Introduction: Digital Pinball Machine

Picture of Digital Pinball Machine

I'm a pinball fan from way back, but pinball machines are so expensive, and need a lot of maintenance. With the creation of software such as Visual Pinball, Future Pinball and Hyperpin, Digital pinball cabinets are a reality, and can be made quite cheaply. the advantage of digital pinball is that it's cheap to maintain, relatively cheap to build and you can have as many tables as have been created. A number of people have built cabinets, and the Hyperpin Forums are a great place to get all the information. Here's a step by step on how to configure the software, build the cabinet and wire it all together.

you will need:
- A computer. 1 Gig of Ram is OK, but 2 is ideal. you'll need a pretty decent graphics card with dual monitor capabilities and a pretty decent processor - a fast dual core is better than a not as fast quad core, as the software only uses 2 cores anyway. Most people say Windows XP is best.
- the software: Visual Pinball is the emulation software, and the front end that dresses it up and makes it playable on the cabinet is hyperpin.
- A monitor for your playfield - I wanted to keep costs down, so I went with a smaller option - a 24" Asus monitor. If you want to replicate the size of a real pinball machine, a 37" LCD TV is your best bet.
- A monitor for the backglass - I went with a 19".
- timber - I used 19mm MDF.
- A keyboard encoder. the i-pac is your best bet, available here in Australia, and here in the USA.
- arcade buttons and wire. I used 6 buttons, each coming with it's own microswitch. wiring kits save a lot of hassle crimping connectors on wires. they're available at the above links.

these are the key components, but there are plenty of smaller things I use along the way.

Step 1: Setting Up the Monitors.

Picture of Setting Up the Monitors.

the first thing you need to do is configure the monitors. this is pretty easy. On Windows XP, go to control panel/Appearance and Themes/Change the screen resolution. Click "identify" to make sure your playfieild monitor is 1 and Backglass monitor is 2. then click on monitor 2 and check "extend my windows desktop...". then set the resolution for both screens to the true resolution of monitor 1 (1280x1024 is a safe bet). make sure monitor 2 is on the left of monitor one.

Step 2: Setting Up the Software.

Picture of Setting Up the Software.

first download and install Visual pinball. there's a great thread in the vp forums that gives a good step by step on setting up Visual pinball with links to the relevant downloads. Find it here.
next download some tables. make sure they are full screen cabinet tables. add the tables to the tables folder in the Visual Pinball. open Visual Pinball, got to video option and make sure you have full screen checked, your screen resolution selected and 1024 selected in texture dimensions (see image below). restart the program, go to file/open and open a table. In the left tool bar, select play. it will come up with a box telling you you need a rom to play the game. look in the 'ROM set name' box and it will tell you the name of the rom you need. download it and add it to...visual pinball/vpinmame/roms. unfortunately, this is the only way I know of to find the right rom set. alot of tables only have one ROM, so its worth checking it out first. you could also download all the roms for the particular table. once the rom is in the right spot, try to play the game again. you'll get a legal agreement pop up. click yes and the game is ready to play. sometimes you need to open the game twice, because the first time emulates a system restore for the table and needs to reboot. just press escape, quit to editor and then play the game again.

next, install Hyperpin. you can download it here (you'll need to create a free account). once hyperpin is installed navigate to the hyperpin folder and there is a really good help file there on setting everything up. READ IT! FOLLOW IT! setting up hyperpin can be a bit tricky, so it's important to follow the help file.

probably the trickiest part is editing the xml database that dictates what games show up. here is an example of a database:
          <game name="16-9 Agents 777">
          <description>Agents 777 (Game Plan 1984)</description>
          <manufacturer>Game Plan</manufacturer>
         <game name="16-9 Airborne">
         <description>Airborne (Capcom 1996)</description>

this database would show two tables in hyperpin - Agents 777 and Airborne. here is a database entry proforma:

<description>NAME OF MEDIA HERE</description>
<type>EM(electromagnetic, usually games before 1978) OR SS(solid state, usually games after 1978)</type>

 once you get the hang of it, it becomes pretty easy.
once everything is set up, and you have opened each game at least once in visual pinball (this is very important. if you don't open each table once in VP, then they won't work in hyperpin), your software configuration is complete. note this is a very time consuming process, and if you need to troubleshoot, the hyperpin forum is the best place to go.

Step 3: Building the Cabinet.

