Ultimate Dance Deck 2.0

This project has really taken a lot of time to finally get published. It has kind of taken a back burner to our other projects just due to its sheer scale. At the time of this article being written we have over 150 images and the article takes more pages than any other article we have ever produced. It’s just HUGE! So why is it getting finished now? Hardcore Gamer Magazine wanted to feature our older version of our dance pad. This new version is so far and above superior that I had to give them this. In fact they are featuring the world premiere of this article. So, with no further adieu. The ultimate dance Deck 2.0

Update: This artical was featured in the April 2007 Edition of Hard Core Gamer Magazine! WOOT!

This project has really taken a lot of time to finally get published. It has kind of taken a back burner to our other projects just due to its sheer scale. At the time of this article being written we have over 150 images and the article takes more pages than any other article we have ever produced. It’s just HUGE! So why is it getting finished now? Hardcore Gamer Magazine wanted to feature our older version of our dance pad. This new version is so far and above superior that I had to give them this. In fact they are featuring the world premiere of this article. So, with no further adieu. The ultimate dance Deck 2.0

The Dance Pad:

Sometimes the right method for invention is reinvention. Reinventing the wheel is not always the best course of action (unless you’re talking about government work or Software Development). When it came to the console interface we decided to do the easiest thing possible to accomplish our goal. A quick trip down to our local GameStop, some funny looks when we told them what we were doing with them and 40.00 for a set of their self branded dance pads and were off to a running start. These pads are for the Xbox. There are of course the PS2 verities as well and there is no difference in construction between the models. But the reason we chose the Xbox version was for the super easy ability to plug into a USB port on a PC. Just a simple converter is required and allows for pc play for free via step mania. Step mania is a free dance gaming suite and most dance games are based on its engine, both console and arcade. Just as a note there are Xbox to PS2 adapters for about 16.00 each. Giving the maximum flexibility possible out of the system

Steel:

With this project we decided to use 1″ square tubing for ease of construction. We also went to great efforts to create a design that would be both easy to construct as well as well as very durable. Using 14GA(.083) square tube we got from our local steel supplier and cutting it to length ourselves to save a buck or two. We strongly recommend using .083 or thicker material. Thinner materials may not have the strength to prevent warping and bending over time as well as being a little trickier to weld for the noob welder. The cut list for this project will be in the part list (yes, this is our first one…. but I think its finally appropriate on this project). Total cost for steel was somewhere around 95.00 and welding materials are about 10.00 per deck. Just a fair warning on costs, if you can’t cut and weld your materials yourself you can usually have the supplier of the material cut it to size for you at a cost usually twice the cost of the materials alone. These cuts are important to be accurate and I do not recommend using something like a hand hack saw for accuracy sakes. Additionally if you can’t weld the deck you can usually get it welded together for 100.00 or so. Everything other than the deck fabrication can be done in the comfort of your personal geek studio surrounded with your friends like Old Ben Kenobi and Mr. rubix.

Project Box:

Our local Radio Shaq (yes I know this is misspelled) we found some simple project boxes. Basically a 4 ” X 8 ” plastic box with a screw on plastic or metal lid. This is where we’re going to hide the controller wiring from the dance pad to the deck. Cost was about 8.00

Large Terminating Block:

We used one of these terminating blocks to provide a modular interface between the dance controller and the deck in case of tile or sensor replacement. Basically a 10 screw terminal it provides the functionality we needed at a good price, somewhere around 9.00 each from our local home improvement store.

Small terminating Block:

We used one of these terminating blocks to provide a modular interface between the dance controller and the dance decks common ground. Basically a 2 screw terminal it provides the functionality we needed at a good price, somewhere around 3.00 each.

Wire:

We picked up a couple spools of this 24 gauge speaker wire at our local super store for about 9.00 each. We chose to use the clear plastic coated speaker wire in this version for all our lighting electrical systems.

The Deck Clamps:

In the prototype deck we chose to not use clamps due to the weight of the tiles. But this made so many dancers worry about sprained ankles that we decided to add them. But a run of the mill normal clamp would be lame (lame = not very innovative). So we designed a set of deck clamps that would allow you to adjust the step pressure required to trigger the sensor. Thus allowing for an adjustable intensity of work out beyond the step count method. 12.00 USD

The Deck Surface:

Another change we made in this new version is going with 1″ thick tiles. The reason for this change is not safety or weight limit concerns. It would be 10X stronger if we went with 1/2 inch polycarbonate tiles instead of these 1″ thick acrylic tiles. The reason we went with the thicker tiles is in making the sensors more sensitive, and aesthetics. The lighting is so much more brilliant with 1 inch tiles that it really was the right choice for us.

