Amazing Meccano Pinball Machine Fully Functional Before Meeting Its Fate

[Brian Leach] of the South East London Meccano Club has put an impressive amount of ingenuity into making his pinball machine almost entirely out of Meccano parts. He started in 2013 and we saw an earlier version of the table back in 2014, but it has finally been completed. It has all the trappings of proper pinball: score counter, score multiplier with timeout, standing targets, kickouts, pot bumpers, drop targets, and (of course) flippers and plunger.

The video (embedded below) is very well produced with excellent closeups of the different mechanisms as [Brian] gives a concise tour of the machine. Some elements are relatively straightforward, others required workarounds to get the right operation, but it’s all beautifully done. For example, look at the score counter below. Meccano electromagnets are too weak to drive the numbers directly, so a motor turns all numbers continuously with a friction drive and electromagnets are used to stop the rotation at specific points. Reset consists of letting the numbers spin freely to 9999 then doing a last little push for a clean rollover to zero.


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Vegapin: A Beautiful Virtual Pinball Machine

One click on the wrong YouTube link, and one sleepless night after being introduced to virtual pinball, and [Sascha Rossier], aka Swiss hip-hop rapper [Der Lügner], was at work on his own design. You can watch the plans, and the build progress on [Sascha]’s project diary (in German, translated here). The awesome case, huge monitor serving as the playfield, bump and tilt sensors make this a droolworthy device.

We also learned how to say “greebles” in Swiss-German: “greebles“. And there are greebles galore in this build. [Sascha]’s 3D printer was working overtime churning out not only fan ducts for the computer that lives inside the case, but also dia-de-los-muertos themed foot brackets and all sorts of loudspeaker covers and dinosaur accoutrements. This is clearly a labor of love. (And [Sascha] wrote us back about the date in the name: it’s when he and his girlfriend met 20 years ago, playing pinball nonetheless!)

Head off to [Sascha]’s website and check it out. All of the details are there, from the mechanical design to the part selection. This is probably the most elaborate virtual pinball build we’ve seen, but it’s not the only one. Heck, we’ve even seen a virtual machine built into a real pinball machine’s case. But never before have we seen one with so darn many greebles.

Denver Mini Maker Faire: Fun With Pinball

[Mark Gibson] probably has nothing against silicon. He just knows that a lot that can be done with simple switches, relays, and solenoids and wants to share that knowledge with the world. This was made abundantly clear to me during repeat visits to his expansive booth at Denver Mini Maker Faire last weekend.

In the sunlight-filled atrium of the Museum of Nature and Science, [Mark] sat behind several long tables covered with his creations made from mid-century pinball machines. There are about two dozen pieces in his interactive exhibit, which made its debut at the first-ever Northern Colorado Maker Faire in 2013. [Mark] was motivated to build these boards because he wanted to get people interested in the way things work through interaction and discovery of pinball mechanisms.

fun with pinball thumbMost of the pieces he has built are single units and simple systems from pinball machines—flippers, chime units, targets, bumpers, and so on—that he affixed to wooden boards so that people can explore them without breaking anything. All of the units are operated using large and inviting push buttons that have been screwed down tight. Each of the systems also has a display card with an engineering drawing of the mechanism and a short explanation of how it works.

[Mark] also brought some of the original games he has created by combining several systems from different machines, like a horse derby and a baseball game. Both of these were built with education in mind; all of the guts including the original fabric-wrapped wires are prominently displayed. The derby game wasn’t working, but I managed to load the bases and get a grand slam in the baseball game. Probably couldn’t do that again in a million summers.

fun with pinball baseball game
Take me out to the Maker Faire! Click to embiggen.

About five years ago, we covered [Mark]’s build of an atomic clock from pinball machine parts. It’s about time we featured his work again. We have shared a lot of pinball-related builds over the years from the immersive to the gigantic to the dankest of the dank.

