9 Replies Latest reply on Apr 15, 2013 10:53 AM by Andy Clark (Workshopshed)

    Pinball machine using arduino


      Hi i was online where i saw people with the project idea to make a pinball machine using the arduino. I feel like the programming would not be too hard but building the circuits and the structure of the pinball machine would be a lot of work. I like the idea of making a pinball machine and i want to make it with a friend as a senior porject. My school has a machine shop i can use and my friend has experience building a minature pinball machine and is good at design. Is this project too ambitious or should i go for it?  Also if anyone has had experience in making a pinball machine, i would greatly appreciate advise.

          • Re: Pinball machine using arduino

            Thanks for the info. Ben seems to use some other microcontrollers along with the arduino. Is it possible to have everything controlled by just one arduino?

              • Re: Pinball machine using arduino
                Drew Fustini

                I believe Ben designed a Propeller-based controller board.  It's a smart choice as the Parallax Propeller microcontroller has 8-cores and thus handles parallel tasks well. 


                The question of a single Arduino is really if it can process all the input and output within the time constraints of the machine.   I don't think there is a harm with starting off with an Arduino while you get a handle on the system.  You could always move up to the more powerful PIC32-based ChipKit when warranted and still program it in the Arduino environment.




            • Re: Pinball machine using arduino

              I've been working on a custom pinball machine for a while.  So far i have the 4 24x16 dot matrix displays working, a reasonable sound board capable of playing 2 sounds simultaneously (music and sound fx), the ability to read up to 64 switches, and the ability to turn on/off up to 64 LED lights.


              I actually broke the project up to run on multiple Arudino-compatible boards.  Actually I am using a Netudino to control the 64 lights and drive the 4 - 24x16 dot matrix displays, and a Fez Panda II to handle reading the 64 switches, playing sounds asychronously and for running the main game code.  The real trick so far has been getting the two boards to comunicate with each other (actually it is only a one way communication from the Fez Panda to tell the Netduino when to turn on/off lights or what dot matrix animation to play).  So far using the serial port seems to do the trick but debugging gets trickier when you have two boards running at the same (real) time!


              I actually have never tried to run everything from one board because I assumed it just would not be fast enough to keep up.  Plus I originally started with only a Netduino which has the same limited number of GPIO pins as an Arduino which was not enough for my needs.  The Fez Panda II has 54 digital IO pins which is enough to run everything (as well as a much faster processoer and more memory) but since I already had the netduino kicking around I figured I would divide the work up.


              There is still a lot to do however.  First pinball machines need a lot of power.  Using LED lights will help reduce the power load a lot but the flipper and bumper coils still need around 40v to run.


              I am lucky in that i have collected pinball machines in the past and have an old cabinet and scrap playfield to use for the initial model.  I am getting close to wiring up the first actual components but something gives me the feeling that once these boards are hooked up to the "real world" parts all heck is going to break loose!




              p.s. Good luck on your project if you get started!

                • Re: Pinball machine using arduino

                  I am certainly not the person to be able to say whether or not a single Arduino could handle the whole program or not, but if you are looking for a lot more power but 100% Arduino compatible, you must look at the new Arduino "look-a-like" with 32 bit from the new Microchip Arduino platform.

                  There was a good article about this in the March EPE magazine. It showed that the Microchip Arduino "Chipkit Max32" is also very cleverly priced.....

                  Here is a table from the article showing the differences......



                • Re: Pinball machine using arduino

                  Thanks for the info. i will make sure to take it in to consideration to have more than one processor. for now i will just use my arduino mega which has a significant number of i/o. the part that needs to be the fastest needs to be the leds so i will probably need another processor. leds seems kind of impractical though. it makes more sense to do it the way digital alarm clocks work. this project will be far in the future though so i have plenty of time to plan.

                  Thank you all.

                  • Re: Pinball machine using arduino

                    Hi Max.


                    Some years ago, a broken pinball machine was given to me. I gladly started a project where I tried to replace the burnt-out Master Unit with TTL logic circuits. Soon I found out it takes an enormous amount of circuits and more knowledge and patience than I posess, so the project was down for years. And I wished there were some kind of generic CPU board for pinball machines with lots of I/O-pins you could program in a simple way, preferably with C or Pascal like language.Then I found Arduino, and it's almost exactly what I hoped existed! But at such a low cost I couldn't dream of. As soon as I recieve my digital videocam, I'll share some of my project.


                    I suggest you find a pinball machine where the electronics is broken, rather than trying to build your own from scratch.


                    Best Regards,



                    (Message was edited by: Tore Eriksson)