Pinball Machine Needs No Wizard

Ever since he was a young boy, [Tyler] has played the silver ball. And like us, he’s had a lifelong fascination with the intricate electromechanical beasts that surround them. In his recently-completed senior year of college, [Tyler] assembled a mechatronics dream team of [Kevin, Cody, and Omar] to help turn those visions into self-playing pinball reality.

You can indeed play the machine manually, and the Arduino Mega will keep track of your score just like a regular cabinet. If you need to scratch an itch, ignore a phone call, or just plain want to watch a pinball machine play itself, it can switch back and forth on the fly. The USB camera mounted over the playfield tracks the ball as it speeds around. Whenever it enters the flipper vectors, the appropriate flipper will engage automatically to bat the ball away.

Our favorite part of this build (aside from the fact that it can play itself) is the pachinko multi-ball feature that manages to squeeze in a second game and a second level. This project is wide open, and even if you’re not interested in replicating it, [Tyler] sprinkled a ton of good info and links to more throughout the build logs. Take a tour after the break while we have it set on free play.

[Tyler]’s machine uses actual pinball machine parts, which could quickly ramp up the cost. If you roll your own targets and get creative with solenoid sourcing, building a pinball machine doesn’t have to be a drain on your wallet.

15 thoughts on “Pinball Machine Needs No Wizard

  1. I mean this is pretty cool, but simply implementing a detection zone as a trigger isn’t any more difficult than building the pinball machine. By “playing itself” I would have hoped it had the ability to target certain objectives and scoring elements within the machine.

  2. Kind of disappointed this is a university project. University, which is as far as I know, is supposed to bring new knowledge.
    This is a cool hobbyist project, but nothing to rave about.
    Williams pinball Addams Family from 1992 played itself with much more finesse as it really learned to time the flipper right to make a shot.

  3. I’m a co-owner of a bar and arcade. We have to do a lot of repairs to old machines and sometimes parts aren’t available. One of my terrible hacks involved swapping out a fragile motor assembly for 3D-printed gears, a servo, and an Arduino. Love seeing pinball projects!

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