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This DIY Jurassic Park pinball machine is a T-Rexcellent use of Arduino

Arduino TeamJanuary 30th, 2024

Pinball machines are prime examples of the dizzying heights achieved by engineers in the electromechanical era before digital electronics came along. But while those classic pinball machines are extremely impressive from an engineering standpoint, they required an immense amount of expertise and were therefore unapproachable to most. By utilizing modern digital components like Arduino development boards, Barjo was able to construct this amazing Jurassic Park-themed pinball machine.

From a user perspective, this looks and operates a lot like a classic pinball machine. But instead of relying on complex mechanical linkages and vast arrays of electric switches, it takes advantage of today‚Äôs microcontrollers and sensors. The table is mostly wood and Barjo 3D-printed a bunch of custom parts, such as the paddles, pathways for the ball, and enclosures for the electronic components. 

Some of the parts, like the spring-loaded ball launcher, are standard off-the-shelf pinball components that are available through retailers that sell refurbishment parts. But most are custom and work using electronic circuitry. The electronic components operate under the control of an Arduino Nano and an Arduino Mega 2560. The Nano is tasked with the flippers, while the Mega handles the displays, sensors, and solenoids.

There are a variety of sensors on the table, such as infrared break beam sensors to detect the passing ball. Those can trigger solenoids to open up gates to specific pathways, like the T-Rex paddock that lets the player rack up additional points. Those points, and some status information, show up on an eight-digit seven-segment display. And, of course, there are plenty of flashing lights to create the ideal pinball experience.