The following describes my experiences attempting to create a DDR
mat. The first version was usable within 3 days of work (roughly 5
calender days, roughly 12 man hours), the second version took
another 4 or 5 days of work (or roughly 18 hours). The third version
took about 9 hours. I'm not sure how long mark 4 or 5 took.
The basic process was:
This has been done throughout the later part of September 2002. I
keep putting off version 3, although I had hoped to have it complete in
early October 2003, I didn't work on it until May 2004. Mark 4 and 5
were worked on around October 2004.
In case you can't tell, click on any of the images for a higher-res
- Create a base out of plywood.
- Create a bunch of pads, out of lucite, carpet pads, hardened paper
board, steel sheets and/or copper wire.
- Wire it all up, screw it all down.
- Try it out and realize it isn't quite good enough, dismantle it,
and rebuild, several times...
I took a sheet of 1/2" plywood, cut to 33" square. This formed
the base. I then created 5 11" squares that would be the "null"
areas. I held these in place with 4 1" drywall screws.
Early on, I intended to cover each of these with aluminum
flashing, wrapped around the edges, and screwed in place.
Here is another image
of the base, with it all screwed in place. The image is a little
My first plan was to use 3/8" foam carpet padding as a spring
material. These are also 11" squares (sorta). Turned out to
be difficult to cut. I did figure out I could use my backsaw,
dragging it backward across the padding, which cut, rather than
Later on, I found that my
worked pretty well, but long after the worst of it was done. The
worst that I am refering to, was not this, it's later...
Rather than use a hand controller, I decided to use a pad I already
had. The pad was kinda
looking (although the picture sucks), one of the pair never
worked too reliably. Certain buttons would cause others to
trigger... Additionally, I knew that PS controllers have an ID
in them, indicating what sort of controller it was. I don't know
if mats have their own ID, but just in case...
This is an early picture where I removed the control circuitry. As
is mentioned elsewhere on the web, the little black tabs you can
barely make out on the top of the circuitboard are conductive, but
not soldierable..., you have to attach wires elsewhere. More on
The Source Pad, 1 and 2
I've ripped apart the entire soft pad. There are six layers
to it, from bottom to top:
In the first picture, you can see the a potion of the top layer
plastic, and the carpet protector. I suspect it is there to
add weight to reduce slipping and to make it seem more solid.
The pile of green stuff nearby is the ribbon that ran around
the edge of the soft mat.
The second picture (blurry, again, sorry!) is a picture of one
of the inner layers with the circuit traces on it. You can
clearly (heh) see the places where the buttons go.
- nice soft plastic blue bottom
- a layer of thin plastic with wire traces on the surface
- a very thin layer of foam, with holes evenly spaced across
- a layer of thin plastic with wire traces on the bottom
- a piece of carpet protector(!)
- nice soft plastic with silk-screened images on it.
Preparing for the lucite
Although you cannot see any details, there are four plastic
squares of lucite. 1/16" I think. I cut it using my tablesaw,
although it tended to chip the edges. Later on, I made 4
additional squares, using a utility knife which certainly made
a cleaner cut, but took significantly more effort.
Of course, each square is again 11" square.
Preparing the first pad
There are several things going on in this picture. The first thing
to notice is the cut up pad. After cutting up the majority of them
by hand, I realized I could try it on the tablesaw, which worked
quite well, although the dust it created wasn't very fun to clean
In the center of the pad is a brown square of paperboard (or
something like that...), the same material you typically find
on the back of do-it-yourself shelves (although this is more
That brown square is part of switch. There are two of these
squares, one set above the other, with copper wire wrapped
around them. Wires run from those squares to the controller
circuitry, shown earlier. The top square is kept off the bottom
one by resting on top of the carpet padding.
image will help.
In the left side of the image, you will notice a piece of the
original soft mat. I decided to use the images off the old pad
to improve the look on my new one. More images further down.
Checking out the images
Here are the four direction arrows, with a layer of lucite
covering (which is impossible to see), and the center image.
I was probably daydreaming, thinking about what it will look
Boom! Mark 1 is done!
You may be wondering what happened between the last image and
this one. Well, I just put it all together, with lots of
wires, and screws.
The silver disks in the image are two sets of washers. The
larger washers had too large a hole, which would let the
drywall screw heads slip through. The smaller washer on top
holds the larger one on.
At this point, the wiring is run off the board, but isn't
acutally hooked to anything. I wanted to do some testing
before committing myself to this layout.
Looks pretty good, doesn't it!?
At this point, I connected things together by twisting little
wires to other little wires, and hauled the monster up 3 flights
of stairs to where I had my PS & TV.
I hooked it up, tried it out, and it sorta worked. There were
several problems, though.
The first was that the pads were squishy, they sunk rather than
clicked. Not a good feel. The second was that the solder joints
sucked. The solder between the copper wire wrapper around the
paper board and the wires that ran off the board, pictured above
in red and white were horrible, and tended to break. (I thought
it was working okay when I tried it, but when I dismantled it
some were clearly broken.)
So, after a little trial and error, I went back to the drawing
board. I had been discussing what I was doing with several
friends, and came up with a better alternative...
Start of rework on the pads, for mark 2
I've removed the pads, and started building entirely new
ones. I have a new design. The metal you see in the
pictures are actually two pieces of thin steel. There is a
small gap between the plates.
