7/30/2015, OPP, the second generation ordered

This week there was a good amount of time to work on the next generation of OPP hardware.  The hardware design/layout is all completed and was ordered on Wednesday through ITeadStudio.  The cards should show up in three to four weeks.  All of the parts from Mouser have been ordered including the processor cards.  The processor is separate so all of the embedded development can happen even before the cards from ITeadStudio are received. Here are the major changes that are in this new version of hardware:

  • The main processor has be changed from a MC9S08SE8 to a PSoC 4200 processor.  The original processor’s package has been End of Life’d.  That means either changing packages (which would mean moving to a surface mount package), or switch to a different processor with a development card so all the cards can keep using through hole parts.  I chose to switch processors.  The choice was then between the Teensy LC, STM32 discovery boards, and the PSoC 4200 Prototyping kit.  They are all Cortex-M0 processors, but only the STM32 and PSoC are 5V processors.  (Useful when enabling/disabling FETs without needing to voltage shift).  The STM32 boards have a larger footprint, so I ended up choosing the PSoC 4200.  Here is a quick link to the prototyping kit from Mouser.  The prototype kits are $4 which is below my target price.  Since it has 32 useable I/O pins, each card can support up to four “wing” boards.
  • The original processor required a debugger to program the chip.  The new processor has a bootloader built in at the factory, so no debugger is needed.
  • Connections between cards was previously accomplished using a 4 pin 100 mil header.  The new boards will use an eight pin ribbon cable to make wiring between cards easier.  The 8-pin ribbon cable adds a couple extra signals including 12V and a synchronization pulse.
  • The solenoid cards used to use an individual spade terminal to kick the solenoid, and a 2 pin 100 mil header for each switch input.  The new solenoid cards use a six pin 4.2 mm spaced Molex connector to kick the solenoids and return the solenoid current, and a single 4 pin 100 mil header for all the solenoid inputs.  Having only two connectors will make it easier to remember the location of the connectors.  This was particularly a problem with the input card since it contained 16 individual connectors that all looked the same.
  • The input only “cards” now have a single 8 pin 100 mil spaced connector for all the inputs.  There is actually no board needed for the input only functionality, the 8 pin header is simply soldered into the PSoC 4200 board.
  • The new board supports an incandescent wing board.  Previously, the incandescent drivers were driven using a SPI bus which was bit banged from the main computer.  The new incandescent wing board can support eight incandescent bulbs, and communicates using the normal UART bus.  A synchronization signal has been added to insure that all incandescent boards can synchronize their blinking if desired.  Instead of using four  2 pin 100 mil spaced headers to drive the bulbs, a single 8 pin 100 mil spaced header is used.  Again, this makes it easier to remove and re-install cards and keep track of wiring.
  • A card with support for a SPI bus or a Neopixel driver.  After talking to a bunch of people at Pintastic, many people were interested in driving WS2812 LEDs.  I have shied away from this for a long time because I don’t believe I have the artistic ability to utilize colored LEDs.  It is very simple to use the SPI interface which is part of the 4200 to command the multi-colored LEDs.  The 4200 running at 5V means no level shifting is necessary to talk to WS2812 based strip LEDs.
  • Previously, each board (input or solenoid) had a different load of firmware on it.  The new boards have enough flash memory that a single version of firmware will support all of the “wing” boards.

The PSoC 4200 has two 8 bit wide ports on the left side of the card, and two 8 bit wide ports on the right side of the card.  (It also has a USB to serial port converter on top of the card, which kind of looks like a head because it is made to be easily snapped off).  Two “wing” cards are soldered to the left side ports, and two “wing” cards are soldered to the right side ports of the processor, making the whole setup look sort of like a dragonfly.  Up to four wing cards can be populated if desired.  In some cases, it might make more sense to add another PSoC 4200 board to keep wiring lengths to a minimum.

The new mashup PCB which is in the repository contains the following “wing” cards:  three solenoid drivers, one input board, two incandescent boards, and two interface boards per PCB.  The PCB is laid out to fit on a 10 cm x 10 cm board.  Each solenoid board can drive 4 solenoids.  The input board can drive a single SPI interface (probably used to drive multicolor LEDs).  Each incandescent board can drive eight incandescent bulbs (or LED bulbs).  The interface boards contain ribbon cable connectors for communication and a communication connector that matches the first style of OPP cards for backwards compatibility.  (Two pins are reserved on the ribbon cables to insure that the cables can’t be plugged in incorrectly.  These could easily be converted to support differential transmit/receive signals if I find it is necessary.)

