About this project
Makerball is a DIY pinball machine kit. It's ready to play and upgradeable. Makerball is your new hobby. (-: And it's fun! :-)
Makerball is sturdy and solid with. The design is pure and simple. It consists mainly of wood and works with simple, reliable mechanics that are easy to understand. You also have the option of upgrading Makerball digitally: with a microcontroller and the free MAKE & PLAY score app on your smartphone, you can start playing for points!
As seen on
“I’ve always liked playing pinball and wanted to own my own pinball machine, but I never had the means to buy one. Used models weren’t an option either because I wouldn’t know how to repair them. And I couldn’t decide which kind of machine I wanted anyway. So I came up with the idea of Makerball: an affordable, simple and versatile DIY pinball machine.” (Alain Schibli, inventor of Makerball)
Depending on your DIY skills, it takes around 30 to 60 minutes to assemble. All you need is a screwdriver; we highly recommend a battery-powered one.
Level 1: Assemble & play
Once you’ve put all the parts together, you can start playing right away! The starter kit includes a basic obstacle set consisting of wooden obstacles, rubber elements, copper plates, metal pieces and magnets that can be placed anywhere on the perforated wooden playfield board.
Level 2: DIY – Do it Yourself
We provide the base, the rest is up to you! Expand, change, decorate, paint or pimp it up the way you want it. There are no rules and the sky is the limit! Makerball allows almost endless possibilities and is all about DIY. To give you an idea of what’s possible, we have created our own playfields (which was the most fun part of this project). Some of them might look nice, but they are far from perfect. We know that YOU can do better. Go crazy! Surprise us with your creations! Your pinball machine can be anything you imagine it to be. Let your creative juices flow. Just make it!
Level 3: Analog + Digital = Analogital
Makerball can be upgraded digitally. The starter kit includes wires and conductive copper foil that function as sensors. They are actually switches which are switched on when the ball hits them. Connect the wires to your microcontroller (not included), install the free MAKE & PLAY score app on your smartphone and start playing for points!
On our website, we will provide you with all instructions required to set up the electronics. It’s no biggie, even if you have no prior experience. Makerball is also an easy way of entering the maker universe and starting to experiment with microcontrollers.
Makerball was part of a Master’s design project at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) and has been developed over the past two years. It was explored in six circles of iterative prototyping. The seventh prototype is now ready to go into serial production. With your support, the production can finally start.
Within the Master thesis entitled „make & play“, the two seemingly contradictory activities “play” and “make” were examined: In our efficiency-driven, highly stressed society, playing is widely seen as a waste of time, especially by adults. Play became a four-letter word. At the same time, it is increasingly used as motivational way of boosting efficiency, mirrored in trends such as gamification. The aesthetics of undirected play have been neglected and a redesign is needed. But within the niche of the maker community, however, playing is a way of life. What was looked for in the world of play, was suddenly found in the tools of the digital DIY movement: playful systems for adults, which are innovative toys rather than tools.
Pinball too, has somehow become a thing of the past and the appeal of pinball machines as icons of pop culture has faded. The aim of Makerball is to counter play’s bad reputation. Makerball isn’t loud, nor does it have any flashing lights. Here, the rolling ball becomes an object of meditation. Mindfulness and concentration instead of sensory overload.
As the words “starter kit” suggest, this is just the beginning. If our Kickstarter campaign succeeds, we want to collaborate with artists and designers to produce further add-ons like obstacle sets, playfields, more sensors and graphic inlays. Stay tuned. We are also envisioning Makerball events like fun contests, workshops and do-it-together gatherings. Our third eye also sees a growing community (#Makerball) that shares their creations with others. Who’s got balls? Extraordinary creations will be admired and their creators idolised. The “Playfield of the month” will be honoured and the “Makerballer of the Year” will become even more famous than Jay-Z.
Makerball was initiated by Alain „Lain“ Schibli and has evolved thanks to the fantastic support from a team of experts: Chantal Bavaud (design), Thomas Walde (design), Dario Häfeli (electronics), Janos Escher (engineering), Bruno Lüscher (engineering) and Christian Fallegger (coding).
Areas of use
We see Makerball not only for private use, but also in universities, bars, co-working spaces and creative studios. Anywhere that fun should replace stress!
The basic coding was written in Arduino. It is quite simple and checks whether or not there is a signal coming from the copper foils that are connected by wires to the Arduino. The Arduino communicates with the app on the smartphone via Bluetooth. Some microcontrollers such as the Arduino Genuino 101 have an integrated Bluetooth shield. The coding of the app was written with Xcode.
If the campaign succeeds, the code will be open-source so it can be changed, personalised and optimised as you wish. You can also write your own apps. Why not programme the sensors to use them, for example, like a game controller with left, right, shoot and jump buttons?
22 May – 5 July 2017: Kickstarter campaign
July & August 2017: Small improvements to be made to the sensors and the app will be programmed for Android smartphones
September & October 2017: Production
Late October & early November 2017: Dispatch
25 December 2017: Christmas (Makerball could be a nice Christmas present)
What is the size of a Makerball? Makerball has a height of 123 cm, a width of 53 cm and a length of 85 cm.
What age is Makerball best for? We want to push adult play in particular: Makerball is designed for adults aged between 18 and 112 years old!
What does the starter kit contain? The starter kit contains a fully functional, mechanically simple pinball machine. It also includes the basic obstacle set.
What is the difference between the Makerball Starter Kit and the Makerball Starter Kit Desktop Version? They are both exactly the same, except for the missing legs when you make a pledge for the Desktop Version. All other parts are the same. You can buy the legs separately later if you want to.
What do I have to buy extra? If you only want to use the analog version of Makerball, i.e. without sensors and the score app, you don’t need to buy any extras. You can start playing as soon as you’ve assembled it. If you want to upgrade Makerball digitally, you will need a smartphone, a microcontroller, some wires, a breadboard and a battery. We will provide you with more detailed instructions on our website once the campaign is over. A microcontroller and the other parts should cost you less than 60 USD. We recommend a microcontroller with an integrated Bluetooth shield; we’ve been working with the Arduino Genuino 101, which worked very well. The programming code will be open-source and can be changed individually.
How can we follow Makerball? We try to update our Instagram account regularly. It's @Makerball. Soon, our websites www.makerball.org and www.make-and-play.ch will be online.
Thanks for your interest!
Risks and challenges
If there are more than 500 pledges for Makerball, we will have to produce in two batches. Second production batch would be in November 2017 and would arrive in Mid December 2017. First comes, first served.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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