MAME Cabinet

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MAME Machine

The goal for this project is to fabricate an arcade cabinet for a MAME machine. This could be the beginning of a Lowell Makes Arcade. This could definitely be a selling point with new members.

Preliminary Design

  • The aracde machine size would be dictated by the size screen we put into it.
  • There are many tutorials online that go into building cabinets in great detail.

Parts and Materials

I'm keeping a running list of the parts purchased thus far in this Google spreadsheet.

Things we still need to source:

  • Play screen
  • Panels, perhaps adorned with Lowell Makes insignia
  • Paint

The Screen

The screen size dictates the placement of the monitor shelf, to ensure even bezels on all sides. The instructions yielding a cabinet that is 20" wide internally. Assuming a 4:3 aspect ratio, that means we'll be ideally looking for a screen that is 25" on the diagonal. We are also limited to about 24" clearance from front-to-back of the monitor, due to the depth of the cabinet at that point.

If we assume that we are going to be going with nothing less than the largest screen possible, we can resume the process of constructing the cabinet, based on a monitor height of 15".

Keyboard Encoder

I (Keith) went ahead and ordered an I-PAC2 from Ultimarc. Based on my reading this seems to be the go-to encoder for DIY cabinet builders. It has room for 32 inputs, which should cover our needs. The board itself has PS/2 outputs but comes with a PS/2-to-USB cable. We should be able to simply wire our controls to these inputs and get USB keyboard commands out of it.

The silkscreen on the thing indicates the default controls (8 buttons, 4 directions, coin and start per 2 players) but it looks like there's also a means to rebind them as necessary. It's also all just keyboard commands so we should be able to configure the games to accept whatever we throw at it.

I also tested this with the Raspberry Pi, hooked up to a single button. It seems to work exactly as advertised.

Task List

  • Source materials and initial design.
  • Source T-molding
  • Construct cabinet
    • Cut panels, siding, and ledger boards
    • Route/dado cut base slot
    • Construct base
    • Attach monitor shelf
    • Attach all ledger boards
    • Construct speaker area
    • Slot-route sides and control panel for T-molding
    • Bevel cut panels for butt-jointing
  • Design control panel
  • Construct control panel
    • Keith to buy 1 1/8" Forstner bit to cut button holes
    • Cut top panel to size
    • Cut remaining side and bottom panels
    • Slot route for T-molding
    • Paint
    • Wire controls to IPAC and Pi
  • Test control panel and monitor, outside of cabinet
  • Design painting scheme
  • Paint cabinet


Mike had a fascinating idea to use layered cut plexiglass on the side panels, illuminated via fibre optics, to show animations.