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December 05, 2011, 12:37:19 PM - ORIGINAL POST -
Freq

Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


UPDATE: This thread is being updated. The process described in the original post (below) is not very good, photo links are broken, and the new process later in the thread is much much much better. The original post is being left up for informational purposes since it can apply to PS2/PS3/Xbox/Xbox360 controllers.

Updated process: http://www.pnwbemani.net/bemani-discussion/building-a-diy-cobalt-flux-control-box/msg30289/#msg30289

---

I recently got a Cobalt Flux wood/metal/plexi pad for a steal but it's missing the control box. The CF website is down (presumably forever), there were none on ebay, and none on Craigslist. I considered buying a Blue Shark control box since they share the same 15-pin 3-row d-sub connection, but I was concerned that the pin-out may be different and I didn't want to have to get an additional PS2->USB adapter. This is my solution.

Parts
  • Soldering gun [$3 at Harbor Freight or $35 at Radio Shack]
  • Solder [$5-8] (I used .035" wire but you may not need any at all if you're lucky)
  • USB game pad $5-10 (I used the Vakoss GP-3316. Make sure it does not have analog sticks or vibration motors.)
  • Small-ish screwdriver
  • Cat5 cable* [$varies] (I bought a 100' spool of cable for $25. I'm sure you can find a better price, or you might have some laying around the house.)
  • Male 15-pin 3-row d-sub connector [$2.29]
    (http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2102601)
  • D-sub hood [$3.19]
    (http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2102866)
  • Soldering wick [$5?] (this is a copper-colored woven fabric that absorbs solder. Your odds of the Radio Shack employee knowing what it is isn't very good, so just keep a look out. It comes in a translucent white spool 2-3" across.)

Total parts cost will depend on what you already own. If you already own a soldering gun, cat5 cable, etc. you'll just need the game pad and the d-sub parts, which will run you about $10-15. If you don't have a soldering gun you might want to have a friend who's proficient bring one over and help you.

* Cat5 has 4 pairs of wires (8 total). Because one will be used as a ground you only have 7 wires for buttons. Due to the limitations of the Vakoss pad (there are only 4 buttons with solder points) I couldn't wire the UL and UR arrows for use as Enter/Back buttons. If you want to use diagonal arrows as enter and back you'll want a different control board. If you want to use all 9 arrows you'll need to get a different cable as well.

NOTE: I didn't document making the cable. I'll likely end up making the end over again because the first one isn't that amazing. If I do I'll document it and append this post. To make the cable you just need to solder pins 1-5 of the d-sub connector you got to the end of the cat5. Pin 1 is ground, pin 2 up, pin 3 is down, pins 4 and 5 are L and R, though I don't remember which is which right now. Just make sure you write down the colors used and which is pin 1 (ground). The rest of the wires aren't super critical because you have to map the buttons in Stepmania anyway.

Step 1: Testing the controller
If you decide to get the Vakoss pad for this project I would highly, highly, highly suggest testing it before taking it apart. This is a very low quality controller and the factory solder points might be bad. I've bought two of these so far, one was missing the screw that secured the circuit board to the inside of the controller, the other had a bad solder point on the D+ wire for the USB cable.



I know that the Vakoss pad can register at least all triggers and buttons 1-4 at the same time. If you're using a different controller you might want to test this before taking it apart. In Windows 7 (and I assume Vista) open the start menu and type in 'game'. Click the option that says 'Set up USB game controllers'. In XP and earlier this will be somewhere in the control panel. With the controller plugged in you'll see it listed in the window. Double click it or click 'Properties' to open the test window. Hold down as many buttons as you can manage. You'll see them light up on the screen. Check to make sure that all the buttons are triggering.

Step 2: Take that shit the controller apart
For the Vakoss pad there are something like 8 screws holding the controller together. There's no secret sauce to getting it apart, just use a smaller screwdriver and take them out. There's one behind the white sticker. Obviously this voids the warranty.



