Playmates Boomerang Phaser II (03102010 21 16)

After two years in KIV status, the Phaser is now taken out for modification work. And many features were taken out due to lack of time as I have one week to complete it before giving it back to Peter, just in time for his Birthday. The main aim of this modification is to enhance the original toy without making it look as if it had been modified.


Some of the features taken out were:

1. The 16 power settings as the elusive 3mm green LEDs still would not show up. It is possible to order from China but then, what would I do with 9984 LEDs? And so, a 10 LED green bargraph would have to suffice.

2. The touch switch technology is now gone, the company being sold to Atmel. And so, it is now not possible to activate the Phaser by gripping it. I have to use a manual slide switch to power up the Phaser, change the power settings and fire it.

3. The continuous Phaser sound cannot be done since I have still not found a proper sound chip. In the TV series, the Phaser would emit as long as you press the fire button. So, the sounds for the start of the firing, the firing and the end of firing, are very different. In the end, I had to use the Playmates's original sound chip which, for this toy, is a four phaser burst sequence.

4. The beeps for selecting the power when the buttons were pressed has to be replaced with a piezo buzzer since I have not the knowledge to change the tones of a piezo sounder.

5. The brightness of the LED in relation to the power setting is taken out.

6. I still have yet to work out the programming to 'switch off' the Phaser when I press the two buttons together. Right now, it does shut down but with a continuous flatline tone from the buzzer.


Anyway, let's go through the modification steps. Its a bit touch and go here since I am rushed for time and most of them were not well documented. I hope you can follow my notes because at the moment, I have not drawn the circuit diagram nor find one of those download site where I can upload the PIC's programming for anyone who is interested to download the files.



This is the first step to modifying the toy. In all Star Trek: The Next generation and Star Trek: Voyager phasers, they always have a power bar. And the power bar are usually individual LEDs, powered from an electronic board.

This is the green LED bargraph. I can modfy it to have two more LEDs at the sides but it would look weird. The proto board measurement is 6 x 17. Note the hole there, it is not an accident but I will tell you the purpose later. I stuck two black foam tapes to a clear green sheet.


The foam acts as grip for the LED bargraph. Make sure there are no dust inside. Also, I have added a piezo buzzer onto the board. Orientation of the bargraph is that the negative side of the LEDs are facing away from the board and so, can be soldered together.


There are two holes like this and they are to match the pillars on the toy. The original part was the green plastic triangle with a bulb which is secured to the toy using the very same pillars. As proto boards are cheap paper resin, they are easy to cut and shape but fragile at the same time.


During testing of the board before screwing it in, the sound from the buzzer, which was powered directly from the microprocessor, was very weak. Luckily there is enough space for a 2N2222 transistor to activate the buzzer direct from the 3 volts positive power rails.


The most important thing at this stage are the two screws holding the display board securely. Note that these two pillars are not placed exactly in the middle. On the next stage, we are going to prepare the proto board fro the microprocessor which you can see just across the display board. Also, when you solder the thin ribbon cables, please do note their orientation as you do not want the display going from right to left.




The Microprocessor

The microprocessor I am using is the PIC16F628A which I am quite comfortable with. What is very important to me was that it has its own internal oscillator which means there is no need for any extra components. When I was doing the First Contact Phaser Rifle electronics, this was also the chip I used. The 10-LED bargraph means I have enough ports left for the rifle's controls. Because I tried to follow the original prop which has 16 green LEDs, I had to use another PIC which was the PIC16F873A. As the Phaser Rifle programming was completed, I used the same software for this Phaser. But there was a problem with the software where the shutting down feature was concerned. I wanted to 'switch off' the Phaser by pressing both power buttons where the Phaser would then emit a long 1 second beep before going offline. Unfortunately, it gave a flatline and refused to power down. Will have to look into this when I have the chance.


Again, I used a proto board for this, which is about 6 x 18. You can make it slightly longer if you want but there is a problem where the lower cover is concerned.


Here, I test fit with the lower cover and it looks OK. But later on, when I have completed the soldering, it refused to close properly without leaving a small gap. 


So, I have to trim the board a little like what you see above to prevent the pillars of the lower cover from getting stuck with it. And this problem has nothing to do with the soldering behind. Its just that the two pillars are getting in the way. Be very careful when you trim the board as it tends to get brittle at the wrong time.


