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Author Topic: Modular Control Panel  (Read 609 times)

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GearHead

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Modular Control Panel
« on: September 05, 2017, 09:53:42 pm »
FYI - I wrote this stuff a while back and I am only getting around to posting it now.  The time between posts won't be in "real time" until I catch up.

My MAME cabinet project was on hold for a long time but I'm now at the point of creating the control panel for it. I’ve got a thread going for my MAME cabinet build but thought I’d start a separate one for the modular control panel. Hopefully it’s worthy…

Midway to MAME project thread.
http://forum.arcadecontrols.com/index.php/topic,150757.0.html

My first control panel was an experiment and a big collection of buttons and other controls.I could play a large number of games but it was a FrankenPanel. Functional, but ugly and no one really likes it...

With a Happ trackball mounted in the center I had the brilliant idea that I could pull it out and put other controls in its place. That idea worked and allowed me to swap in different joysticks, spinners and other controls. Buttons and other things needed for the games never lined up quite right and the cost of trackball mounting plates was adding up. It also became clear that the panel was too big and confusing.

Control panel with trackball


8 way joystick


Ultimarc Spinner


Ugly? you betcha.

Instead of the “one panel will play them all” approach I decided to go modular and make a control panel that would allow me to emulate the control layout of the original games better. I still wouldn’t be able to play every game but I could get closer to a lot more.

Process
Realize that I wasn’t trying to emulate every arcade control panel
Identify the games that I wanted to play and have on the machine.
Remove any games with complicated layouts / specialized controls. Save these for later.
Analyze the layouts of the control panels.

Number 1 is a liberating moment. With the need to do everything out of the way I was able to concentrate on getting 75% of the games right.  I went through the list of MAME games and came up with less than 65 games that I would play regularly.  The classics would be a priority. I also decided that I wouldn’t try to have 3 and 4 player controls.

Games with control panels that were unique or complicated were removed. This included Defender but luckily I have two original Defender cabinets.  Other games I will have to come back to later.

Design Goals
Emulate the layout of the original control panels as closely as possible.
Minimize the number of modules used at any one time.
Make it the same dimensions as the existing Midway control panel on my cabinet.
Keep things simple.
Make it look cool.

I knew I couldn’t get everything in the right spot but if things were close enough most people wouldn’t notice or care. This lead to design goal 2. I didn’t want to have to use a lot of modules/panels for a game. This would keep down the number of vertical seams which I find distracting.

I analyzed the control panels of the games on my list and saw that I could replicate most of them using a modular control panel that was divided into 3 panels.  A large number of games have a joystick/spinner/trackball in the center of the panel and a bank of buttons on the left and the right.  A review of what others have built and some time with SketchUp and I had a preliminary design.  The size of the panels was dictated by the largest controller I needed to use.  That was the trackball.  I started off with a Happ 3” trackball but moved to an Ultimarc one.  The panel would have to be 7” x 7” so the height of each panel would have to be 7”.  I would use a frame that could fit 3 - 7” x 7” panels in it.



This looks promising.  I’m going with it.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2017, 10:46:56 pm by GearHead »

Drnick

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Re: Modular Control Panel
« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2017, 02:12:22 pm »
Looking forward to seeing how this one develops.  There is a thread on here where someone did similar with swappable panels,  If you haven't seen it I'm sure someone will link to it in a bit. 


Mike A

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Re: Modular Control Panel
« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2017, 02:17:42 pm »
It would be much simpler to just make swappable control panels.

PL1

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Re: Modular Control Panel
« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2017, 02:30:04 pm »
There is a thread on here where someone did similar with swappable panels,  If you haven't seen it I'm sure someone will link to it in a bit.
There have been several modular builds.

Doc's Modular MAME - http://www.beersmith.com/mame/

Modified Doc's Modular - https://web.archive.org/web/20080609222452/http://wiki.arcadecontrols.com/wiki/Modified_Doc's_Modular

Ghost in the Machine - http://forum.arcadecontrols.com/index.php?topic=75411.msg784913#msg784913
https://web.archive.org/web/20150507040017/http://wiki.arcadecontrols.com:80/wiki/The_Ghost_in_the_Machine

Velcro Based Modular Panel (used in Ghost in the Machine) - https://web.archive.org/web/20160416192720/http://wiki.arcadecontrols.com:80/wiki/Velcro_Based_Modular_Panel


Scott

Laythe

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Re: Modular Control Panel
« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2017, 06:26:45 pm »
I like this.

