Building a what? Basically it is a digital pinball machine where the playfield and backbox image are replaced by monitors or tv’s. And instead of a steel ball, there is a pc running simulation software. And I have started the process of building one.


Back in 2012 I built my first vpin cab (virtual pinball cabinet) after winning a 46″ HD tv in a raffle. The tv was way too big for our tiny living room and I had just built an arcade machine and had seen other people building these vpin’s. So, I went ahead and made one that used the TV as a playfield monitor. Both machines ended up in a small spare bedroom in the house and were enjoyed thoroughly. Long story short: the machine eventually was sold, got it back a few years later and it ended up at my new house where I enjoyed it again. But after upgrading to Windows 10, I ran into some hardware issues and two weeks ago the pc died completely. Now what…

The 2012 pinball machine
The first pinball machine just before it gave up the ghost. I could not get the DMD to work reliably on windows 10 anymore, the analog plunger had stopped working and now the PC died completely.

Pivot or Persevere?

Initially I wanted to repair the cabinet. Back when I built it, I had put the pc on a nice slide-out tray at the back of the machine where I could also open up the back box (that big box on top) and the playfield tv would slide out as well and I had cable-managed everything nicely. Looked like a well thought out design at the time, but the major issue was that the machine had to come away from the wall about 1,5 meter to get the playfield out and to access the inside of the cabinet. This meant the machine would be in the middle of the small-ish room. After frustrating myself for a few nights pulling the thing apart and back together again each night, I decided enough was enough and decided to make a new one. Pivot it is.

Design for maintainability

When looking at “real” pinball machines it is clear that manufacturers have thought about this long time ago (of course). These machines are heavy pieces of electromechanical furniture that are being (wo)manhandled on a daily basis. Stuff breaks and needs repairs and you don’t want a machine to be in the middle of your arcade to fix it. Therefore, after removing the glass, the playfield can be lifted up without having to move the cabinet.

The parts in the backbox can often be accessed by removing the lit image called translite.

For the new cabinet, I want to do something similar so that I can easily access the internals without having to move the machine everytime. The virtual pinball community is coming up with new toys, lighting, force-feedback devices all the time. So, maintainability is going to be important if I want to keep it in working order or add upgrades later on.

The upcoming posts will document the build process and explain the thought process behind the design decisions. With all its successes and failures. The next post will be about material selection and the first steps towards building the new machine.

First steps towards building the new cabinet.

Header photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash