Build your own basic, standard, or deluxe electronic pinball table using a 7” fire tablet! The basic model holds the tablet while you still control the action by touching the screen. The standard allows you to integrate the buttons to control the flippers and plunger. The deluxe takes it one step further by adding an led strip to the body and another light for the marquee.
Step 1: Purchase a 7” Fire Tablet From Amazon.com
These normally sell for $49.99 in a variety of colors but go on sale for $39.99.
Step 2: Download Zen Pinball, Pinball Arcade* or Both
Please note Pinball Arcade* by Farsight Studios is not on the Amazon App store but is on Google Play. I won't go into detail on how to load the Play store here but there are many tutorials available if you want to load that on your tablet. I also like to load bowling, football, basketball or any other games that play with a basic swiping motion and held vertically.
Once you’ve downloaded your games I recommend putting the tablet in airplane mode to minimize the drain of the battery. Also when you finish playing any game I recommend closing them to prevent running in the background and also unplugging the usb cable. That will minimize any unnecessary drain on the tablet's battery.
Updated: 11/14/16Pinball Arcade by Farsight Studios recently updated their app so that it no longer supports external keyboard control. When contacted they said they do not support external controllers. Unless they restore external keyboard access this will only work with Zen Pinball. Luckily Zen Pinball is a much better platform with more modern boards and lower cost.
Step 3: Design Your Pinball Table
This is the most fun and time consuming step. Your design needs to be able to hold the tablet, make it fit together seamlessly, and still allow access to the power button, micro usb port, and volume controls (all located on one end of the tablet). If you are going to build a deluxe model, please read all steps first for helpful tips on how I built mine.
If you don't have the ability to create your own table, feel free to visit www.electroarcade.com and contact us. Depending on interest I may make tables available on a very limited basis!
Step 4: Print or Build Your Cabinet
I use either ABS or PLA. If I use ABS I usually get a couple of small cracks in the body of the table (easily repaired with ABS sludge) and a little bit of warping in the corners. With PLA I don’t have any of those issues but it’s harder to remove the support material and to sand.
Step 5: Smooth Your Cabinet
For my cabinet I have to remove the supports. If I used abs, I also have to repair any cracks. Now I'm ready to smooth. If you used abs you can chemically treat your print with acetone but I’ve never had great success with that method so I stick with sanding. I start with a low grit and work my way up to 600. By that time the print is smooth to the touch. With mine you can still see the print lines but they are minimal. If someone has a solution to remove them altogether, I'd love to hear.
Step 6: Paint
I like to do a two tone body and if creating a deluxe table I like to keep the inside white so it will reflect the most light. I mask the inside of the body and then spray all the pieces 2x with plastic primer. After waiting at least an hour I then spray paint the pieces 3x with their color (or do a custom paint job such as wood grain with acrylic paint or use special colored pla or abs and not paint it). I wait 24 hours and then coat all with a plastic protectant 2x. I wait 12 hours and then proceed.
Step 7: Create Marquee
I cut one piece of plexiglass to 2.75” x 5” (this is to give it stability and isn't completely necessary). I then design my print to be the same size. If it will be lit from behind (the deluxe model) then I use Inkpress Media Backlight Film. I also coat the backlight film with polyurethane to provide protection. This is only because I have a big container of it from other projects. You can use any protective coating that you currently have. If you’re not building the deluxe model than you can use any paper for the marquee.
Step 8: Attach Rubber Feet
I use rubber feet that you screw into the body. If you don't want to have to purchase rubber feet than you can also print those pieces.
Step 9: Insert the Three Buttons
My design uses two 24mm Sanwa like buttons and a 16mm momentary button for the plunger. The two Sanwa like buttons snap into place and the 16mm button has a nut that you tighten to secure it to the body. This would complete your build if you’re just building the basic cabinet! If you are building the basic, disregard the ground wires connected to the buttons in the picture. Continue on for the standard or deluxe model!
Step 10: Test/Program Your Arduino Board
You can buy many different arduino boards for $5-10. For this I have used the KOOKYE Pro Micro ATmega32U4 5V/16MHz Module Board. This is for three buttons but you can add more if you want your cabinet to do more. For this step you will need to download the arduino software to your mac/pc. If you don’t know how to load code onto your board, a google search will show you how. This step is also important to confirm that your board works before you begin to solder. Attached is the code that I use to control the buttons.
