About this project
Need some good office desk swag? Miss the old days of those not-so-portable hand-held game consoles? Want to feel proud of building your own arcade cabinet without sacrificing the space? Need a home for your Raspberry Pi?
This is your dream.
The Porta-Pi is a desktop-sized arcade cabinet kit. The full kit includes all the parts (except the Raspberry Pi) and detailed instructions to have your own functioning mini arcade cabinet.
The HD FULL KIT will include:
- Laser Cut cabinet, ready to assemble. Approx 12"x9"x9" (HxWxD)
- 7" HD LCD screen
- (1) Commercial arcade joystick (micro-switch style)
- (10) Commercial arcade buttons and micro-switches
- Speakers with amplifier PCB (~6W, Stereo Class D)
- 16GB SD card with any software I can legally distribute
- The appropriate power cords and adapters for what's included.
- All misc wiring harnesses, connectors, and hardware.
***The Raspberry Pi is not included in any kits**
Why It's Awesome...
You get a well engineered kit that turns your Raspberry Pi (Model B 512MB recommended) into the complete arcade experience in a mini-sized, customizable, and hand crafted DIY arcade cabinet. Enjoy all the classic games in the form they were meant to be played on, built by you, customized by you, with all the head-aches engineered and solved by me.
Don't want to use a Raspberry Pi? No problem! The cabinet can accommodate small, older video game consoles. The joystick and buttons can be hard-wired to the console's controller turning it into a dedicated unit! Or, fit a mini-ITX motherboard inside and it becomes a super powered mini PC arcade!
Note: No games/ roms are included.
Easy assembly. All holes are pre drilled and the cabinet assembles like a giant puzzle with strong interlocking finger joints. A little glue is all you need!
The Porta-Pi Kit is in its late prototype phases.You can see its progress here at retrobuiltgames.com (and my other work). I want to share my passion with all the retro gamers, hackers, and DIY-ers out there, But I can't do it alone.
Why I need your support.
I've been building small sized arcade cabinets for a numbers of years, but mass-producing this wonderful kit has some challenges. Both due to the number of parts required and the advanced tools needed to cut the panels.
I will need to buy materials in bulk quantities (wood, arcade parts, wires, PCBs and more). There are many components to this kit, and bulk buys have big price tags, but also volume discounts.
I need your help to make this project achieve perfection!
The origins of the Porta-Pi started before the Raspberry Pi existed. It spawned from a hobby I’ve been doing since 2008- building table-top arcade cabinets, or MAMEs (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulators). Since I discovered emulators on the PC, I’ve been looking for an ‘authentic’ experience when playing my favorite retro games. One day in 2008 I decided to build a small arcade (about 30” tall and 20” wide) to house a Pentium III PC, monitor, and mount some controls. Why? Because it would be awesome. With a budget of $110, this is what derived:
It was crude, but its popularity at college hinted I was onto something. Over the next four years, every cabinet I built was a little better than the last. I developed more confidence in my wood working skills, designing, planning, and even painting!
Unfortunately, these cabinets didn’t have the follow through to match
the attention they received. The finished cabinets are roughly 1/3 the
size of tradition cabinets from the 80’s and 90’s. They received great
attention and admiration from the video game enthusiast community, but,
there remained a caveat: “I don’t have the space for that right now” or,
“It’s just out of my price range” was the feedback I got most. Size
and cost was still an issue preventing mass appeal.
I would agree. Not surprising enough, size was just as much as issue for me, since a one-bedroom apartment is not ideal to build an inventory upon, nor is a small vehicle great for moving these when they don't fit inside it.
Inspiration came from everywhere. Fun-sized candy bars, “smart” cars, and the general trend of consumer electronics was evidence that- smaller is better. I was convinced it can be done.
The Port-Pi begins its life.
In late 2011 I started experimenting with miniature-sized MAMEs. Keeping the original designed used for my larger cabinets, but scaled down 60%. Now, compared to traditional cabinets, this new concept measures at 1/8th the size; fun-size territory. I made my first model from cardboard, a 3” LCD screen, and a Plug-n-Play TV Pac-man game console.
I thought it didn’t look too ridiculous, So I refined the design and built the second model from wood.
It seemed feasible, but I had no clue how to produce this easily. I was
still pretty rough with wood working. Also, I wasn’t really pleased
with the “hack-ability” or quality of the TV Plug-n-Play devices.
Building a miniature cabinet around them felt like a miss-matched union
of my work and something I didn’t feel was up to par. So, nothing
happened after that.
Then 10 months ago I found out about the Raspberry Pi. The Pi Community was quick to put emulators on it. I soon followed. The tiny arcade cabinet was brought back to life! This time with a real system! I quickly built a proof-of-concept cabinet from ½” plywood (left over from a previous MAME project).
