Pinball Rehab

pinball repair and restoration

Pinduino Pinduino Featured Hot video

A couple of guys at Professor Pinball (Wes and Eric) have come out with what is probably the coolest pinball mod I've come across.  Even better is that it's not only a mod, but a toolkit that allows you to develop your own one of a kind mods which interact with game play.   Mere words cannot describe how cool it is, so feel free to check out the video before reading the rest of the article.

Their product, called Pinduino, allows you to sense if a solenoid or flasher has been turned on and then control an addressable rgb led light strip (or any other device you can think of: motor, shaker, etc.).  Since the led strip is addressable you can do much more than just turn it on and off, you can create awesome effects like fading, color transition and chase lights.

In addition to the Pinduino you will need one or more addressable rgb led strips ($25 for a one meter strip) and an Arduino MEGA, which is an open-source microcontroller board and development environment.  Arduino brand boards run from  $20-40 and you can get an off-brand board for $15.  Professor Pinball offers the Pinduino in a kit for $45 (this is an early adopter price and may go up) or assembled for $150 (also subject to change).  

Currently their product is 100% supported on Stern SAM systems in addition to Whitestar and others.  I have personally got it to work on Addams Family (Williams WPC).

The last little bit of magic is the code (called sketches) which reads the inputs (flashers/solenoids) and controls the led strips.  They have already developed sketches for several games and this is all open source so others can contribute their own sketches.  Of course if you know how to program (sketches are written in C) you can develop your own fairly easily even with minimal programming experience (since most of the code can be copied and pasted from the many examples).  If you're not a programmer it's a fairly simple process to setup the Pinduino if there is already a sketch available for your game.

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I bought the kit version and it took me about fifteen minutes to assemble the board (this does require you have decent soldering skills).  If you actually read the instructions--I just looked at the pictures--it will probably take about half an hour.  It will take another half-hour to assemble the cables, which requires some IDC installation tools.  

After assembling the unit it took me about 15 minutes (actual time) to install a sketch and get the unit running on the bench.  My elapsed time was a little longer since I managed to overthink things and  make it more complicated than it needed to be.  All it took was a quick PM to Eric and he got me back on track.  I have not installed the unit in a game yet, but would estimate it would take about 1/2 an hour.

The last thing I should mention is that they have excellent documentation, very thorough and easy to read for beginners.  They also have a post on Pinside where any technical questions are promptly answered.  There are links to the documentation, the github repository for sketches and a list of currently supported games in their post.