Once the ribbon cables to the display board are soldered and the PIC chip inserted, I can now test them before going to the next stage. Where electronics in confined spaces are concermed, you need to test them again and again before going further.



By now, you would have noticed that I approached this project stage by stage, and sealing them up as I go along. This is because there is a lot of wiring in there and if I soldered everything and then put them in, it would be a big mess instead.


Fire and Power Buttons 

As with the first phaser, the two golden buttons are actually used to set the phaser's power. Pressing the left button would increase the power setting and pressing the right button would decrease the setting. Not the other way round. Initially, I was hoping to use the buttons but the way Playmates designed it, although the design was ingenius, it posed a problem when you want both buttons to stay level and not see-saw like in the toy. I can see from their point of view to save cost. It is easier to use a slide switch to choose between 'stun' and 'kill' instead of buttons. I mean, you can still get away with it but this would mean putting a microprocessor in there along with the sound chip and adding unecessary cost to the production.


Here, I am removing the sliding mechanism, which is just a small incomplete triangle. I have uncrewed the main control board from the plastic housing for clarity. I will keep the buttons but have them cover a set of micro switches with long stalks.


Look at this simple design. When you press a button, its sloped legs will push the slider part to the opposite direction which moves the slide switch to the desired setting. Pushing the other button would get it pushed to the opposite. The only downside is the see-saw effect on both buttons.


Again, I am using the proto boards to create the necessary platform for the micro switches. Try to keep the soldering from more than 2mm in height. You can glue the proto board but I don't think it will make any difference. Now make a hole in the middle so that the wire can come through.


Be very careful about the button's legs squeezing on the wires when you solder the wires for the switches. I has about 1mm depth. Here, I soldered to the micro switch leg instead. I should have just soldered on the opposite leg but I ws too tired to think about this until the next day.


When you make the hole, be gentle as the board can break. Anyway, you would need about four wires here. Two for the power buttons, one for the fire button and the remaining is for the positive link.


Don't worry if the buttons sit just 1mm below the plastic lip. The only way you can raise the height is to have something under the proto board and then glue it in place. Not a good idea when you need to service it years later.


And so, this is how it looks like when done. Note this is an earlier photo before I discovered why the buttons did not go down when pressed, which is due to the wires at the top of the board.


Now, another problem. The 'firing' switch is just a piece of metal to connect between two contact points. This switch is important because it ties the two circuits together.


With the plastic enclosure secured, you can see there is not enough space for a makeshift switch or any kind.


Here is a comparison between a normal micro switch and the button piece. I cannot use a SMD as it only has one pair of connectors.


The swith is very important because it is needed to synchronise the two circuits together. For example, when the Phaser is being fired, Playmates circuit would play the sound and lights up the LEDs while mine would 'know' the Phaser is in action. Its not very good when you're firing the Phaser and the display shows it is idle and its screen saver is activated instead. Finally, after some probing, I found an excellent point which connects to my circuit. Of course, the downside is that the LED bargraph would dim when the Phaser is being fired.....









































































Let's take a breather. There is one fact that I should have told you very much at the beginning: You must 'map' the circuit before you start. There are many wires coming out from the main board and so, you must note them all down; the yellow colours go where, the red does what and so on. This is because as you're dismantling the circuit bit by bit, you will flex the wires and they are always the weakest at the solder joints. Not only that, there are some wires such as the the ones to the batteries needs to be temporarily disconnected.

I am a naughty boy here because I did not map the board earlier on. And so, I wasted a lot of time trying to figure out which cable goes where. Luckily this circuit uses 3 volts or else the damage from such probing is irrepairable. Please take a look at the bottom left. This black plastic is the asembly for the emitter, which is actually a bulb. In the background, I connectex them to a set of SMD leds for testing.














The Emitter

The emitter uses a Red bulb to give the Phaser the red light. But I have this fear bulbs blowing unexpectedly. So, I have decided to use a very bright LED in its place. As these LEDs tend to get very hot after a short time, I would have to connect it to a piece of metal to serve as heatsink since the Phaser's electronics light the bulb constantly when the fire button is pressed

In the original design, I wanted to use a 1watt LED but after much thinking, it is not possible due to the size of the emitter window. And so, I decided to use these hi-brightness Red SMD LEDs instead. Not sure why but I need to cut off a leg each from the LEDs or else they would not light.


At first, I wanted to use the 5mm LEDs paralleled together but then, I found out the're not very bright.


So, the next option waa to use the SMD LEDs and as you can see, the result speaks for itself.


Peter has moved the plaastic lens inwards and so, all I have to do now is to make sure the LEDs sit at the correct height. I did this by using 3mm black foam stuck above and bottom of the LEDs.


The effect looks quite nice and if I wanted it any broghter, I would use some aluminium tapes in there to reflect the light. Since I do not want to blind people.....








































Connecting the three SMD LEDs is very easy. Carefully cut the bulb assembly away but retain the wires you might want to replace them with a longer wire since the distance of the LEDs to the main circuit board is further than the distance of the original bulb to the main circuit board. Also, unlike the bulb, LEDs are polarity sensitive so you have to make sure which cable is positive and which is negative.


Final Steps 

In the previous stage where I was installing a LED, you would have noticed that I did not use a current limiting resistor for them. There is a reason for this. And now, in this step you will understand why.


If you look at the bottom of the picture above, there is a small motor which I found, can be run from 3 volts. I did not want to get it from a Mobile Phone repair shop as it would have cost too much.But it would come with a counter weight which would make the vibrations much stronger. But since this is a Phaser and not a big rifle, this is not something to worry about.


Securing the small motor to the Phaser also has its challenges. You cannot use a double sided foam tape as they will absorb the vibrations. I would not even try with a hot melt glue as the moment it touches the metal casing, it would solidify due to the thermal transfer. An dheating it too much might affect the motor's performance.So, the only way is to epoxy it. Also, the spot for the motor is placed just between the main circuits and the battery compartment. Which is a good thing because this is the area where a user's palm and thumb will rest on and where vibrations are concerned, the area in the hand is quite sensitive. And so, the wires to the motor is paralleled from the three SMD LEDs. In other words, when it lights up, there is vibration. signifying the Phaser is actually 'working' and is in sync.


Finally, we return to the selector slide switch. Since the Phaser is to be set for 'kill' permanently, you can just solder the wires together and do away with the slide switch. in this case, I think, you jut solder the blue and the grey wires together.


If you have tested each stage and completed them successfully, which would mean you have reached this stage. The final stage where everthing works before you close it all up. But no, there is one more very important stage to go.


The Power switch

As I have mentioned earlier on, the original features of usng touch switch is no longer an option and so, I have to use a manual slide switch. Ths main reason was that for this toy, it is not a simple action of pulling the battery cover out and inserting the batteries in. This is because the battery cover has a screw to secure it. And so, to switch the Phaser on and off this way, especially in front of a crowd, is very 'unprofessional'. The solution would be to get a slide swith which is thin enough to perfrom its function and yet unobstrucive. This is because underneath the area where the switch would be place, there is a speaker there.


After searching around, this is the perfect slide switch. It is perfect because of its size. If you look at it carefully, the size of the switch fits the empty cavity.


And this cavity is meant for a belt clip which y now, almost every one would have removed it. So, carefully cut the hole as indicated.


If you have cut the hole perfectly, the slide switch would fit in slugly without any need for glue. Im ahappy here because usually I am very bad at doing this type of things. Ha ha ha.


On the other side, it sits nicely without affecting the speakers. Yes, you can remove the speakers slightly for the wiring. Because the speaker top has foam it will still keep the speaker from ratling inside.



Covering it all up 

And so, we are nearing the end of this modification. Please make sure that when you close the the toy, do it gently. Make sure all the wires are secure and are not being crimped by the plastic covers.

One last look before closing it up altogether.



And so, with the modifications done and jsut in time for Peter's Birthday, I am quite pleased. But on the other hand, I am not satisfied namely because of the many features 'missing'. With more time, some of the features can be implemented. And after seeing what I have done, I supposed I could improve it further where the motor and LEDs are concerned. And then, I could turn it out as an upgrade kit for those who own this toy. What do you think?

In the end this is done and there is no way you could tell it has been modified unless you look at the bottom or, well, you know your trek stuff.



This is the video which more or less explains the work done. Hope you like it