Project 04: Computer-Controlled Machining

Materials and Ideas

After receiving ShopBot training from Tom, a number of us decided we wanted nicer wood, so we rented the Media Lab van and went on an excursion to Home Depot. I ended up getting a nice sheet of 4" x 8" x 0.5" plywood.

I knew early on that I wanted to make an arcade cabinet for my video game "Flappy Joust" (a two-player, one-button variant of a game I created to be played in large public events called Chirp Club). Given that the wood I was using, while relatively inexpensive, was still coming out of my research group's budget, I decided to make a small cabinet that rests on top of a tabletop, rather than a full-sized standing arcade cabinet.

I next went onto an arcade parts provider and ordered a few arcade pushbuttons. Specifically, I ordered Suzo Happ concave longstem pushbuttons with Cherry D44X switches. Pretty much any American commercial arcade game made in the late 80s through the present uses Happ components (they merged with Suzo to become Suzo Happ in 2005). While professional competitive fighting game enthusiasts prefer convex buttons of Japanese manufacture, for the purposes of this project I knew I wanted buttons that evoked the feel of classic American arcade games.

The Cherry D44X switches I purchased were to this end as well; throughout the 90s, that was the switch that came bundled with every Happ button. Suzo Happ changed switch providers a few years ago, but the site I purchased from let me upgrade to classic Cherry switches for around ~$1 per button/switch pair.

Beyond that, the only components the project needed were a computer to drive the game and a monitor to display it. I purchased a Raspberry Pi 2, knowing that it was both powerful enough to run the JS-based game and would make wiring up the buttons directly to the GPIO pins very easy. I also found a monitor lying around in the Media Lab's electronics reuse area.

Modeling in Antimony

All of those pieces in place, I set out designing a model in Antimony. While I looked at a few similar tabletop cabinets online for design inspiration, most of the dimensions were chosen basically through intuition, back-of-the-envelope calculations, and poking around with a ruler and pen. on the wood. The cabinet had: