MELROSE PARK, IL -- Stern Pinball welcomed some 300 flipper-game enthusiasts to its factory here during the 25th annual Pinball Expo last month. The international flipper extravaganza was held at the Westin Hotel in nearby Melrose.
Stern's staff guided the eager visitors through the facility, offering extensive insight into the manner in which new pinball games are conceived, designed and manufactured. John Rotharmel, who leads the company's mechanical engineering team, demonstrated how parts are designed with a computer-based three-dimensional modeling system, SolidWorks. Game designer John Borg offered a similar demonstration of two-dimensional computer-aided design software as a tool for laying out playfields quickly and precisely.
The five-day Pinball Expo drew more than 1,000 enthusiasts, many of them collectors. Among highlights of the event were presentations by Gary Stern, founder of Stern Pinball, on the future direction of the company, and a "fireside chat" with former Williams programmer Larry DeMar. Keynote speaker at the pinball banquet was Michael Stroll, former president of Williams Electronics.
Among features of the 2009 flipper festival were an exhibit hall in which participants could show off their classic and new games, plus booths staffed by specialists selling everything from backglasses and souvenirs of all types to T-shirts.
"We have participated in Pinball Expo for a lot of years," Stern recalled. He praised the participants -- and their friends back home -- as important to the company's player base, and as valuable customers for new and used Stern games. "We appreciate the opportunity to tell them about Stern, and to learn from them," the industry veteran said.
Stern Pinball, which asserts that it is the "only coin-op pinball manufacturer on the planet," maintains sternpinball.com, a website offering access to a great deal of information of interest to operators and enthusiasts alike.
The next Pinball Expo is set for Oct. 20-24, 2010, Wednesday-Sunday, again at the Westin Chicago North Shore in Wheeling. It's open to the public. Information may be found at the event's website, pinballexpo.net.