Picture of Building the Cabinet.

the plans for my cab are in a picture below. you may want to adjust button holes for your own hands. for the button holes, I wanted spacers on my flipper buttons, so I used a 25 mm spade bit. all other holes were 28mm. notice I left a 20cm gap at the back - this is so I'd have access to my computer front panel. more on that in the next step. I then drilled grill holes in the back and bottom panels for fans (1 on the back, two on the bottom: 120 mm fans with 4-pin connectors to plug into the computer's power supply). I also wanted to put my small computer speakers in the cabinet, so I drilled a series of small holes in each of the side panels, so when I attached the speakers behind, the sound would travel through. finally, I used a drill and jigsaw to create a rectangular hole in the top panel for the cables of the backglass monitor to go through.

screw everything together, fill in all the gaps and holes with spakling compound, then sand it back nice and smooth.

I haven't yet attached legs to my cabinet, because I'm trying to design collapsable legs that will still be able to take the weight of the cabinet. i want to be able to pack it up and put it in the boot of a car in 15 minutes, so I can take it to parties, etc. if you don't need your cabinet to be portable, then build sturdy legs for it - I'd use even lengths of 4x4 bolted and braced on each inside corner. 

you can decorate your cabinet any way you choose - getting professionally printed graphics is probably the most aesthetically pleasing method, but it can be expensive. i designed mine based on a NES controller coffee table I built. If you want to paint it a solid colour, you can acheive a smooth finish by first spraying it with primer, and then a coat of satin black or whatever spray you want. sand it back, apply another coat, and sand and paint another 2 or 3 times. this will create a nice, smooth, even finish. once you have everything painted, you can move onto the next step - electronics.

Step 4: Putting It All Together.

Picture of Putting It All Together.

once the cabinet was painted, I used angle brackets to screw the backglass monitor to the top panel. You could also attach the stand it came with, but I felt brackets were a slightly sturdier option. I inserted the buttons in the button holes and then attached the microswitches (this is super easy - just insert and twist so the switch lines up with the button mechanism). for wiring the microswitches to the keyboard encoder, I recommend buying wiring kits from one of the arcade stores I mentioned in the intro. it makes life a heck of a lot easier. first you daisy chain the black wire to the 'com' ('common' or ground) on all the microswitches and finish at the 'ground' on the top of the i-pac keyboard encoder (see image below). then use a single wire to attach the NO (normally open) to an empty port on the i-pac. do this for each button. once the wires were all in place, I put a surge protected powerboard into the cabinet. I used small angle brackets to lock it in. keeping the computer and playfield monitor outside the cabinet, I attached the monitors, keyboard encoder, etc and all the power leads. turning on the computer, I ran winiPac (software for configuring the ipac. this will most likely come on a cd with the i-pac). This is a really intuative program that's easy to follow. it basically assigns the right keys to the right ports in the i-pac. once the i-pac is configured, I tested out visual vinball first and then hyperpin to make sure that all the buttons were working. once everything was in order I shut down, placed the computer inside the cabinet and attached the fans and speakers to where they need to go. I just used usb powered speakers, so I took the speakers themselves out of the case and attached them straight to the side of the cabinet. the fans, depending on what they are, should attach to each other and then the power supply in the computer. once everything was connected, I placed the playfield monitor into the cabinet.

next we, finish it all up.

Step 5: Finishing Everything Up.

Picture of Finishing Everything Up.
the last thing I did was build a bezel around the monitor using 2mm mdf. I used the little feet from the bottom of a bookshelf to attach the bezel to the cab and then painted them black. finally I cut out trangles from an old mouse pad and glued them on the corners for palm rests.

as I mentioned before, Im still working on the legs, and i've ordered some mercury switches so I can hopefully add nudge capabilities to the cabinet. If you are thinking about building a cabinet for yourself, definately check out the visual pinball forums and the hyperpin forums.

eel free to ask any questions you may have, and I hope you enjoyed the instructable. here is a link to the video of the machine in action - I apologies for the average quality. you'll notice the first game takes about 30 seconds to load up - that's because Hyperpin is accesing visual pinball. each subsequent game only takes 5-7 seconds to load.



jay89 (author)2015-03-19

hey there..I saw your project and it intrigued me so much that I have started working on it. I just followed your tutorial but I can't manage to open the tables in Hyperpin 1.0 yet. VP crashes sometimes, sometimes works. I have closely followed VPN forums and yours. Can't figure out where I am going wrong. Do you have an email or whatsapp where I can get some guidance from you. Any help is appreciated. Thank you. my gmail is Whatsapp: +923207970007

mickelsa (author)2014-07-26

Hi! I would like to offer the digital pinball machine as a present to my dad. Would any of you know of someone that would buy the supplies and install it (paid obviously)?

