Virtual Pinball Machine

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Introduction: Virtual Pinball Machine

About: Have built several Home Made arcade machine - virtual pinball, camel racing, coin pusher, skeeball, prize machines. As of today, 12th July, I have added instructable for Star Wars penny pusher. In coming week…

The finished Virtual Pinball running Addams Family table is shown below.

I just love playing pinball, always have. The 1990’s were the glorious pinball years that followed the collapse of the coin-op video games – just about every public house had a pinball machine, with newer, more elaborate games coming out all the time. Then, in the late 1990’s, pinball disappeared where I lived and the nearest machines are now 300 miles or more away.

Over the years I did try to find a pinball machine that I could afford to own – but the only ones in my budget were the older mechanical types from the 1970’s and I wanted something better. After playing pinball emulators for both PC and Playstation, I decided to investigate the possibility of building a virtual pinball machine.

The minimum requirements I wanted for my pinball table were firstly, that it had to be a full size pinball table, had to be able to play Addams Family, and had to be within budget.

There is a great deal of documentation on the Internet for new components where money is no object, but it is possible to build some of these yourself for very little outlay by making use of second hand devices. The final cost of building this machine was less than £400.

Supplies

MAIN CABINET & BACKBOX:
18mm Structural Plywood (L)2440 x (W)1220
3x Planed Timber (L)2700 x (W)44 x (T)44mm
Wood Glue
Wood Filler
Pack of Assorted Glass Paper
1 Box of 100 Pozi Screw 5.0mm x 60mm
1 Box of 200 Pozi Screw 3.5mm x 20mm
Miscellaneous Screws
Undercoat
Black Gloss Paint (750ml)
Plasti-kote Super Spray Matt Black 400ml
Old Pinball Door (no coin mech)
Bally\Williams Pinball Legs
8x M6 Pronged Tee Nut (for attaching legs)
10 Pack M6x90 Stainless Steel Coach Screw (8 needed)
Job Lot of AracadeWorld Buttons
Illuminated ArcadeWorld Button (for Start Button)
3 x 80mm Chrome Fan Guard
4mm Acrylic Sheet 1200mm x 600mm
2m Aluminium Right Angle Trim 25mm x 25mm
4 foot of door insulation (to seal ventilation above screen)
small silver door knob (for plunger)
160mm Chrome bar (for plunger)
Springs (various sizes for plunger)
Hinges (for fixing backbox to cabinet)

ELECTRONICS:
Replacement 12V Bulb (for door coin illumination)
2x 4 Outlet Power Bar Extension
5 Metre Power Lead and Plug
20x Cuphooks (for wirng looms)
Wiring (stripped from old CAT5 cables)
10x 3A Connector strips
3x 50mm Cooling Fans (from old network switches) no cost
4x 80mm Cooling Fans (from old PC’s) no cost
1x 100mm Cooling Fan
3x 120mm Cooling Fans
1x 120mm EZCool Cooling Fan with LED (LED fan assists with lighting interior of cabinet)
PC (Intel Core 2 CPU 6600 @ 2.40GHz, 4MB RAM, Windows 8.1Pro)
NVIDIA GEFORCE 8400 GS AGP Graphics Card (from old PC)
NVIDIA GE FORCE GT730 AGP Graphics Card (eBay )
3m HDMI Cable (for connection to LCD screen)
37” Grundig TV (Shop Seconds with damage to casing) eBay
2x VGA to VGA cable (for connections to monitors)
2x 17” Flatscreen Monitor
500mm LED strip for under cani
Lock for Rear Door
Speaker Amp (from old PC)
Speakers (for backbox)
Keyboard circuit board (for connections to buttons) from old PC

Step 1: Proof of Concept

At the start of my project, I used two flat screen monitors and a 27" widescreen TV to test the software would all work before building any cabinet.

I subscribed to www.vpforums.org to get the Visual Pinball, Pinmame, DMD, SETDMD and Back Glass software to run initial tables for testing. I reviewed several front end software to provide menu and launch for tables and opted for PinballX as this looked the best, see www.pinballx.com

The PC had a clean install of Windows (complete re-install) to ensure no unexpected applications were running. As my machine was not going to be connected to the Internet, no Anti-Virus software was installed and Windows Firewall was disabled. The clean build with bare minimum process’s running would free up as much resource as possible for the pinball software.

Step 2: Cabinet Dimensions

There are a variety of cabinet and backbox sizes for different pinball machines. The dimensions of some of these machines are noted in the table above. The dimensions I opted for (bottom of the table) allowed me to cut the pieces from one sheet of plywood.

