This instructable will teach you how to build your own pinball machine for a fraction of the cost of commercial machines. It is also very fun to build. Please do NOT do this project if you don't have experience with arduino coding and troubleshooting, as there may be a few bugs to work out at the end.
1/2 inch plywood
x1 old computer power supply with 12v and 5v power pins.
x1 Arduino power connector
x1 Arduino MEGA 2560
x1 large breadboard (solder-less or solder-able)
x5 inductive proximity sensors
x3 car lock actuators
x4 adjustable furniture feet
switch LOTS of wire
x2 Allen wrenches
x30 or so LED's
x3 arcade buttons
various hardware including springs, screws, washers, nuts, and bolts.
superglue and wood glue
drill with exchangeable bits
CNC machine (optional)
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Step 1: Building the Cabinet
The cabinet of a pinball machine is the main body of it. it can be made using anything from acrylic to plywood to metal. I used 1/2 inch plywood for a number of reasons including the fact that it was easy to work with and relatively strong. People sometimes use acrylic to built the cabinet so that it is completely see through. You can also engrave designs on acrylic and add LED's to make the designs light up.
The dimensions of the cabinet are 46'' long by 22'' wide by 16'' tall. The dimension of it can vary but as long as it is somewhere close to this it will be fine.( you can use a CNC to machine out the holes you need in the play-field if you already know where you want everything to be placed)
Step 2: Adding the Flippers
The flippers of the pinball machine are one of the most important mechanisms in the machine. They are what keep you from losing.(If you press the buttons at the right times) I have listed two versions of the flipper below. I also added rubber bands and stretched them around the flipper so that it wasn't as loud when it hit the ball.
Simple Version The simple version the flipper is the cheapest, least complex, and easiest to install. the downside, however, is that it is less durable and may not work as well over time. you can find a more information about this here:.The actuators can just be screwed to the underside of the play-field, although you may want to 3d print a bracket to hold the actuator in place. (When you screw it on, be sure not to screw it in too far so that it doesn't go through and into the top side of the play-field.) Advanced Version The advanced version is the more complex, expensive, and more durable version of the flipper. It uses solenoids instead of car lock actuators to shoot the ball faster, and will last longer. you can find the solenoids for the flippers here: https://www.amazon.com/Williams-Bally-Pinball-Coi... and the flipper assembly here:https://www.amazon.com/Williams-Bally-Flipper-Rebu...
Step 3: The Reloading Mechanism
Like the flipper, there are two versions of the reloading mechanism. There is an advanced version that is more durable but more expensive, and there is a more simple version which is less expensive but less durable.
The Simple Version
The simple version is significantly less expensive but comes with a downside. There are often times when you press the button to load the ball and it will bounce back into the loading mechanism, where as if you get the advanced version, this is not a problem. The setup is basically the simplest you could ask for, and all it is is a car lock actuator screwed down to the top of the play-field below the flippers. Then, you wire it to an arcade button on the front of the cabinet, although you need to remember to wire it opposite of the flippers so that the actuator pushes out when the button is pressed. You also need to add a rubber band to pull the actuator back into position after the button is pressed.
The Advanced Version
The only downside of this version of the reloading mechanism is that it costs more than the simple version. It is basically a bracket holding a pinball solenoid to the bottom of the play-field with a lever attached to the rod of the solenoid, which makes it so when the button is pressed the solenoid is pulled and the lever hits the ball on the top side of the play-field, pushing it into the launcher, which we will talk about on the next step. The image above is a design of this version. I used this design to help build this mechanism.
Step 4: Adding the Launcher
The launcher does not use electronics or power to launch the ball (although it can if you use a solenoid instead of a spring), instead, it uses a spring on a metal rod with a handle at the end. When you pull it back the spring compresses and when you release the handle, the ball is shot onto the play-field. there is a link on amazon for a full assembly here:https://www.amazon.com/Universal-Pinball-Ball-Shoo...You will also need three pieces of wood that are 41'' 34'' and 5'' long. you then glue then to the play-field so that they act as a lane that the ball goes up before being shot onto the play-field. (remember to keep the pieces of wood a little farther apart than the diameter of the ball.)