Thanks. (my email is

tbarklay (author)mickelsa2014-07-26

Not sure. The trouble with outsourcing a project like this is that it works best when you know the software. While you can set it up to run with little maintainence, if you don't know the software you can't install new tables, update things that need updating, etc. honestly, it's not a difficult project and I recommend people giving it a go themselves.

FluffyMallow89 (author)2014-07-11

These are the pinball machines of the future, because businesses can change the graphics when needed. Arcades are going to make a comeback one day.

FluffyMallow89 (author)2014-07-11

A good example of an impressive concept :)

PinfinityDigitalPinball (author)2014-06-24

This was an awesome start to what has blossomed into a much more refined system of today. A great example of what can be done at home. Now 46" LEDs and 32" are standard backglass for widebody units. There are thousands of tables available, but make sure your pc is up to task for the newer tables. We utilize 6 core processors, liquid cooled, 8gb ram, solid state drives, etc. Look into Pinball X as front end as now hyperpin is getting obsolete to take advantage of 64bit as well as additional ram.

Thanks for the great instructable to get those started who wish to build their own! If anyone has any questions on how we build our Pinfinity Digital Pinball units feel free to let us know.

SimpleinSeattle (author)2011-03-14

Video is private.....

tbarklay (author)SimpleinSeattle2011-03-14


nickels (author)tbarklay2013-02-01

Video is gone - account terminated

nick.mod (author)2013-01-20

mr tbarklay...i was looking despertly, forum by forum to build a virtual pinball ...i visit the side by luck,and thank god,i read the information that you give at last i will be start to built a vp machine i hope to succeeded..thank you so much...Got bless you!!!!

kpomerleau (author)2013-01-03

Great job! Gonna do this myself also, should be a lot of fun.

jhubbard6 (author)2011-11-09

How about the folding legs that supports those long, white plastic tables. Those things can take alot of weight, and should be easy to convert to your table.

ginger20037 (author)2011-07-14

Okay, that is awesome

tinker234 (author)2011-07-02

wow be better than my star galky pinable machine broken

Leezarts (author)2011-05-22

Perhaps building a receiving socket into each corner to receive square stock steel legs which you could store in the case from the rear when not being used?

koklay2014 (author)2011-04-20

I don't know if this goes without saying but do you need to adjust the side panels and front panel if used a 37' play field was used? Thanks and this is a GREAT IBLE!!!

tbarklay (author)koklay20142011-04-20

Thanks. Yeah, the best way to do it is get your playfeild monitor first, measure it all out (i'd remove the bezel if your going for a tv) and then build the cabinet accordingly.

koklay2014 (author)tbarklay2011-04-26

You say you use six buttons but the building the cabinet diagrams it seems more like seven and could you tell what these buttons are assigned to?

tbarklay (author)koklay20142011-04-26

yeah, sorry it is seven.
Left and right flippers

knexgunlot (author)2011-04-06

to think today's arcades would be more digital like this pinball machine

Leemister (author)2011-03-28

Can you email me alot more details? Like how much it costs and stuff. My email is, THANKS!!!

tbarklay (author)Leemister2011-03-28

the trouble is, it all depends on what you decide to use. what size and brand of monitors, what computer components, etc. I built mine for about $450, but that doesn't include the computer. I advise you to jump on e-bay, as well as arcade supplies stores and see what you can get. if you have any specific questions, let me know or check out the hyperpin forums. Here's a full list of what you will need:

- a computer or computer components: motherboard, min. 1 gig Ram (preferably 2), NVIDIA graphics card with at least 512mb ram, minimum 40gig Hard drive, reasonably speedy dual core processor, at least 400m power supply.
- a widescreen monitor for the playfield - mine is 24"
- a standard screen for the backglass - mine is 19"
- an ipac2 keyboard encoder
- arcade buttons and microswitches - I use 6 - left flipper, right flipper, start, escape, plunger, credit and instructions
- wire - you can by it in packs with switch connecters already attached.
- computer speakers
- 120mm computer fans - I used 3.
- timber - I use 19mm mdf
- brackets to attach you backglass monitor
-pcb mounts to mount your keyboard encoder
- screws
- power drill
- 25 and 28mm spade bits
- circular saw
- sander

Leemister (author)tbarklay2011-03-29

THANKS VERY MUCH!!! I was going to build this for my Dad. He is a Pinball freak and he will go crazy when he sees it. THANKS AGAIN!!!!!

tbarklay (author)Leemister2011-03-29

If you have any questions, let me know.