On the top-right of the board you can see a silver screw securing the board to the front of the case. You may or may not have this due to poor quality control, but if you do, take it out with the same screwdriver.



This is what the Vakoss board looks like. There are 2 smaller boards connected by a ribbon that's soldered into place. We will be using these as the connecting points for the CF pad.

Step 3: Soldering
Strip the ends of the cat5 wires so that about 2mm of copper is showing. It seems like a small amount but once you connect the wires to the solder points you'll understand why. Coat the exposed copper with solder.



On the Vakoss pad there are only 4 solder points for buttons (where the wires from the shoulder boards connects to the main board). Each side has 3 points. The middle one for each is the ground, so you'll want to solder to the outside 4.

NOTE: If you care which arrow corresponds to which button you can solder the ground wire (see below), plug the controller in, and touch the solder points with the wires. With the controller test window open (see above) you should see them light up. This isn't that important for PC controllers, but may be important if you're using this to create a control box for Playstation, Xbox, Dreamcast, whatever. Also note that you'll need to apply pressure to the buttons in order for them to show up on the screen when you touch the corresponding wire to the solder points.

Place the end of the wire on the solder point and apply a small amount of pressure with the soldering gun. The solder point should start to melt and the wire will sink into it. Lift the soldering gun off and give it a few seconds to cool.

The ground wire will be soldered to where the USB cable grounds in the top-center of the pad. On the Vakoss board it's labeled "GRND" and has a black wire on the bottom. You may or may not need to add additional solder here. Use the same method to melt the solder and press the wire into the solder point.

Your connections should look roughly like the first two in the photo below. You can see how ugly the ground wire is. I needed to apply more solder, put too much on, and didn't have a solder wick to remove the excess. This is an example of a bad solder; don't do that.



At this point you should be able to plug in the naked board to the computer. It should be recognized the exact same as it was before you started messing with it. With your board plugged into the CF pad and the computer open the testing window from before, walk around on the pad, and verify the buttons work. If everything is working correctly I would suggest using hot glue to secure the wires to the circuit board, then putting the board into a plastic case like the ones they sell at Radio Shack. I haven't made a box yet (I just built this last night) but I'll add that to the post once I do.

You'll need to assign the buttons in Stepmania but that's pretty straight forward. I did notice that the timing was off, but I don't know if that was from the TV I had the computer plugged into, the controller board, or what. After calibrating the A/V sync in Stepmania (the delay was ~.130 notes off) it seemed to play just like in the arcade, but with a little more sliding around the carpet.

« Last Edit: March 13, 2014, 12:16:01 AM by Freq »
 
December 05, 2011, 02:34:41 PM Read #1
Suko

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


I'm currently in the process of making a controller box for my CF to run on the Xbox 360. Unfortunately, I really suck at soldering and getting the wires soldered onto the receiving end of the D-Sub connector has been nothing short of an epic struggle.


Arcades may have gone away, but the arcade culture remains.

 
December 05, 2011, 02:58:59 PM Read #2
Freq

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


Yeah, it sucks. Right now I'm trying to decide if I want to make a single box that has PC, PS2, and maybe Xbox 360 connections or if I want to make individual cables/boxes. Either way I'll document the process here. You might find this relevant: http://www.inventgeek.com/Projects/dancepad2/page6.aspx

It's for the original Xbox but the concept should apply equally to the 360.

For soldering the d-sub connector I found it was easiest to coat the tip of the wire in solder, insert it into the end of the connector and heating it up again. The solder should melt and adhere to both the wire and the connector. My room mate suggested I slip some heat-shrink tubing over the wire before making the connection so I could slide it over the connection and shrink it. Looks a lot nicer, makes the connection stronger, and less risk of any of the wires or solder touching.

« Last Edit: December 05, 2011, 03:02:43 PM by Freq »


 
December 05, 2011, 04:26:49 PM Read #3
Suko

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


My room mate suggested I slip some heat-shrink tubing over the wire before making the connection so I could slide it over the connection and shrink it.
Good idea!