Step 3: Building Cabinet Body

The frame was constructed from 44mm x 44mm timber. Everything was glued and screwed. All screws were predrilled to prevent wood from splitting.
Base was attached first and cut flush to frame
M6 Pronged T-nuts were fitted to aligned with pinball legs.
Sides of cabinet had 45 degree outside joins to prevent edges from been seen.
Top of cabinet had holes for ventilation to where back glass housing would fit and central hole for cables.
Insides of cabinet had strip of wood fitted to support the TV.
TV casing was removed and screen was attached for a fitting test.
Pinball cabinet was filled, sanded and painted and legs attached with M6 Screws.
Holes were drilled for buttons, sides had one button for flipper and one button for tilt.

An# 4mm acrylic sheet was fitted over the top of cabinet and 25x25mm right angle aluminium lengths held the acrylic in place.

Step 4: Building Back Glass Housing

Bottom of back glass housing has matching holes in the bottom to align with holes from top of cabinet. Ventilation holes are also fitted into the back glass unit.
The back glass housing is fitted to cabinet with hinges folding onto cabinet. When upright, construction bars are screwed into place to keep housing upright.
Wooden blocks are mounted to the LCD monitors and a mounting strip of wood is attached to that so screens can be fitted into back glass.
A back glass cover is cut to fit into the housing with holes cut for DMD and back glass screen. Holes are cut for speakers. The cover is sprayed black before fitting.

Step 5: Cabinet Door & Coin Mech

The pinball door was a second hand eBay purchase from a seller who did not know from which machine it came from. Although the door came with no coin-op mechanism and no bulb in the coin entry slot, the remainder of the door and it’s switches were intact. There is also a tilt switch on the door so if anyone hits machine too hard it will trigger a slam tilt and end the game just like a normal pinball machine.

On the inside of the door, there are four menu buttons that control the majority of DMD maintenance menus and these buttons were wired back to the keyboard controller.

The bulb for the coin slot was replaced by a standard 12V car bulb with the same style of connector.

The coins that I planned to use for the pinball machine would be 10p pieces and some of my Pachislo tokens – both of which are a similar size. A finger, thumb and 10p symbol was downloaded from the Internet, printed and placed under the plastic cover. To prevent coins larger than 10p from entering the slow, a slotted bolt was placed through the slot and tightened with a nut on the inside to keep the bolt tightly in place and to restrict it moving up and down.

I constructed a wooden coin sorter that would fit on the inside of the door, as shown on the pictures above. The orange arrows show the direction a coin of the correct size takes - it comes down from the entry slot and passes over the wooden slot just wide enough to take the width of the coin and then lands on a curved wooden section that the coin slides down and passes over the coin switch lever that is connected to the keyboard controller.

If a coin smaller than 10p slides over the hole section within the wooden slot section, it is too small to pass all the way down and falls through the hole. Under this hole is a curved sloped, section (formed from wood filler) that slopes towards the top of the coin return so that any small coinage is rejected and returned to the coin return at the bottom of the door - just like a real coin mech !

A plastic basket (pond plant container) was used to collect the coins inside the cabinet. This just lifts out to empty.

Step 6: Pinball Plunger

I shaped a piece of MDF with router, sanded and sprayed with silver paint to make the 'shooter housing'. The plunger itself was constructed from a length of metal rod and threaded at both ends. An old plastic door handle was used for initial testing and was finally replaced with stainless steel metal door knob (from old bedroom drawer).

The first picture above shows how pulling the plunger rod pulls a piece of wood that slides between two pieces of timber. When the plunger is pulled the blue micro switch is closed - emulates key been pressed continuously so the longer you pull the physical plunger the longer it will be pulled on Virtual Pinball. When plunger is released the wooden block clicks the microswitch into open state.

Springs were fitted to both inside and outside the cabinet. The spring inside the cabinet needs to be strong enough to be able push the wooden block against the micro switch.

Step 7: Ventilation

My initial setup for ventilation within the main cabinet consisted of one 120mm and two 80mm fans under the heat sinks of the television, 80mm exhaust fan and 100mm input fan at the rear of the cabinet. An 80mm exhaust fan and an 80mm input fan were fitted at the rear of the Back Glass Housing.

To prevent heat from been trapped between the television screen and the acrylic cover, gaps were provided between the sides of the cabinet and the television to allow air to circulate from the fans underneath. An 80mm fan was installed at the top of the cabinet, next to the back box, to extract this air back down into the cabinet (see first picture above)

Preliminary testing was undertaken with the acrylic unfitted and a thermometer placed over the television screen to record temperature readings. The manufacture’s maximum operating temperature for the television was breached, so the two 80mm fans under the television were replaced with two 120mm fans (see first second above) and an additional 120mm exhaust fan was fitted at the rear of the main cabinet.

