Hacking the iPad 3 LCD, A Simpler Approach Part 4: Kit Costs

A lot of people have been asking about how much these boards cost, so it seems worthwhile to post a little something to clear this up.

I’m not looking to make a huge profit of any of this.  Actually it just makes me happy that anyone is interested at all in what I’m doing.  So rather than keep my costs under wraps and provide you with a blackbox number, here is the actual amount that it costs me to build one of these boards, by component (in USD):

Component Vendor Vendor PN Cost ea Qty Ext Cost
PCB, MM PCB10002 REV B, Simple iPad Breakout OSH Park PCB10002 REV B 3.17 1 3.17
Connector, DisplayPort, SMD, Molex 0472720001 Digikey WM19271CT-ND 5.30 1 5.30
Connector, FFC, 51 Pos, 0.3mm Pitch, Molex 5022505191 Mouser 538-502250-5191 5.56 1 5.56
Capacitor, Alum Elec, 100uF, 10V, TH, Panasonic EEUFR1A101 Digikey P14373-ND 0.33 1 0.33
Diode, Schottky, dual common cathode, 25V, 1A, TO-261, NXP BAT120C,115 Digikey 568-6921-1-ND 0.77 1 0.77
LED, Green, SMD 0805, OSRAM LG R971-KN-1 Digikey 475-1410-1-ND 0.08 1 0.08
Resistor, 100 ohms, 1%, 1/10W, 0603, Yageo RC0603FR-07100RL Digikey 311-100HRCT-ND 0.10 1 0.10
Resistor, 100 ohms, 1%, 1/16W, 0402, Stackpole RMCF0402FT100R Digikey RMCF0402FT100RCT-ND 0.025 12 0.30
Resistor, 0 ohms, 0603, Yageo RC0603JR-070RL Digikey 311-0.0GRTR-ND 0.10 2 0.20
Total 15.81

Now, not all of these parts are used in the same buildup.  The diode and the 0 ohm resistors aren’t installed at the same time; the 0402 resistors aren’t installed at all if the board is to be used for a projector build as they’d be unnecessary, etc.  But I will kit all the boards based on this set of parts anyway, so this is the base cost for one unit.

There are additional ancillary costs not rolled into the above BOM.  Packaging costs (antistatic bag, padded envelope), pre-soldered wires (if desired), assembly materials (solder paste, flux remover, etc), assemble-it-yourself materials (stencil, if desired).  And you’ll note that I have not touched labor yet – if you want me to build up the boards, I will need to charge a nominal assembly fee.  I won’t charge you a fortune, but it would be foolish to work for free.

I have quotes out at stencil manufacturers and will query the usual shipping suspects for pricing this week ([EDIT 2013.08.08] Shipping to the continental US is typically $3 for one or two units, shipping international is averaging about $7).  The cost is $20 for a kit of parts, $30-$35 for an assembled board (pending stencil quote [EDIT 2013.07.09] None of the inexpensive stencil fabricators can do the aperture/web sizes on this board, so I’d need a professional stainless-steel stencil – which I won’t go for unless I get enough people interested in boards to offset the cost), plus shipping to your location.  Note that this isn’t a start-to-finish kit – you’ll still need to provide a stable 3.3V source (assuming your DisplayPort cable doesn’t do so), and a source of 19-20V if you want to drive the backlight.  This board was designed for the DIY projector crowd to be as cheap and simple as possible, so please be aware of its limitations.

I hope the projected cost isn’t more than expected.  Labor is going to be the thing that really drives the price – right now it takes me an hour or so to build a board since I’m applying paste by hand.  I hope that I can get a stencil done for a reasonable price to reduce that effort.  We’ll see.  Nope.

More on this later.  If you’re interested, please drop me a comment or an email so I can gauge interest.  If a hundred people want one, a $180 professional stencil suddenly isn’t quite so big a deal (this board is too complex for the most inexpensive prototype laser services).  Plus then quantity discounts start to apply on components and the BOM cost drops.  Which means cheaper boards for all!  Yay!

