RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Nov 15th 2015 at 01:00:00 PM by (wildbil52)
Posted under Arcade, Games

It has been a long and interesting process.  I learned a lot and I am very happy with the final product.  Let me show you how I put all of the pieces together

It was bound to happen sooner or later.  My first big blunder.  It's OK, I fixed it.  I feel dumb though.  When I cut the hole for the trackball, I placed the housing on the panel exactly where it would fall on the final piece and dropped 4 screws through the mounting holes to mark the spots for me to drill.  Now that I place the trackball under the CP in the recess, it's totally not centered...

This happened because the hole I drilled was ever so slightly lower than where it should have been.  Lesson learned.  Next time I will drill the hole for the trackball, install the trackball, center it with the trim and THEN trace the recess  under the panel.  Not a huge deal, all I had to do was route out a little more of the recess so the trackball housing could slide up a little and we're all square.

Now it's time to install the Tee-Nuts.  I don't think I've talked about why I wanted to use Tee-Nuts or what they are.  Arcade buttons only require a hole the size of the button to be drilled and a plastic nut holds the button in place.  No big deal.  For joysticks and other hardware, such as the clamps that hold the CP to the cabinet, you need something with a bit more strength.  A common solution for joystick mounting is carriage bolts.  Carriage bolt mounting requires 4 holes drilled through the control panel for each joystick.  It is sturdy but I didn't want bolts on top of my artwork, I wanted to have as little as possible on the control panel so I went with Tee-Nuts.  I started by drilling a small pilot hole and then using a forstner bit to counter sink the hole so the Tee-Nut would sit below the surface.  Since we don't want any of the screws to come up farther than the surface of the CP, I bought 3/4" long screws for the joysticks and they are able to catch the threads without coming up too high.  If you need to trim a screw down, the two methods I like are (1) winding a couple of nuts onto it, trim the excess with a dremel or similar tool, and then unscrew the nuts to de-bur the screw.  And (2) thread the screw into a crimping tool with a screw cutting slot and just slice it off and unscrew to de-bur.

Here is a Tee-Nut before it is mounted in the CP

And there they are hammered into place

So here is the finished and final top of the control panel with all of the Tee-Nuts installed:

Now it is time for the art.  Some control panels apply the art directly to the CP and then cover it with Lexan.  I decided to reverse it, I am placing the artwork on the Lexan and then placing that on top of the CP and then populating the panel with the controls.  This is personal preference, if you are designing a panel it is a matter of choice.  So here it is, the final artwork applied to the CP:

This control panel was designed by the talented Josh White with splendid artistic direction from myself.  I had a general idea of what I wanted to the art to look like and we went back and forth for a bit and settled on a spacey design with some cool purple weave looking control areas.  I love spacey cool blues and I asked Josh to incorporate purple to match the buttons and T-Molding I had purchased for the cabinet.  I think Josh did a great job.  The art was printed for me by Brad Bowman of Bowman Signs in Milford, CT.  Brad is a great guy who prints high quality artwork for arcade cabinets and pinball machines among other things.  Brad printed the art on high quality air release material and then laminated it by hand.  It feels incredible!

The last thing I have to do to the wood before the art is applied and the board populated is to cut the slot for the T-molding.  I bought purple T-Molding from T-molding.com and they threw in a couple feet of black T-Molding at no extra charge because they are awesome.  The T-Molding on the cabinet will be the same purple as the buttons, the T-molding on the front of the CP will be black.  When cutting the slot for T-molding on a cabinet, you usually want the slot to be centered so that the T-molding covers the entire edge.  In my case, though (and similar to many original Midway cabinets) I wanted the T-molding to extend over the edge of the top of the wood to be flush with the Lexan that the art is applied to so I need the slot to be closer to the top of the panel by about 1/8".  I will do a test cut on some 3/4" scrap to make sure I have the depth correct before slicing into my CP.  I ordered a Freud 1/16" slot cutting bit with arbor from routerbitworld.com and it worked perfectly.

The cut on the right is too close to center,  the cut on the left it just right.

Now that the T-Molding is installed, I can populate the buttons, joysticks, and trackball before drilling the small holes for the black screws that will hold the Lexan down around the edges.  If you don't care how your wiring looks in the end, don't worry about the orientation of your microswitches under the CP.  I, however, want my wiring to look AMAZING so I drafted up a wiring plan so that everything looks nice and clean when I'm done.

I think it would be a shame to pull off this beautiful CP and see a rat's nest of wires so I think the extra time is worth it.  Now to wiring.  There are a ton of posts on wiring arcade control panels so I'll just do a quick recap: Each button requires 2 connections: 1 for the function of the button, and 1 for ground.  Since every button can share the same ground terminal, those connections are simply daisy chained.  The rest of the connections are run to one of a few different places depending on your setup.  If you built the CP from scratch, all of your connections will go to your keyboard encoder.  This is the device that converts your button pushes to keystrokes on your PC. If you are using a machine previously wired to the JAMMA standard, like me, chances are you have  J-PAC.  I find myself with another choice...use the existing wire harness that came with my machine and just add the wires for the additional buttons OR re-wire the entire thing..

