For my pick and place project, I picked up a pair of too-good-to-be-true webcams: the Cubeternet no-name UVC webcam. For this project, there is a lot to like: 2MP resolution (claimed, at least), built-in LED ring, cross-platform UVC interface, hand-adjustable focus and a legitimate glass (no polycarbonate) lens…for $16! Alas, my review of this cam is currently mixed, since one of the cameras failed after being plugged in for more than a few minutes. This particular camera – the first I tested – became warm to the touch soon after plugging in; I assumed this was normal operation and that the cam’s solid metal “eyeball” enclosure was the heatsink for a voltage regulator screwed into it. Turns out this is not normal at all; the 2nd camera does not get even slightly warm after running overnight. Now, what to do with a broken webcam? Take it apart!
Teardown photos: In here
Opening the case reveals solid components, but an unfortunately typical “Chinese toy” construction with hand-bent and soldered leads everywhere, a couple stray solder balls and liberal application of hot glue (yes, really) to hold everything in place. If you’ve ever taken apart a cheap electronic toy for soundbending, you probably know what I’m talking about. Of the identifiable ICs, there are:
(Integrated USB2.0 UVC camera controller in 44-pin TQFP; its manufacturer denotes it as VC0342. This is driven by a 12MHz crystal oscillator.)
Turbo IC, Inc.
(64-Kbit I2C EEPROM in SOIC-8. Contains USB descriptor strings referencing “Vimicro Corp. Venus USB2.0 Camera” and “Sirius USB2.0 Camera (Audio)”. The remainder of the data most likely consists of imager-specific register initialization values. Here is a dump of the EEPROM contents in ASCII HEX format, or in raw format.)
(Ho-hum, 3.3V 3-terminal regulator.)
Typical “big glass plate” CMOS image sensor; this is the partnumber silkscreened on the bottom of it, but the Google turns up very little information and certainly no datasheets. An user on a Chinese message board says it is a 2MP imager made by Micron.
There are six very bright LEDs hand-soldered into the board and bent into position; an electret microphone is also glued into the case. A handful of what appear to be discrete transistors/FETs deliver power to the LEDs and may serve a purpose switching/sequencing power to the imager.
In the images of the controller side, you can see a big solder blob dangling precariously off one of the FETs onto the PCB. While it’s not clear if this one was the culprit, this blob or one of a couple similar ones are the most likely cause of failure. Despite all this, the lens assembly is all glass as claimed, and seems to be of much higher quality relative to the rest of the guts. The minimum focus distance is well below 1 inch. On another bright side (no pun intended), the LEDs are bright as hell, adjustable via an analog thumbwheel on the USB cable, and holes in the four corners of the square board can allow easy attachment to the placement head. The untimely death of one of the cameras is certainly discouraging, and given the internals can’t be cleanly written off as a fluke. Still, even assuming a 50% failure rate, doubling up on these cams is still a good bit cheaper than the nearest name-brand equivalent.