Mini Space Invaders DIY


Some months ago I finished an original Space Invaders restoration project but as you can see was a little big for my daughter.

So the other day I stumbled across a cheap 5.5 inch CTR black and white TV and I decided to make a “mini-me” version for her.

There are many Space Invaders scale models including this world tinniest  but… they use LCDs. To make an accurate reproduction you need a CRT.

Also, one of the coolest things about SI is that, instead of seeing directly the monitor, they use a semi translucent mirror, with a moon and a backdrop behind all illuminated by a backlight to create the illusion of depth.

Sounds a little complicated by lets say that the resulting effect is unique and really cool.

The electronics will be, the mentioned TV and for the brains a Raspberry PI, but I will leave the electrocution for the end. 

WARNING: CRTs are nasty dangerous devices even at 5.5 inches… I took a lot of shocks in my life but this one can kill you. So if you are going to make this project learn first how to discharge a CRT. Do not do improv here or will be your last act.

2013-02-09 10.45.44

And now for  the cabinet.

Im going to use 5.5mm MDF so that will dictate the scale. From the original 3/4 to 5.5mm.

Since I have the original machine was easy to get the angles and measurements but I was surprised to find a pretty accurate model in the Sketchup  cloud repository that save a lot of time. I remodeled over it, corrected the angles and ended with something really close to original.

You can get the file with all the parts used to make this model here:

Space Invaders Sketchup

Then this needs to go to the laser cutter so the next step is to “unfold” and flatten out the model. Most was cut in 5.5mm MDF. I used 3mm for small parts. It took two 60x40cm 5.5mm and one 40x40cm 3mm.

Next we need to glue the parts. Its important to no go to fast here. We need only the basic structure so its easy to mount the electronics. The front and roof will be glued at the very end.

Then it was the turn to dress up the cabinet. I discarded for this project the spray paint and stencils (for the next one!) so I printed decals. The trickiest one was the bezel. I printed in a translucent decal mirrored so I can stick it into the acrylic. Then I masked and spray painted with white the opaque areas. The result was nice.

Now the  the side art fitter perfectly and the overall result was nice (not as good if I use stencils but works)

2013-02-25 14.13.38

2013-02-05 21.41.07

Now for the Coin door and speaker cover the idea was to 3d print them so I started again with Sketchup:

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 9.48.57 AM

The actual prints resulted far better then expected.

For the bezel illumination I used  standard LEDs and some resistors. This will be powered with the 12v TV supply so you ned to do some calculations. Regarding the LEDs, since they create a very narrow spot I used some cotton pads to diffuse them and the actual result was very good.

One importan detail of SI is the black light that illuminates the galaxy backdrop and the moon that goes behind the “one way” mirror.

For the moon I cut the outline in the laser cutter and then printed in a water-slide decal the art. One important detail is to add fluorescent paint so it react with the backlight. I used an Airbrush to get an even finish:

For the Black Light I was thinking in using UV LEDs but incredible enough I found this device to check counterfeited bills . It has a small UV tube that fits perfectly and make it much more accurate:

Then I 3D printed a new black light support similar to the one in the original cabinet. Here is the support and the end result:

One of the distinctive things about SI is that it uses a two way mirror to reflect the actual monitor. Its a really neat feature. The two way mirror is widely use for  windows and was easy to get.

The control panel was a little but tricky since I wanted to use the Raspberry GPIO. I used an Arduino proto board to create the board. It really simple, just a few resistors to pull up the pins and protect the PI. You can get info of how to do it here. Then its all about running the service in the PI so it mame can recognize the inputs. (Be careful to not short-circuit or send the wrong voltage to the PI GPIOs or you will fry it).

For control panel plaque I cutter a 1,5mm aluminum plate with the CNC router and combined it with water-slide decal. When the decal dried out it looked like the original silk screen version.

2013-03-09 12.29.48

The brain of the machine is a Raspberry PI. You need to install Mame and configure it so it directly launches SI. Also if like me you are going to use the GPIO you need to run a service so PImame detects those inputs. For the output we are going to use the composite video so we can connect it directly to our TV in. Same thing with Audio, from PI audio out to the TV audio in. That´s all you need.

2013-03-07 09.55.55

Thats mostly it. Beside this the last trick was to power everything. I used the TV 12v to power the bezel LEDS. The PI uses a hacked Ipad power supply  glued to one of the internal walls and the UV tube gets direct 110v volts. At the end all fits inside the cabinet so you have just one power cord coming out.So here is the end result. A  Raspberry PI scaled version of the classic Space Invaders.

About Tiburcio de la Carcova

Beside being a man with a weird name Tiburcio is a serial Entrepeneur. He moved to Chile in 2003 to found Wanako Games, a leading video game studio developer acquired by Vivendi Games/Activision in 2006. In 2009 he founded Atakamalabs, adquired by DeNA in 2011. Also a hardcore Maker he builded a workshop in his house with 3D printers and laser cutters. Because he felt lonely (and by recommendation of the marital counsel) he decided to open the STGO Makerspace. He is also founder of, a crowfunding service focus in latin america creativity.

One response to “Mini Space Invaders DIY”

  1. Andrés González says :

    Genial Tiburcio, quedó perfecto y hacerlo a escala mejor aún, ya estoy empezando a recordar una buena cantidad de juegos antiguos para replicar. ¿Donde consigues la base para las calcomanias de agua? Lo otro, hay un proveedor en Santiago para SMD leds de 12 volts, vienen cableados.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: