Homemade Virtual Pinball Cabinet

Bild: Westimage Photo- & WebsolutionsDuring the construction of my MAME Retro Arcade Video Game cabinet I came across the pinball emulators Future Pinball and Visual Pinball. These programs are able to emulate most of the old pinball tables and selfmade pinball tables on the PC. By now the tables offer a very high degree of realism and good ball physics. Through the use of multiple monitors and a dot-matrix display, installed in a standard pinball housing, you get real pinball feeling. This feeling is further supported by the use of software-controlled Flasher LEDs and special shooters who simulate the clicking of pinball fingers, slingshots and bumpers. This is what I want! Therefore, this construction project started in early 2014 with the purchase of an old, broken pinball from Bally with the name "Little Joe", which I'm going to rebuild into a virtual pinball cabinet (short: vpin).

I hope you enjoy reading and tracking my project "selfmade virtual pinball - vpin". Questions, comments or suggestions are always welcome via the comment function!


Makezine.comThis time Jeremy Cook wrote a good article about my selfmade Virtual Pinball at makezine.com, many thanks! Of course, other contactors are working well, but the contactors from Siemens sounds best! ;)


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Hackaday.comWow - Brian Benchoff published a nice article about my DIY virtual pinball on hackaday.com, one of the biggest hardware hacking sites. I wondered about the high number of visitors to my building blog and I'm very pleasantly surprised at the moment :)

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After 6 months under construction my virtual pinball cabinet "escucos Little Joe - Virtual Pinball" is finally finished and it's moved into our living room. Here are the technical specifications:

  • Original Pinball Cab Bally "Little Joe" (42 years old)
  • Samsung 40 inch LED TV as playfield
  • 28 inch LED monitor as backglass
  • orange LED Dotmatrix-Display DMD 128x32 pixel
  • PC hardware Intel Core i5-4670 on Asus mainboard H87-Pro with 8 GB RAM and 128 GB SSD hard disc, Gigabyte GeForce GTX 760 graphic board
  • Software: Windows 7 professional with PinballX Frontend and Visual Pinball plus Future Pinball as pinball emulators, B2S-Server, Direct Output Framework DOF
  • Logitech Z4 soundsystem with Subwoofer
  • LedWiz controller board for force feedback
  • 8 contactors for the simulation of the bumper, slingshots and flipper finger right/left
  • Original Williams Replay knocker
  • Shaker Motor per Dual-H-Bridge PWM Driver at the Ledwiz
  • 4 meter HighPower LED stripes with bright white LEDs as strobe on the under- and backside of the pinball cabinet
  • 5 pieces RGB Flasher LEDs above the playfield
  • 4 pieces Arctic-Cooling PC fans (two on the bottoms of the cab for the incoming air, two up on the backbox for the outgoing air)
  • PinAna1 control board for connecting a analog plunger, with acceleration sensor for analog nudging and tilt function
  • iPac control board for connecting the pinball buttons, magnasave buttons, Coin-, Start, Extra Ball and Exit buttons
  • Illuminated buttons and coin slots, individually triggered from the different pinball tables
  • 3 separate power supplies (computer power supplie, 12 volt, 24 volt)
  • about 80 meter cabel
  • current about 40 installed pinball tables, rising from week to week ;)

I would like to thank

  • the other freaks at flippermarkt.de, Germanys biggest pinball bulletin board, for the feedback and the support during my project
  • Thomas Beckmann, who is building a pinball cab for himself, for his great support with the backbox
  • my dad for his help on questions to wood working and varnishing
  • Ute Naber for the nice and simple solution with the black adhesive foil
  • Lars Naber and André Paters for carrying the heavy-weight cab to the first floor and back downwards
  • Emerson Hilgers from www.westimage.de for the classy photo of the finished pinball cabinet
  • all friends for the great encouragement to this project
  • and not least my wife Anja for her moral support and her awesome patience ♥

I've kept an account about all the financial issues during the construction project, the total costs for the pinball are 2,300.35 euros total - the working time of course not included. Who even toys with the idea to build a virtual pinball cab by himself, can have a look to my list with the prices of all individual parts. With some savings or compromises it could be quite a bit cheaper, but also more expensive. 

I'm looking forward to your feedback and your comments. I'll answer your questions, the best way is to ask me via the comments, so any other readers of this blog can benefit from it.

So have fun with my pictures and a video from my DIY virtual pinball machine "escucos Little Joe - Visual Pinball":

Selbstbau Flipper fertig aufgestellt
DIY Pinball cabinet ready to play - click to enlarge          (picture: Westimage Photo- & Websolutions)
Flipper Frontansicht komplett
Pinball Frontview
Flipper Seitenansicht komplett
Pinball sideview
Flipper Kassentür mit beleuchteten Buttons und Plunger
Pinball coin door with illuminated buttons
Detailansicht mit Flipper- und Magnasave-Button
Detail view with pinball and magnasave buttons
Backglas mit Lautsprecher, DMD und die RGB Flasher LEDs oberhalb des Spielfelds
Backglas with loudspeaker, DMD and the RGB flasher LEDs above the playfield
RGB Flasher LEDs aktiviert
RGB Flasher LEDs in action
Detailansicht PinballX Frontend
Detailview PinballX Frontend (some tables still missing)
Detailansicht Buttons Start, Extra Ball, Exit
Detail view Start, Extra Ball, Exit buttons
Spielfeld Draufsicht
Playfield topview
Shoot again, baby! Ich gehe jetzt flippern...
Shoot again, baby! I'm going to play pinball now...

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I'm on the home stretch! In recent days, I've installed the two other fan into the rear wall of the backbox. The air is then drawn through the two fans at the bottom of pinball housing and blown out at the top of the backbox again. In addition, the 32mm Forstner drill was delivered, so I could install the covers of the 5 RGB Flasher in the designated wooden board. I've stuck the RGB LEDs with thermal adhesive on the heatsink and mounted them on the board together with the series resistors. After that I connected them to the LedWiz. The 5 LEDs require a total of 15 ports on the LedWiz, one for each color. The speaker front covers are also mounted so the cab is now visually almost finished.

A few little things to do and then the Visual Pinball machine can finally move down to our living room :)

RGB flasher LED mounted on the heatsinks
RGB flasher LED mounted on the heatsinks
Flasher LEDs mounted on the wooden board and wired with the series resistors
Flasher LEDs mounted on the wooden board and wired with the series resistors
Wooden board with flasher LEDs mounted into the pinball cabinet
Wooden board with flasher LEDs mounted into the pinball cabinet
LedWiz almost fully cabled
LedWiz almost fully cabled
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Last weekend I've sawn the holes for the speakers into the plexiglass disk. After that I've taped the recesses for the monitor and dot matrix display and painted the back of the pane with black spray paint. The next day I was finally able to install everything together with the wooden frame in the backbox. I only have to install the cover of the loudspeakers the next days.

What's left to do now?

  • Backbox back plane with 2 fans and white high-power LED stripes
  • wooden board with 5 RGB LED flasher above the pinball playfield
  • speaker covers on backglass
  • Switch to cut off the contactors, so we can play pinball in "silent mode"
backglass with installed 27 inch monitor, dmd and louspeakers
backglass with installed 27 inch monitor, dmd and louspeakers


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