D-I-Y Repair of some Braille Display Devices

Please note that I AM NOT OFFERING A REPAIR SERVICE, as I am NOT LICENSED nor do I carry the necessary liability insurance! Therefore, I CAN NOT OFFER a "repair-by-mail" service.

This page is written mostly in plain text, to facilitate easy acces to our Visually Impaired friends. The purpose of this site is to provide information on making repairs to the Telesensory Systems™ manufactured, Refreshable Braille Displays which they no longer support.

This site was borne out of a serious need that a dear friend of mine had, for his Braille Display Device to be repaired. The standard fee for such repairs is over $400 in most cases. The failure of his Braille Display caused him significant hardship, and his financial situation made it almost impossible to afford the $400 repair fee. I offered to help him as best I could, and since he is local, I brought the unit home to my shop, with the understanding that if I couldn't repair it, I had no liability insurance and could not replace it. He accepted the risk. (Note: This is DIFFERENT from conducting business via mail, as he is a personal friend, who lives close by.)

The symptom: One half of the 40-cell Braille Display was inoperative. The unit would power up, but became very warm in one area, and the cells which were still functional had a perceptible "buzzing" sensation when touched.

What I discovered, is that they are using epoxy-potted modules to convert a 6 volt DC power supply up to 200 volts DC, which is used to drive the Braille Display cells in groups of 20. Since his display device was 40 cells, it thus had two of these sealed power modules. My diagnostics revealed that one of these modules had failed, and was consuming large amounts of current. This caused it to heat up, and since the supply was being loaded beyond it's normal rated amount, there was considerable "ripple", which caused the "buzzing" sensation in the remaining cells.

Upon removal of the failed module, the still-working cells no longer had the "buzzing" sensation. I discovered that I could connect the 200 volt output of the remaining module to the now-removed one, and the entire bank of 40 cells functioned normally! This was good news! Upon contacting the manufacturer of the power module, however, I received some rather unpleasant news... they wanted approximately $115.00 for these tiny modules! (They measure approximately 1 inch cube.)

Since this was still out of his price range, and frankly, in my opinion, grossly overpriced, I decided to investigate alternatives. All I needed was a DC - to - DC converter which took 6 volts and stepped it up to 200. Right there, on my workbench, was a battery-operated, pocket-sized flourescent lamp unit. I looked at it, and then the idea hit me! I disassembled it, and tried using it as a replacement for the $115.00 module! These lamp units used to sell at Lowe's for only $6.00 each! With the addition of a diode and a capacitor, the circuit board from one of these tiny lamp units makes a nearly PERFECT replacement for that $115.00 module! The total cost for this is well under $10.00 each! (With 6 volts input, it generated 200 volts out!)

I installed this home-made power converter into my friends Braille Display, and powered it up. Taking care to measure the voltages and test the system, I let it run for several minutes, with all pins raised across the entire Braille Display. The modified lamp module was not even becoming noticably warm! The Braille Display was working perfectly, again! I carefully glued my home-made module onto the remaining good one inside the unit, and closed the case.

My friend has been using it ever since with no indication that there ever was a problem! He also told a friend of his who has this same unit, with the same symptom. Her unit has now been repaired and returned. I've done this at no charge to them, because I honestly can NOT see charging someone for something so essential! He originally received the device as a gift from a friend. As a Christian, I see this as a means of helping restore a measure of sight to the Blind, and it is VERY rewarding!

My heart genuinely goes out to those who are Visually Impared, and I have the highest respect for those who have found ingenious ways to make their lives easier in such a visually-oriented world! My friend is a gifted man, who knows more about computers than I do! Whenever I have a computer-related question, I go to him for advice. He has helped me out of more tough situations than I can even count! His is my best friend, and to repair his Braille Display was, for me, an honor.

I am providing this page to help others who have the ability to do electronic repairs, make their services available to Visually Impared people at a much more reasonable price. I think $115.00 for that module is totally unreasonable! It is utterly absurd, because I can purchase a lamp unit along with the diode and capacitor at retail prices, and make a fully functional replacement DC-to-DC converter module for under $10.00!

Because it involves small components, and modifying the circuitry of a very small board, this is not a project that could be done by touch, alone. It will require a sighted person to modify the lamp module, and wire it into the Braille Display. Due to the intricacy of these modifications, I cannot explain the proceedure in a step-by-step text format, without using graphic images. Any sighted person who is good with small tools, especially electronics repair tools, will have little difficulty making these modifications.

My wish is that this page will be circulated to others who know a Visually Impared person who needs one of these devices repaired. Full, unrestricted permission is hereby granted to copy these pages, (within the "/blind/" sub-directory ONLY) along with the drawings, images, descriptions, etc, with the express condition that it is done to help the Visually Impared regain use of their failed Braille Display devices at either no cost, or very minimal cost. Copying these pages is permitted for NON-PROFIT USE, ONLY!

I say this to my sighted friends: Put yourself into their shoes, and you will understand why I make this generous offer. :)

Here is the link to the page with drawings & photos of the module conversion process.. Thank you for visiting!

Yours in Christ,


( William Barnett III )

Please note that I AM NOT OFFERING A REPAIR SERVICE, as I am NOT LICENSED nor do I carry the necessary liability insurance! Therefore, I CAN NOT OFFER a "repair-by-mail" service.

Please contact me, and let me know if this information was useful, and how you were able to help someone. If you are Visually Impared, and have been helped by this, I especially want to hear from you!

E-mail: E-mail Willie


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