Mk IX Tricorder

I have been asked to help in prepping the electronics for a friend’s Tricorder. This is the Mk.IX Science Tricorder from Star Trek Voyager Season 4 onwards, in the Deep Space 9 TV series and also in the Star Trek The Next Generation Movies, namely First Contact, Insurrection and Nemesis. Anyway, as of at the time of writing, the Mk.IX Tricorder kit is no longer available from the Roddenberry Store and so, the best alternative is to look for the actual kit from Myron Stapleton and the electronics from gmprops, where both Gentlemen are already famous in their Art.

Or, you can try the market for that expensive replica from eFX which has a base that was signed by Brent Spiner (aka Data)

Mk.IX Tricorder Electronics 001
This is a project from my friend. If this was not from my friend, it would not be a project at all but rather, eye candy. I have long dreamt of having a Stapleton/ gmprops Tricorder but one day. One day…
Mk.IX Tricorder Electronics 002
gmprops has come a long way and looking at the design of the electronics, he has reached the level of Master Unbeatable. There are various SMD LEDs which I can only dream of getting apart from the normal ones I use around here.

Anyway, here are the electronics in action below:
Here is the Video of gmprops MkIX Tricorder electronics. They looked so beautiful. Sorry its not in focus with my Nokia n8.
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Finally, I managed to work on the Tricorder tonight. First thing first. gmprops’s PCB quality is superb. He is using the 0.8mm boards and through-holes which I can only dream about! Yes, its expensive the last time I asked locally. Anyway, I decided to use double-sided 3M tapes to secure all the boards inside the shell except for the ‘PWR’ LED which I’ll be using hot-melts.

But I foresee one small problem. See the board that is still not glued? This is the main screen board and try as I might, two of the three SMD chips are blocking the screen. So, I’ll just have to wing it with the double-sided tapes..
Mk.IX Tricorder Electronics 004
To be honest, it took me quite some time to fit all the boards. No thanks to Jason Statham’s Death Race movie playing in the background from my PC.

But seriously, I just need to make sure all the LEDs align with the holes as much as possible. This Tricorder, apart from the Endgame Tricorder, has quite a lot of LEDs. But hey, when you whip it out, EVERYONE’s going to notice!
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The boards are finally in place. I am not going to glue them permanently yet as I’ll leave this to the Client or else there is nothing left for him to do.
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First lighting test. Looks good. Maybe I’ll just keep this Tricorder and tell the Client that some cat ate it…
Mk.IX Tricorder Electronics 007
Today, I am going to continue with this project by starting off with the lower flap. The Client was kind enough to drill the necessary hole for me to poke the 3mm red LED through. However, I need to remove the LED’s flange and give it some heave before it can get to where I want it to be.
Mk.IX Tricorder Electronics 008
Since the upper area of the flap is very thin, I could not use the 3M double-sided foam tape but a normal paper-thin double-sided tape instead. Its very thin but for the moment, it does its job with the thin circuit board.

I have to reposition the circuit board a few times until it sort of sits in the middle where the red acrylic block will be. The Client can then use hot melt glue to keep it in place.
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Using the voltage from my Multitester, the LEDs for the flap lights up and I can now call this area… done!
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But its not over yet because not only do I need to connect the flap mechanically to the main body, but I also need to make the necessary electrical connections too.

Here, the Client was kind enough to leave some unpainted area for me to solder. I nearly had a heart attack when one of the loose paint chip literally ‘melted’ when I applied heat to the hinges.

This was because of my soldering iron being rated as low wattage(25~30watts) and so, I needed more time for the solder to melt and grip into the brass. If I used a higher rated soldering iron, the solder would melt very quickly but this would also mean burning the paint faster.

What you see in this picture was be simulating a soldering action. That is why I screwed a little bit of the screws to keep it in place. But when doing it for real, I would take the hinges out because I have no idea what heat can to do resin apart from warping it.