Leemister (author)tbarklay2011-03-29

I will with no hesitation!

nickhallen (author)2011-03-27

Are the back glass images included in the fullscreen table files or do you find those separately? Great build I've found the forums and begun collecting parts.

tbarklay (author)nickhallen2011-03-27

no, you get them separately. the go to ...hyperpin/media/visual pinball/backglass images. theres a good list of full screen tables with links to tables and media downloads here:

and you can download media packs straight from visual pinball here (but they count as part of your daily download limit, so get as many from the hyperpin threads first):

pliuo (author)2011-03-20

How much does this about cost?

tbarklay (author)pliuo2011-03-20

it depends on a lot of things. size of monitors, weather you get them new or second hand, what computer components you get, etc. here's my breakdown:
computer: I used a 3 year old computer I had just replaced so it didn't really cost my anything. I think a keen ebayer could pick up all the components for under $450.
playfield monitor: $215
backglass monitor: $49 (second hand)
keyboard encoder: $55 (they're cheaper in the US)
buttons and wire: $45
mercury switches: $16
timber: $35
fans: $12
everything else (paint, hardware, surge protector, etc): $40

total (without computer): $457

zack247 (author)2011-03-17

how did you find a widescreen monitor so... wide??
i mean, thats a pretty wide screen for a widescreen monitor...

But nonetheless i too love pinball, and im probably going to try something like this on a smaller scale.

tbarklay (author)zack2472011-03-17

pretty sure it's a standard 24". may be it just looks wide in the photos.

zack247 (author)tbarklay2011-03-18

no, its a widescreen monitor, general monitors are more square.

tbarklay (author)zack2472011-03-18

That's what I meant - a standard 24" widescreen :)

zack247 (author)tbarklay2011-03-20

ok. i misunderstood. my apologies.

apothus (author)2011-03-14

i understand most pinball machines just use a simple weighted pendulum that swings inside a conductive ring, similar in function to the "dont touch the wire" skill testers Surely that would be easier to setup than a mercury switch?

tbarklay (author)apothus2011-03-14

Not necceserily. The advantage with a merc. Switch is they're cheap, you can wire them straight into the keyboard encoder and the ones I bought mount straight onto the inside of the cabinet - no fuss. My only concern is finding the balance between to sensitive and not sensitive enough. I'll let you know how it goes when I get them.

apothus (author)tbarklay2011-03-14

Possibly, i just have a thing for big heavy mechanical things. Id love to rebuild and older electro mechanical.

this is the tilt system inside our road show machine we have at home. the connections should be the same as the mercury switch.

tbarklay (author)apothus2011-03-15

I guess for me space is a big issue as well. there's not much of it inside the cabinet, and mercury switches are small. If the suck, then yeah, I'll go for a tilt-bob, but at this stage the mercury switches seem the best option for my cabinet.

dirtmover (author)tbarklay2011-03-18

Mercury switches? pendulums? Shouldn't you be using an accelerometer?

tbarklay (author)dirtmover2011-03-18

mercury switches are by far the cheapest option. I put them in yesterday and they work a treat!

coryalex (author)2011-03-18

You've inspired me! Even though I'm an arcade game collector and pinball enthusiast, emulated pinball has totally slipped under my radar. I must build one of these for my gameroom! Thanks for publishing this!

xvicente (author)2011-03-18

"Pintendo" is the most funny word I heard in my life!

SHIFT! (author)2011-03-15

SWEET Job! Please post a video of it in action!

tbarklay (author)SHIFT!2011-03-15

there's a video here:
not the best quality, but gives you the general idea.

srilyk (author)tbarklay2011-03-17

What would be cool? Solenoids on the table that would fire when you hit a bumper, or when you flip the paddle....

droler (author)2011-03-17

I posted to Usenet in February 2000, that this would be something that would make a pinball sim more realistic and was SHOT DOWN! Good to see it finally become financially and technologically feasible. Search and feasible and "neko" for the post.

skrubol (author)2011-03-17

Wouldn't folding legs, similar to folding table legs be the simplest way to make it portable?
Or you could go with removable legs held in by a set screw or a couple bolts.

tbarklay (author)skrubol2011-03-17

folding legs are the plan. I'll update the instructable to include the legs when they're built.

cowtasticfilms (author)2011-03-17

I love this, Great work, I am inspired to make one.

tbarklay (author)cowtasticfilms2011-03-17

It's really not that difficult. I think the hardest part is setting up the software, and theres really good stuff on the software forums to make sure you get it all right.

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