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Ploopy Mini Trackball Kit Assembly

ploopyco edited this page Aug 10, 2021 · 9 revisions


Do not flash new firmware until you've verified that the electronics are all working.

Finish building the trackball, plug it in, and use the stock firmware for about five minutes. Verify the buttons are all clicking. Verify that the cursor is moving. Verify that the scroll wheel works. Unplug the trackball, hold the "forward" button (the button immediately to the right of the ball), plug it in, let go of the "forward" button, and verify that the trackball is in "bootloader" mode (the cursor won't be moving).

Once you've verified that it all works, you can flash new firmware.

Main Instructions

all kit parts

In this section, you'll go over how to build a Mini Trackball from the official Ploopy Mini Trackball kit.

Note that some of these pictures were taken at different times, so they may show a bit of inconsistency in between steps.

Step 0: A note on driving screws

During this assembly process, you will have to insert and drive screws. The screws are driven into plastic, and plastic is fairly soft.

If you drive the screw too hard, it will strip the plastic, and the screw will not create a very strong connection.

So, whenever you drive screws during this assembly, go slowly, and go gently. When you feel significant resistance, stop.

Step 1: Get the necessary tools

all tools

  • A #1 Phillips head screwdriver (or similar; you're looking for quite a small screwdriver here)
  • Soldering iron
  • Solder

A hammer and a pair of pliers would be useful, but they are not absolutely necessary.

Step 2: Remove support material from 3D-printed parts

The following parts have support material that must be removed prior to assembly:

  • Top
  • Primary Buttons
  • Secondary Buttons

"Support material" is more hollow than the structural plastic. You'll have to remove it before you continue with the assembly.

Most of the time, it can be removed using your fingers. If you find a bit of support material is not coming off, use a pair of pliers or tweezers to remove it. Be careful not to damage the parts as you remove the support material.

Step 3: Prepare the PCB for soldering

pcb with nano unsoldered

Prepare the following components:

  • Printed circuit board
  • ADNS-5050

Leave the optic (the clear plastic part) in the bag for now, so you don't lose it.

STOP! Read the next step fully before continuing.

Step 4: Solder ADNS-5050 sensor to printed circuit board

adns with orientation showing

Before soldering:

  • There are two little dots on one corner of the ADNS-5050. This indicates the location of "pin 1". Line this up with the "1" on the PCB. See the photo for clarification.
  • Once you are absolutely sure that you have oriented the ANDS-5050 correctly, solder it down.
  • The sensor must be flat down as far as it can possibly slide into the holes before soldering. Don't let it "float" while you're soldering the first pin down.

Step 5: Remove the small tab in the PCB

pcb tab removed

  • You can use a pair of pliers to remove the tab.
  • Alternatively, gently bend the PCB with your fingers close to the tab; the tab should snap off.
  • Be careful! These sorts of tabs will cause little bits of fiberglass to go everywhere. These bits of fiberglass are very hard to see, but they are not good for you. Try removing the tab while holding the PCB over a garbage can.
  • Once the tab is removed, the PCB will be very flexible. Do not flex the PCB unnecessarily; store it somewhere carefully so that it is mostly flat.

Step 6: Remove the small kapton tab protecting the sensor

kapton tab removed

Check your solder joints during this step to ensure that they are good.

Step 7: Prepare the Base

base, pcb, levers, hardware

Prepare the following components:

  • PCB (with ADNS-5050 soldered in)
  • Base
  • 2x Button Levers
  • 2x 3mm x 12mm metal dowel rods
  • 1x screw
  • Strip of aluminum tape (not pictured, but it's in your kit)

Step 8: Put the dowel rods through the Button Levers

dowels through levers

Try to get the Button Lever centered on the metal dowel rod. A hammer is useful during this step.

Step 9: Place aluminum tape into Base

NOTE: Make your life easier, and insert the tape in first. Afterwards, install the Button Levers.

tape inserted into base

The aluminum tape acts as a reflector, guiding more light into the ADNS-5050. Additional light makes the tracking more accurate, so take your time and place the tape accurately. Use the photo as a guide. (You can always move it later if the tracking is inadequate.)

The levers may interfere when placing the tape down; make sure that the tape does not interfere with the lever action in any way.

Step 10: Insert the Button Levers into the Base

levers installed into base

You may find it helpful to use a pair of pliers to insert the levers (see the picture for a helpful method).