Step 11: Connect the Arduino Board
I solder the 24awg leads to 14, 15, 16, and one ground wire. If I’m going to build the deluxe model I also solder a positive line to the 5v and another ground line. The image shown is for the deluxe model. If you do not want to include lights in your cabinet then you can skip adding the positive and additional ground line (the red and black wires next to each other). I then place the board in the lower left corner of the cabinet.
Step 12: Connect the Buttons
I cut the wires to the appropriate length and connect the leads to the three buttons by crimping connectors to the ends of my positive leads. I then solder a ground wire to each of the three buttons (see previous image for inserting buttons) and connect all three ground wires with a wire nut to the ground on the board.
Step 13: Connect USB Cable
Connect a 12”-18" micro usb to usb cord to the arduino board, secure it down with two clear or matching color zip ties. You will also need to connect an otg adapter to the end of the cable that will connect to the tablet. If your building the standard table than you just need to plug it into your tablet and you’re done! If you’re building the deluxe, continue on.
Step 14: Wiring the Lights
Purchase a 5050 RGB LED Lamp Panel Module (aka NeoPixel sticks if buying Adafruit's). Purchase a Bright White Piranha LED Panel Board Night 5V
5050 RGB Module
- Solder the DIN, Ground and 5VDC line
- Solder the 5VDC and Ground out lines
- Wire a positive line and Ground line (refer to picture, not sure which side matters but the picture shows which side I always use)
Step 15: Program Your Second Arduino Board
For this I use the adafruit Trinket 5v boards. They're tiny, have mounting holes, and it's easy for me to program a few at a time and not get them mixed up with my other boards that I use for the buttons. The code I use for the body can be found at http://www.tweaking4all.com/hardware/arduino/adruino-led-strip-effects/ I have no affiliation with this page but it is incredibly helpful for those of us who are new to arduino programming. I like the fade in/out effect but the strobe effect works well too. If you know of a better source feel free to comment but this one will make your lighting effects look great!
Step 16: Solder the Connectors to Your Arduino Board Used for Lighting
I wire a line to the 5v, ground, and the #1 pin. You can choose any number or more than one, just be sure your code references the correct pin.
Step 17: Install Power Switch
I like to install the switch under the cabinet near the front. Once it's in place I trim the positive line from the first arduino board (the one connected to the buttons) and add a wire connector and connect it to one of the leads on the power switch.
Step 18: Connect the Arduino Board, Body Light, and Marquee Light
I have three support bars that the tablet lays on. I screw the arduino board to the support bar that will go in the front, the body light on the second bar, and the marquee light into the body of the marquee.
Step 19: Connect the Second Arduino and Body Light
I'll put the support bars in place and cut the wires to the correct length.
- Cut a short positive wire with a wire connector and connect it to the second tab off of the power switch.
- Connect that short positive wire with the positive wire from the second arduino board on the support bar and the positive wire from the body light using a wire nut.
- Connect the ground wire from the body light, first arduino board, and the second arduino board using a wire nut.
- Lastly place a connector on the wire coming from the #1 pin on the second arduino board and a connector from the DIN wire. Or to keep it easy you can simply use another wire nut to connect those wires.
Step 20: Tape Wires to Hide Them
I cover the wires with white tape to blend in better. I also tape them along the third support bar to make them route up to the marquee without getting in the way of loading in the tablet.
Step 21: Put Marquee in Place and Connect Last Wires
Feed the positive and ground wires from the body light up through a hole in the marquee and push the marque in place. For mine I have small tabs that stick out from the marquee and a small notch cut out from the body so it can slide into place.
- Cut the excess from the wires and then connect the positive line from the body light to the positive marquee light wire using a wire nut
- Connect the ground line from the body light to the ground marquee light wire using a wire nut
- Tape them down (not necessary but I do it).
- Insert the plexiglass and artwork used for the marquee. For my build I have a hole cut out at the top of the marquee to make loading/unloading different artwork easy.
Step 22: Connect and Light Up!
- Place the edging piece around the body (if you made one). This hides the edges of the tablet and makes it a more uniform design.
- Plug the usb cable with the otg adapter into the tablet
- Flip the power switch underneath on to light up the cabinet
- Bring up Zen Pinball or Pinball Arcade and start playing!