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Digital Pinball Controller PCB

Back in 2017 I produced two digital pinball machines controlled with real hardware flippers and tilt function. These machines were the Xero Pinball and Reload Bar Pinball tables.

See for an overview of the tables. Mobile and desktop only versions of the Hip Pocket Pinball Series are still available for free (and ad-free) download.

The custom controller hardware itself supports six buttons:

  • Left flipper
  • Right flipper
  • Launch button
  • Play button
  • Admin function button

Also two LED outputs are supported:

  • Launch LED
  • Player LED

The original boards were done on perf and were an eye-sore. But they featured USB HID functionality, essentially based on keyboard triggering, but allowed the lighting of LED indicators which is a limitation in regular USB keyboard PCBs.

It was designed with good old pen and paper to sketch out a rough component layout (now lost) but I still have the SVG that it was moved to:

This was then used as the reference for designing the new PCB layout and connections, and testing component footprints for sizing.

The new controller PCB utilises a PIC16F1455 microcontroller (earlier designs used a variety of other Microchip microcontrollers) on a custom PCB designed in KiCAD. The goal was to use all through-hole components for simple assembly, troubleshooting or repair.

Spending the time hand-routing the traces paid off. When my boards arrived, I popped in the pre-programmed PIC (dip package) and connected it to the test harness. To my absolute delight the design worked first time, no patching or re-spin required.

When working in KiCAD, I used the printout of the original SVG diagram and highlighted each trace on the paper as it was laid down in the new design. This way I could slowly cross reference each trace and have a fair level of confidence that each was correct.

It's always interesting to see how a board always appears much smaller than what you had in your mind. Like people on television :)

To access more information about the Virtual Pinball schematics and PCB gerbers, these are available at: Eventually all parts of the project: the frame construction, game software, controller hardware, and controller software will be opened up to allow you to build your own machine.

pinball_controller_pcb.txt ยท Last modified: 2024/05/12 11:39 by sausage