6/24/2017 – Some new videos of game play

This is mostly for the people who subscribe to the blog but aren’t subscribed to the youtube channel.  Last couple of days have been very busy.  While trying to fix the light bulbs, I accidentally pulled out the connector for the ground of the transformer.  This caused all sorts of issues, included blowing up some of the MOSFETs.  After struggling for a couple of days and fixing things piecemeal, I simply gave up.  I replaced the two OPP cards that drive all the solenoids.  It was about $20 in parts and about 1 hour in soldering to build the new cards but the savings in my angst was well worth it.  I didn’t have some parts on hand so there was a Mouser order involved.  I now have a much better supply of MOSFETs.

I switched from the cheap MOSFETs (FQP13N06L) to using IRL540 MOSFETs.  In the first cards, I had a couple IRL540s and mostly FQP13N06L.  After accidentally disconnecting the ground (actually the current return for the high voltage solenoids), it turns out that many of the FQP13N06L either failed or failed later after several games.  Below is the sequence of events:

  • I lifted the playfield to adjust some bulbs.  I pulled too hard on the cable at some point, and it pulled the connector off the transformer that returns the current for the solenoids.
  • Lowered the playfield, and started playing a quick game.  At some point during the game, I noticed that one of the sling shots was on constantly.  (It was stuck on for a while before I noticed it…maybe 30 seconds).  Performed a test or two and proved it was the MOSFET.  Soldered in a new MOSFET, and started a new game.
  • Almost immediately another MOSFET failed.  This time it was the knocker.  Once again, tested, and this time I simply desoldered the high voltage wire to the knocker.  (The knocker isn’t currently used in the game code).  At this point I thought something was wrong but I didn’t know what.
  • Powered it up and started playing again.  I can’t remember, but I think the other slingshot failed at this time.
  • Finally powered everything off and checked the connections.  Found the two sides of the high current return connector were almost completely off.  Plugged those back in.
  • Now everything should work.  Powered everything up and after batting the ball around for a while, either a slingshot or a pop bumper failed.
  • Frustration set in.  Gripe a lot and eventually go to bed.  Next day looked around in the bin of built cards and found I had enough to replace the OPP board that had 8 solenoids on it.  Built that card into a full card, and threw it in the machine.
  • After about 5 minutes of playing the new card fails with one of the slingshots being locked on.  (I can’t remember if it is the same slingshot that was locked on for 30 seconds or if it was the other slingshot).
  • Got frustrated again and decided that I was going to replace all the MOSFETs with IRL540s since none of those failed.  Made order from Mouser.

So that’s the whole story.  Why did the FQP13N06L fail after I reconnected the ground?  Could it be that I now have a solenoid with an internal short somewhere in the coil.  I don’t know, but at this point, it is working.  Could be I have a ticking time bomb that will fail during Pintastic.  Only time will tell.

Here are the two videos that were done yesterday.  I apologize for the scattered commentary but the kids felt they needed to ask me questions during it, and pass me notes, so I repeat things often.

Here is another video of the white wood mode.  I finally realized that using the target at the end of the inline drops is not going to work because it simply traps the ball.  (Scott Danesi could have told me that earlier, but I’m not trying to achieve a Danesi lock.)  I ended up moving the reset to the Eddy target for white wood mode.   During the real game, it waits a couple of seconds for the ball to drop out of the inlines, then resets it.  I wonder how the old Dolly code reset the inlines?  It had to be a hit of a separate target, or maybe it never reset them until the next ball:

Here is a second video showing the OPP Pinball Framework and rules driving the machine.  You could see scoring happening, but well, I set up the camera too low so it got cut off.   Sorry.  I try to explain some of the rules.  It seems really easy to collect Alex (5 hits for each letter in the pop bumpers), so that might need to be increased to 10 hits per letter.

Speaking of Pintastic… it happens on July 7-8th, 2017.  The machine will be there in the freeplay room.    (I’m also planning on bringing SharpeShooter 3 again).  My seminar is at 3:00 pm on Friday, July 7th on general pinball electronics.  I will probably spend the last part of talk discussing a little bit about the making of the Van Halen machine.  Dave Marston said he is setting up two different times when I will be hanging around the two OPP machines in the free play area and I’ll give tours under the playfield, in the back box, etc.  Let people see how it all works and ask questions.  Supposedly there is going to be a time on Friday and a time on Saturday for that.  Like I said

At the seminar on Friday, I will be giving away a bunch of free stuff…also known as parts that I removed from Dolly and no longer need anymore.  I’ll also give away another set of OPP bare boards.  If you sit through my seminar, you deserve a chance at some free gifts.

I will be around all weekend.  So even if it isn’t one of the designated times, simply stop me, and ask me questions.  (On Friday I’ll be wearing an OPP T-shirt, so that should be a dead give away)  The machines are there until 10 pm on Saturday, so after I get sick of playing pinball, I’ll look forward to talking to people about their homebrew pinball ideas.

2017/06/13 – Starting to go back together

We are getting down to the line.  Less than a month to go.  The machine is still not back together, but strangely, I feel at ease with it all.  Worst case the machine can be played in white wood mode.  The question is…”Is that good enough?”  The answer is “Heck, no!”  We gotta go for broke.

