Overview

Outline

We are going to walk you through step-by-step the compete process of How to Build a Pinball Machine.

Here’s what to expect from this Blog…

  • Heart and Soul of the Pinball Machine: Designing the Playfield.
    • Finding inspiration in vintage games.
    • Understanding the Grammar of Pinball.
    • Simulating and testing the physics of the game.
    • Putting the design into CAD.
    • Artwork.
  • Fabrication: A How-To Guide.
    • Finding resources.
    • What materials to use.
    • What tools are needed and how to use them.
    • Tips and tricks.
  • The Control System: Making the Machine Work.
    • Open source Arduino code to control the game.
    • How to scan and read switches.
    • Interfacing with off-the-shelf solenoid drivers.
    • Controlling displays and lights.
  • The Pinball Cabinet: Framing a Work of Art.
    • Decisions. New, used or build your own?
    • Open source plans for building a cabinet.
    • How-to guide on cabinet stencils.
    • Putting it all together.

The information in each blog post will be based on insight gained from designing three different machines over the last couple of years. Often we will present two or three different ways of doing things, allowing one to choose the methods that best match the resources and goals of the individual pinball project.

Stay tuned…

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Prologue

Don’t call it a Renaissance. That would imply that pinball has somehow been forgotten and reborn. The truth is these games never went away. We love to collect and play the very same games we originally played long ago.

And don’t call it the Future of pinball. These games belong to a certain era. Pinball cannot be changed without becoming something other than Pinball. Well-intentioned people often talk about new business models. New technology that will bring back the money making power of pinball for coin-op vendors. But these dreams don’t match the reality.

No, we are firmly planted in the Classic age of Pinball….

Pinball machines are an art form. And like any art form, there is a language. There is a grammar. There are defined rules and forms that allow artists to communicate to their audience.

Consider the large steel ball that is the actual “pinball” itself: One-and-one-sixteenth inch in diameter.

Not one inch. Not inch and an eighth. Anything less or more would not be a “pinball”.

Similar is true for the Playfield. They are 20.25″ wide by 42″ tall. Sure, there are wide body play fields, but we always make the distinction by calling them “wide body”.

And the Thumpers, and the Drop Targets, and the Flippers… All standardized to the point where they are virtually interchangeable. These mechanisms are the words we use. The table is our grammar. The high score is our aesthetic. And the rules of the game are the way we communicate in this art form.

So yes, we are in the Classic age of Pinball, where people are now building pinball machines simply for the sake of Pinball.

And I’m going to show you How to Build a Pinball Machine…