The Hyperpin Cabinet Post: part one

I'm posting some info regarding the design and construction of my Hyperpin Cabinet. I plan to put it up on my website soon, but thanks to google searches, this blog gets a hundred times more visitors than my website does. And I plan on building another couple cabinets for the purpose of selling them, so if you either want to buy one from me or build your own, some of this might help you out.

My cabinet, called the Minipin because it's half the size of a standard pinball, uses a playfield from a 27" LCD television that I bought for way too much money in 2005 and had sitting in my garage for three years before I decided to repurpose it. These days you can get a new one for $250, or much less through the classifieds. I spent $200 on the computer, which I had custom-assembled out of old stuff by a repair shop / reseller. It's a dual 1.6 Ghz processor with 2 GB ram (the maximum possible for this model, I think) running Windows 7. The price also included a graphics card and a 17" monitor, which I'm using for the pinball cabinet's backglass. I now wish I'd spent a little more on something better; newer emulations of games run stuttery on it, and I can't use UVP animated backglasses. So this is the bare minimum of processing power needed. Get more if you can afford it.

The wood is 5/8" MDF, left over from my previous two arcade cabinets. Same for the black paint. The plexiglass covering the playfield was salvaged from an old framed poster I had; it just needed some buffing with novus polish to look new.

If I could do it again, I'd use standard chromed steel pinball legs, which cost $80 for a set. Instead I made my legs from aluminum corner stock, off the shelf at Home Depot at a cost of $120 or so. I don't have a welder at home, so I drilled and tapped screws to add a base plate to each leg, into which I could tap the adjustable feet. The rest of the corner stock was used to fasten the plexiglass to the playfield cabinet, and I added 5/8 flat stock around the backglass cabinet front. It has no purpose, it just looks boss.

The CPU is entirely stripped from its case to facilitate ventilation. I also added a fan to the floor of the cabinet which pushes air out, creating a vacuum to draw air in from the top of the playfield (just beneath the backglass). I soldered a wire to the computer's power switch and extended it to a pushbutton on the back of the cab.

There's also a "smart strip", which I recommend. Plug the computer's power cable into the strip's control outlet, and it switches anything plugged into the rest of the strip. This way the pushbutton sends or cuts electricity to the computer, as well as the two monitors and sound system and whatever else. Otherwise you'll need to add a toggle switch to cut all AC power to the whole assembly when you aren't using it, which is what I did with the other two cabinets I built so it's not a big deal.

Since I used a television for my playfield, I took advantage of its nice sound system. All I had to do was add extension wires to the two speakers, which I relocated up to the backglass, and put the TV's volume controls on the back wall of the cabinet, near the power switch. A 1/8" stereo audio cable runs from the CPU to the TV input. Easy and cheap.

The interface was an off-the-shelf kit for $140, including the plunger, accelerometer, wiring harness and usb cable. the only additional expense control-wise was buttons, about $1.50 each. I have six: two flipper buttons, a plunger button (some games use triggers instead of plungers to launch the ball), credit (in place of a coinbox), start and exit. Sometime later I might add a second pair of flipper buttons for the games that use magna-save inlanes. I labeled the controls with transfer letters, which are intended for custom-lettering scale model trains and buildings.

The frontend software is Hyperpin, and I chose to go with Visual Pinball 9 for the emulation software. Future Pinball looks nice, but there aren't nearly as many tables available as there are for VP, it's too processor-heavy for my computer, and too difficult to configure new games with.

There are many ways you can acquire tables, but the way I did it was to get a membership at vpforums. For a few dollars per year you can download a few files per day, and for a little more money you get unlimited downloads. I also used their forums to solve some problems with configuration, thanks to some patient and attentive co-members.If you're as ignorant of PC software as I am you'll probably have some problems and questions when configuring your own cabinet.

see part two

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