I took the Porta-Pi PoC to the Pittsburgh Mini-Maker Faire in August. It was a huge hit! The feedback and praise was incredible! I knew more could be done.
Since August 2013 I’ve been polishing the idea. I've been focusing on making this tiny arcade cabinet a "kit". Logistically, it makes perfect sense.
The obvious improvements are a tool-free laser cut cabinet and other small details like integrating the arcade controls directly to the Pi’s GPIO headers. The early proof of concept used a Teensy 2.0+ to convert the controls to a generic USB HID keyboard. Removing this step saves costs, and reduces overall complexity of the kit tremendously. I've got the software written for the integrated GPIO controls, and I plan to include it on the SD cards in the full kits.
Thank you, everyone. I can't express how humbled I am to share this!
Look at my awkwardness!
Risks and challenges
I saw this Kickstarter before, it failed. What has changed?
Good Point! The previous Porta-Pi reached $21,815 of it's $36,000 goal. My community has given me the feedback for success. I've made some changes:
-$13,000 goal! That's attainable!
- I am no longer going to purchase a laser cutter. That means cost has been cut EVERYWHERE. I have access to an industrial 80W cutter at a makerspace. And I'm putting as much time into as I can get.
- International Porta-Pi lovers now can get all the regular rewards US Porta-Pi lovers have! Thanks for the feedback guys!
- Reduced Porta-Pi variations. Let's face it, standard definition is out, HD in is. So I can cut costs by not having to make the SD version. You'll find the HD version is cheaper now because of this...
- I FOUND MY COMMUNITY! And here you are, back again. Thank you. I'm so happy to see you! Did I mention I made some good friends that have offered to help me. I've tripled my output and work force just for pizza!
Building this kit is rather straight-forward. I’ve done it dozens of times over the last year, trying different manufacture’s parts, vendors, and cabinet designs. Procuring the material for the cabinet is as simple as running to the local hardware store and buying a 4x8 foot sheet of ¼” birch plywood. A 4x8’ sheet will yield four complete cabinets.
There is some prep work involved before laser cutting; the plywood must be ripped to size to fit the laser cutter’s bed…
Laser cutting one complete cabinet takes approximately 12 minutes start to finish.
Soft assembling the pieces takes under 3 minutes. (I verify every cut, on every cabinet).
Here’s the first hurdle. The laser cutter I use is the local hacker-space’s . This limits me to two hours per day when using the machine. This restriction does not take into account if there’s no open reservation for me to use it. So, conservatively, I can yield 8 cabinets per day or ~20 cabinets per week, (I do also work full time). This is a solid figure based on my schedule.
Procuring the arcade buttons, joysticks, LCD screen, power adapters, SD cards, PCB amplifier, speakers, and misc wire/ screws takes about one week for standard shipping. All these parts come from four different vendors, who are very reliable, large volume suppliers. These sub components are also generic, off the shelf parts, making substitutions easy. Parts are interchangeable since sizes are standardized and electrical specifications are fairly common from what I have engineered. A few large volume purchases, with-in four weeks time will easily cover all the parts I need to complete the kits.
Packing parts and making the appropriate wiring harnesses for these kits can be completed in under 90 minutes per kit, for one person. This limits my kit output to a maximum of 15 kits per week. This figure includes the time it takes to laser cut them concurrently. This is also a conservative number.
I’ve given myself Four months (Jan through April) to make as many kits as possible. This is roughly 300 completed cabinet kits (20 weeks * 15 cabinets/week = 300). This number could be 10% higher since I have planned vacation time (from work) at the end of the year. This 300 number is also for Complete Kits, which takes the longest to put together. Since the rewards range from a just a pre-cut cabinet to full kits, the former requires no assembly or complex packing resulting in less time to construct the kit. Knowing this, my production capacity can be expanded upon, but giving it a number has little merit since I can’t predict what rewards will be requested. Using this conservative, most burdensome figure is the better estimate. Note that 180 kits is double the expected quantity I have calculated to meet my funding goal.
Shipping is the final hurdle. The kickstarter funds will help with bulk purchases for shipping and packing materials. I’m a huge supporter of up-cycling and resourceful use of materials. Therefore, many of the packing materials from purchased supplies/ parts will be saved and re-used to pack your kits. Don’t worry, I won’t be taking any risks when it comes to shipping your kits with care. This is why I have allotted funds for shipping materials.
Now that community has shown me so much love, I've met some new friends who have offered their services to triple my work force. So there's a ton of cushion in case I run into problems with assembly.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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