3D Print Your Way To A Bartop Arcade Cabinet

Custom arcade machines have always been a fairly common project in the hacker and maker circles, but they’ve really taken off with the advent of the Raspberry Pi and turn-key controller kits. With all the internals neatly sorted, the only thing you need to figure out is the cabinet itself. Unfortunately, that’s often the trickiest part. Without proper woodworking tools, or ideally a CNC router, it can be tough going to build a decent looking cabinet out of the traditional MDF panels.

But if you’re willing to leave wood behind, [Gerrit Gazic] might have a solution for you. This bartop arcade, which he calls the simplyRetro D8, uses a fully 3D printed cabinet. He’s gone through the trouble of designing it so there are no visible screw holes, so it looks like the whole thing was hewn from a chunk of pure synthwave ore. He notes that this can make the assembly somewhat tricky in a few spots, but we think it’s a worthy compromise.

Given the squat profile of the simplyRetro, the internals are packed in a bit tighter than we’re accustomed to seeing in a arcade build. But there’s still more than enough room for the Raspberry Pi, eight inch touch screen HDMI panel, and all the controls. To keep things as neat as possible, [Gerrit] even added integrated zip tie mount points; a worthwhile CAD tip that’s certainly not limited to arcade cabinets.

[Gerrit] has included not only the STL files for this design, but also the Fusion 360 Archive should you want to make any modifications. There’s also a complete Bill of Materials, as well as detailed instructions on how to pull it all together. If you’ve ever wanted your own arcade machine but felt a bit overwhelmed about figuring out all the nuances on your own, the simplyRetro could be the project you’ve been waiting for.

Of course if you do have access to a CNC or laser cutter, then there are some designs you could produce quite a bit faster.

An Arcade Cabinet With Displays To Spare

We’ve all got a pretty good mental image of what an arcade cabinet looks like, so you probably don’t need to be reminded that traditionally they are single-screen affairs. But that idea dates back to when they were built around big and bulky CRT displays. Now that we have modern LCD, LED, and OLED panels, who says you have to follow the old rules?

That’s precisely the sort of out of the box thinking that lead [Al Linke] to build this unique multi-display arcade cabinet. The game itself is still played on a single screen, but several smaller sub-displays are dotted all around the cabinet to indicate various bits of ancillary information. Are they necessary? Hardly. But we can’t deny it’s a clever idea, and we wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing something similar in other DIY cabinets.

The build started with a commercially available cabinet from Arcade1Up, which at this point are popular enough that some of the Big Box retailers have them in stock. All of the electronics except for the display were stripped out, and replaced with a Dell OptiPlex 9020 computer and high-quality joysticks and buttons. [Al] then installed his various displays all over the cabinet, including a gorgeous LED marquee that we’ve featured previously.

So what do all these little screens do? [Al] explains them in the video after the break, but the general idea is that they provide contextual information about the game you currently have loaded up. A two-color OLED display shows the name of the game and what it’s rated, while a seven segment LED display shows the year the game was released. The displays are located both by the controls and where you’d expect the coin slot to be, so whether you’re actively playing or across the room, you can see all the information.

We’re always amazed to see how builders find ways to make their own personal arcade cabinets stand out. While it’s an idea that at this point we’ve seen quite a lot of, no two projects have ever been quite the same.

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A Custom Raspberry Pi 4 Arcade Cabinet

Over the years we’ve covered quite a few Raspberry Pi based arcade cabinets, and admittedly many of them have been fairly similar. After all, there’s only so much variation you can make before it stops looking like a traditional arcade machine. But even still, we never tire of seeing a well executed build like the one [Dawid Zittrich] recently shared with us.

These days you can order a kit that has pre-cut panels to build your cabinet with, but looking for a completely custom build, [Dawid] decided to first model his design in SketchUp and then cut out the panels himself with a jigsaw. This obviously is quite a bit more work, and assumes you’ve got sufficient woodworking tools, but we think the final result looks great. Not to mention the fact that it’s going to be a lot stronger than something made out of MDF.