The Most Immersive Pinball Machine: Project Supernova

Over at [Truthlabs], a 30 year old pinball machine was diagnosed with a major flaw in its game design: It could only entertain one person at a time. [Dan] and his colleagues set out to change this, transforming the ol’ pinball legend “Firepower” into a spectacular, immersive gaming experience worthy of the 21st century.

A major limitation they wanted to overcome was screen size. A projector mounted to the ceiling should turn the entire wall behind the machine into a massive 15-foot playfield for anyone in the room to enjoy.


With so much space to fill, the team assembled a visual concept tailored to blend seamlessly with the original storyline of the arcade classic, studying the machine’s artwork and digging deep into the sci-fi archives. They then translated their ideas into 3D graphics utilizing Cinema4D and WebGL along with the usual designer’s toolbox. Lasers and explosions were added, ready to be triggered by game interactions on the machine.


To hook the augmentation into the pinball machine’s own game progress, they elaborated an elegant solution, incorporating OpenCV and OCR, to read all five of the machine’s 7 segment displays from a single webcam. An Arduino inside the machine taps into the numerous mechanical switches and indicator lamps, keeping a Node.js server updated about pressed buttons, hits, the “Lange Change” and plunged balls.

The result is the impressive demonstration of both passion and skill you can see in the video below. We really like the custom shader effects. How could we ever play pinball without them?

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Hacklet 101 – Pinball projects

There’s something about pinball that draws in hackers, makers, and engineers. Maybe it’s the flashing lights, the sounds, the complex mechanical movements. Could it be the subtle tactics required to master the game? Whatever the reason, everyone loves pinball, and more than a few hackers have dedicated their time and money toward building, restoring, and hacking pinball machines. This week’s Hacklet is all about the best pinball projects on!

trekpinWe start with [zittware] and Star Trek: The Mirror Universe Pinball. [Zittware] worked with [clay], [fc2sw], and [steve] to create this awesome project. They took a 1978 Bally Star Trek pinball machine, and rebuilt an evil mirror universe version. The electronics include nixie tubes and a bulletproof power supply based upon an ATX computer setup. New play field elements and hardware were created on a CNC. Evil graphics were created with the help of Photoshop. The game is completely playable, and was a crowd favorite in the Hackaday Sci-Fi contest. The electronics and cabinet work are all open source. Unfortunately those pesky copyright laws prevent the team from sharing the artwork.

riiingpinNext up is [Erland Lewin] with RINNIG Pinball Simulator. Some hackers have the space for a few real pinball machines. For the rest of us, there is virtual pinball. [Erland Lewin] built this mini virtual pinball machine from plywood, some real pinball hardware, and a lot of ingenuity. The play field is a 24″ dell computer monitor, while the back glass is a 20″ monitor. A final 15″ monitor takes the place of the Dot Matrix Display (DMD) often found on pinball machines. The whole system is driven by an Intel i3 computer. [Erland] is going to try to use the on-board graphics. If he runs into trouble, he can always switch to a discrete graphics card. The machine has turned out great, and his sons love playing classic pinball machines on their own “kid sized” table.

pinboxIf virtual pinball is still a bit large for you, [Loyal J] has you covered with Pinbox Jr. Desktop computer virtual pinball has been a thing since the days of Windows XP. Somehow tapping keyboard keys isn’t quite the same as hitting real flipper buttons. Pinbox Jr. is a prototype pinball controller built inside a cardboard box. A Teensy 3.1 translates the buttons to USB keyboard inputs. Two large arcade buttons act as the flippers while two smaller buttons are available for game options and other functions.  [Loyal J] even added a triple axis accelerometer so pinbox responds to rough play with a tilt! All this project needs is a solenoid to replicate that real pinball feel.

optimusAt the top of the virtual pinball mountain stands [Randy Walker] with Optimus-Pin. Optimus is a full-sized virtual pinball cabinet. It’s a 3 screen affair, much like RINNIG Pinball up top. [Randy] took things to the next level with an absolutely gorgeous custom cabinet. The Transformers inspired artwork was created on commission by commercial artist [Javier Reyes]. Optimus really recreates the feel of playing pinball with 8 solenoids placed in strategic positions around the cabinet. Even the whirring of play-field motors is replicated by a hidden Volkswagen wiper motor. Optimus also comes with a complete light show including RGB LED strips, strobes, and a shaker to rattle the entire cabinet.

