How to build a Pinball Machine in 15 easy steps
Building a pinball machine is not a trivial excercise. A few disciplines have to be brought together to make a machine.
- Graphic Design
- Electronic Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
Cutting New Playfields
Our playfields are derived from the originals. They are meticulously measured and redrawn using CAD software. We have found that many older designs like Fast Draw, Spirit and Power Play that appear to be symmetrical have small but noticeable deviations. As they were designed and built without the benefit of computer design software this is to be expected. Measurements are then transferred onto our playfields to compensate for those errors for hand cutting. Nevertheless, the plastics we design for these machines still fit on original machines and vice versa.
Playfield being printed
The playfields are then fitted with inserts and levelled before printing. After the board has been prepared the ink is printed on digitally, UV cured and fade resistant. No, we don't make overlays, we make playfields.
The playfields are then clear coated with durable water clear urethane and left to cure before assembly. The coating was known in the trade as "Diamond Plate" which made the playfields last longer and easier to maintain. The longer it cures the harder it will be. Two to three weeks minimum.
Cabinets are designed so that the playfields are angled properly without having to tilt the machine forward. Our machines are designed to take the standard width lock bars and playfields.
The front panel of the lower cabinet in joined with a lock miter to provide accuracy and strength. The rest of the cabinet and back box is assembled with biscuits for alignment.
Our printed cabinets have the graphics applied to the panels prior to glue-up.
Printed Cabinet Assembly
Printed cabinets are carefully glued up. This is an upside down Spirit of 76 SS cabinet. The artwork already has a coat of urethane clear on it to protect the ink.
Printed cabinets have more detail and features such as striping, outlining and gradients and is the preferred method used when we build new cabinets.
The all important BackGlass is developed and produced in much the same way as the playfield.
When you have full control playfield, cabinet and backglass production you can ensure that the colour palette is uniform. These backglasses are identical to those of the original EM machines but are modified to fit our displays.
New hardware is developed for each model as needed. Items like posts, bumper bodies and flipper bats are imported but hard to find or heavy items are engineered to be manufactured in manageable quantities locally. Our drop target casette has been through many iterations to arrive at the current form and it will definitely evolve.
Playfield Assembly and Wiring
The new playfield is are then mounted on the rotisserie where all the hardware is mounted and wired.
The electronic controller boards are then mounted into the back box so that the lamps, switches and coils can be connected. The current board set is in its third iteration but remains compatible with previous boards. Nothing evolves faster than electronics but if your interface specs remain stable, so does the rest of the system.
All the ponytails from the playfield and the lower cabinet are fitted with connectors and systematically plugged in to the boards one by one. During this process each board is programmed and debugged so that when you finally have everything plugged in it's not such a white knuckle moment.
The apron, top arch and plastics are installed with a clean set of rubber and a trip to the yellow pharmacy is scheduled to pick up a bottle of Moët Nectar.
The big guns are invited to come and playtest the machine. Final snags will be sorted out here before delivery.
Then sit back and have a cold one, 'cause you've earned it my friend.
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