Nintendo DSi Teardown


The Nintendo DSi was a handheld gaming console released in 2008/2009. Its logic board (C/TWL-CPU-01) carries 3 chips:

  • Samsung KLM5617EFW-B301 for Flash Memory
  • AIC3005 (haven’t found purpose yet)
  • Mitsumi 3317A (haven’t found purpose yet)


There were a number of screws that the designer had hidden behind plastic casing, so I had a bit of trouble locating them all. To complete the deconstruction, I mostly used a small bit driver, but used a knife/medium screwdriver as wedges to pull pieces of the casing apart.

This might not be much of a surprise to the experienced industrial designers, but the first design element I was interested to discover was that there are pads behind all of the buttons. For some reason I always assumed they were set on springs:


Mostly, though, I wanted to figure out the design and materials behind the making of the touchscreen. I find resistive screens particularly well designed as there is an inherent sense of user feedback to its function. However, I wasn’t expecting to find the several layers of film behind the glass:


I’m sure there are many, many more manufacturing techniques in the process of building the DSi, but the ones I’ve inferred so far are:

  • Plastic casing – Some form of molds are likely used, could be injection or compression molding
  • Printed circuit boards – Very briefly, this includes the steps of copper patterning, etching, lamination, drilling, coating, then soldering/alternate mounting procedures
  • Speakers – A metal die is likely used to cast the frame, and attached to other components (cone, voice coil, copper wires) via gluing
  • Touch screen – A transparent material (the film), a conductive layer, and a cover sheet are adhered, then coated or cased with glass
  • LCD screen – Two glass layers are polished, washed, and coated. A layer of indium tin oxide is evaporated onto the glass, followed the application of a long chain polymer. These components are sealed together using a resin.  Spacers are then put into place, and the screen is filled with a liquid crystal material.

I still remember the excitement surrounding the release of the first of the DS line, the Nintendo DS, back in 2004. Being in high school at the time probably added to the feeling that everyone had one. At the time, the design elements that excited the people around me were the dual screens, touch screen capabilities, and if I remember correctly, the smooth integration of the stylus fitting as though it was just another part of the case.

Today, I’m interested in the designer’s decision to only to include touch for the lower screen and not the upper. Was it a question of frailty (users would push too hard and the hinges would give)? Another reason I can think of is that the designer felt users would only use the touchscreen on the lower face, as pushing down feels better than pushing at an incline.


The second design choice I’m intrigued by is the location of the camera on the central bar (on which the console flips closed). No matter how I picture it, the angle at which it would capture the user seems very awkward! I’d love to know what drove the designer to choose to place the camera there instead of at the top of the upper lid.


One thought on “Nintendo DSi Teardown”

  1. Excellent teardown, Bernice! I particularly enjoyed your description of what you expected to find vs what you actually discovered. Please add a bit to your post to address the last bit of the assignment: “Select two design elements that interest you and describe why you think the designer made it that way”

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