It may be quite difficult to push the pins into the Base. There will be a sort of "snap" noise when they are pushed in all the way, and they shouldn't lift out after they're installed.

Step 11: Insert the PCB into the Base

See this video for an example of how to insert the PCB into the Base.

PCB in base

  • The PCB is very flexible; it is designed to fit into the Base without breaking.
  • Bend the PCB as little as you can during insertion. This will help avoid unnecessary stress to the PCBs (and to you).

STOP! Read the next step fully before continuing.

The next step is critical. It is not difficult, but if you do it incorrectly, you will crack the PCB and break it. This would be very bad. Please read the following step fully before proceeding.

Step 12: Screw the PCB down

pcb being screwed down

  • A screw holds the PCB down and prevent it from moving.
  • Look at the screw. Notice that the head of the screw is in the shape of a V.
  • If you insert this screw too far down, the V will dig down into the PCB, driving the hole in the PCB apart. It is possible to crack the PCB by driving this screw too far.
  • So, when you are driving this screw, go slowly, and go gently. Once you feel significant resistance, stop.
  • After you're done, check to make sure that the PCB is held down tightly. It should not move if you shake the Base.

Step 13: Prepare Scroll Wheel assembly

scroll wheel assembly

Prepare the following components:

  • Scroll Wheel
  • Scroll Wheel Holder
  • Scroll Wheel Holder Holder
  • PCB Scroll Wheel Holder
  • Silicone ring
  • 1x 3mm x 18mm metal dowel
  • 1x 3mm x 12mm metal dowel
  • 1x M3 x 8mm flat-head screw

Step 14: Insert Scroll Wheel Holder into Scroll Wheel Holder Holder

scroll wheel holder and holder holder merged

  • Stop laughing at the names already.
  • More importantly, the insertion step should be done very gently. These parts are quite delicate. Take your time and don't bend things unnecessarily.

Step 15: Insert dowels into Scroll Wheel

pins in scroll wheel

  • The short pin goes into the flat side of the Scroll Wheel. See the photo for clarification.
  • You will likely require a hammer to push the pin into the Scroll Wheel. If you don't need one, consider yourself lucky.

Step 16: Fit silicone ring onto Scroll Wheel

silicone ring on wheel

Silicone is quite strong and doesn't rip easily.

Step 17: Insert Scroll Wheel into Scroll Wheel Holder

scroll wheel in holder

Step 18: Insert completed Scroll Wheel assembly into Base

scroll wheel on base

  • The Scroll Wheel Holder Holder clips onto the Base, on the left side. The right side hangs loosely.

Step 19: Screw Scroll Wheel Holder Holder to Base

holder holder being screwed

  • Use the screw to fasten the Scroll Wheel Holder Holder down.
  • The Scroll Wheel Holder Holder blocks access to the screw hole. In order to access the screw hole, you need to bend the plastic down to access the screw hole. Don't bend it too far.
  • If you break the Scroll Wheel Holder Holder, there is a spare in your kit parts.

Step 20: Ensure Scroll Wheel Holder Holder is flush with PCB

scroll wheel holder holder flush with PCB

Take a look at the Scroll Wheel Holder Holder from above. It should be flush with the PCB, with no visible gap.

Step 21: Prepare the Buttons

base, buttons, pcb scroll wheel holder

Prepare the following components:

  • Primary Buttons
  • Secondary Buttons
  • PCB Scroll Wheel Holder
  • 2x M3x8mm flat head screws

Step 22: Attach the Primary Buttons

primary buttons attached

  • Take a look at the primary buttons. There's a hole, through which the scroll wheel axle sticks. You'll have to do a bit of bending in order to get the button seated correctly, and through the axle. Be patient and gentle; nothing needs to be bent extremely far.
  • Don't forget to insert the screw slowly, to ensure that you don't strip the plastic holding the screw in place.
  • Make sure the buttons are oriented correctly. The bottom of the buttons should be parallel to the base.

Step 23: Attach the PCB Scroll Wheel Holder to the Base

pcb scroll wheel holder attached

  • The PCB Scroll Wheel Holder is the piece of plastic sitting on top of the PCB. It shouldn't require too much force to put on.
  • Once the PCB Scroll Wheel Holder is attached, the Scroll Wheel is fully assembled. Give it a few spins, and give it a few clicks, just to make sure that everything feels right.