Shortly a third piece of steel would be placed above the two
plates. When pressure is applied the top plate touches both
bottom plates and conducts electricty between them.
Closeup of right pad, from above
This is the pad on the right from above and has some weather
stripping along the edges, to be used for its springing action,
and to keep stuff out from between the plates.
This is a much better view of the two lower plates.
Side view of fitted pad
I managed to find some corner brackets, that are used to
reinforce the inside corners of wooden things... like
cabinets. They look very much like the arcade pads.
Under the corners is a layer of paper board and perhaps a
thin additional spacer. The top steel sheet, two layers of
lucite and the graphic are layered above that and resting
on the corners.
Top view of fitted pad
Looks pretty sweet doesn't it? :)
Since I need several buttons, select, start, X and O, I needed
to build something for them, so a added a little radioshack
project box with the biggest buttons they had, which are pretty
damn small. I'd like to have some of those big red emergency
buttons instead... maybe for mark 4.
At this point I think I was still cutting holes but not yet
Partially built pads
Here I had fitted everything, and now was starting to wire
it all up. Note the wires coming off the pads. These I
soldered to the left and right metal sheets. I had to scuff
up the surface to get the solder to stick, but it went pretty
Here is an ever so slightly
Bang! Mark 2!
Looks much better, doesn't it!
Wires were a little bit of a problem, trying to run them
along the edges of the pads... But I managed. Unfortunately,
one of the pads was raised up a bit higher and never quite
sat right. It was the first pad I assembled. It is the
down arrow (which is the one on the right hand side in the
closeup of one of the pads, the up button, in fact.
shot of the whole pad with slightly different lighting.
Mark 3: The New Beginning.
Finally! After, what, almost 2 years, I've finally reworked my
This is a picture of my recent new connection design. I've run
wires up from the bottom of the board, where one will connect to
the top metal plate, and the other will connect to the bottom.
I didn't want to recut all the bottom plates, so I mostly just wired
them together (to form a single virtual plate).
The two bent metal clips are connectors that connect to the screws.
I've wired up one of the screws, and am about to wire up the second.
The left clip slides between the metal plate and the paperboard, and
wraps around underneath the paperboard. It has some slip, which
should be okay, as long as it is tight to the screw.
The right clip slides between the plastic image and the top metal
plate. It too has some slip, and I think is at more risk of
slipping. I also had to worry about bumping against the lower
metal plate, but in several cases I taped the bottom plate with
Under the board
After rewiring all the pads, I needed to do something with the wires.
Also, I had some thoughts about using this on a hardwood floor. I had
no desire to scratch it all to hell, so I used some 1/4" rubber
weather-stripping to both protect the wires and the floor.
I stappled the wires down... and on like the last staple pierced one
of the wires... fuck. Fortunately it conducts just fine!
So, mark 3 is done, and almost usable. I rewired the extra button
box, and added a 9 pin DIN connector, to make it more modular.
The pad tends to work better still, than all the others, but the
left pad is weak, sometimes doesn't respond, sometimes bounces...
It must be the metal tabs aren't making very good contact. So,
on to Mark 4!
In mark 4 I cut the corners off the lucite/metal layers and added
springs to the board, to keep the top layer away from the bottom.
This worked very very badly... and it didn't take long before I
moved on to Mark 5.
I started this rework prior to 2004/08/07. I tossed around a couple of
alternative designs for the buttons, and decided on what you will see
here. The image is of my new corners. I've removed the paperboard
entirely. The corners are normal plywood and are almost the right
height for the metal brackets that will cover them. (Technically
they are slightly too short, but work okay as is.)
Closeup of Corner
Spacing of the corner is critical, there needs to be enough room to
fit the metal bracket, without pinching it against the neighbor
squares. I countersunk the screw that fixes the corner in place.
The absolute best thing about this design is that it is much easier
to take a square apart and put it back together. I can take five
minutes, remove two of the corners, rearrange stuff, and put it
back together, and know that it is all positioned correctly.
New contact design
This is the other critical piece of this design. Here you will see
the electronics for my partially assembled pad. The gray wires are
all connected, but the white haven't been done yet. The white are
done similarly using the loose metal pieces.
As you can see from the springs sitting in the middle, I was going
to use springs to keep the lucite/metal arrows away from the
electrodes. I ended up using some metal strip springs from
those do-it-yourself metal frames. I don't have any pictures of
them, but they are about 4 inches long, and are bowed (sorta like
a bell curve).
I used two strip springs per arrow. I wedged one end of the strip
springs under the paperboard, to keep it from sliding around. I
ran into a problem where the strip springs would move around
and accidentally come into contact with the electrodes, shorting
the arrow out...
So, mark 5 is done, and very usable. I've gotten AA+ "Kick the
Can", Normal on DDR Extreme. I've broken a couple of the lucite
panels, and it's taken just minutes to open a square up, cut a
new panel and replace it... that is most excellent.
That isn't to say there aren't problems...
One problem was that the pad tended to bow, so I put a square
of paperboard in the middle of each pad, roughly the size of
the square made by the 4 springs in the previous picture (about
3 inches square). This helped, although I should replace it
with something slightly larger, and perhaps slightly thicker.
The one remaining problem is the noise. It is loud. My next
design may be to replace the electrodes with microswitches.
I've purchased a bunch, but it will require a thicker board, and
so will probably need to be a new mat, built from scratch.