VB for me months ago, but having that as a backup is GREAT... especially if we ever get Dragon Hopper.

Thanks
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#7
Re: I give up fixing my Virtual Boy, it's too hard
Posted on: 2013/9/6 9:39
PVB Elite
Joined 2003/7/25
USA
1507 Posts
PVBCC 1stCoderContributor#3 PosterHOTY09 EntryLong Time User (15 Years) App CoderPVBCC 2010 EntryPVBCC 2013 Entry
Quote:

SirGuntz wrote:
Yeah a new ribbon cable definitely looks the way to go, the only hard part would be getting the ribbon cable socket off the main board. Well, that and getting a ribbon cable I guess haha. I have no way of printing something like that, I'd have to wait for someone else to start making them. Let me know if you get that printer working again.

Yeah, I'll get it working again (I print boards too often to give up on it)... I just haven't had time to mess with it in the last couple weeks (I just finished this cable design a couple weeks ago). To remove the socket, I'd either use hot air, or Chip Quik... either one would make it pretty easy.

Quote:

SirGuntz wrote:
I did actually try to use the original ribbon cable for the left display, it's just I didn't have a fiberglass pen or anything so I tried to burn away the plastic, the cable got really mangled and was hard to work with. I tried to make the best of it but I gave up after that and switched to wires, which at the end of it all, weren't actually better than the ribbon cable... I could try the soldering method again on the other cable, but I figure the same thing will happen again. Those ribbon cables are extremely, extremely fragile, they don't take heat very well.

Yeah, the fiberglass pen is really helpful because it exposes bare copper without any heat. I'd definitely pick one up. Without it, you need to basically burn off the coating, which as you found out, subjects the cable to a lot of heat. Once the copper is exposed, it's just a matter of using flux and solder and quickly moving across the cable.

Quote:

SirGuntz wrote:
I need to find a thinner tip for my iron some time... That's part of my problem here. It can easily touch two traces on those ribbon cable solder pads.

You should be able to do it with just about any tip (I use a standard conical tip). Really, you just want to use flux and lightly drag a ball of solder across the contacts. There's no need to individually solder each pin (which is one reason that soldering the cable is much easier than soldering individual wires).

DogP
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#8
Re: I give up fixing my Virtual Boy, it's too hard
Posted on: 2013/9/8 0:42
Nintendoid!
Joined 2013/3/25
217 Posts
Long Time User (6 Years)
I don't have a hot air gun, maybe just clipping the legs off then heating/lifting each side of the grounding pins will work. Are the pins for the ribbon cable socket the right thickness for the ribbon cable?

Where would you buy a fiberglass pen? How do you clean away the bits of fiberglass (if it works like an eraser)? Doesn't sound particularly safe, ugh.

Also, how the heck do you get a ball of solder going without the ribbon cable traces getting moved and disturbed (or worse, the ball adhering instantly)? Do you need a specific kind of flux?

And, about the supposedly untouched ribbon cable on the right display of my VB. I must confess that (I'm pretty sure) it was pulled off at some point, forget why... I stuck it back on. It isn't peeling but it barely works. Most of the time it's just a black screen on the right display. I understand ribbon cables are delicate and break easily. Is there any chance this cable is still good? I think I'll just get two ribbon cables off you just to be safe anyway.

When do you think you could print new ribbon cables? I'd rather get this VB fixed than sell it off for parts, that's a bit wasteful to me.
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#9
Re: I give up fixing my Virtual Boy, it's too hard
Posted on: 2013/9/8 7:33
PVB Elite
Joined 2003/7/25
USA
1507 Posts
PVBCC 1stCoderContributor#3 PosterHOTY09 EntryLong Time User (15 Years) App CoderPVBCC 2010 EntryPVBCC 2013 Entry
Yep... carefully clipping the leads should work. You should be able to pick up a fiberglass pen at Radio Shack, or an auto parts store... or probably a lot of places online. It doesn't leave many fiberglass bits behind, but I just blow away any that do come off (the biggest thing to watch out for is getting them in your finger... they prick you for days, and it's really annoying). Watch out though... it seems that a lot of these, including Radio Shack's (according to the reviews), are actually nylon bristles, and don't work well.

About soldering... I just use whatever cheap liquid flux I have laying around, and solder it similar to drag soldering any component. Kinda like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUyetZ5RtPs . Maybe I'll try making a video next time I fix a display.

If you pulled the cable off, it's probably still fine, as long as you put it back on carefully. To solder, you don't need any of the original connection... the adhesive is nice to support the cable though.

I'm out of town this week, but when I get back, I should be able to get these cables printed fairly soon. I'd really like to get the other guy's cable finished, since I've had it much longer that I wanted to already.

DogP
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#10
Re: I give up fixing my Virtual Boy, it's too hard
Posted on: 2013/9/9 9:59
PVB Elite
Joined 2003/7/26
USA
1464 Posts
PVBCC EntryCoderContributorSpecial AchievementTop10 PosterHOTY09 EntryLong Time User (15 Years) App Coder20+ Game RatingsPVBCC 2013 Entry
Instead of printing them at home, one could have replacement cables made professionally (but you have to buy 50 at a time…):

http://imall.iteadstudio.com/open-pcb ... -fpc-10cm-x-10cm-max.html

Five cables fit on each of the ten "boards". If you max them out with the 0.3 mm copper and ENIG (I don't think black substrate is a worthwhile expense ), they come to US$92 + shipping (which is a quite reasonable ~US$1.84 per). They're double-sided, so they should be easier to solder and probably more durable (I also had the idea to add vias in the traces so the two sides can share the work; kinda like stranded wire with two strands ). They don't include a solder mask (can you even use solder mask on FPCs?) so, even with the gold plating, it would probably be a good idea to use some kind of compliant coating (packing tape? paint? PlastiDip?) to protect them.

I made an Eagle layout for the cable based on photos (and careful measurements) of the original (it's not the one I made for you before, DogP). It's not 100% exact like DogP's, but I think it's accurate enough to use as a replacement (although at least one other pair of eyes checking them before ordering would probably be a good idea) or maybe DogP's version could be converted into something they'd accept.

I'd be down for at least four cables if anyone (bigmak? UncleTusker? DogP?) wants to organize a group-buy. I could do it myself, but I have neither the experience nor the infrastructure for a project like this. I've never used a PCB fabrication service, and I know next to nothing about the financial side of taking pre-orders. I thought about doing a KickStarter, but I don't know if I could reach that many owners of VBs in need of such a thing (especially considering DogP's recent "repairing spree" )

Of course, the cables alone wouldn't do most people much good (not speaking of DogP or SirGuntz here, obviously ). They'd likely want someone to install them in their VB, too. It's not likely to be much (if any) harder (and possibly even easier) than doing a standard cable repair, so I would be both willing and able to do this "pro bono" if sent the cables, displays (or whole VB), and return shipping costs. Conceivably, and with the right tools, one could remove the LIF sockets (as has been mentioned) and solder the cable directly in its place. This would also eliminate the "dimpling" problem. I haven't tried this, but I had the idea of possibly removing only the top of the connector housing and soldering the cable to the contacts (probably wouldn't work, but it's an idea ).
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