It'll slow you down switching games, but the games will be more right.

I'd suggest some kind of rack to store the panels, inside the machine.

GearHead

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Re: Modular Control Panel
« Reply #5 on: September 06, 2017, 08:16:37 pm »
I definitely thought about using swappable panels.  The downside of that is the cost of the multiple controls but don’t count them out yet.  I’m trying to catch up on posting things before the madness of the start of school so here’s my next update.  Fast forward a few weeks….


Once the basic concept was in place I needed to work on how the panels would attach to the control panel. Lot’s of interesting projects out there. After looking at Doc’s modular design I wanted to come up with something clever and innovative or use his method.
http://www.beersmith.com/mame/controls.htm

I had lots of ideas but they all complicated the design. They needed more hardware, more machining and more time. True to my goals I went back to a simple design.  I usually stick with playing one game for a long time. Sometimes Missile Command will be the only thing I play for a week. Given this I don’t anticipate having to swap out controls often and don’t need to do it with the speed of an Indy 500 pit crew.  Screws will work. I’ll get a cordless screwdriver to make things go faster. The panel will have more of an industrial look to it. I also decided that the 1 and 2 player start buttons would be on the frame with some admin buttons (these ended up being removed later). No need to have separate panels for P1 and P2 buttons.

Here’s my second attempt at designing things.




My first frame design was to have a piece of plywood under the control panel with a lot of t-nuts.



Then I found telengard’s modular design...
https://bsturk.github.io//mame/controls.html

His design is pretty much what I was looking to do except for his panels are fabricated of metal. He even has 7” high panels. The most genius part of his design is the use of rack equipment rails to screw the panels to. They work perfectly with panels in increments of 1.75 inches. Using them saved me a ton of time and allows me to use smaller sized panels if needed.  Lots of inspiration and ideas from projects on this forum. I am continually impressed by what people have done.

After much work on my CAD designs I gave up on SketchUp for this project.  It frustrated me too much when it came to placing things accurately.  I switched to AutoCAD LT.  So much happier.  I spent a lot of time measuring joysticks and laying out panels. I nailed down the dimensions and have designs for panels for

8/4 way Joysticks
4 way diagonal joysticks
Williams 2 way joysticks
Trackballs
Spinners  (Ultimarc and QuickSpin)
Fighter game 8 way joystick with 7 buttons

Full size panels with 1 (centered and offset) , 2 and 3 buttons
Half size panels with 1 (centered and high/low) and 2 buttons.

Full size, half size and one quarter size blank panels.

Control panel frame with fewer admin buttons.

This project required precision that I couldn’t deliver so I decided to have things cut out on a CNC router.  Here’s my final file that got used with the CNC.  I also have a Joust panel in there for my Defender Multi-Williams project.  Luckily a friend owed me a lot of hours on his machine.




The panels were cut from Baltic Birch plywood.  Everything needed some sanding, squaring off of inside corners, priming and painting.



I used original Kilz primer with a small roller to fill in the grain and create a texture. The texture will hide a lot of imperfections in the finish. After priming there’s no need for sanding. I used Rustoleum Gloss Black Hammer Finish paint on top.

Panels with their first coat of paint.


The frame went together quickly.  I hit it with multiple coats of Gloss Clear.  To mount the rack rails I screwed down 3 panels and then fitted it into the frame. 4 screws from the back secured it but I also added 4 holes through the frame for more strength.  Microswitch 1 and 2 player buttons for the moment.  I may go with leafs later. Slot cut and t-molded. Panel hold downs screwed in.  Fits my Midway cabinet’s control panel box nicely.  Looking good.

Bottom view of the control panel frame.  I'll probably add some bracing at some point.






Panels fit in nicely. I'm still not sure which screws I'll end up using. 


Not too shabby so far. Things are defintely looking better than I thought they would.  Next up - more painting.






talkgeek

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Re: Modular Control Panel
« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2017, 10:18:26 pm »
...looking good, love the approach!

