Control Panel v1.5 : Decisions and Considerations

The 3d model and design of the unit is coming along quite nicely, I’m still figuring out how to use SketchUp. It’s a very powerful tool in addition to being user friendly, I’d definitely recommend trying it out if you are doing any woodworking projects, I won’t go into too much detail about the functionality of it as there are a bunch of great articles and tutorials already out.

In the previous post I had a list of stuff “still to do”

Stuff still to do 

  1. Make wooden sections rather than  a single block.
  2. Finalise dimensions.
  3. Create a bevelled socket for the joystick mounting plate so the top of the plate is flush with the top of wooden panel.
  4. Add output/input ports.
  5. Add USB hub.
  6. Add Start, Coin and Exit buttons
  7. Possibly introduce a fan into the design.
  8. Give the box some curves to make it look nicer. (not sure about this one anymore)
  9. Add some rubber pads on the bottom panel for grip.

Here are some exported pictures of the 3d model. Once its completed I will host the files on the SketchUp website as well as putting up some decent drawings on the blog, currently the design is based on a model by (which I highly recommend you check out). Looking at the design I’d like to make a few adjustments, such as moving the buttons from the back to the sides.

I decided that the best way to design this would to get straight into the 3d models, this way I can see how big the case needs to be and what considerations I need to take account of such as internal space/wiring/thermal issues.

Here’s the basic things to get started:

  1. Physical Size
    You need a rough idea about how big you want this to be. Think about how it will be used; is it going on a desk or will it be placed on your lap? This will steer you towards a thinner or thicker box respectively.
  2. Weight
    Although this box should not be overtly heavy, take this into account if you intend to use metal or heavy woods.
  3. Joystick and Button Layouts
    There are a huge variety of layouts, from perfectly straight to extremely curved to very spaced to extremely tight, this is all down to personal preference. I’d suggest that you go to a local arcade and try a few machines and see what takes your fancy.
  4. Input and Output Placement
    Designing the control panel in a software package is great as you can get a good feel for what to expect in the final product. Unfortunately, the real world results work out a bit differently. Take into consideration how easy or hard it will be to cut the slots into the material. In addition think about hardware placement, will it be possible to have direct outputs or will an extension need to be wired in. Essentially – how crowded are things going to be?
  5. Playability
    At the end of it all ask yourself how user friendly and enjoyable the final product will be to use? Every decision made ultimately has an effect on your enjoyment and use of your project. Using good quality materials, making good design decisions, and sacrificing features that are too complex or that detriment the rest of the controller will all add up, making or breaking your design and final product.Just to clarify, I’m not a qualified electronics product design engineer, take my “advice” with a pinch of salt 🙂

Anyway, back to the design! Before I started designing anything I took into account that I’m no carpenter, in fact, I’ve barely had any practical experience as a hobbyist. With this in mind, I started with a very practical and simple design, one that does not require expensive and possibly dangerous woodworking tools. Here’s some of the basic ambitions I have for this design :

  • Cheap to build
    Wood and perspex are actually quite cheap to build, I want to try and source as many providers as possible and hopefully get the best value and best quality product.
  • Easy & simple to build
    The building part shouldn’t require any hardcore or expensive tools, as I stated earlier. Just about everything should be doable with hand tools (where possible). If you’ve ever built flat-pack furniture then you probably understand the frustration that comes with complex designs. I want this to be smooth sailing from the start.
  • High build quality
    I want the control panel to last as long as possible, as well as feeling solid and being comfortable to use. This will require a bit more investment in the fittings and hardware to make sure it has the level of quality, design and comfort that I’m striving for.
  • Easy on the eye
    Some of the best projects can be easily ruined with over the top graphics, cheap and tacky materials and poor design.
  • Easy to disassemble
    This won’t be a requirement for everyone, but, as I intend to be able to use this control panel/joystick/raspberry pi arcade box for a variety of uses, then it’s essential that I have easy access to modify anything. Also, this makes fixing the unit easier.
  • Portability
    I’m mostly using light materials, and will attempt to fasten everything down inside the unit, it should be both strong and light – making it safe and easy to move around if needed.
  • Multi Purpose
    This one probably doesn’t have too much to do with the actual design of the external case but is still something that I need to take into account. The unit needs to have ports available for an external keyboard and mouse, power supply, ethernet cable and video/audio output.

I think that’s about it for the basics, although I could go into extreme detail I don’t think there’s much need to.

As a side note – thanks to everyone who’s checked out the blog since it started, I do appreciate the time taken to read my ramblings.


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