Step 24: Attach the Secondary Buttons

secondary buttons screwed in

  • Make sure that the Secondary Buttons line up with the Base.
  • Give both sets of buttons a test. They should be responsive and feel right.

Step 25: Prepare the Top

base, top, optic, friction pads, screws

Prepare the following components:

  • Base assembly
  • ADNS-5050 optic
  • Top
  • 4x friction pads
  • 4x screws

Step 26: Place the ADNS-5050 optic

optic placed

  • The optic does not snap in place.
  • The optic will wobble before the Top is placed down, but once the Top is attached, the optic will be held securely in place.

Step 27: Place the Top on

top installed

  • The Top should slide into place without much force necessary. No parts will have to be bent; it should simply slide down.
  • If you are pushing hard, stop. Find out what is interfering with the placement of the Top before continuing.
  • Once the Top is fully down, verify that it is flush with the Base. If it isn't, it is likely that the optic has become loose and is interfering with the Top.
  • This is a good time to make sure the Secondary Buttons are oriented correctly. The Secondary Buttons should line up well with the Base.

Step 28: Insert screws into Base

screws being inserted into base

Don't forget to drive the screws gently, to avoid stripping the screw holes in the plastic.

Step 29: Find locator holes for the friction pads on the Base

small indent for friction pad

Find the four small, shallow holes on the Base. You will be placing the friction pads over these small holes in the next step. The placement is not too important, so do your best, and don't worry too much about it.

If you're not sure which holes are the locator holes, see the next step.

Step 30: Place friction pads onto Base

friction pads on base

Step 31: Prepare bearing press jig

Prepare the following components:

  • Bearing Press Jig
  • 3x Roller Bearing Dowel
  • 3x roller bearing

Step 32: Insert roller bearing and Roller Bearing Dowel into Bearing Press Jig

Step 33: Press the Bearing Press Jig together

This may require a surprising amount of force. Try your best not to bend the Roller Bearing Dowel, but if you do, there should be spares with your kit parts.

Step 34: Remove bearing from Bearing Press Jig and repeat

At the end, all of your bearings should look like this.

Step 35: Insert roller bearings into Top

  • Ensure that the bearings are pressed all the way into the case. If the bearings aren't seated all the way, there's a good chance that the ball will become badly scratched.
  • Needle nose pliers or some similar tool can be used to ensure that the bearing is fully seated.

Step 36: Insert the ball

ball in mini

Step 37: Verify that the Ploopy Mini Trackball is working correctly

Plug the trackball into your computer. The buttons should be clicking, and if you move the ball, it should move the cursor.

If the buttons are stuck, take the top off and adjust the primary and secondary buttons by rotating them slightly in their bases and trying again.

Step 38: Spin the ball to break in the bearings

The bearings are a bit scratchy when they're new. To prevent them from jumping around during initial use, spin the ball with some Latin dance vigour for about three minutes. That should be enough to break them in.

The bearings will take about a week to become fully broken-in.

Step 39: All done!

Congrats, you finished building the Ploopy Mini Trackball!

It's done! Love it, use it, but don't you dare abuse it!

My Ploopy Mini is tracking poorly. What do?

If the Ploopy Mini is tracking poorly, try the following two steps:

OPTIONAL Step A: Remove a bit of shine from the ball

rubbing ball

  • If the ball is too shiny, the sensor isn't going to pick up a lot of the detail on the ball.
  • Therefore, in order to make the Ploopy Mini function better, you'll have to remove a bit of the shine on the ball.
  • Rub the ball in your own hands for about two minutes, and you'll be done.

OPTIONAL Step B: Rub the ball with toothpaste

  • This is an optional step. Only do this step if you complete the rest of the instructions and find that the cursor tracks poorly.
  • If the ball is very reflective, the reflectiveness of the ball will interfere with the function of the sensor, causing poor tracking.
  • A simple, effective fix is to get about a teaspoon of toothpaste onto the ball and rub it for about ten seconds.
  • HEY! Did you read that? Ten seconds! If you need to, you can go longer the second time. But just go for ten seconds the first time! You don't want to make the ball a big scratched-up mess.
  • Toothpaste is quite abrasive, so it will effectively "sand" the ball, causing it to become less shiny. It will also cause the ball to smell great!
  • Once done, wash the ball (and your hands) well and try the ball again. The tracking should be greatly improved. If it isn't, try this step again.
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