Improving an Already Phenomenal Star Trek Prop

When Star Trek: Voyager was in the development phase, concept art was created for a new style of tricorder to be used by the crew of the titular starship. But as it often the case with a younger sibling, the show ended up having to largely make do with the hand-me-down props from Star Trek: The Next Generation, which had recently finished its TV run.

Trek aficionado [Mangy_Dog] completed a jaw-dropping recreation of this unused tricorder design back in 2019, but unable to leave well enough alone, he’s recently completed a second version that truly raises the bar for fan replicas. It’s not hyperbole to say that the prop he’s created is of a far higher quality and fidelity than anything they would have had during the actual filming of the show.

Now you might be thinking that building the second version of the tricorder was easier than the first, and indeed, [Mangy_Dog] learned some important lessons from the earlier build. But that’s not to say that the construction of this new replica, which was actually done on commission, went off without a hitch. In fact, he almost immediately ran into a serious problem. When he attempted to order a new display from Nextion, he found the quality had dropped significantly from the ones he’d used previously. The viewing angles and color reproduction were abysmal, so he was forced to go back to the drawing board and not only find a new display, but a completely new graphics chip to talk to it.

Simplifying the hinge meant making the electronics more complex.

Being forced to redesign the main PCB was of course regrettable, but it was hardly the only challenge [Mangy_Dog] ran into building his new tricorder. Discovering that the SLA 3D printed hinges utilized in the first build weren’t strong enough for long-term use, he had to figure out how to make new ones out of brass while still retaining the ability to run wires through them invisibly as well.

Along the way he realized that if he switched over to using two-wire serial communications between his different PCBs, he could cut down the number of wires he had to use the first time around. Retooling large sections of both the hardware and code like this added more and more time to the total project. How much time? Well, to give you an idea, [Mangy_Dog] had originally planned on delivering this commissioned prop around Christmas of 2019.

Still, we think you’ll agree that it was time well spent. Speaking of which, we know putting aside the nearly two hours it will take to watch the three videos [Mangy_Dog] has produced about this build is a lot to ask, but think of it this way: if you skip Tattoo and Threshold on your next re-watch of Voyager, it will basically even itself out and nothing of value will be lost.

Interested in more terrestrial projects from [Mangy_Dog]? We were particularly fond of his touch screen reflow oven back in 2020, and his scratch-built retro gaming handheld is still one of the best we’ve ever seen.

Thanks to [SomeComputerGuy] on the Hackaday Discord server for the tip.

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