Here is a quick picture of the mashup PCB:

Mashup, Gen 2

There was a Pinside thread which discussed the differences between PROC and Fast pinball controllers.  Both PROC and Fast controllers are great solutions and available right now.  During that thread, both of the people that have the original OPP cards chimed in about using the OPP hardware.  (Thanks guys, it is always nice to hear that you have had positive experiences so far.)  The original poster mentioned that the OPP hardware was not going to be a possibility because there is no “Buy it Now” button.  I have stated to many people that I am not going to manufacture cards because I work on pinball as a hobby.  That being said, how would a person get the OPP hardware that they wanted?  Up to this point, all the people have contacted me via email, and if I think that they have a real project to work on, and they sound like they have a chance to finish the project, I agree to send them out hardware.  (In all those cases so far, I have both populated and tested the boards)  That is not a sustainable model in the long term.  My current thoughts are that people contact me, and I send them out the bare boards, and then they order the parts to populate the boards locally.  (Through either Mouser or Digikey).

When ordering boards (an order costs $30.50 which includes shipping to the US), ten copies are received from ITeadStudio.  (Each ordered board contains the eight individual cards).  I believe that it will take 2-3 PCBs for a pinball machine (depending on the desired features).  So for a single order, you can build approximately three pinball machines.  It doesn’t make sense for each user to order boards themselves since they will only use 1/3 of the order.  That is why if they contact me, I can take care of sending them the boards that I have available and they don’t need to order from a board house.  That should remove many people’s fears of needing to learn Kicad, talk to a board house, etc.

Let’s talk about the people that should not use this board set.  The board set does not support DMD interfaces, or old style displays.  It is assumed that a computer (such as a Raspberry Pi, Beagle bone black, etc will front end these cards, and will provide display capabilities).  The board set is tailored towards wiring a machine from scratch.  I would like to encourage people to put these boards below the playfield to make the wiring as minimal and simple as possible.  The board was designed as a distributed system, and bringing all the wires to the back box removes most of those benefits.  The one concrete reason why this board set may not work as a replacement boardset for a standard pinball machine is that the solenoid switches may be part of the switch matrix.  To make the solenoids fire as quickly as possible, I have assumed that solenoid switches are not part of the switch matrix.  I am going to attempt to update a machine this Fall without rewiring it, and just attaching the cards in the backbox.  Since I haven’t done that yet, I can’t be certain it is going to work without requiring wiring changes.  Both the PROC and Fast controllers are meant to be drop in replacements for many old boards.  Choose whichever one of those best matches your needs.

So how much is this going to cost to build a set of these boards to support a pinball machine.  I will use the SS3 features to calculate complete costs for the boards.  SS3 uses the following rev 1 boards:  two solenoid boards, two input cards, and six incandescent boards.  That means that it will require four PSoc 4200 cards to run the system.  The total cost for the whole system, including connector costs and shipping costs is $95.83.  Actually a more apples to apples comparison would be to drop out the connectors which brings the price down to $66.75.  (I’m guessing when they quote PROC/Fast prices, they don’t include the connectors that you need to actually use the boards.)  Here is a link to the Gen2Board Board Cost that calculates all the costs.  If I switched the insert lighting to WS2812 style serial LEDs, the cost would go down even further.

I am currently hoping that all the embedded code is updated, running, and tested by the end of this year.  It should not take that much work, I just don’t want to over promise and not deliver.

7/24/2015, Thoughts on Pintastic

I took SharpeShooter III to Pintastic as promised.  I’ll start by giving my thoughts on Pintastic, and then my thoughts on how SharpeShooter III performed.

Pintastic was probably the best pinball event that I’ve attended.  My feelings on the event are probably colored by the fact that I had all day Friday to talk to friends and just play a ton of pinball without the day ending in a six hour drive home.

