For my first teardown I explored the inner workings of LeapFrog’s Explorer Smart Globe. This educational toy functions by touching the pen to a spot on the globe and manipulating the rotational knob and buttons. Users can choose to either learn more about the different areas or test their knowledge in the challenge modes.
The initial teardown was pretty simple and mainly comprised of just loosening screws. Upon further inspection, I realized that the globe itself needed to be dismantled, which revealed secondary circuitry dealing with the interaction of tapping the pen on the globe’s surface.
There are many components in this assembly but, as a summary, the parts are made of hard and soft plastics, metal and rubber for many of the electrical components, paper in the interior of the globe and on the speaker, magnet on the speaker, the copper and substrate of the PCB, and a printed circuit/conductive material on the paper of the globe interior. The plastics are likely injection molded and the PCBs, after they are manufactured, are hand soldered. The hemispherical paper circuit, interestingly enough, has no seams and therefore must have been vacuum formed or molded somehow.
What interested me most about this design is the paper circuit on the interior of the globe. It makes complete sense, knowing what the function of the product is but it was something I had never seen before and wasn’t really expecting. In a society that is so used to touch screen, this concept of tapping something and receiving a response is very obvious or “natural” and not given a second thought. This design however uses a different system than your phone’s touchscreen and it was exciting to see the sheer mass of touchpoints individually printed onto the paper. The other point of this design that interested and puzzled me is the two LEDs that were in the white plastic piece attached to the blue shaft and the corresponding one on the bottom side of the globe interaction circuit. Due to their position and the fact that we don’t see light from these, it makes me think that it’s some sort of IR sensor. However I also can’t figure out why there would be an IR sensor in this location either! Hmmm…