Arcades may have gone away, but the arcade culture remains.

 
December 05, 2011, 05:47:24 PM Read #4
marx!

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


...The CF website is down (presumably forever)...

WHAT? *spits out coffee all over his monitor*
 
December 05, 2011, 08:16:43 PM Read #5
BLueSS

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


Great write-up!  I have a feeling I might have to do this with my MyMyBox metal pads some day.
 
December 06, 2011, 10:32:18 AM Read #6
Suko

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


The CF website is down (presumably forever)
And with that, the last place to get a half-decent DDR pad has gone the way of the dodo. Oh well, I guess newbies will either be playing on decked-out softpads or building their own.

These are dark times for our people.

« Last Edit: December 06, 2011, 10:33:40 AM by Suko »


Arcades may have gone away, but the arcade culture remains.

 
December 13, 2011, 04:29:08 PM Read #7
BLueSS

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


Final confirmation that Cobalt Flux is gone for good:
http://www.bemanistyle.com/index.php/news/cobalt-flux-closes-business-2297
 
December 13, 2011, 04:45:42 PM Read #8
Suko

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


Final confirmation that Cobalt Flux is gone for good:
http://www.bemanistyle.com/index.php/news/cobalt-flux-closes-business-2297
Thanks for the info.

As I said, these are dark times for our people.


Arcades may have gone away, but the arcade culture remains.

 
December 13, 2011, 05:35:14 PM Read #9
marx!

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


Damn! I was planning on buying the CF panel mod kit from them, once I had some extra money...guess I'll have to DIY it.
 
December 13, 2011, 06:41:21 PM Read #10
Suko

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


If you can find a contact number for them, I would call or get in touch. They probably have leftovers they want to get rid of.

Edit:
Google Cache's Page:
http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:XkYlNmC6wDAJ:www.cobaltflux.com/site/about.htm&hl=en&gl=us&strip=1


Mailing Address
Cobalt Flux Inc.
2179 S 300 W
Unit #4
South Salt Lake, UT 84115

« Last Edit: December 13, 2011, 06:49:21 PM by Suko »


Arcades may have gone away, but the arcade culture remains.

 
December 14, 2011, 03:23:04 AM Read #11
Happy Redneck

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


Wow RIGHT when I wanted to buy a cobalt flux pad. Does anyone still talk to Carson? Because I'd like to buy his if he's willing to sell it. He did try to get rid of it years ago.

« Last Edit: December 14, 2011, 03:24:29 AM by Angus »
 
December 18, 2011, 06:52:02 PM Read #12
purplefern5

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


Since Cobalt shut down I was able to get a bunch of their controllers, mod kits and other misc parts from the liquidation. I will put most on ebay but if you are looking for something specific, let me know.
 
December 19, 2011, 11:08:59 AM Read #13
Suko

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


Thanks for the heads up.


Arcades may have gone away, but the arcade culture remains.

 
January 16, 2012, 08:19:51 PM Read #14
kimchi4prez

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


Gah! I've been searching for WAY too long on where to buy a control box for either the Cobalt Flux or the Mymybox Blueshark... T_T

Does anyone know if the Blueshark was compatible with any other control boxes? Or if the original poster is selling any control boxes himself?

And purplefern5, if you still have misc parts PLEASE hit me up! I'd definitely grab some off you off of ebay or paypal.

Hit me up via message or e-mail me at kimchi4prez@gmail.com
 
January 30, 2012, 01:54:55 PM Read #15
Freq

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


Does anyone know if the Blueshark was compatible with any other control boxes? Or if the original poster is selling any control boxes himself?
TL;DR I'm not selling control boxes because I'm terrible at building electronics. My control box will work with Blueshark pads if the pinout is the same. If it's different I should just need to move some wires around. Try building a control box, it's easy and a lot of fun. If you have any questions let me know, I'll try to check back.


