Worklog Project Short Stack


Feb 24, 2020
Bay Area, CA
Project Short Stack

For the past 2 years I’ve been dreaming of building a “not so portable” with a stacked PCB design. Stacking a custom peripherals/power pcb, Wii motherboard, and heatplate reminded me of a stack of pancakes, hence “project short stack”.


I wanted to have the following requirements:
  • Robust - using wii motherboard mounting holes, and minimizing magnet wires
  • Modular - should be able to disassemble without desoldering
  • Reliable - cooling suitable for continuous play
  • Featureful - USB-C power, 4x GameCube ports, HDMI, Bluetooth, power/reset/sync buttons, microSD card
  • Small - As small as possible - Omega-ish trim

“My First Omega”
This was my first attempt in doing an Omega trim, I’ve previously done OMGWTF and LMAO trims in the past.

Before trimming I did the the “wireless” U10 relocation, NAND relocation, and AVE-HDMI installation and verified everything still worked, and then it was Dremel Time™.



Given my requirement for robustness, I really wanted to keep the Wii motherboard mounting holes so my trim was more like an Omega Max.

Wii “Daughterboards”
The first step was to design a couple of modular “daughterboards” which mount directly to the Wii motherboard. The idea behind these is to reduce (eliminate?) wires soldered to the Wii motherboard, and for the daughterboard designs to be usable in any project.

The first board is what I’m calling the “Power Strip” PCB. This mounts to the top of the Wii motherboard, and does the following
  • Delivers 1V, 1.15V, 1.8V and 3.3V to the motherboard
  • Allows for easy relocation of capacitors
  • Adds a low-profile connector for connecting/disconnecting to the power supply board


It was a real pain in the ass getting this shape just right, I 3d-printed about 15 iterations of the board outline before finding the right fit.

The second board is a “Peripheral Flex” PCB, which handles the following:
  • Breaking out Gamecube controller data, soldering directly onto the vias
  • Breaking out USB data lines
  • Breaking out Bluetooth data lines
  • FFC connector to send these lines to peripheral board
The idea for the USB and BT lines is to scratch the traces on the wii motherboard and solder “through” the vias.

I realized after the fact that I should have also included a line for “reset”. I left a couple of lines free on the FFC to keep the BT and USB lines isolated from the gamecube lines, so I might steal one of these to send the reset signal, and run a single “fly wire” magnet wire from the back of the board to the FFC connector.

When I did a test fit of this board to a dead donor wii, I was able to get it mounted and confirm continuity between the FFC and each of the data traces, but it was a pain in the ass to solder. I’d certainly consider a redesign with larger vias.


Case design
During the design process, one of the candidate layouts accidentally had a very familiar shape - similar to the original Wii - so I decided to go all in and try to make a “Wii classic” style case design and thermal layout.

Screenshot 2023-11-09 at 4.53.24 PM.png


Designing this case was an absolute obsession. I wanted to ensure that it was as small as possible (~40% scale, same size as a deck of cards) without sacrificing any of the aesthetics of the original Wii. I wanted the connectors and airflow vents to be in the same locations as on the original, the microSD card slot to be where the SD card slot is on the original, and wanted to leave the top of the Wii completely clean (no holes).

Screenshot 2023-11-09 at 5.01.30 PM.png

The thermal design was also a big challenge - and is currently untested. I found a tiny 20x20x8mm blower fan which puts out a decent 0.84CFM at 5V - it might just do the job.

I also decided to try my hand at milling my own heat plate and heatsink, since I wanted an excuse to learn how to use my new desktop CNC.

I have so far avoided making any flaps/panels to cover the Gamecube ports or the SD card, since it is challenging to make these in such a small space. Wesk had the great suggestion to try a print-in-place or magnet attached approach, so I might try this in a future iteration.

Peripheral/power PCB
Now I know how much space I have to play with in the case, it is time to design the peripheral/power PCB.

The case design constrains both the “maximum” size of the PCB, and the locations of the connectors.


I’m making decent progress on the PCB schematic, next step is the actual PCB layout.

  • Design the power/peripheral PCB layout and get the board fabbed
  • Attach the peripheral flex to my Omega
  • Mill the heatsink
  • Ensure thermals actually are sensible

Thanks everyone on Discord for your help so far, I’ll update this thread as I make progress.
Last edited:
Apr 29, 2020
Truly awesome project! I definitely dig the neat daughter board approach, will make things so much cleaner! Looking forward to your progress!


Feb 24, 2020
Bay Area, CA
It turns out that I'm absolutely terrible at keeping a worklog updated as I build!

I'm working on a cutting edge post right now, but figured I'd do one last worklog post that contains the fun stuff I forgot to post along the way.

Back in January I ordered my first revision boards. Assembly was fun, it was my first time using solder stencils so I decided it would be a great opportunity to fail at it on a livestream (shout out to @Y2K, @supertazon, and everyone else who joined!). I also got a chance to try out my controleo3 reflow oven build for the first time.


After some rework, the board booted a Wii! But oh no, no USB detected! Turns out I missed a capacitor on the GL823K, so I bodged one on which fixed things right up.


(Thanks @CrazyGadget for helping me figure that out!)


(Who needs cooling anyway?)

Speaking of cooling, since I decided on a custom heatsink design for this build it was time to actually make it. It turns out machining metals is really fucking hard. Many many hours in Fusion 360's Manufacture tab, and many more broken endmills later I finally had something.


I also tried machining one out of pure copper just in case the aluminum wasn't sufficient. For a beginner, this turned out to be MUCH harder than machining aluminum and let's just say I won't be machining copper again any time soon.


Once I had it all put together we finally had revision 1 of Short Stack.


Although it was working, there were multiple issues with the revision 1 boards. A bug in circuit design meant the fan was constantly running, even when in standby mode, I had made some dubious decisions on my choice of low profile FFC connectors, and I wanted to fix that capacitor bodge. In addition to this, my prototype Periphlex board did not have enough mechanical support to help it stay flat and attached to the Wii motherboard - causing me to tear a USB trace.

Or in other words:

It was time for revision 2.