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57 thoughts on “Hacking the iPad 3 LCD, A Simpler Approach Part 4: Kit Costs

  1. xobmo

    I am definitely interested in an assembled unit, working on a standalone monitor design… More interested in the dvi/hdmi board using fpga if possible. You said that the Macbook panel has eDisplayPort in, and the TCON spits out lvds? Is the iPad 3 display built the same way? Pardon my grammar…

    Reply
    1. mike Post author

      If you are wanting a standalone monitor, please be aware that this board does not produce nor regulate its voltage rails (as noted in the post). I have an alternate design in the works that takes a wide input range and does proper backlight driving and so forth (see the original “Hacking the iPad 3 LCD” series), and Daniel Rozsnyo (dp2retina.rozsnyo.com) has a completed version of his own shipping now. Of course both of these solutions will be more expensive than this very barebones version, so if you’re looking for a low-cost solution and are prepared to feed it the proper voltage rails, I’d be happy to discuss sending you an assembly. Send me an email, or I’ll send you one when I get a chance.

      The DVI board is a long way off. I don’t plan to start work on that until all of the other projects in my queue are complete, and believe me there are plenty (including a few which haven’t gotten a post yet). It will involve the authoring of a complete DisplayPort IP core, which is a serious involvement. It will also likely be very expensive. That one will be mostly a ‘because I can’ project, rather than something to package and sell.

      Regarding the Macbook. It certainly appears as if the output of the Tcon is a differential video bus, and JEITA does have a specification for 9-pair miniLVDS (http://semicon.jeita.or.jp/hp/spt/sc_pg/Proposal_for_mini-LVDS_ver_0_2.pdf). Could very well be two 9-pair miniLVDS pipes. But I don’t know for sure yet – to confirm I first need to get the panel working, then dump a bunch of data with my spectrum analyzer and see how it stacks up to the JEITA bit packing.

      However it works, the iPad certainly works the same way because it uses the same DP635 Tcon. Presumably what you’re getting at is, why can’t we bypass the eDP frontend and drive the display directly with LVDS? To which I say the only problem might be finding the right combination of drivers… it looks like miniLVDS clocking works a little bit differently than standard LVDS.

      Reply
      1. Daniel Rozsnyo

        That’s hacker talk now :) Let me join!

        Yesterday I as looking up the miniLVDS specs too ( http://www.ti.com/lit/an/slda007a/slda007a.pdf ), but my point was to overcome the limitation in a UHD screen. Those are not eDP yet and their onboard TCON does accept either 120Hz FHD or 30Hz UHD, converting it to 120Hz UHD for panel driving. The count of input LVDS lines to that panel is seriously high and I did no like that 30Hz max rating on the input.. so I was up to replace the TCON board. At the end, it is just LVDS + cmos reset.

        Running a iPad3 or MBP retina LCD by miniLVDS does not bring any real benefit. We can drive the display (almost directly) with LVDS, no FPGA involved.

        Btw, mike’s MBP retina board looks more similar to the iPad3 which I disassembled in the fact that the ML coupling capacitors are close to the DP635. On my MBP, the capacitors are at the plug and I would say they are bigger (402 vs 201 in ipad?).

        Reply
  2. Alexandr

    Hello Mike. Can you ship some of your kits (3 or may be more) for iPad 3 LCD to Russia? If yes, how much will it cost for me?

    Reply
  3. Lars

    I’m sure there are a few people like me, who are interested in getting a working display, but don’t know much about electronics. With one of your boards, could you just connect the screen, plug in a DP cable and have the LCD working just like that? What kind of power source would you use for the back-light?

    Or perhaps you aren’t really interested in supplying these boards to the unwashed masses? :)

    Reply
    1. mike Post author

      Quite the opposite! I’ve put this board out there to try and streamline the process of interfacing the iPad 3 panel, doing the signal-integrity-sensitive work for you so you can just connect it and go :) And that’s literally what is required – solder on your power supplies (or order a board with preattached wires), plug in your panel and the DisplayPort cable, and it should “just work”.

      The power sources, well, adding those to the board adds size and complexity, and drives the cost up considerably. Probably nobody would buy these boards if they cost $50. I have an alternate design that actually predates this one which includes all the “good” features, which I am currently working through firmware issues on – but the PCB alone for that one jumps to $13, not counting the (far increased number of) components.