Here’s how the weekend went…  Took off work a little bit early and drove down to Sturbridge.  I escaped Boston before the traffic got too bad which made for a more pleasant drive.  When I got there, Gabe and Derek had  a good number of dollies available to move machines from cars.  I moved the machine in and put it back together fully expecting to have issues.  Twenty minutes later, it was all together, kicked on the power, and the machine was up and running.  (I had every tool I could think of to fix any issues, but it turned to not be necessary.  The biggest issue I had was with one of the light sockets shorting out, which made two or three of the GI bulbs not work.  I tried to fix it with the soldering iron, and found out that the insulation for the socket was failing and didn’t have another socket with me.)

Now the bad.  On Tuesday and Wednesday, I added a couple new features.  I didn’t really have time to test the changes very thoroughly, and hoped that I got them right.  It turns out that I introduced a couple of bugs, that I didn’t find until I got home after the show.  I should have known better than to update the code without testing it that close to the show, but they were new features that I really wanted to have available.  (i.e. having the Aerosmith Sharpshooter song play when the game was in attract mode, and adding a timer to the kickout hole so that only a single callout would happen.  The kickout hole change ended up introducing a bug where the kickout hole would not fire if certain modes were active.  I checked on the machine every couple of hours, and there were a number of times that I saw the ball stuck in the kickout hole.  It took me less than 5 minutes to fix it when I got it home, but unfortunately I didn’t have time to look into it until I got home.)

Thursday, after I finished setting up, a random person walked into the room and he got to be the first person who is not my family to play the game.  It worked well, and I watched a couple other players play a couple of games.  Since it was part of the Restoration Throwdown Contest, it was in a room with only one other machine.  It was a strange setup, where I’m guessing that most people didn’t really understand the point of the machines in the room.  I changed the machine to start up automatically when plugged in, tested it, and it worked first time.  I left the show and drove back home on Thursday night.

Friday was the big day.  I woke up early, and drove back to Sturbridge, getting there at about 7 am.  Plugged the machine in, and it came right up.  (Oh, yeah, I never ended up getting around to installing an on/off switch, so yeah, it is simply plug in to turn it on, unplug to turn it off).  Turns out that there isn’t much to do until about 8:30 am, so went to the McDonalds and grabbed some coffee.  Saw LTG (got to thank him for answering so many of my technical questions on pinside), and saw Jersey Jack and talked to him for a bit.

At 8:30 am, the pinball began, and really continued mostly non-stop for the rest of the day.  There were probably about 100 or more machines to play, and so with the number of people there, I never had to wait to play a machine.  Every couple of hours, I would go back and check on SS3, and make sure that it was running properly.

There were a couple of new games that I wanted to try in the dealer area.  First one was Full Throttle.  I got to play three  or four games on it, and it was a blast.  It is really, really fast.  It is really, really fun.  I hope one of the local arcades, or someone who buys new machines in the area grabs one.  Next machine was the Lexy Lightspeed.  I really wanted to hate the machine because I tend to dislike pinball mixed with video games.  It turns out that I think that Gerry did a good job of striking a balance between those two.  It was less video gamey, and more pinbally than I was expecting.  I enjoyed the game a lot, and wished I would have been able to play a couple more games to get a good feel for some of the modes.  I have to say I was very impressed.  The flipper buttons lagged the flippers by a couple of milliseconds which was strange, but I think you would get used to it.  Last game was the Hobbit.  I ended up playing three games on it, and it was so lacking in features, I couldn’t really get a good feel for the game.  The machine had one of the rollover switches disabled so that you couldn’t get into some of the modes.  Seemed almost like I was playing a whitewood.  We played in groups of four, and I never saw Smaug.  Maybe that was one of the things you couldn’t get to because the switch was disabled.

A friend from CT showed up with his daughter and we got to play a ton of games on Friday morning.  As it got towards noon, I decided to grab lunch at the restaurant by the lake.  Glad I did it at that point, because the lunch took over two hours to get our food.  Sloooowwwww.  It was time for me to give the talk on creating SharpeShooter III.

So here are the quick links to the videos of the talk.  The first video is the main portion of the talk, and the second video are the questions and answers.  The sound is not that good, because, well, I didn’t speak directly into the microphone.  Here are the links:

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/67230530

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/67232530

Link to the slides:

https://code.google.com/p/open-pinball-project/source/browse/trunk/Docs/SS3Presentation.pdf

Luckily not many people showed up for the talk, and of the people that did show up, I knew most of them.  I don’t know why random people would show up and watch the talk.  I’m guessing that they were tired and needed a place to sit and rest.  The strangest thing was that Roger Sharpe showed up to hear the talk.  I hope I didn’t bore him too much.

Another nice thing about the first year of a show is that it is pretty small.  Just walking around the halls, you would run into people.  There were three or four times that I ran into Roger with my family, and I’d point at him and go, that’s Roger Sharpe, and my kids would go, “ooooohhh” (with awe in their voices).  They only know of Roger Sharpe as the person that the machine is based around.  I wish I would have had a chance to watch Roger play the machine.  I’m guessing he would have been able to hit the shots, and I could have talked him through starting a couple of the modes.

So, finished up the talk, and a bunch of local friends had some questions.  We meandered over to the SharpeShooter III machine, and I took off the glass, lifted the playfield, and showed the OPP hardware.  I also pulled the backglass so people could see what was back there.  At one point, I was pulled up the pinball framework, and showed you could run the code, simulate switches, and play a “game” on my laptop.  It was a great discussion, because some of the things that we talked about gave me some really good ideas on what is next for the OPP.  More on that in another blog entry.  After an hour of talking in the seminar, and another half an hour answering questions, my voice was spent.  Mark and I adjourned to the lake for some relaxing.  It was a great chance to catch up with him.

The pinball hall was supposed to close at some point, but even after announcing it would close in five minutes, nobody moved, and we continued to play for another couple of hours.  We then moved  over to the Friday night JJP after hours party.  I missed the discussion, but just when I thought I couldn’t play any more pinball, Mark and I found out that they had opened up the hall again.  We ended up playing another two hours of pinball, and that is when I got the chance to play the Hobbit.

Saturday was much less pinball related.  The kids showed up, but both had been sick for the previous week, and didn’t feel like doing much.  They played about three or four games of pinball, and then decided they would rather relax by the lake, or go swimming in the pool, or play a round of mini golf.  The pinball hall was really loud with all the machines, and that turned them off a little bit.  I got a chance to catch the Roger Sharpe talk and ask a question.  I grabbed a couple of games on some machines that I had missed such as Sopranos, and Simpsons Pinball Party.  Teardown was Saturday night and they had a band playing which was really fun to hear as you are working away.  I wish I would have been able to spend more time listening to the band.

So there were a couple of issues with SharpeShooter III which I just didn’t have time to fix before the show.

  1. First major issues was the incandescent driver boards.  I calculated the input and output impedence for the shift registers, but ended up messing up the math.  This meant that the clock pulse was reflecting on the long lines, and ended up glitching the lights.  I started with 56 ohm resistors on both the clock and data lines, but they should really be increased to 500 or 600 ohms.  That would make the game look a lot better.
  2. I would say that the code was pre-alpha.  There was definitely a bug at the show that would get the machine into a state where it couldn’t be played.  My bad for trying to update the code on the first morning of Pintastic and not having enough time to really test the changes.  I should never have done that, and should have had a code lock for a week before the show instead of trying to add new features.
  3. The game is too hard.  To start a mode, all inlanes and drop targets need to be collected.  Drop targets are pretty easy to collect, but the inlanes are difficult.  Since the drop targets don’t get reset until the mode is started, or the ball is lost, it can be very difficult to get the last inlane.  The code should be updated to reset the drop targets in easy mode  as soon as they are collected.
  4. Sorry to all the people that played the game and saw some of these errors.  Next year it will be that much better, and hopefully will be complete.  Should only take a short amount of time to fix these issues, but with the time crunch, I was not able to get it done.

I’m tired of typing and need to do some other things.  I promised my wife to work on many things so that I could get a pass and work on the pinball machine for all of June.  That pass has now been returned, so now I have to work on a bunch of items on the to do list.  (Of course, I’m still working on other pinball things when I have time, but probably nothing major will happen for the next few months.  Updates to the blog will probably only happen once a month for the next couple of months.)

6/21/2015, New video

Don’t have much time tonight.  I tossed up a new video.  Things are starting to come together.

