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DIY Bartop Arcade Cabinet Part II: Planning in 3D

Päivitetty: 7. tammik. 2021

A new holiday week, and finally some time to plan my Arttu Re^3 project! It's been a busy spring of iOS app development for me, so only after starting a delayed holiday two weeks ago I had enough spare time to continue planning how to put together a bartop arcade cabinet, running Commodore 64 emulator, and my Little Knight Arthur game. I used this sprint for modeling the cabinet in 3D and researching where to get or buy various parts I don't have yet.

A few weeks ago I received some more recycled material, namely two doors from an old cabinet, made of 15mm white MDF board that were lying around my father-in-law's storage room. These doors, sized about 45cm x 164cm (about 17.72in x 64.57in) have enough material for the cabinet frame. The laptop I am going to use is an old Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo model L7320GW, and it determines how much space I need inside the cabinet. I also received a couple of old acrylic sheets from a friend. These were scratched and pretty worn out, but maybe I can salvage enough good surface from them for my cabinet's top marquee, control panel, and the screen mask.

Old laptop running VICE C64 emulator, to be turned into bartop arcade.

Main component for the project: Old laptop, Windows replaced with Linux, and running VICE Commodore 64 emulator.

Mechanical Design Using SketchUp Make

During my holiday week I learned how to use SketchUp Make, a free 3D drawing program. My previous 3D experience helped. I had used a few professional 3D tools before, such as Softimage, and 3D Studio Max. SketchUp was smaller and easier to learn. After a few hours of learning the basics, I started drafting what would become the 3D model for Arttu Re^3 cabinet.

I found it best to first make a model of the laptop, roughly in the shape and size it would be when opened and placed within the cabinet. I iterated quite a lot with the side panel shapes, and eventually ended up with two slightly different alternatives.

For my final draft, I decided to go with the second one, for couple of reasons. First, I wanted rounded edges to help with placing the T-moulding around the edge. Second, I decided that I would place the laptop screen a bit deeper inside the cabinet to keep the screen in the shadow to avoid unwanted reflections on it. Finally, larger side panels allow a bit more room for artwork.

After a few days I had created enough detail in the model and solved its basic construction. SketchUp had 3D Warehouse, a library of pre-made 3D models, and this proved to be quite helpful, as I found arcade joystick and button component models from the library. Using these component models helped to make sure I had included enough space for the controls and the wiring between the control panel and the laptop chassis.

The Results: 3D Cabinet Model

Here's the current model, with some work-in-progress artwork.

Main controls are simple, there is joystick for moving, and three additional buttons for jumping, swinging the sword and parrying attacks using the shield. There is some room at the top of the control panel for smaller buttons, for functions such as start/pause game, selecting number of players, and turning music and sound effects on and off.

Here are additional pictures demonstrating how the cabinet is put together:

Side panel removed to show the laptop placed under control panel and behind the display mask panel. Two horizontal beams support the computer. The control panel can be opened by lifting it up around the hinge at the top end of the control panel, allowing access to joystick and button wiring, as well as the laptop keys and buttons. Once the cabinet has been assembled, the side panels won't be removable.

The insertion of the laptop is done by opening a back panel and sliding the computer in/out from back. The cabinet will have removable back panels from thinner, 2-3 mm material, hold in place by magnets.

The Amilo laptop has internal speakers, but if they turn out to be insufficient, additional speakers can be placed within the small upper compartment of the cabinet, which will also house a led strip for top marquee backlighting. Space under the laptop should be large enough for the power strip + power supplies, and maybe for a small amplifier.

Shopping around for parts

There are plenty of online stores stocking arcade supplies these days, so besides using recycled components and materials, I'm going to order good quality joystick and buttons. I actually have some old controls available, but they are parts of existing functional cabinets that I did not want to sacrifice for this project.. Currently, my plan is to buy the joystick, action buttons, wiring, USB control interface, and silver T-molding from Arcade World UK . For the smaller control panel buttons I'm planning nice illuminated ring buttons from Sparkfun.

As I did not want to make the cabinet any wider than necessary, I carefully measured the laptop and reserved about 2 cm on each side of the laptop. The spare space was necessary, as this particular Amilo laptop has power supply socket on the right side of the laptop chassis. I had lost the original power supply, and needed to get a spare one. I did have one compatible power supply that worked with the laptop, but unfortunately the power plug on that supply unit was not the most compact possible, and would require space about 3 centimeters wide. So I ordered a new PSU that had 90 degree angle plug from This PSU allows to squeeze the power cord within 2 cm gap, cutting 2 cm from cabinet width if I center the laptop within the cabinet. As the Amilo laptop is already quite wide, this solution helps to keep the width to a minimum. The L-shaped plug is also less likely to break as there is no need to bend the cable at the neck of the plug.

Next I'm going to use some more time drawing the artwork for the control panel, top panel and the sides. Looks like I'm going to need another free weekend or a day or two during next holiday for that task.


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