He also created the side artwork himself, taking the logos and names from his favorite arcade and Amiga games and putting them on a retro-looking gradient pattern.  The marquee on the top has an acrylic front and is illuminated from behind with strips of LEDs. It’s mounted on a hinge so that it can be lifted up and a new piece of art slid in without taking apart the whole cabinet. While it might be a little more labor intensive to switch out than some of the electronic marquees we’ve seen, we do like that you still have the ability to change the artwork on a whim.

With the cabinet itself completed, [Dawid] turned his attention to the electronics. Inside you’ve got the aforementioned Raspberry Pi 4 (with a Noctua fan to keep it cool), an external hard drive, a HDMI to VGA converter with scanline generator to drive the 4:3 ratio Eizo Flex Scan S2100 monitor, and a rather beefy amplifier hanging off the Pi’s 3.5 mm analog audio output. All of which is easily accessible via a maintenance hatch built into the cabinet so [Dawid] doesn’t need to tear everything down when he wants to tweak something.

If you’d like to have that arcade cabinet feel but don’t have the space and equipment to put something like this together, you could always stick a Raspberry Pi into an iCade and call it a day.

Swapping The ROMs In Mini Arcade Cabinets

You’ve probably seen a few of these miniature arcade games online or in big box retailers: for $20 USD or so you get scaled-down version of a classic arcade cabinet, perfect for a desk toy or to throw up on a shelf as part of your gaming collection. Like any good Hackaday reader, you were probably curious about what makes them tick. Thanks to [wrongbaud], we don’t have to wonder anymore.

Over the course of several blog posts, [wrongbaud] walks readers through the hardware and software used in a few of these miniature games. For example, the Rampage cabinet is using a so-called “NES on a Chip” along with a SPI flash chip to hold the ROM, while Mortal Kombat is using a Genesis emulation solution and parallel flash. It wouldn’t be interesting if they didn’t throw you a few curves now and again, right?

But these are more than simple teardowns. Once [wrongbaud] gives an overview of the hardware, the next step is reading the respective flash storage and trying to make sense of the dumped data. These sort of games generally reuse the hardware among a number of titles, so by isolating where the game ROM is and replacing it, they can be made to play other games without hardware modification. Here, this capability is demonstrated by replacing the ROM data for Rampage with Yoshi’s Cookie. Naturally it’s one of those things that’s easier said than done, but it’s an interesting proof of concept.

The Mortal Kombat cabinet is a newer addition to the collection, so [wrongbaud] hasn’t progressed quite as far with that one. The parallel flash chip has been dumped with the help of an ESP32 and a MCP23017 I/O expander, and some Genesis ROM headers are identifiable in the data, but there’s still some sifting to be done before the firmware structure can be fully understood.

Even if you’re not in the market for a diminutive arcade experience, the information that [wrongbaud] has collected here is really phenomenal. From understanding protocols such as I2C and SPI to navigating firmware dumps with a hex editor, these posts are an invaluable resource for anyone looking to get started with reverse engineering.

LEDSpicer Is An Open Source Light Controller For Your Arcade Machine

In this day and age of cheap and easy emulation, it’s more tempting than ever to undertake a home arcade cabinet build. If you want to show off, it’s got to have a light show to really pull the crowds in. To make that easier, [Patricio] put together a software package by the name of LEDSpicer.

The project came about when [Patricio] was working on his Linux-based MAME cabinet, and realised there were limited software options to control his Ultimarc LED board. As the existing solutions lacked features, it was time to get coding.

LEDSpicer runs on Linux only, and requires compilation, but that’s not a huge hurdle for the average MAME fanatic. It comes with a wide variety of animations, as well as tools for creating attract modes and managing LEDs during gameplay. There are even audio-reactive modes available for your gaming pleasure. It’s open source too, so it’s easy to tinker with if there’s something you’d like to add yourself.

