Plans for Maker Cake Pinball Machine

September 4, 2008

Components

Cake
Pictures of past cake projects

  • Full pinball machine size L 55″x W 28″x D 5″ flat, with hard fondant frosting.  Angle of incline is traditionally about 7 degrees, but we will use whatever works for good gameplay.
  • The bottom portion of the cake will be frosting on plywood, with only upper sections as proof that it is “cake”.  Any section with electronics will be “fake cake”/iced plywood.
  • Cake will sit on plywood base with handles to help in moving (cake will likely weigh 50 pounds plus.)
  • It would be cool if we gave out cake to people who get a high score, but that necessitates plates, forks, mess.  Food vendor regulations, perhaps?
  • Outer Walls/Borders are made with compacted rice krispie treat also covered in fondant.  Integral struts and dowels connected to the plywood base for support.
  • Lower walls of playfield protected by stretches of rubber or metal if there is a lot of impact erosion in play testing.
  • Plexiglas shield covering player end avoids icing sampling, ball tampering, and air balls leaving playfield.
  • Art graphics for the plastics will be printed on icing with edible ink to add realism.
  • Obstacles on playfield will be made of rice krispie treats covered in fondant.
  • Multiple fondant-covered items for props (outside of playfield) to help explain the build process.

Flippers:

  • Although we could use actual flipper mechanisms, they are pretty large and power-hungry, and require two-stage coil power management.
  • Servos are cheap.  May need faster or stronger ones than the generic ones.  Early playtesting with large on-hand servo collection will clarify what we need.  Driving the servos can be done two ways:
  1. Microcontroller: PIC or Stamp reading buttons, jiggling ports to do servo timing, reading sensors.
  2. Microcontroller: PIC or Stamp reading buttons, talking to SSC servo controller board.  Better for multiple servo situation (toys, bumpers).
  • Flipper plastics:  a plastic flipper body could be glued to a servo horn with extension to lift it above frosting layer.  Most flippers have long shafts and go through a nylon bushing to prevent wobble.  This shaft could be attached to the servo.  We have a spare playfield and will try both approaches.
  • Flipper rubber:  essential for bounce and looks.  We have a few in “pencil eraser red” but might use green or purple depending on theme.

Buttons:

  • Standard arcade buttons installed at playfield width in a box isolated from the cake, maybe even on a stand alone table/saw horse. (a pinball machine is 300 pounds and can be nudged slightly; the cake will weigh less than 100 would be batted around if buttons were attached to cake unit).

Ball: Will be chosen based on interactions with fondant, play quality

  • Gumball – nice colors, fits with edible theme
  • Ceramic Twilight Zone “powerball” – 20% lighter than standard; lower friction
  • Smaller-than-standard pinballs (often used on smaller games)

Ball Launch:

  • Possible to kick it up a ramp or tube to the top of the playfield, let it come back down through the playfield.
  • Or:  just kick it out lightly from the between the flippers to one of the flippers.
  • Need a switch to both detect ball in drain (game over) and ball ready for launch.
  • “Launch” button or hold both buttons when ball is drained to launch.
  • Vertical upkicker (VUK): very useful assembly; can be used to detect ball (game over) and launch ball a fair distance for either launch option.

Playfield “Toys” for ball control, scoring:

  • wire ball guides, particularly lateral to flippers, will be needed
  • spinners – these are easy to mount, gratifying to hit
  • pop bumpers
  • skinny balloons and rubber rings between posts would give bounce, will be useful for playfield tuning.

Pop Bumpers:

  • Difficult to implement, but cool, giving things a traditional pinball feel.  They are iconic and allow more scoring options, lots of randomness, and visual appeal.
  • Traditionally there is a disc at top or bottom that the ball moves, which trips a microswitch and causes the cap to “fire” downward.  May need a solid base around it to prevent icing indentation, as action is intense.

Backboard/Scoreboard:

  • plywood box with fluorescent illumination to back light color graphics.  This will be done with color prints mounted behind plexiglas.
  • Old school LED scoring vs. backlit LCD with “big digits” mode.  Either way, updated by microcontroller.

Sound:

  • Minimally, we will have computer speakers playing a theme song.
  • Sound effects with playfield toys and other events might be added.

Stand alone display will included “making of” photos that document the process, providing edutainment around both the engineering and the cake making.

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