Power Connections:

One of the goals we wanted to achieve with this new deck was greater storability. A quick stop by our local radio Shack for some power connections and we have a modular power system. Additionally this helps with the scrounging points as you can scrounge up your power supply and make it work like it was designed originally for this. 5.00 usd

End Caps:

Our local home improvement store had these 1″ square tube end caps for about 2.00 each. Well 2.00 each would be a barging if it didn’t take 20 minutes and 3 drones to find them. These help reduce the risk of personal injury one could sustain from the top surface of the deck. Additionally they address the cosmetics by covering up the hole cleanly. One thing to watch for with these is on the install. Use a rubber mallet wrapped with a wash cloth or something similar to pound them into the tubes. As we are using a slightly heavier square tube the inner walls are narrower than what these are meant for. So they will need a little persuasion to seat all the way.

Power Switch:

The lighting system needed a switch so we could turn it on and off as we wanted. We chose this from our local electronics shop due to its ruggedness as well as it being oversized. This adds some convenience to just give it a tap with the toe and your off and running in place looking kind of silly.

Assorted Sprays:

We used several assorted sprays in this project. Spray paint for the deck its self. Degreaser and rust removers and a window frosting spray for the details in the tiles. With the amount of spraying in this project if your not experienced with it… you will be by the end of it. We spent about 40.00 total on assorted sprays when it was all said and done.

The Lighting System Heart:

Once again we find another excellent example of a “don’t reinvent the wheel” opportunity. This has to be one of the coolest lighting systems for pc’s I have seen in a while. Basically providing 4 pods and each pod has a RGB LED in it. You can mix the color with the control panel to any color you want! And to top it off its super super bright. We got these at Newegg for about 20.00 each and 2 per deck so we can cross fade 2 different colors. And with 2 decks side by side you can go blend them to go from green to aqua to blue to purple. The last page has some pics of basic fading that they can do.

Conduit:

This flexible split conduit can be found at your local hardware store or auto part supplier. It’s cheap, flexible and easy to work with. You can cut it to length with some standard utility scissors and the tube can be reinforced with a little electrical tape.

Sensors:

This part about made me lose my mind. I came up with over 200 sensor designs. The goal being a balancing act of price, durability, and ease of construction. Ultimately we came up with a super simple design (yes I know the acronym K.I.S.S.) that is far superior to anything we had made previously. The new sensor consists of high density Teflon, stainless steel strips, and a little super glue and some wire. Total cost per sensor 1.80

The Bar:

Danny is really into this whole DDR thing. So mid way through the project he added scope by wanting a bar. Luckily I knew just what to do. I sent him down to the local exhaust shop and they use their presses and materials to make some amazing bars for about 80.00 each. Considering the professional look to these when finished its was money well spent. But PVC would have worked just as well I suppose….

Handles:

When I started planning this new version out one of the requirements was for it to be easier to handle. So… I added handles. simply put these counter sunk flush pull ring style handles were perfect both space and style wise for the deck, this allowing for greater ease in moving them around. We use true value flush pull rings for 4.00 each.

One note on power tools: use them at your own risk. Be sure to read and understand any and all documentation on the tools you use. No amount of documentation can make up for experience, but there are many people with serious eye injuries from the school of hard knocks. If you don’t know what you are doing, don’t do it, and find someone that can help.

Cut List: (per deck)

All components are cut from 1″ square mild tubing with a wall thickness of .083 or thicker.

20 – 36 1/4″

8 – 6″

6 – 6″

This is roughly 67 continuous feet of material. Remember to purchase more material than you need as that is continuous length and the average lengths are 10 and 20 ft respectively. Also make sure you account for blade width. If you don’t you will be off by 1/8th of an inch and the tiles won’t fit with the clamps.

This should be self explanatory.

This is an exploded view focusing on the upper half. Once again… self explanatory.

This is a view focusing on the lower half. Once again… self explanatory.

