Playmates Tricorder (11012006 0225)

Ever since I saw the Tricorder in Star Trek:The Next Generation during the early 90’s, I was obsessed in trying to get one. At that time, the only Tricorder that came into themarket was a resin kit which was just two pieces of grey resin. No lights at all. At that time, the Internet was still in its infancy and it was impossible to get any information about the Tricorder. Then all of a sudden, a company called Playmates started to produce toys based on the Next Generation TV Series. And one of the toys was the Tricorder. I was so excited that I got it on the spot. Eventhough it did not measure up to the actual prop in terms of size and lights, I was over the moon. The toy represents the series’s third season Tricorder which is a Mk VII.

The Problem

Years later, I wanted to make the toy more accurate in terms of electronics. What started as a simple little hobby became a decade long quest. This was mainly because of the fact that it is very difficult to obtain electronic parts here. To house the whole electronics plus the batteries into the toy is the main challenge. This is because the toy, although it looked big, the space inside is quite small. If I used normal components such as ICs, resistors and capacitors I would not be able to close the cover. Even if I decided to solder the IC directly to the circuit board, the thickness is still there. In other words, I needed to reduce the average thickness from 7mm to at least 2mm. So, after years of saving and R&D, I decided to get a ready made kit from Gerhard Mros (gmros at cogeco.ca just replace the "at" with "@")

This is the Tricorder Upgrade kit I got from Gerry. All the

Parts are there. But by the time I decided to continue the

project, I could only managed to find the manual and the

three circuit boards.

 

The Solution

Gerhard has already made the electronics for the Playmates Tricorder and since I only had less than a month to finish my Tricorder, I decided to order it from him. For you see, we wanted it to be in our Wedding Photo portrait. But it never materialized because the photo turned out horrible due to our tired faces as we were taking actual photos in the day. Anyway, I put the kit aside and got on with my life. It was not until years later, some of my friends decided to open a café called The Outpost that I decided to help out by displaying my Lightsaber and the Tricorder there.

The Lower Flap

Following the manual, modifying the Playmates Toy Tricorder and also inserting the electronics is very easy. However, there are some parts which involves permanently sealing the case and a lot of cutting away. Luckily, the toy is made of soft plastic. But the problem for me is in the flap of the tricorder. I wanted the LED to light up from the same battery. Previously, I put in a separate LED and battery into the flap but because I put it away in storage and the flap opened a little, the circuit was closed and it ran for months until the batteries leaked. The chemical from the leaking batteries destroyed the stickers and also the wiring. In order for the flap to get the power from the main body, I modified one of the Tricorder’s hinge and inserted the metal eyes.

 

Tthe Tricorder’s left hinge with four metal eyelets. One pair of eyelet is for one

connection, i.e. positive and the other pair is for the negative power.

I had to go to my favourite haunt, Pasar Road to get these eyelets. While I was there, I could not resist in gettimg some extra components in case I needed to prototype some circuits fast

Gerry's PCB boards are very well done. He uses less than 1.6mm thick fiberglass boards. He hads soldered all the components and wires for you

And all his elelctronic components uses SMT (Surface Mount Technology) which not only saves space but power as well. Opening the toy, you can see the battery holder and the speaker on the left. The speaker was mounted in that way to amplify its sound. On the right, you can see the sound chip/three switches PCB, the lightbulb for the screen and also, the power switch. All these will have to be taken out.
If you have read the manual carefully, you will know why the casing was made so I lost the original labels printed by Gerry and so I had to improvise with a Laser Colour printout. Unfortunately, the printer guy refused to use any paper thicker than 80gsm. So, the black masking section did not work at all

The Tricorder is finished but because of the improvised label, the masking was not effective and so, most of the lights from the LEDs bled through

 

This is the template I wanted to laser-cut it for the Tricorder . The design is such that when you glue all the pieces together

it would clip into the square hole in the toy. The extra long oval piece is for the green LED sensor area

 

In the end, it would look like the shape you se on the top left of the picture I also designed the black vinyl sticker for the Tricorder’s sensor area. Alas,

when I ported the design to the laser-cutting centre, the measurement was out of by abour 18%. We could not figure out why. So, in the end, I had to

re-design the template from scratch. But until now, its still waiting to be done. Yep, I need more time. It will be done. Soon. ish. Maybe 2008

 

 

By the way, here is a video of the circuit in action

Conclusion

Why did I choose the toy instead of the actual prop? This was because I want to “play” with the Tricorder and not let it become part of a display, Thus, the plastic construction of the toy is much sturdier than that of the resin prop. It has survived numerous drops to the floor, no thanks to my butter fingers. Moreover, the cost of getting one is slightly way out of my budget at that time. But one day, I will want an actual prop. But for now, its close enough. And as far as accuracy goes, the size of the toy is already out, so, the extra components I might want to make depends on my own judgement.

The technology here is actually quite straightforward. You just have to reduce the electronic components to its SMT equivalent. And then, you have to sough those professionals who are good at printing labels (And I don’t mean those colour laser printers) and also making the extra components such as the acrylic parts.

However, even if you do not wish to upgrade your toy, you can still purchase the manual from Gerry as it more or less tells you how its done.

[2008]

Sadly, the Playmates Tricorder is no longer with me as it was "misplaced" when I lent to The Outpost during one of their activities. So, I have to presume its lost forever. Which is not a bad thing because now, I can have either the Master replicas MKIX or make another Playmates Tricorder.

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