Tearing down the Wii U

With the release of the Wii U last weekend we knew it wouldn’t be long before we saw those glorious gut shots on the Internet. The folks at iFixit have torn down a Wii U, and the insides look somewhat promising for a potential hack to take control of the Wii U Game Pad.

The components in the Wii U console aren’t terribly surprising; a few wireless controllers, HDMI adapters, Flash memory chips, and the IBM Power CPU make up most of the interesting components. The insides of the GamePad, though, look pretty interesting. It appears the Wii U GamePad is powered by an ARM Cortex microcontroller built by STMicroelectronics, but the part numbers for the major ICs on the GamePad board are impervious to Googling.

Of course there’s still the question of how video is transmitted wirelessly from the Wii U console to the GamePad. iFixit found a Broadcom BCM4319XKUBG Wireless module that operates on normal WiFi frequencies. This module has been used in a few other pieces of video gear, most notably the Boxee Box, so there is some possibility of intercepting the video signal transmitted to the GamePad and figuring out the protocol.

The long and short of iFixit’s teardown, at least from the hacker perspective, is that all the interesting parts use hardware similar to what you’d find on any other eminently hackable device. Here’s to hoping we get an open Wii U GamePad before the year is out.

Roomba 4000 teardown ready for your Doomba build

In addition to getting a haircut, [Dino] spent his week editing an old video of him tearing down a Roomba 4000. These robots can be picked up for just a few dollars on eBay, making them one of the cheapest bodged up robotics dev platforms available.

After [Dino] goes over how to unscrew the cover and disassemble the Roomba 4000, he goes over the layout of the motherboard and takes a look at the sensors. The wheels on the Roomba are actually very neat pieces of technology with a very cool planetary gear system that is the perfect drive system for your next robot build.

There are a ton of ways to use the electronics in Roombas for a few interesting robotics projects. [Dino] built 2/3rds of a all terrain rocker bogie robot – just like the Curiosity rover – out of a Roomba, and a small two wheeled indoor robot using a Parallax Propeller. If you’re a redditor there’s always the possibility of building a Doomba, but we think [Patrick] has a better idea than a knife strapped to a vacuum cleaner.

As always, [Dino]’s vidia after the break.

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Volt teardown shows more than just what’s under the hood

The Chevrolet Volt is one of the top contenders in mass-market electric vehicles. Now you can get a look at the components that make up the electrical system with this Chevy Volt teardown article.

The adventure starts with a look at the 288 cell battery. It forms a T shape and takes up the space that forms the hump down the center of the interior of a vehicle. Theses have a liquid cooling system build into the enclosure to make sure things don’t get too hot during use or charging. The sights are then set on the control and monitoring hardware, and there’s a lot of it. In fact, the image above is an overview of the eighteen modules that pull the new plug-in EV technology together. If you’re brave enough to void the warranty on one of these, this should be a helpful road map to get you started.

Has anyone seen a teardown of the home charging station for one of these?

iPhone charger teardown shows astounding miniaturization.

There’s no question that Apple has their industrial design down pat; comparing a cell phone charger made by Blackberry or Motorola to the tiny 1-inch-cube Apple charger just underscores this fact. [Ken Shirriff] posted a great teardown of the Apple iPhone charger that goes through the hardware that makes this charger so impressive.

Like most cell phone chargers and power supplies these days, Apple’s charger is a switching power supply giving it a much better efficiency than a simple ‘transformer, rectifier, regulator’ linear power supply. Inside the charger, mains power is converted to DC, chopped up by a control IC, fed into a flyback transformer and converted into AC, and finally changed back into DC, and finally filtered and sent out through a USB port.

The quality of the charger is apparent; there’s really no way this small 1-inch cube could be made any smaller. In fact, if it weren’t for the microscopic 0402 SMD components, it’s doubtful this charger could be made at all.

Comparing the $30 iPhone charger of a cheap (and fake) iPhone charger, the budget charger still uses a flyback transformer but there are serious compromises of the safety and quality. The fake charger doesn’t use a power supply controller IC and replaces the four bridge diodes for a single diode to rectify the AC; a very efficient cost-cutting measure, but it does lead to a noisier power supply.

There’s also the issue of safety; on the Apple charger, there is a (relatively) huge physical separation of  ~340 VDC and your phone. With the off-brand charger, these circuits are separated by less than a millimeter – not very safe, and certainly wouldn’t be UL approved.

It’s worth pointing out that [Ken] compares a similar $7 Samsung charger favorably to the $30 Apple charger. Both are functionally identical, but Apple also has their  marketing down pat, to say the least.

Tip ‘o the hat to [George] for sending this in.

EDIT: In case a 1-inch cube wasn’t impressive enough, check out the euro version of the iPhone/iPad charger. It supplies 1A @ 5V, and isn’t much thicker than the USB port itself. Thanks [Andreas] for bringing this to our attention. If anyone wants to do a teardown of the euro version, send it in on the tip line.

Cruncher: A robotic toy dinosaur dissection

When my children got these interesting and very obnoxious toy dinosaurs last year, I could barely contain my excitement. I knew that one day, they would be on my work bench giving up their secrets. Cruncher is a fairly recent addition to the robotic animal trend that we’ve been seeing the past few years. Imbued with a personality that is a mixture of T-Rex, beagle, and loudmouth jerk, he’s every kids idea of a perfect pet.

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Tearing down a failed LED bulb

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[Todd Harrison] was thinking of replacing some incandescent light bulbs in his house with LED models, so and his wife picked up a single candelabra bulb to test before they spent the cash to swap them all out. The bulb died in about a week’s time, so [Todd] got out his trusty electronic disassembly device (his hammer), sharing his post-mortem examination with us.

After taking a cursory look at it, [Todd] found that the circuit powering the bulb was not overly complicated. A small bridge rectifier along with a few caps and resistors are all that was used to power the device, making it’s failure a bit puzzling. When [Todd] wired it up to his power supply, the bulb lit up, much to his surprise. His best guess as to why it died is that the shrink wrap around the PCB managed to cause a short, though he also noticed that one of the bridge rectifier’s legs was not soldered down.

He started tooling with the light to find out more about it, but he managed to blow out a handful of LEDs in the process. All in all the LED lighting swap was a disappointment, but at least he had some fun along the way!

Continue reading if you’re interested in seeing [Todd’s] diagnosis in its entirety.

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Air Wick Odor Detect teardown

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[Hunter’s] wife came home from her latest extreme couponing session with a handful of free Air Wick Odor Detect air fresheners, and since they had so many of the things sitting around, he was compelled to take one apart to see what makes them tick.

The casing was secured with melted snap tabs which had to be cut, making disassembly a one-way street. Once opened, he found a trio of white label AA cells and an ARNIE COMPACT3 ISS.4 controller board, complete with an epoxy-sealed microcontroller. A similarly branded sensor board was attached to the controller, and he spotted a solenoid with a built-in nozzle for spraying air freshener as well.

The sensor board piqued his curiosity the most, and after some research he’s pretty sure that the Air Wick uses an Applied Sensor VOC air quality module to get the job done. The tiny sensor uses a special substrate containing electrodes, which measure the resistance of the sensing layer while it is heated to upwards of 400° C.  A change in resistance lets the air freshener know that it’s time to handle the odoriferous emanations floating about.

Thanks to [Hunter] for taking the time to tear the Air Wick down and letting us know what’s inside!