If you want to see more pinball projects check out our brand new pinball projects list! If I missed your project, don’t be shy! Just drop me a message on That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of!

Pinball Table Gets New Lease of Life With Arduino

Forget all of this video game nonsense: pinball is the real king of gaming. After all, it involves large pieces of metal flying around at high speed. [retronics] agrees: he has resurrected an old Briarwood Aspen pinball table using an Arduino.

pinball-table-repairWhen he bought the table, he found that the electronics had been fried: many of the discrete components on the board had been burnt out. So, rather than replace the individual parts, he gutted the table and replaced the logic board with an Arduino Mega that drives the flippers, display and chimes that make pinball the delightful experience it is. Fortunately, this home pinball table is well documented, so he was able to figure out how to rewire the remaining parts fairly easily, and how to recreate the scoring system in software.

His total cost for the refurb was about $300 and the junker was just $50 to start with. Now for $350 you can probably find a working pinball table. But that’s not really the point here: he did it for the experience of working with electromechanical components like flippers and tilt switches. We would expect nothing less from the dude who previously built an Android oscilloscope from spare parts.

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Galactic Dimension – a supersized DIY pinball machine

If you are from the 1960’s or 1970’s we know you would have enjoyed furiously punching the buttons of a pin ball machine back in the day. Installation artist [Niklas Roy] recently revisited this old classic game and built Galactic Dimension – a supersized pinball machine for Phæno – an amazing science center in the German city of Wolfsburg. The science centre was planning a big exhibition featuring thirty beautiful, classic pinball machines loaned from the Pacific Pinball Museum in Alameda, California.

The game machine was built on a steep ramp and has a gigantic play field measuring 3m x 6m (10’x20′). It features Sci-Fi game elements in the play field which blend perfectly with the futuristic building where it is housed. The game elements are built from repurposed everyday items like hair dryers and fans, giving visitors the motivation to build some of their own such contraptions.

The players operate the machine via a control desk, and a giant calculator is used to display the game score. The steep ramp had an incline of almost 30° which meant that he had to use a light ball to be able to propel it around the play field. The main user controls are the two flippers, and building giant ones was a big challenge. Solenoids or coils would not cut the ice, and he settled for pneumatic cylinders – easy to control, powerful, not too loud, and the museum already had a compressed air supply readily available. But it still took him three iterations before he could get it right. The plunger, which initially propels the ball, was built from PVC pipes and a hair dryer. Each play field element was built as a separate module to make assembly and maintenance easier. All featured a 220V AC supply, a sensor (either an IR distance sensor or a light barrier) to detect the ball, and an Arduino. Actuators were built from hair dryers and portable fans. Each of them have their own sound effects too – either a hacked toy or a speaker controlled by the Arduino. After everything was built, taken apart, transported, and reassembled at the site, the Galactic Dimension worked without a glitch, and without releasing any magic smoke. To top it off, Andreas Harre, who’s been the German pinball champion for several years in a row, also played the machine when he visited Phæno – and was totally excited about it!

So if you are in that part of Germany anytime until September, do drop in and try to ring up a big score. For photos of his build log, check out the photo album. There’s also a fairly big block diagram (German) and the Arduino sketches (.zip file), if you’d like to take a stab at building an even bigger pinball machine. Check the video to see the machine in action. And if the name [Niklas] sounds familiar, it is because he loves building installations such as the Forbidden Fruit Machine, the Ball Sucking Machine, and another Ball Sucking Machine.

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