Backglass lighting is finished (uses LED strips to provide a very even light.)  All of the modes have been walked through.  There are a few bugs here and there, but the functionality that I want to show is done.

Many games have been played, and the game is stable enough that I could run it easily with the glass on.  Biggest reason that I haven’t is that it is much easier to get it into modes if I can simply hit the target that I need to hit.

A couple of the rollovers aren’t adjusted quite right, but I’m slowly working on them, and fixing them up as I find them.  There are some light sockets that have issues, and when the pop bumpers hit, they shake the playfield enough that a lot of the lights blink.

Boot-up sequence is not as easy as powering on a pinball, but since I will be at Pintastic on Friday/Saturday mornings, it won’t be an issue.  I will keep working on that, but it isn’t a top priority.

Scoring is too low.  There are times in the game where you can’t easily get many points.  I think that I need to add a reset of the drop targets to allow more scoring targets.

I’m giving a seminar at Pintastic on 7/10/2015 at 3:00 pm.  It is basically on the making of the SharpeShooter 3 game.  The talk is not specifically on the OPP hardware, but I will have to describe it during the talk.  If you can’t catch the talk, I’ll be around all day Friday, Friday night, and all day Saturday, so stop me if you see me and say hi.

I can see that I will be adding rules and modes for quite a while on this game.  It is another example of never quite finishing a project, but I think that I can say that at least it is a playable machine.

After Pintastic, I need to take a vacation from pinball.  Too many hours trying to get this machine up and running so it is as good as I can get it in the < 1 year time frame.

6/9/2015, Initial rules up and running

There are lots of bugs still there, but the game is up and running and playing.  The goal was to get the playfield back  together by 6/11.  Finished it last Saturday, and spent some of Sunday working through the initial bugs.

I fixed one small issue with the Pinball Framework where updating the solenoid configuration was overwriting the initial configuration.  This meant that update configurations based on the rules file were not happening properly.  Two lines of code fixed it, but it took me a while to find.

There are a good number of issues that I just didn’t notice when I was programming in simulator mode.  These include issues such as hitting a drop target, and having it continuously score points until the drop targets are reset.  All easy fixes, but I just have to get around to fixing them one at a time and keeping a bug list.

I continue to need to work on the backglass.  Right now, I need to zip off an extra half inch because it doesn’t fit into the backbox.  Haven’t had the time to take it to the hardware store to get them to cut it.  The speaker panel is ready to be installed, and it is really going to help the game to have sounds coming out.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do about callouts at this point, but I may try fiver to get somebody to do a Western voice for me.  I have about two pages of dialog that I need.

Last note for the nights is to mention I’m giving a talk at Pintastic New England.  The talk is going to be on the SharpeShooter III restoration and the challenges.  Choices made, etc.  I think of myself as the Josh Kugler of the East coast.  I’ll be at the show all weekend, so if you get a chance, come on out and enjoy some great pinball.  (You can also vote for SharpeShooter III to win the restoration contest.)  If the machine gets any monetary prize, some of the money is going to Clay for all of the great information that he has provided the pinball community.  (His restoration tips are back up on the web which is great to see.)

Here is a link to the youtube video of the current status:

6/10/2015, updated with new video that fixes sound/video stuttering issues.

5/31/2015, Wet sanding, it’s all good

At the end of last weekend I had a playfield with a good amount of brush strokes in the auto clear.  I was a little unhappy with it, and went to pinball league night on Monday night.  After talking to Chip, who has done a lot of auto clear on playfields, he talked me into trying to sand out the brush strokes.  On Tuesday night I went down and spent five or six sheets (each sheet is split into three sanding blocks worth) of 600 grit sandpaper trying to get it smooth.  The sandpaper clogged up quickly, but there was a lot of improvement, but I wasn’t happy.

The next night I decided to try wet sanding.  Wow, what a difference.  Instead of clogging the paper up, it made a “slurry” and kept the sandpaper working well.  When dry sanding, I was spending half my time changing the paper on the sanding block, or using a clogged piece of sandpaper.  As soon as I switched to wet sanding, it didn’t clog up at all.  Within 20 minutes, the playfield was much, much smoother.

