Wednesday, December 29, 2010

DIY pinball

So like every pinball fan, I dream about making my own custom one.  Ben heck made his own bill paxton pinball:

But of course I think Ben Heck is a genius

Then there's jeri ellsworth:

Who is also a genius (though not complete, she seems like she can tackle any mechanical or electrical challenge).

Then there's me, a mechanical engineer who could probably BUILD a pinball table, but I wouldn't have a clue how to keep score, much less drive a dot matrix display.  Of course I also don't have to aim that high either to have a functioning pinball.  I also thought about ways of simplifying pinball.  Ideally I wish someone would invent an open source program where you could setup target values, even combo values, multipliers, etc.  But since that doesn't exist, I would have to do it manually.

To start off, rather than going with the standard solenoid flippers (which wear out, get weak "especially if you keep the flipper on for extended periods of time").  Also, solenoids usually run off 50v, and need capacitors to store a charge, and it has to be pulsed (complicated).  I thought what if I just created flippers that were driven by a fulcrum attached to a servo.  Turns out they now make high torque servos, one I found has a quick .030 second operating speed:

Now for the targets.  Every target should have a sound, which could be difficult to do through circuitry.  However (again keeping it simple), I thought what if I wired the targets with a switch, which activates a simple sound chip:

Then it keeps each target separate, easy to replace, easy to reprogram for custom sounds.  Now as for scoring, I thought maybe if each target somehow triggered an LED with a specific flash (say 1 flash for each 10 points), and an LED diode would receive this data and pulse to some sort of generic scoreboard.

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