Well, well, what have we here? It’s only a long overdue Robotron update. For those that have waited tolerantly for this next installment, I can only say ‘thank you’, you have the patience of Simon Templar, himself. For those that have randomly stumbled across this blog for the first time having googled to try and find an answer to why the new William’s F1 build is so slow, or indeed to find out who Robot Ron, really is, then I warmly welcome you too, and hope you can stick around.
If this is your first visit, then you won’t know what we are on with, here. Essentially, it’s a scratch build of a fairly rare William’s Robotron arcade machine in the cabaret/midi upright cabinet. Click on this link to take you to the previous posts, where you can get up to speed, over your chosen hot beverage. For those, already familiar, and with a brew at hand, get ready to dunk your biscuit and read on.
I’ve just had a quick refresh of the last post on this build, oh my, August 2017. TWO THOUSAND AND SEVENTEEN!!! Really, where does the time go? Well, it goes on family, work and other stuff that (rightly) takes precedent over hobbies. But in my defence, I did spend some of this time converting my garage into a dedicated games room, which you can read about here, and inside which, the finished Robotron cabinet will look even more amazing.
So, quick recap; cabinet was pretty much complete, with almost all the woodwork finished. The surfaces were all prepped, primed and painted, and the control panel was finished. Ready for more? Then let’s go….
Unsurprisingly, with so much time having passed, I have been able to source all the required parts to finish the build. First up, a beautiful, burn free, 14 monitor and chassis (Hantarex Polo), sourced from a forum buddy and safely brought to a meet, by another forum user, where I was able to collect. To fix this monitor into the cabinet though, I was going to need to get back into the woodshed and fabricate a couple of parts. I needed a monitor shelf to support the monitor and some shelf supports to, erm, support the shelf.
The monitor shelf is essentially nothing more than square of solid wood, with the middle cut out to accept the monitor. However, with me being a perfectionist, I wanted it to fit snugly around the monitor which due to the slight curves, is not the easiest thing to accurately measure, but I got there in the end, with a couple of trial runs. The side supports are even more simple, just plain sections of wood, big enough to allow for sufficient adhesion/securing to the cabinet, without using bolts through the entire side of the cabinet, as seen in the likes of the Nintendo cabinets, which of course hold much larger, heavier monitors.
With these cut out from more 18mm mdf, it was just a case of securing the supports to the cabinet with screws and a grip adhesive; the monitor to it’s shelf, using some metal fixing plates bolted through the shelf and monitor lugs, and then sliding the shelf onto the support and securing in place with 4 screws. Remember, all of this will be hidden, when the cabinet is finished and being played.
With the monitor inside, almost immediately the cabinet turns from a simple wooden shell into an actual gaming machine, so keeping momentum going, I quickly fitted the chassis and neck board. I knew the monitor did not come with a frame to mount the chassis onto, when I bought it, and always figured on simply using small brackets to mount it to the side of the cabinet.
Next up, the quick and easy fitting of the 19in1 pcb to the other side of the cabinet. I’ve mentioned already in this thread and elsewhere on my blog, but I have considered differing options for supplying the game to this build, from original pcb, right through to a mame raspberry pi or pc set-up, and everything in between. There are pros and cons to all, which I won’t go over again here, other than to say, I am happy to leave the original boards for original cabinets, and for now, I going to use the fairly accurate emulation offered by the 19in1 pcb. In the future I may change up to a JROK board, we’ll see.
The 19in1 pcb is very small, compared to the original pcb, and at less than 6” square, simply attaches to the cab, using small pcb feet, to keep the solder side away from the cabinet.
Moving the focus back around to the front of the cabinet, you can see from the photo below, that a couple of integral parts are still to do.
First up is a further piece of wood that will fill the gap between the speaker shelf and the monitor shelf. This is a simple piece of cut mdf, primed and painted as before and fitted in place.
The second is the cardboard monitor bezel that sits between the monitor screen and the glass bezel above, which effectively hides all the fixings that you can see in the photo. This is one part that I had no real reference for, other than knowing from other cabinets how they look. So, it took a lot of trial and effort, with lots of discarded practice pieces made, adjusted, tweaked, before finally getting to something that my ocd was happy with.
