Deconstruction Reconstruction

A project log for Famicube

A recreation of fan concept art using real hardware.

ReikoReiko 03/31/2023 at 21:590 Comments

Honey, I shrunk the Nintendo!

If I wanted to make Arne's concept art real using actual Famicom hardware, I needed to think hard about miniaturization and where space could be saved. Earlier revisions of the Femidom's main board were thankfully small and had a combined voltage regulator and RF modulator that was separate. By doing a composite mod and making my own power PCB for the drive and main board, I was able to save a huge amount of space. I chose to do it in an older point-to-point style for testing as well, which looks really artistic up close. I'll likely spin up a small PCB that can be soldered on under the points where the mod needs it. 

Space Hog

The next obvious part to go was the large custom connector to make the horizontal PCB of the cart connector interface with the vertical cartridge slot. It was an absolute beast measuring 45mm tall with 60 pins made out of folded metal around an injection moulded spacer and holder. The connector seriously put up a fight with desoldering, and needed a combination of a desoldering iron, wick, low temp solder and a hot air rework station before it wanted to come off from the PCB. Keen-eyed viewers can likely see that even though I tried my hardest to be clean and careful, one trace did rip off in the process. Thankfully a short jumper wire was the only thing needed to restore it. I then added simple male pin headers with the idea of using a PCB to shift the adapter PCB more centre of the main board. In essence, I was making a little PCB sandwich that was a lot thinner than the original hardware.  

I like to add PCB artwork where I can with projects, it can really make things feel more personalized or professional. My cartridge shift PCB seemed like the perfect blank canvas, so I added a small logo I noticed on Arne's concept art. PCB artwork is done by taking advantage of how circuit boards are made and how they have plate copper and several different kinds of coatings that define where solder go and also label where parts are. This board has female header pins on one side and then a card edge connector that matches the pitch of the cartridge slot. 

While there could have been more elegant solutions to make it thinner still like reverse engineering and making a revised PCB, I thought this was a good balance between saving height and working within my own skills. 

Here we can see the final stack up. The entire assembly measures 42mm tall, which is 3mm less than the original cart connector by itself! With that, the Famicom side of things has been reduced in size the furthest I can take it. I now have to go on to the disk drive to see what can be shrunk down.