Although Dutch Pinball moved into their ‘new’ larger premises in Herkenbosch around eighteen months ago, the pandemic prevented any official celebration to mark the company’s continued expansion… until now.
Herkenbosch is a semi-rural town in the Limburg region in the east of the Netherlands, adjacent to the German border. It has quite a large industrial park to the north of the town, and it is here that Dutch Pinball has its factory.
The delayed factory-warming took place on Friday 27th May, 2022 and Pinball News was invited to attend and report on the proceedings.
As you can see the weather was good for sitting outside with temperatures in the upper-teens (Celsius), although there was also a gentle breeze which made it a little chilly once the sun disappeared over the horizon.
Dutch Pinball owner, Barry Driessen, welcomed guests and in return received numerous factory-warming gifts – mostly alcohol-based – to thank him for holding the event.
Inside the factory there was a DJ playing vinyl hits and a bar serving chilled larger and a small selection of cocktails, including the inevitable White Russian. We were driving so didn’t get to sample the cocktails, but everyone else seemed to be greatly enjoying them.
The attendees were a mixture of pinball fans and Barry’s family, friends, and well-wishers. There was a selection of pinball machines for guests to play including two of Dutch Pinball’s The Big Lebowski games and a Bride of Pinbot 2.0.
When not hosting parties, the Dutch Pinball facility is a fully-fledged pinball factory, turning out The Big Lebowski machines at a rate of around 10-12 per week. Supply chain problems have impacted production here as it has at all manufacturing companies around the world, but Barry told us the parts supply situation is continuing to improve from the lows seen in 2020.
Twice during the day, Barry took groups of around two-dozen guests on a guided tour around the factory.
He began by showing them an early proof-of-concept prototype playfield from the development of The Big Lebowski, made using plywood, MDF, 3D printed ramps and a number of standard pinball parts for targets, switches, bumpers and posts.
Next to the early prototype was one of the first games used to promote the title at pinball shows. The wiring has been hugely simplified since then.
Then Barry showed the group where the design and assembly of the mechanisms used in the game takes place.
The completed modules are put on shelves ready for them to be attached to the playfield during its construction.
The centre of the factory is where all the components are fitted to the playfield. There were several playfields on their rotisseries in varying levels of completeness.
Interestingly, there haven’t been any reported playfield issues with The Big Lebowski games, unlike some other titles with playfields from the same source. We noticed that the playfields being used on the line were quite well-aged, giving plenty of time for the clearcoat to fully cure.
Adjacent to the playfield assembly area is where the cabinets and backboxes are fitted-out with their hardware, including the bowling lane and the computer control system.
The backbox is then completed by the illuminated translite.
The playfields are then installed into the cabinets and the game is almost complete.
On the right side of the factory sits a row of completed games which are ready to fold, pack and ship.
There are two designs of bottom apron amongst the machines. One is a print of the star design while the other has illuminated inserts.
Of course, every game needs a sheet of playfield glass and has to be strapped and boxed for shipping.
Barry then concluded the factory tour with some additional questions and answers about the manufacturing process and the history of the game.
Later in the afternoon food was served. This consisted of copious BBQ steaks, burgers, and sausages, served with bread, salad, grilled vegetables, and assorted sauces.
Both the music and the drinks continued to flow into the evening, but regrettably we had to thank Barry for his hospitality and make our way back to our hotel.
There’s no doubt that the Dutch Pinball operation is making great use of their new, larger facility. It’s difficult to imagine building The Big Lebowski machines in a much smaller space, even though that what they did for a year before the move. The current factory looks clean, well laid-out and well-stocked to keep building the full run of machines – both new orders and those still owed to the Early Achievers.