Part List:
Part Details Quantity Cost Total
Steel 1″ X 1″ X 14GA(.083)  1 $95.00 $95.00
Dance Pads Game Stop Version 1 $19.00 $19.00
Project Box 4 X 6 project box 1 $5.00 $5.00
10 terminal block 10 Terminal Terminating Block 1 $6.00 $6.00
2 terminal block 2 Terminal Terminating Block 1 $2.00 $2.00
24 Ga speaker wire 100 Ft Spool of 24 Ga speaker wire 1 $4.00 $4.00
Wire 16 Ga Mono Wire 10 ft 1 $3.00 $3.00
bolt  8″ long 1/4th Dia Bolt 4 $0.70 $2.80
Washers 1″ Washer with 1/4th Inner Diameter 8 $0.05 $0.40
Spring Heavy spring with Id of 1/4th 4 $1.00 $4.00
Nuts 1/4th Hex Nut 4 $0.06 $0.24
Wing Nut 1/4th Wing Nut 4 $0.06 $0.24
Acrylic 1′ X 1′ @ 1″ Acrylic Tiles 12 $15.00 $180.00
Acrylic 3″ X 36″ X 1/4th” 1 $4.00 $4.00
Power Jack Male Power Connector 1 $2.00 $2.00
power jack Female Power Connector 1 $2.00 $2.00
Power Supply 12V 1000ma Power supply 1 $7.00 $7.00
Eng Caps 1″ Square End Caps ( 4 per package) 1 $2.00 $2.00
Power Switch Oversized Rocker Switch 1 $2.00 $2.00
Push Buttons Oversized Momentary Switch 2 $2.00 $4.00
Spray Paint Silver Paint Rustolium 3 $3.00 $9.00
Spray Paint Blue Sparkly Rustolium 1 $3.00 $3.00
Spray Paint Clear Rustolium 4 $2.00 $8.00
Cotter Keys 2″ Long Cotter key 2 $1.50 $3.00
 LED Kit Chameleon PC LED Kit 2 $10.00 $20.00
Conduit 150″ of  1″ flexible split conduit 1 $10.00 $10.00
Teflon Strips .022 – .050 Raw Teflon Strips 18 $0.30 $5.40
Stainless Steel  3/4 X 11″ X .022 Stainless Strips 18 $1.20 $21.60
Bars Custom Bent Bars  1 $80.00 $80.00
Bar Supports Custom Flared Bar Supports 2 $5.00 $10.00
Flush Pull Rings Basic Flush Pull Rings 2 $3.00 $6.00
Hot Glue One package of 20 1 $2.00 $2.00
Self Tapping Screws One Box of 1″ self tapping screws 1 $5.00 $5.00
Castors Solid Metal Castors 2″ 2 $5.00 $10.00
Super Glue one bottle thick set cyanoacrylate 1 $4.00 $4.00
Solder one small spool  1 $2.00 $2.00
Electrical Tape Basic Electrical tape 1 $1.00 $1.00
Aluminum L Stock Aluminum L Stock 1/2″ X 1/2″ 36″ 4 $4.00 $16.00
Aluminum Plate Stock Aluminum Bar Stock 1″ X 12″ X 1/8th” 1 $2.00 $2.00
Cable Fasteners One box of 20 1″ screw down cable fasteners 1 $4.00 $4.00
Total – $566.68

So back to the workshop… also known as the driveway. We needed to cut a lot of metal as precisely as possible. Luckily I had a light duty metal cutting band saw. These are very affordable from harbor freight or even eBay. Money well spent as you can make 4 cuts at once totally unattended and they will all be the same size for sure.

So starting the layout. The most important step is to get everything 100% square. We laid everything out before hand to insure the dimensions were going to be what we expected. Note the nice new blue harbor freight welder on the left. When you buy cheap tools expect results to match what you invested in them. This light duty mig caught fire mid project. I’m not a fan of the 100% duty cycle. Lucky for me that we lost it so I had the excuse to pick up a nice Lincoln mig.

A little trick we found was to pick up these aluminum squaring clamps at our local home center. They allow for perfect alignment and while we double checked for square on every weld we never had to adjust it once with these. It’s about a million times easier than using the little corner magnets and far more accurate.

So here we go. Assembly was really a breeze. Another note on tools, the L Square you see in the lower center of the screen was my grandpa’s. The reason for pointing that out is that good tools are a great legacy for any geek to inherit or pass on.

More progress. We have the main structure done for one side and the second almost done. One trick I used was to use the 3 point tack weld method on the decks as they were welded up. This insures nothing will come out of square as you work.

Next up the rear bar support section. It is important to frame this totally in. this is about where the welder caught fire. I think Danny was conveniently at the hardware store during this meltdown.

Here is a nice detail shot of the rear bar supports coming together with the clamps. By the way, did I mention that the clamps are really great and you should consider using them?

So here is the finished deck section. You will notice the deck has the full bar supports running from back to the mid sections. We will cut them later for bar placement.

So when we went to a local exhaust place had them use some heavy gauge pipe and flair some ends for the bar receiver. The flare ensures a tight fit. We will notch the bottom of them out so they slot fit onto the supports. This gives us both an excuse to use our dremel on this project, but also more weld contact insuring greater strength.

Now we had the bar receiver parts we were able to cut the pipe to match it. we turned it upside down and traced the arch of the tube onto the bar supports and with a jig saw and a steel cutting blade we cut them so we would have a cradling tight fit.

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Inventgeek

Inventgeek

I am in many respects the text book example of someone who shouldn’t be successful. I was an outcast in my grade school years, and a poor performer in school, unable to fit the standard mold. Fortunately I found small opportunities that I took advantage of, and coupled with hard work they have guided me to where I am today. I spend my time running several businesses I own, developing new products and sharing what I have accomplished with those that deserve opportunities that they wouldn't get any other way. InventGeek has been a step on a path that has helped bring me success and confidence by the simple act of doing. I encourage our readers to do what they can to better themselves a little each day, because overtime it's amazing what you can do!

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