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!


After a summer break, I'm going to proceed with the Vpin. Penultimate week I finally received the PinLED DMD (Dot Matrix Display) to displaying the highscore. At this point, again thanks to Sven Bernhardt from vpin-shop.de for the great support in the procurement. The DMD is connected through the PinDMD V2 board via USB to the PC and will be mounted below the backglass monitor in the pinball backbox. The DMD results in a more realistic pinball feeling as with a normal monitor, but the hardware has its price.

Initially I had problems installing the USB driver for the PinDMD - apparently the communication with USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports on newer motherboards doesn't work well. The problem was solved with an additional USB card with VIA chipset - so it worked out perfectly.

Below you find a first video of the monitor setup. The playfield lies loose on the table, in the back the backglass monitor and on the right side the DMD

PinLED DMD Dotmatrix Display

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Last week I've got the pinball legs from the paint shop. They were very heavily oxidized and a local company sandblasted and painted them. Now they're looking like new.

Also, I've started to assemble the PC and the rest of the hardware on a wooden board. When neccessary, the board is easy mounted and dismounted from the pinball cabinet. The PC runs like a race car, I've installed an Intel Core I5-4670 on an Asus H87-Pro motherboard with 8GB RAM. The hard drive is a 128 GB Samsung SSD, the booting time up to the desktop is about 8-9 seconds (Windows 7 Professional 64bit). The graphics card is a Gigabyte GeForce GTX 760, which certainly is a little overkill, but I didn't want any compromises. You repeatedly can read about lagging and stuttering in Visual Pinball and Future Pinball in combination with hardware that is to weak. The following hardware items are also mounted on the board (from top left): I-PAC 2 (PC interface for the input buttons), LED-Wiz 32 (output module for the force feedback, ie connecting LEDs, relays, shaker, replay knocker, etc.), Dual H-Bridge (since the power of the LED-Wiz is not sufficient for the shaker motor) and a 24 volt and 12 volt power supply. The relay to activate the replay knocker is still missing. I hope that my wooden board is not too small for the complete wiring, but we'll see. The analog nudging- and plunger module "Pinana 1" will be mounted separately in the front of the cab.

the sandblasted and painted pinball legs

wooden board with PC and additional pinball hardware

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Because the Samsung UE40D5000 LED TV display panel is about 16 mm too wide, I had to mill out a 8 mm groove with a router on the right and the left side of the pinball cabinet. The wood is 19 mm thick, so there was enough material left. The LED TV now fits perfectly into the groove. The panel reaches almost the lockdown bar and above the display panel are still a few inches left - enough space for the 5 planned LED flasher. I've cut a total of 30 mm deep in 3 passes, so between the panel and glass still some air can circulate.

It was the first time for me using a router, but I'm pretty happy with the result - especially since I haven't destroyed the router and the cutter head in my attempts ;)

Many thanks to Henk Reitmann for the item on loan!

full concentration ;)

a clean groove...

the led panel fits perfect into the pinball cab

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In the beginning I planned to realize the nudging with two other buttons next to the flipper buttons. Although there are different approaches for real nudging, eg with mercury switches, but they seem difficult to calibrate. 

Also I wanted to install only a ball start button, instead of a plunger. Then I came across an interesting solution by Michael (Meier1971) in a German Pinball bulletin board, who developed an interesting all-in-one controller "PinControl 1". When Michael wrote, that he's going to develope a mini version "Pinana 1" only with analog plunger and nudging function, I was ready for a beta test immediately. 

The compact board is equipped with an Arduino Micro, an acceleration sensor, an USB port and 3 connections for an analog potentiometer. You can use a longer 10k slide potentiometer which is mechanically attached to the plunger. The controller calibrates itself when switching power on - it's only necessary to enable and cofigure the features in Visual Pinball under "Preferences -> Keys -> Plunger". 

Depending on the pinball table used, the plunger can be pulled and released - or pressed at tables with automatic firing. Below you'll find a video from me with the loose controller board in an unassembled state - and a video of the PinControl 1 from Michael in an installed state (plunger and nudging functions are shown from 3:15 minutes, these functions are supported by the small version "Pinana 1").

Michael currently looking for a sales channel for both controllers - the small version "Pinana 1" for plunger and nudging will cost about 90, - EUR - and for that you get a very good, workable solution, including detailed operating instructions. If you are interested, you can contact Michael directly by email: Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein!

Thanks to Michael for the support!

analog plunger and nudging with PinAna 1



The function of PinAna 1 is shown from 3:15:

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The original plan was to grind, to repaint and to beautify the complete pinball cabinet with large decals. My wife and I thought long about the new design, but finally we came to the conclusion to leave the case of "Little Joe" as it is: scratched, worn, used - 42 years old. We'll maintain the old retro design and only draw a transparent protective lacquer layer over the housing. So Little Joe retains his face;) 

Little Joes retro design stays at it is

After 42 years scratches and paint damages are part of the cab

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