Fixing up a Petster Penguin!

A full body photograph of a Petster Penguin

Today I fixed up a Petster Penguin! I’d never seen one before, so I wasn’t really sure how it’s suppose to work. Turns out, it’s super adorable!

The Petster Penguin looks like a later revision of the Catster internally. It has the later revision of the battery door (the batteries go in vertically, rather than having to deal with that awful ribbon that tends make it look like the batteries are dead), and a “Go Play” switch on the bottom. I’ll have more on the Go Play switch in a bit.

The eyes light up in a “1980’s Green LED” color, and much to my delight, it waddles when it walks! He’s wearing an adorable yellow and black bow tie (and I don’t think it’s removable), and has reddish-orange feet. It feels way more like a plus toy than any other Petster I’ve seen to date. The cats are largely described as a “salad bowl,” and the penguin breaks out of this tradition.

When he arrived, he was unable to move. The eBay listing mentioned this, and I was super curious about what the cause was.

Before we look at that, let’s take a look some of the details of this adorable 1980’s robot!

A photo showing the bottom of a Petster Penguin

The bottom looked like what I expected, except with the addition of a “Go Play” switch. The Catsters don’t have this switch, but I’ve seen it on others when I go looking for Petster stuff on eBay. The warning on the bottom says:

Petster Penguin simulates a real penguin. Its actions are not always predictable. Petster Penguin may respond differently to different people in different situations. If Petster Penguin insists on acting improperly or erratically, install new batteries.

I opened it up to look at the insides!

It looks basically the same as a Catster internally. I was pretty surprised to find that the speaker fired upward into a giant mass of foam! No wonder the noises it makes aren’t very loud compared to the cats. Like the later revision cats, there’s a cardboard protector to keep the wires out the gearboxes.

The “Go Play” switch isn’t something I’d seen before. It’s connected to the top and bottom of the board, by very-muchly looking hand soldered connections.

A photo showing how the Go Play switch is connected to a Petster Penguin
A photo showing where the Go Play switch on a Petster Penguin connects on the bottom of the logic board

I decided to compare the Penguin’s logic board to a Catster’s logic board (since I just happened to have one on my desk), and they look pretty similar.

A photo comparing a Petster Penguin (top) to Catster (bottom) logic board

I didn’t try swapping one for the other, but I bet it would work. The plugs are the same, and the size is the same. Other than the Go Play switch and a few other components, it’s hard to tell them apart.

Okay, so let’s dig into the movement problem!

The drive gears on this Petster Penguin were broken

To my complete unsurprise, the drive gears were broken just as I would expect. Both of them had gone, which seems to be normal. They just don’t hold up over 40 years of use.

Sooooo I quickly printed out two more replacement gears, and installed them. (I linked to my design of a replacement gear above. If you’d like to make your own, print them out with a hard material, like PETG, and use 100% infill. They’re really small and print very quickly.)

A photo of the old drive gears in a Petster Penguin

The old gears were so brittle that they fell apart as I was trying to remove them. That’s pretty normal from what I’ve seen, they just don’t hold up.

After I got these gears replaced it was time to do a final check before I re-assembled it!

I was downright giddy to see that the wheels go one after the other, rather than both spinning at once like on a Catster! I figured this would make it waddle around all cute. 🙂

After I made sure that it all worked, I put it back together again and took it downstairs for a test run!

It works again! (Even if it’s not that good at finding me when I clap!) It makes me so happy to see the way it waddles back and forth! 🙂

Thanks for following along as I learned about the Petster Penguin, and got it working again! I might do a followup then where I swap the logic board with one of my other Petsters just to make a weird zoo of weird animals. 💜

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