arcade button matrix/control panel

I got an arcade machine, but it had a really crappy control panel.  I decided to make a better one (and I did an OK job for a first try).  The first thing was to come up with a template for buttons, joysticks, and my trackball.  I decided how much overhang I wanted on the control panel and how much curve I wanted in the buttons.  I don’t have a process for this, it is a matter of preference.  When laying out the controls think about what games you might want to play.  I hardly ever play fighting games, but I like neo geo very much.  I went with 2×3 buttons because that has a wide usefulness in games and doesn’t look too crowded.  There are still some games that I will only be able to play single player but that’s for reasons like smash tv or robotron 2084.  Once I decided a keep out zone around the edge of the control panel I picked an arbitrary curve for the front.  I could spend forever in CAD making it exactly something, but there isn’t a standard to build to so I just went ahead and laid it out mostly by eye.

Traditional arcade machines use all sorts of materials, but 3/4″ MDF is very common.  It’s eady to get, uniform in consistency, super shitty, flakes like cardstock, soaks water like a sponge, and is heavier than plutonium.  That all being granted, I used it anyway.  After getting some correctly sized hole saws I drilled all the button holes and the holes for the joysticks and trackballs.

oops, those carriage bolts should be under the plexi

The acrylic got a coat of black paint on the underside (so it wouldn’t chip) and so did the MDF (in case it does).  The outside of the control panel has been routed with a 1/16″ slot cutting bit so I could fit it with t-molding.

With all the hardware mounted I installed the buttons and ignored the concept of crimp connectors.  Solder everywhere!  For use with a non-ghosting matrix these buttons heed diodes.  Put simply the matrix can flow current both ways if more than one button is pressed, but these diodes block that so by scanning the matrix I can detect and be sure that every button is pressed at once.

The whole thing is wired together and hooked up to a knock-off arduino micro from ebay.  This is my favorite usb emulating microcontroller, and today it is playing the role of a keyboard thanks to soarer’s firmware as seen in my previous projects.  The matrix config I use is here.

As you can see this was done before I had a laser to cut things exactly.  the right buttons don’t arc like the left, the trackball is off center, and the carriage bolts go through the top sheet.  All in all I’m not a huge fan, but it works.

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