How pinball machines are made


Originally published at:


It’s good to know they are still made and made by hand.


I didn’t know they are still making them.

I had one once from my late teens to my mid-30ies. Fun to play and easy enough to repair - you just opened up the case and could see which part was supposed to do what. Switches/contact, wire, relays, electromagnets, the odd transformer, lots and lots of lightbulbs… nothing you couldn’t fix with the basic nerd toolkit.


I mean, they’re made by hand in the same way all of our electronics are made by hand… even wire is only partially automated in electronics. A company like Amphenol still has to cut and shape harnesses by hands. It’s like watching a 5U server being made.


I guess assembled is a better term. Probably too fiddly for automation plus not enough volume to make it worthwhile.


That’s what I’m saying. The components are made the same way regardless of volume, and the assembly is just like I haev seen it anywhere else low volume (as in 50K life time or less) products. And I know a lot of those same companies making pinball parts make parts for tech companies too (to save of shipping insanely high volume parts overseas).

Where I’m working now has truly handmade electronics because the IP sensitivity and low volume, but this is pretty standard low volume industrialization using common electronic components. I know the solenoids are machined turned on pinball machines too, though I think the power supplies have a unique manufacturing method. It’s been a long time since I have worked on pinball machines (as a hobbiest with engineering degrees).


This is wonderful :slight_smile:

As arcade games become more obsolete (thanks to better home consoles) it’s been fun watching the small resurgence in handmade pinball. The machines by Stern, Jersey Jack, and Spooky Pinball are a joy to play.


Years back a shop around the corner from where I lived in Harajuku had a pinball machine and I’d stop by and play every day after work.

How they are made is nice, I just wish there was one nearby I could play.


Warms my hear that Stern is still in business; I miss the great old Williams and Gottlieb machines. Hey, wait, there’s a Ghostbusters pinball?!?!?


I noticed a Williams logo on the Star Wars game. I think that Stern bought the rights to the other brands as they died of old age. I used to have a Chicago Coin (Stern’s ancestor) game from 1971… it wasn’t as high quality as the old Gottlieb machines I have now.

But yeah, you have to build pinball machines by hand, because they are specialty items. Each pinball manufacturer used to make one or two different games a month; now they continually produce a ‘best hits’ assortment.



Thanks but they don’t seem to cover Tokyo.


That complicates things a bit:

To Pinside:

There are few options mentioned in that thread that might be worth checking out.


Oooh! two of the three places discussed might even be real. I know for a fact there are none in Akihabara but I will look at the Takadanobaba location (a few stops from my home) or maybe make a trek to Odaiba.

Even for the possibility, thanks a lot!


Not sure who makes them, but they do make all ‘digital’ pinball machines, which are really just a pair of display panels in the classic pinball machine configuration, and some glue boards to connect the buttons to the controller. Bloody things ran windows of all things, too. It’s not the same as the physicality of a steel ball bouncing around the playfield.


Understatement. I remember a pinball game on my Apple ][+ as a kid. Took me 5 minutes to get bored of it. Even with all the computing power and large screens of today, its not something I’d seek out.


On the new Star Wars?

Stern Pinball is a descendant of Sega’s Pinball Division, which was previously at Data East. Stern Electronics descended from Chicago Coin, but ceased operations in 1985.

Several of the former Bally/Williams designers have worked or do work for Stern Pinball, but I don’t believe Stern owns any of the IP from those companies. Without digging too deeply, it appears that both Bally and Williams are owned by Scientific Games, although it’s unclear whether they own the IP to the Pinball machines or not. Chicago Gaming has produced remakes of both Attack from Mars and Medieval Madness that have been well received. These were produced in the Stern factory, if I recall correctly.

The primary producers of new machines are Stern Pinball, Jersey Jack Pinball, and Spooky Pinball.


Probably this:

which led to this:

It’s still not the same, but it’s much better than it used to be (courtesy @codinghorror):


Speaking as someone who deals with SG via his employer, they bought Ballys some time ago. Not certain about the pinball division, though. The slot machine side? absolutely.


Yep, probably both of those two particular softwares.