 
February 29, 2012, 01:30:26 PM Read #16
Mog_Lex

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


I have a legacy pad, 9 pin adapter.  My box was lost a couple of moves ago, and of friggin course the day I start wanting to play again the cable is gone and CF is shut down.  Would you suggest any modified instructions for an adapter even just for 9 pin to PS2?

 
July 18, 2012, 05:11:27 PM Read #17
emeralds

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


Apologies if this isn't allowed, but I had my own CF pad that I sold on CL a good while ago as I was moving and couldn't take it with me. The guy got a great deal because I pretty much had no other choice. I just found my two other spare CF controllers and just wanted to see if anyone wanted to put an offer on either of them. I could ebay them but figured this would be seen by more people.
 
July 19, 2012, 10:30:25 AM Read #18
Suko

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


Apologies if this isn't allowed, but I had my own CF pad that I sold on CL a good while ago as I was moving and couldn't take it with me. The guy got a great deal because I pretty much had no other choice. I just found my two other spare CF controllers and just wanted to see if anyone wanted to put an offer on either of them. I could ebay them but figured this would be seen by more people.
Are you a local (to the northwest) trying to sell them? Also, you can make a post here if you feel like it. It's our Bemani Auctions&Sales thread.
http://www.pnwbemani.net/bemani-discussion/bemani-auctionssales/


Arcades may have gone away, but the arcade culture remains.

 
April 04, 2013, 01:21:37 PM Read #19
Helgen

{Tournament} Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


I'd REALLY love if you'd post the pictures on how to solder the 15 pin connector, because I bought one and I have no idea what to solder... I'll be checking the thread often, thanks!
 
April 04, 2013, 05:04:04 PM Read #20
Suko

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


I'd REALLY love if you'd post the pictures on how to solder the 15 pin connector, because I bought one and I have no idea what to solder... I'll be checking the thread often, thanks!
I had the SAME problem. I eventually said "f*ck it" and just bought a 15 pin cable and cut it into two pieces, stripped the (now exposed) wires and will be using that.
http://www.amazon.com/Standard-15-Pin-VGA-Male-Cable/dp/B0002AHT0M

Note: I have NOT proceeded past this point yet, so I have no idea if it works. I don't see why it wouldn't, but I haven't had time to finish this project.


Arcades may have gone away, but the arcade culture remains.

 
April 05, 2013, 10:03:15 AM Read #21
Helgen

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


Well, here's what I think I'm going to do, I already stripped a PS2 controller (which I'll use with a PS2 to PC converter) and I'm going to simply put the ground in somewhere, and stick the bare wires into each hole and hit a button to see if it connected/lights up in controller options.

If it does, I'll show you what I did and what I bought (bought the same thing he posted though, the sub connector.)
 
April 05, 2013, 01:31:03 PM Read #22
Suko

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


Oooooh. You were asking about WHAT to solder, not How. Ya, I think that's all you really need to do is test in real-time. I'm having a hell of a time soldering the wires to the D-Sub (way too small for me to work with), so I just bought a cable to strip those wires and connect them directly.


Arcades may have gone away, but the arcade culture remains.

 
January 16, 2014, 11:10:48 PM Read #23
Freq

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


Oh. Hi. I guess this thread kept happening for bit after I left. I'm in the planning stages of building either two single-pad control boxes or a single two-pad control box for a pair of pads I happen to come across. I'll make sure to fully document the pinout discovery process, soldering, etc.


 
January 18, 2014, 08:23:24 PM Read #24
cippy06

Re: Building a DIY Cobalt Flux control box


Oh. Hi. I guess this thread kept happening for bit after I left. I'm in the planning stages of building either two single-pad control boxes or a single two-pad control box for a pair of pads I happen to come across. I'll make sure to fully document the pinout discovery process, soldering, etc.

Pictures would be awesome im a visual learner i just obtained a Cobalt Flux (throw away with no control box of course) that seems to be in good condition with the serial cable still attached to it. I also already have a pre soldered controller I just need to see how the controller cat 5 cables come together between two devices. Looking forward to an update asap. Smiley
 
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