Update 2022: This is where I need to use the solder flux, stupid me.
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Notice there are three holes in this side of the flap? The two are for the screws and the middle is for the soldering. Because the hinge absorbs the heat from the soldering iron, most of the solder will cool unevenly. In the end, this is the result. I could heat the hinges longer but this would affect the paint.

Lastly, I have no choice but to screw in the hinge. I had to do it very carefully because the screws are already painted. So, it took me quite some time to get the screws in and also making sure the hinges are tight.
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One final light test before calling it a day. The Haze is very bad over here and its making me tired and well, losing interest in most of the projects at hand.

All I want to do is sleep in a very cool room and make sure I do not have sore throats, fever, etc.
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One thing nice about gmprops is that even though his instructions are only in a single page, it is very easy to understand. Well, for me that is. The man is all about details.

Just look at this reed switch for example. The instructions said there are two wires; yellow and black. So, he made sure the wires are really yellow and black, plus the heat-shrink tubes too! Do be aware that these reed switches are metal connectors housed in a fragile glass tube. Try not to bend the leads as they can also break the glass if you have never done this before. And when you solder them, you need to be fast.
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One thing I have learnt about mounting reed switches is that:
1. Do not use hot-melts as the heat from the melting glue will expand the gas inside the glass tube.
2. Do not use any 2-part epoxy/putty that has metal particles inside it. The metal will prevent the magnet from effecting the reed switch. Ask me how I knew.

I used my multimeter on the reed switch while testing for the optimum position inside the Tricorder body. This reed switch is for the closing ratchet sound when the flap is closed. Yep, it works.
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This is the reed switch for power where when the Tricorder’s lower flap is opened, the Tricorder will start ‘scanning’.

Unfortunately, I do not have a tube of the right size to hold this reed switch. I have looked for the plastic sheaths of the clothes hangers, wires and even straws. But they’re all wrong of the wrong diameter. So, I think I need to get a drink tomorrow that comes with the 2-part bendy straws which I believe is of the correct internal diameter. Either that or its the water filter tubing…
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So, there you have it. My job is about 80% done. Once I find the solution to hold the reed switch, I can call it done. I could try those 2-part epoxy but bear in mind the customer still need to work on the Tricorder a little more and so, nothing is permanent at the moment.
Mk.IX Tricorder Electronics 014
Since I could not locate the correct straw, I had to wait for the next day to well, get one. Although this one was slightly larger than the Yakult straw, I had to get it. And after some heating exercise, it shrank a little bit, which is good.
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After confirming with the Client that Aves is OK for this Tricorder and also the permission to try on the hinges, I slapped some on to the reed switch first and hope for the best.

In the morning, it was rock hard. Yay!
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Its 33.5°C in here and its so hot that the Aves I took out from the freezer thawed out in minutes. So, I quickly mixed some Aves for the Tricorder.

What I am doing here is to slip some Aves at the Tricorder’s Body’s Wall, then slowly slot in the lower flap’s hinges and secure that with some low-tack tape. With the hinges secured in their correct position, I slapped the remaining Aves to cover the other side of the hinges. And using water, I shaped the Aves as thin as I can so as not to hinder the display PCB when I put it back into position.

Now, I am starting to believe in Aves’s strength and also its plastic-like properties when fully cured…
Mk.IX Tricorder Electronics 020
The Aves epoxy has dried wonderfully and its quite hard. I have opened and closed the flap without any signs of it broken. I have also tested the system and its actually wonderful to hear the closing ratchet sound when you actually CLOSE the flap.

Anyway, I can now call this project done.
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Here is a brief comparison with my EFx Tricorder and you know, I am tempted to get the same Stapleton/gmprops Tricorder kit as well. Maybe its because of the sensor lights at the bottom which flashes so convincingly for me.

Or, I can just tell the client that I broke the kit and then a cat jumped into the room, swallowed the Tricorder and ran off…

Anyway, I have done a video on this and I will try to upload this to YouTube tomorrow morning since its about 256Mb…
In this video, I compared the Tricorder with my own eFX version. And in the middle of the video, I demonstrated how gmprops circuit can run even at around 4.5volts.