Serial Surgery Saves Wacom Tablet From Landfill

Years ago, [Greg] got a Wacom Artpad II graphics tablet through Freecycle. What’s the catch, you ask? The stylus was long gone. When he found out how expensive a direct replacement would be, the tablet was laid to rest in his spare parts box. Fast forward a few years to the era of the phone-tablet hybrid and [Greg]’s subsequent realization that some of them use Wacom stylii. Eight bucks later, he’s in business, except that the tablet is serial. Wacom no longer supports serial tablets, so he had to convert it to USB.

With the help of the WaxBee project and a Teensy 2.0, he would be able to emulate an Intuous2 tablet by sniffing and re-encoding the packets.  Things got a little hairy when he went under the hood to remove the ADM202 TTL-to-RS232 chip with a Dremel—he accidentally gouged some of the pads it sat on as well as a few of the traces. Feeling frustrated, [Greg] took some high-res pictures of the board and posted them to a message board. As it turns out, those pictures helped him recreate the traces and get the tablet running. A little big of glue and tape later, he was in business. [Greg] even gave himself access to reprogram the Teensy.

9 thoughts on “Serial Surgery Saves Wacom Tablet From Landfill

  1. Oh boy, RIP my server…

    As the write-up states, the real star of this hack is the WaxBee project, which is the Teensy software that interfaces to serial tablets and emulates an Intuos2. Without it, I couldn’t have made this happen.

    1. That’s quite an old tab, If it’s anything like my “real” old fat 18 x 12 intuos 2 the pens pressure sensor will be shot in about 2 years of regular daily use. It’ll give to something else to fix :P

  2. you can get way larger wacom tablets on ebay for cheap, I’ve done it with a 12 inch square one. also, you don’t need to remove the RS232 level converter, just un-solder the regulator and attach the V_IN and 5V rail (12V is not used anywhere except for regulation down to 5V, and for the level conversion) to 5V from USB, which as a bonus means you don’t need the wall wart for the larger tablets.

    1. Great idea! …if you’re using Windows. *facepalm*

      You’d still need an RS-232 to USB cable. Also, Wacom Serial tablets needed an external 12v adapter to power RS-232, which the USB mod gets rid of entirely. So it’s an all-around better solution.

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