Yeah, I'm gonna re-wire the entire thing.  It will take more time but it will look better.  The plan is to use a multimeter on continuity mode to match the connections of the existing JAMMA harness to the new one I am wiring.  This is important so that all of the buttons end up mapped the same way if I ever want to fire up a JAMMA board instead of a PC.

Fair warning.  Wiring a board takes a long time. 

You can see from the wiring job that I deviated from the plan a little bit.  I did this to use less wire and to keep wire away from the underside edge to the right of the second player.  That area was too tight to have all of the wires routed that way.  I bought a MAME wiring kit from Twisted Quarter with crimp terminals for the microswitch side and I am using Molex KK connectors purchased from Great Plains Electronics to connect the CP wiring to both the existing JAMMA wiring as well as the new wires runs to the JPAC for Player buttons 1-4, and the ground connections.

You just have to label all of your connections.

Once that is done, strip a small amount of insulation away.  There are 4 "teeth" on the pins, 2 to grab the insulation and 2 to grab the wire strands. Make sure you strip enough away that the inside teeth can grib the wire but not too much so that the outer teeth can't grip the insulation:

Crimp the pin connectors on the end with a pin crimper:

And it will look nice and clean like this:

And then slide the pin into the Molex conenctor

Repeat for each connection.  The original board wiring had 2 connectors, one for player 1 and 1 for player 2.  Each had the connections for Up, Down, Left, Right, Start, 1, 2, and 3 so I mapped those out so my connections would match.  Then on the larger molex connector I added buttons 4, 5, 6, 7, coin, and ground for both players.  I left a few connections empty in case I want to add a few buttons in the future

There we go, all wired up and ready to play.  I had really hoped to have the machine ready and playable in time for my RFGen company visiting for RetroWorld Expo, but I wanted it to be done right, not fast.

I also plan to illuminate the trackball at some point.  I have a few choices.  I can either buy the ultimarc LED kit for their trackball for about $35 and only be able to illuminate the trackball OR I can buy an LED wiz from Groovy Game Gear and have the ability to illuminate the trackball as well as other buttons in the future.  As cool as illuminated buttons are, they are expensive.  Illuminated buttons costs between $6 and $8 EACH so to illuminate just my 14 player buttons would cost $85-$112.  I will most likely go the LED Wiz route to keep my options open in the future.

What did we learn?

I learned quite a bit from going through the process.  Here are a few key takeaways:

-Design the art using the panel layout that you want, have the art printed out, THEN cut your board based on the art.  This way your board will match your art 100% with no need to adjust.  By cutting the board first, when the art didn't line up, I had to adjust the art several times.

-The absolute best way to cut Lexan is to drill with a step bit or a very small bit and open it up with progressively larger bits until your router bit is large enough to fit and then flush trim it to your CP.  All other methods that I tested resulted in uneven holes and cracked lexan.  If you can't buy a router, borrow one.

-You cannot plan too much.  Buy the parts that you KNOW you want to use and lay out a mock panel first. If you don't know what you want, check out the MANY panel examples at byoac.com.

-Do not rush.  There were MANY times during the process that I could have taken a shorter route to be finished a little quicker, but the product will suffer in the end and a good CP is worth the wait.

-Don't wander around the house playing with your arcade parts because you will misplace your player 2 start button and have to order another one before you can take pictures for your RFGeneration blog post.

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Very nice, Bil!  I've been planning to rebuild my cp for a while now, and now I think I might just do that.  I don't think I'm ready for Lexan, but I do want to do graphics at the least, because your looks really nice. 

Thanks for sharing this experience with us.  I ended up learning a lot.
The final product looks great! I'm not sure that I would ever want to go through all the trouble to make one of these of my own, but I'd be happy to play yours the next time I make it out. Wink
Looks really nice Bil!  Is your crimping tool a ratcheting tool?  If not, and you do a lot of pinning, I'd suggest getting one. I got one off eBay really cheap and it is one of the best tool purchases I have ever made.
I'd be happy to cut some Lexan for you if you would be willing to ship the blank CP to me, bomba.

Thanks, Duke, it really was a lot more work than I thought it was going to be but mainly because I was learning things as I went.  The next one will be quicker.

Thanks, Rich.  No my crimper is not a ratcheting tool.  It was a cheapy that I picked up a few years ago to make custom Parallel cables.  PM me some details on the tool you use.
This has been a fun project to watch to completion.  I must say, though I'm an IT professional, I've never done much in the way of component-level stuff, and my soldering experience is almost zero, so this kind of project is more than a little intimidating.  Still, once I (eventually) have a house large enough to have a game room, I do plan on having at least one MAME/FB cabinet, and maybe a dedicated JAMMA type cabinet, if I can swing it.  This information will come in handy one day.

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