Virtual Pinball Machine

Virtual pinball tables consist of the same basic elements as regular pinball machines with a few replacements; The playfield and backglass are replaced with monitors and controlled by a PC. The buttons (and sometimes the plunger) are replaced by buttons and a game controller or keyboard emulator. In more advanced tables the LED dot matrix display replaced with a compatible replacement or a 3rd monitor.

This previous project was the perfect test bed to see if the PC I was planning on using was good enough to run the games smoothly. The first test run was running Future Pinball with a Kinect for facial recognition.  At 25-30 FPS is was OK but there was noticeable lag at times.

As this was my first and I wanted to use atleast 90% recycled parts I’ve moved away from using the Kinect for now and the frame rates improved about 10-15%.

Now to check if the old LCD TV could be made smaller SAFELY. After removing the bezels, and speakers there was still significant metal structure that couldn’t be removed without a Dremel and possibly damaging the screen.

Put it back together and test it’s all working.

We have had our laundry and bathroom cabinets replaced and now it’s time to reuse the materials

I’d mocked up a quick model using Sketchup to check measurements. Unfortunately the screen had to have a minimum 10cm gap on the sides of the table to accommodate the space needed for the speakers on the front bezel.

Turned out pretty well and came together nicely.

Another test to check the fix the angle of the playfield.

Although I did have an issue cutting the hole for the woofer in the base. The plunge router I started using to cut the circle died after cutting not even a quarter of the circle. The rest of it was completed with a rotary tool (very roughly).

The backbox was cut and assembled, along with the backglass fascia, and fan holes (x4).

The side rails were cut to hold the custom cut safety glass and the black blanking plate was also cut and inserted to hide the TV bezel. Again it was assembled to check it works and to see if there are any obvious issues. At this stage I changed the software to PinballX as the frontend and Pinball FX2. The tables and animations for Pinball FX2 are more complex than Future Pinball, but renders quicker and the frame rate is flawless. Scrolling through tables in PinballX can be slow and disjointed.

The Kinect opening in the backglass fascia (originally cut by hand) was too tall, so I re-designed it and cut it with a CNC.

Spray painted and fixed the sidebars – I used JB-Weld to glue them together, which worked surprising well the second time. There is a small list of items I would like to change in time:

  • Inset the speakers
  • Cover the black paint with a vinyl wrap or side art.


One thought on “Virtual Pinball Machine

Leave a Reply to Ron Booker Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *