Arduino Pinball – Solenoids, coils and windings

Lots of cheap solenoids can be found online, but can they be used in an Arduino Pinball game? This post is part of my Arduino Pinball Project, and  I test out cheap solenoids and print out some basic flippers to try out the designs.


I have made a video of the flipper testing, check it out below.

My initial idea was to be creative when it comes to pinball mechatronics and how to make things move on the playfield. For the flippers I have evaluated DC motors, stepper motors and servos as solutions to make the flippers hit the ball, all though solenoids is the forever proven flipper technology. The reason I wanted to think differently is simply because I didn’t know how to control a solenoid when I started the project and I thought using NEMA17 stepper motors could be a precise and easy way to move flippers, and I have experience with stepper motors from building my DIY CNC router.

After some research I now see that solenoids are very simple applications and for flippers, popbumpers and slingshots these are really necessary. There are a few things to be aware of when it comes to the the electronics and wiring, but nothing impossible.

marcospecialties coils
Solenoids from marcospecialties.com

marcospecialties.com have a good selection of coils and windings and also offer complete assemblies for flippers and bumpers and more. My first thought is that it doesn’t fit my budget, I want something cheaper and I like the idea of making and putting things together myself not  buying finished assemblies. The solenoids costs from USD 8 and up and complete assemblies varies from USD 50 and up.

I have found several solenoids on ebay.com that are really cheap, from USD 3. Most of them doesn’t give a good explanation of stroke and force, and even if they do I wouldn’t know what I’d need. Most of them have a chassis that I think makes it easier to mount it and I’m probably building a mount solution out of wood somehow.

So more research is needed. I have found a site called zantysolenoids.com that offer solenoids that look a lot like what I found on ebay.

zantysolenoid
Solenoids from zantysolenoids.com. At least a good reference with force/stroke curves and other important data.

The product page refers three important factors; “volt”, “force” and “max on time”. The more volt you give it the more force you get, but also less on time, as the coils can burn if it’s on for too long. Using 24V I would get 260-200gf force and the max on time would be 19 seconds. The max on time is only important for the flippers, that can be hold ‘on’ by a human. Bumpers and slingshot will only be on for a very short time. I’m thinking I could program the flippers to turn off after 10-15 seconds if this proves to be a problem.

I will base my setup on this instructable, but use my own parts from ebay.

This is my first test:

This is a video from someone else. Using 24V seams to be the way to go, by this video:

 

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4 thoughts on “Arduino Pinball – Solenoids, coils and windings”

  1. Thanks for upload…Great progress and testing .. I’m in the early stages of the same same type of project.. so this is very interesting and i plan to print similar style parts / testing etc. Keen to hear about updates and share any findings !!

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  2. Nice work. I am also working on a pinball project but driven by an FPGA chip.
    your solenoids are DC right ? also I am wondering why using a relay instead of mosfets (like on real pinball machines) ?

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    1. The solenoids are DC, yes. I think I will need to upgrade to 24v and use bigger solenoids for the flippers if I continue with a 27mm pinball. The small solenoids didnt have a chance with that one. I used the relays just for simplicity, but I guess mosfets does the job too.

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