Date: 17th October 2023
Location: 500 S Hicks Rd, Palatine, IL 60067, USA

Shortly before the start of Pinball Expo last month, Pinball News paid a visit to the Palatine home of American Pinball to see what had changed since our previous visit twelve months earlier.

The American Pinball and Aimtron building in Palatine, Illinois
The American Pinball and Aimtron building in Palatine, Illinois

The building on South Hicks Road is shared with American Pinball’s parent company, Aimtron, with the right half being home to the pinball business.

The American Pinball entrance to the building
The American Pinball entrance to the building

Since our visit was taking place the day before Pinball Expo began, there was much work underway to prepare the American Pinball stand and ship numerous pinball machines the four miles to the Schaumburg Convention Center.

Game Designer, Ryan McQuaid, setting up the inflatable UFO beaming up a cow for the American Pinball stand at Pinball Expo
Game Designer, Ryan McQuaid, setting up the inflatable UFO beaming up a cow for the American Pinball stand at Pinball Expo
Several Galactic Tank Force machines destined for Pinball Expo
Several Galactic Tank Force machines destined for Pinball Expo

With American Pinball’s Executive Vice President, David Fix, also responsible for all the vendor stands at Pinball Expo, a number of machines from other manufacturers were staged at the company’s office so they could more easily be shipped together to the Convention Center.

The objective is to stop aliens abducting the cows... like this
The inflatable UFO on the American Pinball stand at Pinball Expo

Also preparing for his appearance at Pinball Expo was Galactic Tank Force’s Game Designer, Dennis Nordman, who was also busy in his office working on his upcoming titles.

Dennis Nordman talks about his upcoming games
Dennis Nordman talks about his upcoming games

After spending some time talking, David showed us around the factory to see the company’s current games being built.

Inside the manufacturing area
Inside the manufacturing area

Last year, while there were plenty of playfields being built for Oktoberfest and Legends of Valhalla, there was a shortage of the cabinets and backboxes needed to make complete games.

This year there was no such problem, with multiple playfields and cabinets being equipped, and many completed games boxed-up and ready to ship.

When we visited, the company was busy building Houdini and Galactic Tank Force games on two separate playfield lines – Galactic Tank Force on the left, Houdini on the right.

Completed Houdini cabinets and backboxes awaiting fully-populated playfields
Completed Houdini cabinets and backboxes awaiting the installation of fully-populated playfields
The empty but finished cabinets and backboxes
The equipped cabinets and backboxes
A mixed rack of Houdini, Hot Wheels and Galactic Tank Force playfields with the first pieces of hardware installed
A mixed rack of Houdini, Hot Wheels and Galactic Tank Force playfields with the first items of hardware installed
The right side of the production area building Houdini playfields
The right side of the production area building Houdini playfields
Houdini playfields being populated
Houdini playfields being populated
Near-completed playfields
Near-completed playfields

This run of Houdini games is the last to include all the original 3D sculpts for the bumper toppers, the milk can, the spirit plaque, the stage spotlights and the wooden trunk. Future runs of the Deluxe model will replace these models with artworked flat plastics, and use decals to simulate the wood effect on the trunk.

Some of the 3D sculpts on the Houdini games
Some of the 3D sculpts on the Houdini games
A rack of wooden magic trunks
A rack of wooden magic trunks
API Grand playfield displays
API Grand playfield displays

On the left side of the production area, Galactic Tank Force playfields were being built.

Building Galactic Tank Force playfields
Building Galactic Tank Force playfields
The GTF production area
The GTF production area
Galactic Tank Force playfields under test
Galactic Tank Force playfields under test
The completed playfield
The completed playfield
The underside of the playfield
The underside of the playfield
Tested Galactic Tank Force machines
Tested Galactic Tank Force machines

Buyers of the upcoming Signature Edition of Galactic Tank Force will receive a retro-style tin lunchbox with their game, while they and Limited Edition buyers get the RGB lit tank tracks for the sides of their machine.

Tin lunchboxes for Signature Edition buyers
Tin lunchboxes for Signature Edition buyers
Stacks of illuminated tank track side panels for Signature and Limited Edition buyers
Stacks of illuminated tank track side panels for Signature and Limited Edition buyers

While some parts arrive fully-assembled from contractors, games usually require many sub-assemblies to be built in the factory before they can be installed on the playfield. There is a dedicated area for making these sub-assemblies.

The sub-assemblies construction area
The sub-assemblies construction area

Every pinball machine uses hundreds of parts and none of them can be completed until all those parts are in-stock. So, much of the space within the factory is take up with parts storage – from the smallest screws to complete cabinets.

David Fix outside the stock room with tubs of screws, nuts and bolts
David Fix outside the stock room with tubs of screws, nuts and bolts
Racks of Hot Wheels playfields
Racks of Hot Wheels playfields
Boxes of wireforms and other playfield components
Boxes of wireforms and other playfield components
More game parts in the storage area
More game parts in the storage area
Cabinets and backboxes arrive pre-built and sprayed
Cabinets and backboxes arrive pre-built and sprayed

Last year there were piles of cardboard shipping boxes and packing pieces. This year the supplies had reduced as more games have been built and boxed, but there were still plenty ready to go.

A smaller, but still large pile of cardboard
A smaller, but still large pile of cardboard
Some of the completed games ready to ship
Some of the completed games ready to ship
Some Galactic Tank Force models are shipped with the separate tank turret box
Some Galactic Tank Force models are shipped with the separate tank turret box

That brings us to the end of this look around the American Pinball factory. Huge thanks to David for the invitation and for showing us around.

A final look at the production area
A final look at the production area
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