      The simplest way to get up and running with one of these boards is to buy simple offboard regulators from China. eBay sells those for much less than I ever could. I would go for something like this and one of these and run them both from 12V (a word of caution being that I’ve never tried either of those boards and chose them at random). Could also be one of the thousands of other boards available. These will cost you a total of $8-$10 and give you both of your necessary supplies.

      In all truth, this board was really designed for tinkerers, not for your average nontechnical person… for that crowd, the original “full” version (see here) is probably more appropriate. But the cost will be much higher. On the other hand you get the benefit of wide input range (8-36V or so), familiar controls (on/off, brightness, etc), and “proper” backlight driving. Plus I’m working on a neato enclosure for it and the panel to make it truly deskworthy. More on that later.

      Reply
  4. kim

    Hello Mike,

    Thanks you so much for posting this blog.
    You’ve saved me so much time & effort.
    Would it be OK for you to ship 4 kits to Canada (Montreal).
    If yes, please let me know on how to pay etc.

    Again, many thanks

    Reply
  5. Matt

    Mike,

    Thanks a ton for posting this! Very nice work. Can I order two kits? I’m happy to do the assembly myself.

    Also, sorry if you posted this and I missed it, but what are you running to do your board layout?

    Matt

    Reply
    1. mike Post author

      I’m running Altium Designer 13.3. It’s the only package I’ve really used since 2007. I played around with Eagle, but being so used to Altium, it just frustrated me…

      I still have a handful of boards available from this batch, I’ll send you an email.

      Reply
      1. Matt

        Mike,

        I didn’t get your email. Maybe I had a typo in the address I used in the last post. Can you try resending it please? Sorry!

        Matt

        Reply
  6. Nick

    Hi Mike,

    Could you send one assembled board to Ukraine?
    And probably more later :)

    Please send the payment and shipping details.

    Reply
  7. Benji

    Hey there wondering if you still have any of your initial iPad3 boards left. Am experimenting with the iPad display and a Wacom SDK/hardware to make a hight res drawing tool at the moment. Presently I’m using a board by http://www.rozsnyo.com/. I’d love to have a go with one of yours as parts wise it looks far simpler. Wanted to have a play and see how it fairs.

    Cheers,
    Benji

    Reply
    1. mike Post author

      I do have a small number of boards left (I think three or four at last count). These are about as simple as it gets – more or less just connector passthroughs and current limiting resistors. You’ll need to bring your own power supplies (3.3V for panel, 19-20V for backlight). The Rozsnyo board is a lot more capable than this one; of course that comes at a cost :)

      I’ll send you an email with more details.

      Reply
  8. Dzmitry

    Hello!
    I read your article about the Retina Display iPad 3, and decided to put the same device.
    I can not find molex SD-47272-001 displayport

    Please share with us the information: where you bought it?

    Reply
  9. Bigard

    Hello Mike,

    Thanks you very much for posting this blog.
    Would it be OK for you to ship 1 kits to France (Paris).
    If yes, please let me know on how to pay etc.
    Many thanks

    Reply
  10. Finn

    Hey Mike,

    I love the work you have been doing & am interested in buying a kit, could you please email me the details?

    Much Obliged

    Reply
  11. chris23az

    Hi,

    witch Layout-Software do you use?
    Can you share your Project-Files (Library and so on) with us?

    thanks

    Reply
    1. mike Post author

      I use Altium Designer 13.3 to do all of my designs. It’s what I use at work, and is the design suite I know the best.

      I know that AD is not hugely popular among the DIY crowd, so would releasing my libraries actually be any use to anyone? Can any of the free packages (Eagle, Kicad) read AD library files? It’s kind of a lot of work on my end to prep it if it won’t be used.

      Reply
  12. Tru

    I am interested in purchasing two or three of these assembled boards from you to TX. Please send me the details.

    Thank you

    Reply
  13. Manny

    Hi Mike,

    I’d like to acquire one of your converter board for ipad3/4 as well. can you send me an email with detail?

    Thanks!
    Manny

    btw, a couple of months ago, I bought a pixelqi board off ebay to play with but haven’t got the time really to look into it. it’s LVDS and I wonder if you know any of those $40 boards on ebay will suffice.

    Reply
    1. mike Post author

      Unfortunately all of my boards are currently spoken for, and I am contemplating changing the design a bit so I probably won’t order any more in the short-term. Please feel free to order your own from the files attached in the previous post on this board if you are comfortable building them, and check back sometime to see if there are any new developments. I’ll try to remember to send you an email when that happens as well.

