Part II – Preparing The Components and Optional Casework
Part II will be covering the preparation of all the components and assembling them into the casing so that they are ready to wire. Depending on how far you want to go in terms of case work, this could be a very quick part of the project or the longest. I do encourage those that have the interest in this kit to begin with to take some additional time and work the casing a bit to make it something you will be proud of. Casework is just as much a learned skill as the technical side and really can add to the “WOW” factor for any project, so it’s certainly worth the effort in the end.
So anyway, following these next steps will get you ready to start wiring the system.
- Adhering The Case Halves
Because the nature of 3D printing is prone to failure, the kit casing has been printed in 5 different sections. There is a Front and Back Face Bracket, a Front and Back Face Plate and a cart cover on the back. The video below shows a quick guide on putting the case halves together.
- Filling, Sanding, Painting & Sealing (optional)
Although this guide was written close to 5 years ago and doesn’t really get into detail about 3D printed enclosures in general, the Painting and Finishing section are still relevant to this project. Again, filling, sanding and painting is going to add a substantial amount of time to the process, but it’s really what allows your project to shine in the end. But, if you just want a working portable N64, you’re free to skip this part.
- Preparing The Screen
The 5″ 16:9 vehicle back up displays are a decent option for a basic kit. They are cheap and readily available over on eBay and for the price, have a picture quality that is pretty sharp for basic composite input. Though the screens may vary by manufacturer, most will have the standard 3 button screen control tact board and basic 12V+ & Ground inputs and A/V1 & A/V2 outputs on the main PCB. In the future, options for a full 5″ 4:3 ratio screen may be available that could maybe accommodate RGB or VGA screens as well, but that will be something down the road.
- Preparing The N64 Mother Board
Be prepared for this step to take some time if you don’t have the right de-soldering tools available. Removing the DD Cart slot on the back is a royal pain due to the number of pins that need to be removed. You could in theory take a Dremel to that connector and make the process quicker, but it is by no means cleaner and can cause headaches down the road when the cart slot wiring begins. A heated vacuum pump or even better a motorized vacuum pump will make short work of these, but they are expensive. Find one that’s in your tool budget as it will help a great deal with this process.
An important step that was left out of the video is making sure the RAM, CPU and RCP chips are properly heat sunk to avoid performance issues once the casing is closed up. The included heat sinks have a self adhesive backing that you can just peel and stick, but I’ve found that the adhesive is less than reliable. So using a thermal compound adhesive like Arctic Silver is a good bonding agent that is thermally conductive to let the heat pass through it to the heat sinks. Alternatively, if you have some “Goop”, laying the heat sinks flat on the chip with the stock adhesive and coating the edges around the perimeter of the heat sinks to the top face of the chip will work too. Just don’t coat the chip in “Goop” as that will kill your board.
- Preparing The Buttons, D-Pad & Tact Board PCBs
Included with the standard kit, the boards that will hold the tact switches will be 3D printed. Though these will work just fine, a premium version of the kit will include machined or even professionally manufactured PCBs that will reduce the wiring on the back end. Again, an improvement planned for down the road, but the process will be the same. All the control buttons will use TL-9000 soft tipped tacts to give that squishy, natural feel from all the original controllers. The screen and audio tact boards will be the traditional “click” tacts. Populating the boards is as easy putting the tact switch through the footprint on the board and depending on if you’re using the 3D printed version or manufactured, soldering the leads to the back solder pads.
- Front and Back Face Assemblies
The next portion shows the recommended order in which to install all your populated components to make up the respective case halves and get them ready to wire. This should hopefully be a pretty straight forward process as all the components should fit in place correctly.
Once the two case halves have been assembled, we can then move on too Part III of the guide, Power & Cart Slot Wiring.