We need some plastics.  Got the sheet of PETG a couple weeks back and found the proper tool to cut it out are the tin snips.  (At least that is the proper tool in my tool chest).  After cutting it out, I used a Dremel tool with a sanding barrel on it, to make the edges nice and smooth.  Just have to apply the vinyl overlay which is sitting in the basement waiting for my time, but I want to take my time with it.  That will probably happen on Friday.

Isn’t going to be much of a pinball machine if we can’t display the scores from the game.  I built a mount out of wood, and used the monitor mount that came on the back of the monitor.  Nice part about it, is that it provides a push button to remove the monitor easily.  This worked out even better than SS3, because it actually locks the monitor in place without requiring a screw.

Last up is the topper.  Nothing says the 1980s like a boom box.  Joe provided me with a topper, and I added a little of my own flare.  That should give true stereo sound (which Dolly never had), and the sound quality should be significantly better.  You can also see that I ended up mounting the Bally interface board, coming up with a good way to hold the cables so that stress isn’t put on the connectors (used velcro to hold cables at the right positions and makes it easy to take everything apart for transport to Pintastic).  Finally I mounted the PC power supply that is providing 5V for the raspberry Pi and 12V for the amplifier.  That’s all I have for tonight.


Nothing says the 80s like a retro boom box


2017-06-09, Video of Rules in OPP Simulator

Threw up a quick video on Youtube of the rules running in the OPP simulator.  What a pain in the rump to get this video up.  CamStudio completely failed me, and I eventually gave up after 6 tries, and recorded it using Microsoft Expression Encoder which allows you to record up to 10 minutes for free.  Bah!  Such a simple thing to want to record something off your computer, but it was all bad.

Rules are basically good enough right now.  It took me about two days of coding spread over four days to get where we are.  Things went well, and I’m pretty happy with how the code worked out.  I have a couple of small things that I want to do, but now the biggest things are to get back to working on the machine itself.  Got a whole bunch of mechanical things to do such as get some plastics, etc.  Hopefully I’ll have some time this weekend since last weekend was busy.

5/30/2017 – Van Halen, White Wood Mode

Just threw up a video of Van Halen in white wood mode on youtube.  This was literally the first time that a ball has been placed on the playfield.  I don’t have any of the solenoid kicks adjusted properly, and while taking the video, I got a phone call.  Many more professional outfits would retake the video, but not me.  We, here at OPP headquarters, (i.e. my basement) let you see all the warts and issues as they occur.

That being said, all the solenoids were firing properly.  The outhole needs a little more umph to get it into the inlane all the time.  Very nice first step.  There have been literally no changes to the Dolly Parton wiring, so I’m pretty psyched.  The main goal of this machine was to prove that the OPP hardware could drive a machine with no changes to the wiring harness.  Check!  I need to come up with a way to attach the connectors more securely to make sure that they don’t pull out from the interface card.

I removed all the GI lights because they were causing the camera to just see those bright spots on the playfield.  Still a lot of work to go, but, things are finally starting to get there.

5/19/2017 – Playfield Repopulated

I found another picture of the playfield being wet sanded.  Wet sanding works incredibly well, and keeps the sand paper from getting clogged.  I can’t remember if I mentioned it before, but I used 600 grit, then 1200 grit and finally 2000 grit.  I then rubbed out the playfield using Novus #2.  I finally used Novus #1 because, well, I have it around and why not use it.  Most of the playfield is really, really smooth.  There are some small areas where I should sanded it down a little more, but, I unfortunately didn’t notice it until I was done with the sanding and had started to move onto the next step.

Wet Sanding

Spent the last couple of days repopulating the playfield and putting everything back together.  It went well.  The many pictures were useful, and I could normally even find which exact screw went where.  Using plastic bags to separate the playfields into different areas also made things really easy, because I was never looking at a large pile of parts wondering where all of the went.  Here is the money picture with the playfield back in the machine.

Playfield Repopulated

As you probably notice immediately, I forgot to paint the apron.  Not sure if I’m going to paint it or not…my wife says it doesn’t look bad the way it is.  The blue does actually match nicely, but the pink is pretty awful.

The plastics aren’t done yet, but I have ordered a sheet of PETG from McMaster-Carr.  They ended up being the cheapest, and after calling and asking how much shipping would be, it was the hands down winner.  Mark used to order stuff from them every couple of days for work, but I always feared ordering from anybody that will send you a steel I-beam if you need it.

Just a couple of minutes ago, I measured the voltages coming off the transformer.  (Remember, this machine has not been powered for six years, and before that, I only played two games before deciding the MPU board was too acid damaged to revive.  I really don’t have a lot of experience on the machine proving that coils are shorted or any other issues.)  I did correct a lot of issues on the machine from the previous operator.  All broken parts have been replaced, and anything that was jerry rigged has been fixed properly.  All the generated voltages are correct.

I did pull fuse #2 on the rectifier card next to the transformer.  That is the fuse that generates the 240 VDC for driving the displays.  I want nothing to do with that type of voltage, and since everything is going to be done with a monitor, there is no reason for it.