      Pixel Qi, interesting, I’ve an application that could make use of such a display and I’d never heard of it. Yes, the cheap x-to-LVDS converters usually work just fine, so long as you set them up correctly (pinout and jumper wise). For the most part, LVDS is LVDS, so with a few caveats usually the panels and boards are interchangeable. As always it is most wise to find a spec for the controller and compare it to the datasheet for the panel to make sure everything agrees.

      Reply
    1. mike Post author

      Unfortunately I am out of boards and components at the moment, sorry! I’ve sent you an email.

      Reply
  14. Paul

    Hello Mike,

    Wonderful work you’ve done! Could you possibly point me in the right direction on the methods of powering this board? Much help is appreciated.

    Cheers,
    Paul

    Reply
    1. mike Post author

      Well, you’ll need 3.3V for the panel, and about 19-20V for the backlight. The absolute simplest, cheapest way to accomplish this is buy a couple of the circa-$2 buck and boost supplies on eBay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/1-DC-DC-Buck-Converter-Step-Down-Module-LM2596-Power-Supply-Output-1-23V-30V-HE-/141081822020?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item20d921c344 , http://www.ebay.com/itm/1x-XL6009-Step-up-Boost-Power-Converter-DC-DC-Adjustable-Module-Replace-LM2577-/301029414651?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4616c056fb . You can also use any other supply capable of producing the necessary voltages, or use a 19V laptop adapter and use only a 3.3V buck, or use the 3.3V rail of an ATX power supply and use only a boost, or… well, there’s a million different ways you could do it. Does this help?

      Reply
      1. Paul

        Hey Mike,

        Thanks for the detailed response. I’ll purchase a few and try them out. Again, thanks for your work and can’t wait for your future revisions and other projects. Kudos!

        Paul

        Reply
  15. David

    Mike,

    Thanks for this project. Got boards back from OSH Park last week and got it up and working over the weekend. First time reflow soldering was a bit interesting but it all worked out.

    David

    Reply
    1. mike Post author

      Glad to hear it! It’s a tricky board to solder unless you have steady hands and a lot of patience – certainly ‘trial by fire’ for a first-time reflower, kudos!

      If you happen to ever write something up on your project, be sure to send me a link :)

      Reply
    1. mike Post author

      I don’t use Eagle, so I unfortunately won’t have Eagle libraries for those parts. I don’t believe Eagle is able to read Altium component libraries.

      You mentioned MCP16321, which is not on my board but which is on the Adafruit Qualia – perhaps you can ask Adafruit for their library components?

      Reply
    1. mike Post author

      I’m unfortunately not currently shipping this board, as I am putting all available free time into finishing the next generation of it. However, all the documents are posted if you would like to order your own. That’s about the best I can do for you at this moment, sorry!

      Reply
  16. romain

    Hello
    I contact you to see if it is possible to Switch 2 video signals.
    As I board a project to an ipad as carpc and make an automatic switch to switch from software ipad has Reversing camera when I go in reverse.

    thank you for your reply

    Reply
    1. mike Post author

      You will unfortunately find this to be very difficult. As I understand, you want to modify an iPad to switch its display between the iPad’s internal logic board and an external video source. The switching part is not a problem – several manufacturers make DisplayPort 1:2 switch ICs (NXP CBTL06DP212 is one such part). The difficult part is going to be generating a DisplayPort compatible signal from your camera. Most cameras produce composite (CVBS) video, but the iPad’s display can only take DisplayPort, so you will need to figure out the hardware to convert from CVBS to DisplayPort. Receiving video is simple enough, but I have not been able to find any reasonable way to generate DisplayPort signals except from purpose-made adapters or graphics cards, or by using a fairly expensive FPGA. There are x-to-DisplayPort ICs from some manufacturers, but these tend to be available only in very high quantities (10,000-25,000+).

