Galaga Arcade Cabinet

This project has been on my to-do list like forever. Over the last years I acquired a couple of tools and now I have a somewhat decent workshop. The Raspi 3 is there and quite powerful enough to run MAME. I even saved an old TV from the dumpster and had it sitting on the shelves for ages. So it was like now or never.

Motivation

Galaga Arcade Cabinet

I have a soft spot for 8-bit arcades. When I was a kid, maybe 13 or 14 (around 1980!), I was on a vacation with a good friend of the family. He was a truck driver and drove always from Germany to Italy and back. A trip usually took 4 to 5 days. So I was on a truck for a week, which felt really cool. We delivered some stuff to Bologna and a couple of more places. Then we drove back to Milan and we had to load arcade machines. I saw these for the first time. At least it felt like that. All machines where running. All coin doors were open! Somebody saw me standing in front of them with huge eyes and showed me how to trigger the switch to get credits for free. BAM! I was hooked.
I played Galaxian for 2 hours straight. As the truck was loaded and we had to leave, they had to peel me of the arcades!
The next couple of years I dumped a lot of coins (Deutsche Mark) into arcade machines and I got quite good at Galaga, BombJack and Gauntlet.

Then, ages later, I stumbled upon MAME, the Multi Arcade Machine Emulator and had fun digging up the old games. I even built a controller box to be able to play at least with proper joystick and buttons.

Then, 4 months ago I decided, that I should have all tools together, that are required to build a complete arcade cabinet. The required skills I would learn by doing, hopefully.

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Mach’s doch selbst!

Machs doch selbst

Last November I was part of a web documentary by arte.tv about makers and FabLabs and the like. It consists of 8 parts and deals with a couple of different aspects of the maker scene. Great work, thanks Adrien and team!

Simple stool

Simple stool

From time to time I enjoy simple and quick projects. It’s like taking a break from that other long running project. This simple stool took me around 4 hours to make. Best of all, it’ll never need to re-charge.

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Paint Machine

Thinking up robots and machines is one of my number one pleasures. Being able to realize them, tops everything. I added a couple of power tools to my small shop and as a result, my projects got bigger and more mechanical.
Here is my latest creature, the Paint Machine. It’s a machine the prints simple bitmaps with spray chalk on the street or sidewalk.

Some of the key features:

  • dimension: width: 220cm, length: 38cm, height: 24cm, weight: 12kg
  • printing speed: ca. 0.036 km/h
  • resolution (4:3): 61px * 46px, print: 225cm * 170cm
  • swappable print head
  • remote controlled with smartphone app

Paint Machine

I started working on this in April and built almost everything from scratch. A lot of time went in designing parts, trying them out and then re-designing them. Now I guess, it would require a lot less time to build a second one.

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Minimalist Marble Machine

I always loved watching marble machines, especially the creations of denha. These little machines are super cute and very well made. So a marble machine was on my todo list for a very long time.

Minimalist Marble Machine

To start easy, I decided to build the most minimalistic marble machine I could think of. Just one oval and a single lift mechanism.

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Halfbug

Since I started playing with electronics, I dreamed of building my own robot. Not buying a kit, but making every part of it myself. It took quite a while, almost 11 months, not full time, of course, but on and off, with smaller projects and work in between.

Last year I bought a small used lathe, then a small mill and beginning of this year, 2014, a ShapeOko 2 CNC mill. Every machine has it’s own rabbit hole. Hard to not get lost for a beginner like me. So many ways to screw up. I checked a couple.

halfbug

So here it is, my very first robot, halfbug. All parts are machined and manufactured by myself, not counting the Arduino board and the servos. Everything is screwed or clamped together without any glue.
Well, almost.

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Boring bar tool holder

Proxxon SD300

Last July I bought a small used lathe. It’s a Proxxon SD 300, also known as Hobbymat MD65 or as PRAZI Saupe/Unitech SD-300. It can hold pieces up to 300mm in length and weighs about 45kg. Why a lathe you ask? I wanted to do more mechanical stuff. 3D printers are fine and all that but I wanted something stronger. At least aluminum.

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Raspberry Pi with RGB-Pixels and node.js

This article is also available in Serbo-Croatian language by Vera Djuraskovic. Thanks Vera!

For quite some time I had my Raspi lying around. And some RGB Pixels as well. So it was about time to bring them together. The last couple of days I built a web interface that I can use to control my pixels. That’s more a technical demo, rather than something useful. But I learned quite a bit.

For the server part I decided to use node.js. For the client I wanted to use Angular.js and Bootstrap. To have the UI work on a mobile as well, I had to include Angular-touchevents.

The pixels are connected to the Raspi vi SPI. Although there are node modules for SPI and Adafruit pixels, they were not working out of the box. I had to poke around a bit to make them work. Changes are included in the node-pixel repository.

When put together, it works like this:

  • The browser opens index.html and renders an array of 25 clickable batches.
  • Clicking and dragging on a batch changes its color and lighting.
  • These changes are send to the server over web sockets.
  • The server receives the color changes, updates the pixels over SPI and then sends a broadcast via web sockets to all connected clients

Over all I’m quite pleased with the outcome. It works and the amount of code is rather small. And I learned to write tiny bits of javascript for the client and for the server. More fun than expected. Especially sending data over web sockets is nice and easy.
As seen in the demo, there is a very noticeable lag between updates. For a more pro solution you may want custom build clients and your own custom protocol (or maybe DMX?) to get rid of that.

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