Date: 25th January, 2021

American Pinball’s recruiting drive continues with the appointment of Zofia Ryan as their new Senior Mechanical Engineer.

American Pinball's new Senior Mechanical Engineer, Zofia Ryan
American Pinball’s new Senior Mechanical Engineer, Zofia Ryan

Zofia Ryan has a long history of mechanical design for the amusement and gaming industries but is perhaps better known in pinball circles by her maiden name, Zofia Bil.

She was the first female mechanical engineer at Williams and became a regular part of Barry Oursler’s design team, working with him on titles such as Doctor Who, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Popeye Saves the Earth and Dirty Harry.

Pinball News asked Zofia about her time working at Williams Pinball and which of the many mechanisms she designed presented the greatest challenge.

She told us, “When I first started at Williams I was nervous and apprehensive but the employees and managers made me feel at home and relaxed. During my tenure at Williams I progressed from drawing board to AutoCad to 3D and met and worked with many talented and wonderful people, many of whom are friends to this day.”

The Doctor Who mini-playfield was the most challenging pinball mechanism I have had to design because it had a multi-level play feature which was the most challenging part.

The patent for the Time Expander from Doctor Who
The patent for the Time Expander from Doctor Who

The Time Expander earned her and Barry a patent, as did the Mist Multiball magnetic ball mover in Bram Stoker’s Dracula which Zofia says took 3-4 weeks to complete.

The patent of the Mist Multiball mechanism from Bram Stoker's Dracula
The patent for the Mist Multiball mechanism from Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Other patents include the Animal Kicker multi-diverter and the roulette wheel skill-shot mechanism, both for Popeye Saves The Earth. Zofia designed most of the mechanisms on that game, working with Python Anghelo, just as she did on The Machine: Bride of Pinbot for which she earned another patent, this time for the criss-cross dual ball path ramp from the upper playfield.

While many people have outlandish stories of their time working with Python, Zofia’s are much more restrained. She recalls, “Python was a very talented and creative artist and game designer with whom I worked on a few games which he designed. The great memories that I had with him were going out to lunch at different Asian restaurants and enjoying exotic new dishes.

She also worked on the game The Party Zone, which was her first encounter with another recent American Pinball appointee, Senior Game Designer Dennis Nordman. Later, Zofia helped with Dennis’s Scared Stiff game. She told us, “I was a supporting engineer on the Elvira game and worked with Dennis on the coffin mechanism (miscellaneous parts, brackets and links).

Dennis recently designed several games for Deeproot Pinball but claims one reason he left the company was because there was no mechanical designer with whom he could further develop his designs and bring them to production. With Zofia’s appointment, American Pinball appears to have wasted no time ensuring the same situation doesn’t occur in Dennis’s new position.

Zofia’s last pinball game at Williams’ pinball division was Junkyard, after which she transferred to the slot machine division, WMS Gaming.

Her pinball background has always remained with her though, in part thanks to her personal collection of the pinball machines on which she worked. Some of these can be seen in the background of her picture at the start of this report.

Here’s the press release from American Pinball announcing Zofia’s appointment:

American Pinball is proud to announce our newest senior mechanical engineer Zofia Bil Ryan. Zofia has been a mechanical design engineer for more than 30 years and has achieved valuable experience in designing plastic parts, sheet metal parts, mechanical components and game mechanisms for the overall gaming industry. She was the first woman to be hired as mechanical engineer at Williams.  As a valued employee of Williams Bally Midway (WMS Gaming), Zofia created many mechanisms for various pinball games as well as for a casino game and she was awarded six US Patents for these designs. These patented parts include:

· Two-way Kickout Mechanism for pinball (Popeye)
· Roulette Scoring Device (Popeye)
· Magnetic Ball Carrier for Pinball Games – Mist Multiball (Dracula)
· Multilevel Play Feature for a Pinball Game (Dr Who)
· Multiple Path Ball Ramp for Pinball – Rotating Head (The Machine)
· Machine with Enhanced Re-Shielding Enclosure (for casino game)

Zofia also designed the mechanical parts of many pinball games for WMS. She worked with several game designers in this effort which included: Barry Oursler, Bill Peutzenreuter, Tony Kraemer, Walter Smolucha and Steve Kordek. These games include:

· Pool Sharks (released 1990)
· The Machine-Bride of Pin Bot (released 1991)
· Dr Who (released 1992)
· Dracula (released 1993)
· Popeye (released 1994)
· Dirty Harry (released 1995)
· Who Dunnit (released 1995)
· Ticket Tac Toe (released 1996)
· Junk Yard (released 1996)

We are so proud to have her leading our mechanical engineering team. Zofia loves pinball and has her own pinball collection of all the games that she ever worked on. 
The American Pinball press release
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