It’s a great package that should help many arcade builders out there. LEDs can be used to great effect on a cabinet build; this marquee is a particularly good example. Video after the break.

[Thanks to Guillermo for the tip!]

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Arcade1up Cabinet Solderless Upgrade With A Side Of Raspberry Pi

Upon announcement of the Arcade1up replica arcade cabinets earlier this year, many laid in waiting for the day they could see a teardown. A four foot tall cab with an LCD outputting the proper 4:3 aspect ratio and the simple construction of IKEA furniture certainly seemed appealing. In theory, it wouldn’t take long to customize such a piece of hardware provided the internals lent themselves to that sort of thing. Now that the cabinets are on store shelves, [ETA Prime] made a tutorial video on his method for upgrading the Arcade1up cabinet with a Raspberry Pi calling the shots.

The entirety of the mod is solder-free and uses plenty of readily available parts from your favorite online reseller. The brains of the operation is a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ running Emulation Station. The Arcade1up Street Fighter 2 cabinet’s less than stellar audio receives an upgrade in a 2x20W car audio amp, while the middling joysticks are swapped out for some more robust Sanwa-clone ball tops.

Since there is no “select/coin” button natively, [ETA Prime] added some and in the process replaced them all with beefier LED-lit 30mm buttons. The replacement joysticks and buttons were all part of a kit, so they plug-in conveniently to a plug and play USB encoder. To adapt the 17″ LCD’s output over LVDS, [ETA Prime] elected to go with an LCD controller board that outputs DVI, VGA, or HDMI. Luckily the Arcade1up cabinet’s 12V power supply could be reused to power the LCD controller board and in the process bring down the overall cost of the upgrade.

While this Arcade1up cabinet mod won’t solve the whole “bats versus ball tops” argument, it does provide a template to build on. The tutorial video is below and the list of parts used can be found in the YouTube description.

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Bartop Arcade Cabinet Build Skips The Kit

An arcade cabinet is one of those things that every gamer wants at home, but few ever get. Getting a real arcade cabinet is usually expensive, and building one yourself is no small feat. There are kits you can get now which help the process along, generally taking the form of pre-cut cabinet parts, but with them comes the quiet shame of kit-building. What if your friends found out you used a kit instead of designing it yourself? The drama is almost too much to think about.

That’s how [Bogdan Berg] felt about it, at least. Not content with just getting a pre-cut cabinet kit from eBay, he decided to design and build his own bartop arcade machine in just one week: fast enough for him to fit the whole thing into his Christmas vacation. We don’t know what Christmas was like for his friends and family this year with him toiling away on this beautiful build the whole time, but we can confidently say his Christmas was awesome.

He designed the cabinet in Fusion 360, working around the limitation that the laser cutter he had access to had a work area of 24 inches by 18 inches. Some interesting design choices were made here, including going with a tab and slot construction method. While [Bogdan] admits that this aesthetic isn’t always popular, he liked how sturdy it makes the final product.

He was originally going to use plywood for the cabinet, but owing to the fact that he couldn’t find any pieces that weren’t warped locally, he switched over to MDF. Using MDF did mean he had to seal all the cut pieces with shellac before painting, but in the end he’s happy with the final lacquer paint job; even if it did take more work and materials than he anticipated.

The hardware is pretty much the standard for DIY arcades these days: a 17 inch LCD monitor he had laying around is used for the display, a two player joystick and button kit from Amazon provides the user interface, and emulation is provided by a Raspberry Pi 3 running RetroPie. A recessed door in the rear allows him to get into the machine will still maintaining a finished look on the backside.

While the size of them may vary wildly, DIY arcade cabinets are always a popular project. Whether shamelessly emblazoned with our logo or playing host to glorious LED lighting, it seems like the design of these cabinets provide as much entertainment as the games they play.

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