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barrymossel

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Re: Modular Control Panel
« Reply #7 on: September 08, 2017, 05:23:38 am »
Really nice idea. :)

GearHead

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Re: Modular Control Panel
« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2017, 05:53:28 pm »
One of the project goals was to make things look cool. An all black panel wasn't doing it for me so this meant coming up with some graphics and adding some color.  Printing an overlay for each panel wasn’t practical and the panels were no longer smooth so it was time for some stencil work. I’m better with a computer than an Exacto knife.  After some kicking around a bunch of ideas I ended up buying a Silhouette Cameo 3 cutting machine. It'll be useful on some other projects I have going so I am rationalizing buying that way...



To create the stencils I went back to AutoCAD.  I did a few sketches and came up with some designs that used simple geometric shapes and arcs.  The Cameo’s software, Silhouette Studio, can import DXF files so I saved each color’s stencil to a DXF file. 

Warning - Silhouette Studio has some quirks when importing AutoCAD DXF files!!! For those of you who might use it make sure you read this.  I used version 4.1.201ss. Hopefully they have fixed these issues.

1. Silhouette Studio will import the file and scale the image. It will not be the same dimensions you originally drew it in. You think the image is the right size but it isn’t.  I got around this by always having a bounding box around the design, in this case it was the 7” x 7” panel box.  Open up the DXF file, select all (CTRL-A) , group the objects (CTRL-G), lock the proportions and then type in the correct size for one of the edges. Then ungroup the objects (Right click - ungroup).

2. Objects create with the ARC command in AutoCAD don’t show up correctly in Studio. The endpoints are ok but the path is distorted.  I have not been able to resolve this problem.  The manufacturer’s support folks emailed me and told me “Unfortunately we will not be able to help you with that because the file is original created in a program we are not familiar with.”

People recommended using plastic dividers for 3 ring binders for stencils. They are stronger and less expensive than regular stencil material.  They are also reusable.  I used ones that I picked up at the local Dollar Tree. You get 8 in a pack for a dollar.  You just have to cut off the tabs and they are good to go.



I kept the mounting holes on each panel stencil. I used them as indexes to align the stencils on the panel.  Insert some screws in the holes in the panel through the bottom, spray some Krylon Easy-Tack on the stencil, wait a bit and then align and apply the stencil.  Remove the screws and mask the holds.  Ready for paint.

Stencil for 4 way joystick


Aligning the stencil using the mounting holes and screws


I am trying out a blue & gray color scheme.  Added some yellow to a few of the panels.  I also looking at red, orange and yellow.  I am hoping for a unified and colorful look, even with multiple panels.  Still experimenting with designs and colors. I am getting better than expected results. 




Second colors and some got a third color.  All of them get hit with a couple coats of clear.


Painted Panels










Had time to mount a few things.








chris77

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Re: Modular Control Panel
« Reply #9 on: September 11, 2017, 02:27:36 am »
wow! love the project and the art  :applaud:  :cheers:

cheers
Chris
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GearHead

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Re: Modular Control Panel
« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2017, 01:43:22 am »
I mounted up some more controls and played around with some configurations to see what works.  I might make some new designs but I am pretty happy with most of the results. There are a few combinations of panels that look a little funky but overall things look good.  Still working with what button colors to use.  I didn't screw the panels down for most of the pics.

I have a lot of flexibility in putting controls together.  Control panels won't be 100 percent accurate. Spacing will be a little different but the overall layout of most of the configurations will be good. Everything will be a lot closer than my original FrankenPanel.

Wiring is nextt. 


Wico 8 Way



Mag-Stik+



Happ Rotational



Happ 4 Way from Tornado Terry







Robotron layout with Wico 8 Ways



Using the smaller blank panels you can get closer to the 10" original Robotron spacing between joysticks



4 Way - Pac Man etc.



4 Way Diagonal for Qbert



Various 2 Way configurations











Joust



Tapper. 



Tempest



Spinner



I had some Happ 8 Ways around - for when the Wicos aren't quite right.







Centipede



Missile Command - I have some Atari Cone Switches around somewhere.  I might make a button panel for them.



Asteroids










Home brew Up/Down spinner with Flightstick

















ugleymatt

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Re: Modular Control Panel
« Reply #11 on: September 22, 2017, 07:39:53 pm »
Wow, just wow. What an amazing job!

n3wt0n

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Re: Modular Control Panel
« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2017, 11:46:12 pm »
cool stuff!

Jimbo

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Re: Modular Control Panel
« Reply #13 on: Today at 06:30:29 am »
Wow!! Subscribed!  :applaud:

  
 

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