The finished piece is cut from a single piece of mountboard and fits perfectly, but the real effect can be seen when the actual bezel graphic is fitted. I had originally intended on using glass for this, with artwork applied, however, Olly, who runs Arcade Art Shop, has recently bought some new equipment and developed the necessary hardware/software to enable direct reverse printing onto acrylic, with some utterly stunning results. So, the bezel and marquee were ordered.
To show just how much trial and effort was put into making the final cardboard bezel, here’s a photo of the ‘cutting room floor’…..
Pretty stuff put to one side, is was time to get back into the guts of the machine and start wiring in the loom, connecting everything to each other and the all important (and scary) mains voltage….
It is at this point that I should say, I am not an electrician, neither am I an experienced electronics expert. In fact, when it comes to this end of the hobby, I am still such a noob. But it is equally, an area that I really want to improve upon, so I have been reading up, both online and from books. I’ve been taking on some smaller (non-arcade) projects, just to start getting into understanding electrics and electronics, and as with most things, it is slowly starting to take hold and become a little familiar, if not (yet) fluent.
I think the most important thing is to understand where the dangers lie and what your limitations are, then safely look to expand your knowledge.
[Wow, that felt a little like a public safety announcement for a moment, don’t climb those electricity pylons to retrieve your bright orange frisbee, kids!!]
Back to the cab at hand, and it was time to introduce the power supply unit (PSU). I already had one, bought a while ago as a spare, when completing the Donkey Kong cabinet, and this is going to sit on the bottom shelf of the cabinet, wired to a fused switch at the rear of the machine.
To understand the switch, with my multi-meter set to continuity, I set about working out the inputs/outputs and drew myself the most rudimentary schematic diagram, ever drawn, ever, but which served as a useful diagram to ensure I wired up the switch and connected it up to the PSU correctly. I set this up on the work bench, just to check the wiring and voltages. Amazingly, it all worked and the lights didn’t go out in the main house!
It might be the most simplest of wirings, but it is neat, tidy and fully functioning.
With that done, it was simply a case of transferring it into the cabinet and securing the PSU to the base shelf.
You can also see a couple of other wires coming off the 12v/ground, which head up through the cabinet, to the marquee area where they power a very simple 99p Ebay bought, 30cm LED flexible strip, which I have simply mounted onto a bracket, behind where the marquee will sit.
The marquee itself is again supplied direct from Arcade Art Shop and as the bezel, is reverse printed directly onto the clear acrylic. Powering up the PSU, lights up the marquee and the artwork really starts to sing!
Also in this space of the cab is the speaker, which is a very standard Ebay bought 4” speaker, which screws straight over the grille cut out and has standard sized 6.3mm connectors, ready to connect to the jamma loom.
This really now just leaves connecting up the PCB to the monitor and the control panels. For both of these I need to use some larger molex connectors, which I didn’t have, but have ordered from Ebay and will await their delivery from the Far East where most things cost mere pennies.
Things really have taken shape within this update, transforming the wooden shell into an almost fully working cabinet. However, over the (many) months where this project stalled and other things took over, I have pondered over the colour that I chose for the silver base on each side. And essentially, I am not happy with it. I think I knew this all along, as I always wanted this to be a metallic silver, but after some unhappy testing using car paints, I moved away from this and used a flat silvery grey paint instead. And now, I know I’m not happy and with the care taken over the rest of the build, I need to get this right and with a lot of testing I now have found the paint that I should have used. So I intend to repaint the sides of the cabinet, which is no big deal, the prep is already done and it will simply be painted directly on top of the old surface.
Then it will be time to bite the bullet and get the stencilling side art applied and painted. This is a one chance gig though, on something that I have never done before and probably the reason why I have left this part so long, but at least it has allowed me the chance to repaint the sides.
But the momentum is back, and although there is still a bit to do, with the scary monitor and stencils, I am determined to get it done, play some Robo and get started on the many other Projects that I have planned for 2019.
Please come back and join me, soon (I promise), for the next installment, we have come along way from some sketchy drawings in Part 1, and the next update will be the best (or worst) of them all. Fingers crossed.
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Thank you for taking the time to read through, see you all next time.