Step 5: Adding the Targets and Bumpers
There are multiple designs from thingiverse that i used to build the targets and bumper. The link for the targets can be found here:https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2254171, and the link for the bumpers can be found here: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:167066. It should explain how to set these up in the description or if you watch the videos.
You can place have as many targets and bumpers as you would like to add, but wire management can become very annoying if you add too many. I would recommend having one or two sets of 4 targets and 3-6 bumpers. You can also choose where you want to put these, as long as you don't make the play-field to crowded in one spot. Now may be a good time to add posts and rubber bands too. There is a link to it on thingiverse here: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:100202. after you print them, (you will need to print about 15) you can screw them into the play-field with short-ish screws that are long enough that the post is secure and it doesn't go through the bottom of the play-field.( Do NOT use nails, as they will end up being pulled out by rubber bands and shot across the room!) Once you've secured them, you can add the rubber bands. I recommend the thicker rubber band because they last longer and the ball bounces off of them easier. once you have the posts and rubber bands completely installed, you can add micro-switches for more point scoring opportunities. i added them by simply super gluing them to the play-field because it was simple, but i found that they broke off a lot and it may be a better idea to look on thingiverse or design a bracket for it on your own.
Step 6: Adding and Setting Up the Arduino
The Arduino is used or keeping score, lighting, and sound effects. i give credit to ali kar kuki, which is how I found his button counter project. you can find his profile on instructables here:https://www.instructables.com/member/alikarkuki/, where you should also find his project. The picture above is the schematic that i used to wire everything up. the one button in the schematic actually represents all of the switches wired together to act like one big switch. You can also keep the code like it is or change it so each micro-switch adds 100 points to the score. To do this, change the part of the code that says "a++;" to "a+=100".(The code is in his instructable)
Step 7: Supplying Power
For supplying power, I used a 170 watt power supply from an old computer because it can supply all sorts of different levels of voltage including 12v, 5v, and 3.3v power. For the arduino I used 12 power with a resistor and for the led strips and other lights I used 3.3v power.( You may want to use electrical tape to cover any unwanted exposed wires to reduce shorts.) The chart above shows what color wires supply which voltage. If you connect the green wire to ground, it should turn on the power supply, as long as you have the power supply plugged in. If this works, you can connect the two wires to a switch, which will turn on and off the pinball machine when flipped.
Step 8: Adding Decoration and a Theme
This is the step where you really get to customize your machine. You can do this by adding extra lights or a theme.
For the theme i chose a star wars theme because i am a star wars fan. you can also choose almost any other theme including guardians of the galaxy, and other movies. If you don't know what theme to pick, you can look up"pinball Themes" and the images should come up with plenty of ideas.
There really isn't that much to say about adding the leds. You can put them anywhere you think looks cool or is convenient for you. I used a blue LED strip and put it behind the rubber bands and posts, then covered behind the rubber bands with thin pieces of wood that where cut to fit on top if it. when I power on the light strip, it creates a hidden Lighting effect and looks pretty cool. This is just one idea but feel free to do anything you want. (the leds and led strip can be found Here:https://www.amazon.com/Water-Resistance-Waterproof...:, and here:https://www.amazon.com/DiCUNO-450pcs-Colors-Emitti...)
Adding artwork to your pinball machine is optional, but often is good if you are going for a specific theme. Since mine is a star wars machine, I printed out a poster for star wars: the last Jedi, and then poked holes in it using a thumb tack and connected the dots by drawing straight lines with a pencil. After i had the basic outline of everything done, I added all the details and shaded it in. You can also choose to paint it, although this is optional, and I chose not to because I thought it might be too hard, and you have a chance of messing up and having to start the whole thing over again.
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