Behind the pins: How do pinsetters work?


You've made the perfect approach and bowled an awesome throw. You watch in anticipation as the ball glides effortlessly along the lane and eventually sends the pins ricocheting into that black abyss behind them. It's a strike!

Have you ever wondered though what happens next? How do those magic machines always manage to deliver a fresh set of pins for the next bowl? How does your ball return right to your fingertips in a matter of seconds?

Today we go behind the scenes and explore how pinsetters, the unsung heroes of bowling, keep the game moving!

Back in the day

Today we take these devices for granted, but before the technology came along, 'pinsetters' actually referred to human boys who did the work manually!

Luckily, it didn't take long for Fred Schmidt to invent a contraption he called the 'pinspotter', laying the foundations for modern bowling.

So how do they work?

Pinsetters are activated by a bunch of sensors that detect your ball as it approaches the pins.

As soon as your ball knocks down the pins, the 'sweep' comes down and acts as a barrier in front of the pins while the 'pin table' is lowered onto the remaining pins.

The pin table counts the number of pins that are still standing and sends the information to a computer that records your score. It then picks up the pins and the sweep clears away the 'deadwood' - the pins that have been knocked over.

The standing pins are then lowered again for your second throw.

Sounds simple enough, doesn't it?

Where did my ball go?

After your ball and the deadwood falls into the ball pit, they are both transported along a conveyor belt.

There is another sensor here that is only activated by the weight of a bowling ball - this opens the 'ball door' just for the ball, which then travels back to you along another belt under the lane, ready for your next throw!

Why not head over to a bowling alley for your next birthday or work party to see these pinsetters in action for yourself?