Now I just have to get past my worry about turning the power onto the playfield for the first time.  How many checks do I need to complete before I feel comfortable enough to flip the switch?

5/16/2017 – Reassembly

Last couple of days have been busy.  First up was to clean off the backglass.  I had removed the paint using a razor blade, but that didn’t seem to work on the gold layer that was right next to the glass.  I started out trying to use common household cleaners, but it turn out that the scrubbing pad I was using was causing a haze on the glass.  After trying every cleaner I had in the house, the winner was Cerama Bryte.  It got rid of the gold without scrubbing.  The trick was to spread it out, and let it dry.  Then rub it off with a paper towel, and the gold fell right off.  Reading the back of the bottle, the active ingredient is citric acid, so there are probably a ton of different cleaners that would work.

Cerama Brite Removes Gold

So at the same time I was working on the backglass, it was time to work on clear coating the playfield.  I used an xacto knife to cut out all the holes in the playfield.  I’m using the two part auto clear and brushing it on with a foam brush.  Of course it has really nasty fumes coming off it so you need to wear a respirator and swim goggles.  I ended up putting four coats of clear on it.  I mixed up 3 oz at a time which is good for a single coat (2 parts of the clear, and 1 part of the activator).  I followed Clay’s directions and went from the right side of the playfield to the left, then turned over the foam brush, and immediately went back.  I worked from the top of the playfield to the bottom of the playfield.  Each coat takes about 10 minutes all said and done, and then it cures for 4 or 5 hours before another coat can be applied.  I did the four coats over a two day period.  Clay warns that you can’t wait more than 24 hours because it cures so hard that the next layer can’t adhere to the previous layer.

I then applied the vinyl to the backglass (it is white vinyl that is normally applied to the inside of a window).  Used the wet method again.  I bought the vinyl from Banner Buzz and after shipping there were definitely some “crinkly” places in the vinyl because the backing paper being applied and rolled tightly into a tube.  Even relaxing the vinyl for a full week didn’t help it.  It might be that fact that the only way to get it perfect requires you to buy it locally.  The price for a local print vs a print from India is pretty big.  I paid about $65 for the art, and locally, I’m sure I would have paid about $200 for the same amount of vinyl.  Finally the backbox and cabinet were  reassembled.  Here are pictures as it currently stands.

Tomorrow looks like it is time to wet sand out the clear coat, so reassembly of the playfield should be happening either Thursday or Friday.  I really have to start coding some rules soon.

5/13/2017 – More details on applying vinyl

My last entry didn’t really have much valuable information.  I don’t want this blog to simply be about making a pinball machine, but helping others to follow the correct steps to make a pinball machine easier for them.  So here are some quick tips.

Relax the vinyl for multiple days.  When I received the vinyl, I immediately removed it from the tube and laid it flat.  Side rails make nice weights to keep the vinyl flat when it is relaxing.  I let it lay flat for about three days which really worked well.  I believe that two days would have been sufficient.

Used the wet method to allow vinyl to float while placing.  I made up a spray bottle with a couple cups of water and two dashes of liquid dish soap.  I used a generous amount of water on both the bottom of the overlay and on the top of the playfield.  Don’t be stingy.  The more water you use, gives you that much more time to get placement right.  Then, when everything is lined up, squeegee from the center of the playfield towards the edges.

On art, holes should not use dark circles, but should simply continue the artwork.  That way if placement is a little off, it won’t be noticeable.  Same thing with slots and holes for kickers, etc.  There are plenty of inserts around, and those are really what matters for placement.

Holes should be on a separate layer on the art to make this process a lot easier.  That way you could print a vinyl with the holes highlighted, then simply turn off that layer when printing the final version.  I did a test print at kinkos of the playfield, but the test print was on very thin paper.  Even using light to show from the bottom of the playfield, I couldn’t see that the inserts were 1/8 inch off.  I really needed to print a clear overlay with just the location of the inserts.  I could have easily done that before Joe did his artwork or even while Joe was doing his artwork and done that in parallel.  Completely my fault, but I assumed the stitched image was going to be spot on.  The reality is, that it is about .6% off.  Truth be told, that is absolutely amazing, but it isn’t quite good enough for a playfield overlay.

Assume you will need to print two versions of the vinyl, but three would be that much safer.  Vinyl takes about two weeks to receive using express shipping, so assume that you must have at least a month for that portion of the build.  As stated above, it can be done in parallel with designing the artwork.

There is another possibility for the art error which is that the print is not perfectly sized.  I should have put a border around the playfield art at an exact measurement of inches.  As it was, the art went right to the edge of the print.  If the printer modified the art slightly so it could be printed on their machine, it would show the same errors that I’m seeing.  Again, my belief that the scan would be perfect was probably too optimistic.

This morning I used an xacto knife to cut out all the holes in the playfield, then applied the first coat of auto clear.  Tomorrow morning I will apply a second coat of auto clear, and finally, tomorrow night I will apply the third coat.  I might go for a fourth coat, but it really depends on what the third coat looks like.  I think on SS3, I applied three coats.  The first coat of auto clear makes the colors pop that much more.  Nice!