Testing was re-initiated and after two hours, the temperature did not rise above manufacturers threshold so the acrylic cover was refitted with the thermometer remaining on the screen to continue taking readings. With this configuration of fans, the problem of overheating began again as the temperature rose to threshold after 30 minutes. Three 50mm fans were fitted at the front of the cabinet (at 45 degress to the acrylic in order to make the fans fit), under where the kick plate would be (see third picture), in order to provide more circulation of air up across the screen surface. The general idea here was to blow air from inside cabinet up over TV screen and get drawn out by fan at top which would be pumped out near the 120mm exhaust fan. This improved the situation somewhat, but the temperature still continued to rise to the threshold after three hours of play.

Using an smoke tester around the outside of the acrylic, smoke was seen been drawn down a small 1mm gap between the top of the acrylic and the cabinet. The top fan was pulling in air from above the acrylic. This gap was sealed using sponge style draught excluder between the acrylic sheet and the main cabinet. Within minutes of sealing that space, the temperature began to dropped and tailed off to a steady temperature that was well below manufacturer limit.

Step 8: General Construction

The keyboard controller for this project was built from an old keyboard. Instructions on how to make this type of controller can be found on my instructable https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Keyboard-Cont...

The PC was fitted into the cabinet with no cover or sides to help keep PC airflow and to reduce unneccsary weight of machine.

Electronics - all 12v and 5v power requirements for lights and fans come from the PC power supply.

Two further buttons were added to the front of the cabinet, both to the bottom right. One small 10mm button wired to ESC key and the original On/Off switch for the PC was wired to the shutdown button on the keyboard controller.

The infra-red sensor for the TV remote control was fitted just behind the cabinet fan at the top of the machine to make it easier for the infra red signal to reach the TV when doors are all closed.

A 500mm colourted LED strip was fitted under pinball to provide illumination - this can be seen on photo at start of this Instructable.

The one downside to my project was the width of my cabinet and I could not obtain any lockdown bars to fit my machine. So a constructed one out of MDF and glued 0.5mm aluminium sheet over the plate. This is fits over the bottom of the acrylic to keep it in place.

The final build running Attack from Mars table can be seen below.

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    23 Comments

    0
    Excitable Boy
    Excitable Boy

    Question 11 months ago

    Really interesting build there. Well done!

    I hope to build one of these next year once I finish building our house :)). I'm sure there's an obvious answer but why is the plexiglass on top of the Playfield monitor necessary in the first place. Is it just as a protector?

    0
    Jwayne101
    Jwayne101

    Question 1 year ago on Step 2

    This build is awesome and extremely helpful! I started parting mine out and will test before starting the cabinet and there’s a ton of useful tips in here - i was wondering if by chance you would do a write up on the hardware installation with any notes you might have on installation- I know these are time consuming but the setup of components seems to be just as tricky as the box build - especially for heat and general wire runs/connections for both pc and power supply to components!

    0
    Animal_UK
    Animal_UK

    1 year ago

    Is there a link for the SW that we could download? This is going to be my winter project and always find configuring the SW the hardest part - especially the way you have the 2 17" with the different displays set up. Looks great

    0
    smithsa3
    smithsa3

    Reply 1 year ago

    Apologies in delayed reply.
    All of the Virtual Pinball software can be found on https://www.vpforums.org/
    In there is a Getting Started tabe that has all Essential Files you need and the version of Virtual Pinball that you want. My table is presenting running VP8 and VP9 tables

    VPX is also available and looks better than VP9 but my PC will not run many tables smoothly so I'll be looking at that upgrade path in the future.

    There are many 'menu' front end packages to allow tables to be loaded once the machine is up and running. I opted for PInballX, https://www.pinballx.com/

    0
    Killawhat
    Killawhat

    1 year ago

    Nice build - I like it! I haven't watched the video yet, but just from the pic's it looks like you thought it out pretty well. I like how you implemented the ball pull, pretty clever and the flip down screen.I've gone well away from making keyboard controller these days when the ones off ebay are only about $5 a pop and easier to implement for arcade builds.
    I've had something like this on the "To Do" list for a while, but just haven't had the room yet. I'm also finishing off a poker machine build ATM when I find the time.

    0
    Witheredboi
    Witheredboi

    1 year ago

    I like it. I may not understand the reasons for disliking mechanical pinball, but I can appreciate the work that went into this. Also, THERE'S AND ADDAMS FAMILY PINBALL MACHINE???