      If you are particularly adventurous and also hard-set on doing this, you may be able to hack something together, but it won’t be pretty. The simplest way I can conceive it working is to lift off the iPad’s digitizer and place a LVDS LCD and controller board behind it, and connect it to the iPad via the Apple Lightning-to-VGA connector. You still get the same UI and touch capability, but LVDS-type monitors are much easier to hack features such as signal-switching into. This is a major modification though, and would certainly result in the unit being semi-permanently car-bound (you wouldn’t be able to remove it without some difficulty). Not exactly ideal, but cheaper than the $100,000 component minimum buy that it would take to do it “right”…

      Reply
  17. Lawmate

    Hi Mike, thanks very much for the design. Got my boards up and running. Very tricky soldering, but it works OK. I’d reccomend the OSHStensils. They worked fine for me, and are pretty cheap. I paid £9 to get them shipped to the UK. Make sure you triple check they are the correct way. I managed to get the connector side in reverse, which made it a little trickier to get a clean contact between the mask and PCB when applying the solder paste, but they still saved loads of fiddly pin daubing.
    I used 2 of the step down regulators you linked to from ebay. They cost 79p each including shipping from China, which is pretty unbelievable. Excluding the solder stencils, the boards cost me about £15 each and I got the LCD for £30 on Ebay, so pretty cheap all round. It seems a little silly that of that £15, £10 is spent on the 2 connectors. There must be a cheap source of them somewhere.
    Once again, thanks a lot for the design.

    Reply
    1. mike Post author

      You’re welcome! Glad everything worked out well for you. I’ve got some wild plans to import connectors in bulk direct from China one of these days to bring down the cost a little – I agree they’re way too expensive in single quantities from random sellers.

      Reply
  18. nathan

    Hi,
    I think your board is perfect for a DIY video projector.
    If you still have some board, can you tell me the price for a complete board sended in France ?
    If you have not, do you know if someone sell it.
    Thank you again for your good work.

    Reply
  19. Jakub Mierzejewski

    Hi,
    can You send me 1 board to Poland?
    That’s an amazing piece of work :)

    Greets,
    JM

    Reply
  20. Michaël Zweers

    Hello Mike,

    Are these modules still available? Can i buy 3 with shipping to the Netherlands?

    Thx for all the information btw!.

    Greetings from Holland!

    Reply
    1. mike Post author

      Unfortunately no, I’m out of stock of these modules and I don’t have an immediate plan to produce more. They’re a fair amount of work to build and test, and I don’t have the free time these days :( Besides, some of the parts have become hard to find, so I need to do a little bit of re-design. So I don’t have a solution for you right now, sorry!

      Reply
  21. Charles

    I am interested in several of your projects. If startup cost is the item at hand I may be able to help. Please feel free to contact me directly at the email provided.

    Thanks,
    Charles

    Reply
  22. Josh

    First off, thanks for the in-depth reporting on your development of this board. I realize you said you no longer have the availability to produce these boards but just in case you were teetering with the idea idea I wanted to express my interest for purchasing a handful if you did decide to start back with them.

    Reply
  23. Ruslan

    Hi, Mike.
    Actually, I wanna buy 2 pieces Hacking the iPad Kit ( only kit, without working) & 2 button board for this. How much? Can I pay to you with PayPal? Can you send the parcel to Russia?
    Thank you, friend.

    Reply
    1. mike Post author

      One bad line generally means you’ve got a bad row or column driver in the panel itself. Problems on the board or cable would be manifest by whole-screen problems. If you gently twist or press the edges of the display around where the bad line is, you may see it change or go away; this would indicate a poor bond between the chip-on-flex drivers and the glass. This has been shown to be repairable sometimes with a very gentle touch and some anisotropic conductive tape, but as cheap as the panels are now, it’s almost not worth the risk (and the tape is expensive).

      I don’t have any boards for sale at the moment, unfortunately.

      Reply
  24. Brendan Holland

    TLDR: would the 100 Ohm resisters inline to the LEDs be enough of a current limiter for one of the usb/5v to variable 24vmax boards off ebay for $2~, since it has a potentiometer to lower the voltage

    Below is just ramblings

    I keep putting this off every few months trying to work on this but i realzied i dont or could possibly not need to do (as) much by using one of them as it already has a potentiometer on them, most are rated at 1a constant… which is 5w,, and the panel is rated at 4.4w
    from the last pics it seems like there
    I was thinking of that plus one of the small 5v to 3.3 chips which looks to be only 5 components
    thank you so much, and i hope you are well, as posts had died off long ago

    Reply

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