    0
    smithsa3
    smithsa3

    Reply 1 year ago

    Yes, Addams Family table was built by Midway in 1992
    There's a plethora of pinball information on www.ipdb.org

    0
    Witheredboi
    Witheredboi

    Reply 1 year ago

    Makes sense it was Midway.

    0
    bytes2go
    bytes2go

    1 year ago

    Very Well Done !!! The only thing I think you could add would be a 'tilt' mechanism possibly with some accelerometers ... Old school machines did this simply with a pendulum activated switch that only allowed so much physical movement of the machine, but the software needed would be hard to implement so it both affected the ball image movement on the play field while also establishing a threshold at which a 'tilt' condition occurred and you lost the rest of that balls play (physical machines shut down the flippers and forced you to move on to the next ball). I diss-assembled an old school machine once, they were marvels of electro mechanical design. All 110v AC solenoids (you did NOT want to have one of your fingers caught in one!) and 24v AC lighting circuits along with lots if spring-metal leaf switches and I think the balls were about an inch in diameter weighing close to a pound (you did NOT want to drop on on a toe!)... and they were only a dime for 5 balls. You could win extra balls and free games too ! Good Memories...

    0
    smithsa3
    smithsa3

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks for your memories. I did not realise how heavy the pinballs were.
    Also, to let you know that there is a tilt setup on the machine. The software is programmed to accept tilt left, tilt right and Slam Tilt. The black buttons on the side of the machine are for flippers and the red for tilting. The slam tilt is a pendulum on the door so any over zealous playing will kill the game in play, following same 'slam tilt' portion of the ROM gameplay. The tilt buttons are needed, and used, especially when the ball is teetering down the side exit or heading down middle :)

    0
    bytes2go
    bytes2go

    Reply 1 year ago

    That's Great that it does have functional Tilt built in !! was not aware. Thanks for the additional details !!

    0
    jdh2550
    jdh2550

    1 year ago

    I'm in love! This is great. Pinball brings me back to my Student Union days! I made a MAME cabinet a while back and my primary game I played was 1942 - which was the video game that stood next to the pinball machine. I don't know why it never occurred to me to do a virtual pinball machine like this - awesome work! I hope to build one of these.

    0
    smithsa3
    smithsa3

    Reply 1 year ago

    What a coincidence, my Student Union had Flash Gordon pinball and 1942 arcade machine.

    0
    jdh2550
    jdh2550

    Reply 1 year ago

    Manchester University - 89-92.

    0
    smithsa3
    smithsa3

    Reply 1 year ago

    Hi, I was Dundee 83-87

    0
    AlyssonR2
    AlyssonR2

    1 year ago

    What a glorious project!

    I remember, as a kid (four or five -ish?), playing the pinball machines. Great memories - I can't remember which machines they were, but the noise, the feel and the smell was wonderful.

    Those old machines were deadly to work on for repairs and drew an awful amount of power - a lot of which came out as radio-frequency interference (we had one in the break room at a place I used to work - a Bally 'Fireball' - and it used to interfere with the computers in the workshop - no coin mechanism, though).

    As far as your virtual pinball machine is concerned, it would be fun to have some physical feedback - a couple of solenoid-shifted weights linked to the sound system to trigger on high volume sounds - just enough to feel like an old time cabinet in time with the chunk-chunk-pop-crack of the "mechanism".

    I wouldn't recommend an ozone generator or an enamel-painted bakelite heater for the smells, though *grin*

    0
    smithsa3
    smithsa3

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks for the comments. The sound from the software is amazing. It is all pumped out through a small Amp to get crisper sound.
    Version 2 of table will get a Subwoofer to try and get the 'vibration' added to the overall play of the game and I would add a something for the 'crack' sound for the free game.

    0
    JAMESM466
    JAMESM466

    1 year ago

    Stellar work! I had a Spirit of ‘76 mechanical pinball machine and, while maintenance was a bit fiddly, I loved it. It was a favorite from my well misspent youth.

    I’ll add this one to the bottom of my Perpetual Project List.

    0
    smithsa3
    smithsa3

    Reply 1 year ago

    I've not played that one yet. If you ever want to head down the virtual route, then VP forums have the Spirit of '76 table.

    0
    Emanuel Cesar
    Emanuel Cesar

    1 year ago

    Superb Work !! Made me remember ( 70 ties ) : Big Indian & 0 x 0 ...my favourites machines ! Congrats ! Bst Rdgs !!