I switched from the 600 grit sandpaper to 1200 grit sandpaper.  I added more circular motion when sanding.  Finally I switched over to 2000 grit sandpaper.  When starting to sand, the block offered some resistance.  As I kept sanding, it became easier and easier indicating that the playfield was getting much smoother.

The one downside to wet sanding is it is messy.  Very messy.  It is probably going to be a complete pain to clean it up, but the results and how fast the results occurred make it well worth the mess.

After sanding I used Novus #2, and finally Novus #1 for polishing.   Right now the playfield seems really shiny.  Not professional since I don’t own a buffer, but much better than I was expecting it to be.

Now the bad stuff for the weekend.  I continue to fight the cabinet.  After installing the glass guide on the side, I found out that the side rails don’t match up with the flipper buttons.  (They are about 1/4 inch high).  I ended up trying to use a sabre saw to shave the wood, but it did not give me a good straight cut.  I then switched over to a circular saw, and that did much better.  The only problem is that I needed to cut off a good amount of cabinet wood so that I could add back a piece of plywood with the channel cut into it.  Luckily all of this work is hidden under the side trim.  After working all day Saturday to get that correct, I was finally at the point where I could try and install the glass on Sunday.

I slid the glass up and found out that the lock down bar interfered with the glass.  Out comes the circular saw again, and a quarter inch gets shaved off the back of the cabinet.  Most of my cabinet problems are caused by the fact that I’m using random pinball parts from random pinball companies.  None of them were meant to work together.  It is only through some amount of  jury rigging that I can get it to work properly.  It is one of the challenges of this project that I wasn’t expecting it to take so long.

5/24/2015, Adventures with Auto Clear

So Friday I picked up the newest print of the overlay for the playfield.  Yeah, somebody finally printed it properly.  Early in the week, I went to a local place to get it printed.  The first print they they made, was too large (eerily similar to the size that I got from banner buzz).  Luckily now they were local, and it was very easy working with them.  After a couple of emails back and forth, it was determined that they had simply printed it incorrectly.  We were never able to figure out why their program increased the size, but it was probably some default setting.  After talking to them on Thursday, they promised me that the new print would be done on Friday so I could work on clear coating this weekend.  Super!  The next print was also free since they admitted it was their mistake.  (Something that banner buzz never did.)  Signs 123 in Chelmsford, MA was the local place that I got it printed.  It is nice to have a local person to deal with when things such as size are critical.

If I was printing the playfield overlay again, this is how I would make sure that it is the correct size:  I would change the canvas on the image to a whole number of inches, so when entering the size in the banner buzz website, it is exact.  It doesn’t matter if the edges are blank, it should simply be printed clear.  Adding a little area around the edge is also helpful, so when installing the overlay, you have a good location to hold the overlay without getting oils from your fingers on the glue.

Once again, used the wet method.  I tried using two people to line it up, (which worked well for the side cabinet art), but was not necessary for the playfield.  After wetting the playfield, and the back of the overlay with soapy water, I would try and line up the overlay by myself.  Trying to do it with two people was too stressful, and probably caused the artwork not be square by a degree or two.  It is noticeable, but I ended up using acrylic black paint to cover the most noticeable of the areas.

Saturday, it was time to start auto clear coating the playfield.  I used Clay’s directions on this link.  Any information that Clay provides is a godsend.  He is the original god of the internet on how to repair pinball machines, and please donate to him if you find his information useful.

So I don’t want the fumes in the house so I set up a tent outside to do the auto clear.  The tent has mesh to minimize the amount of pollen that can get onto playfield.  After finishing two coats, I feel that it is a good option for brushing on auto clear.

Paint Tent

Paint Tent

Playfield in Tent

Playfield in Tent

So Clay says when spreading the auto clear to go from the shooter lane to the left side of the playfield, and then turn the brush over and spread from the left side of the playfield back to the shooter lane.  I found that skipping the shooter lane entirely and doing it at the end after finishing the rest of the playfield worked best for me.  (If I hit the shooter lane low point with a full brush, it would drop a lot of the clear coat into the ditch.  I had to clean that out with the brush at the end anyway, so just avoiding it worked out better).  The second thing I found was that even if Clay says to not got over it again, if you see a bubble, you should make sure that you fix it with the brush using a full stroke across the playfield.  In that way I first did the flat section of the playfield starting just to the left of the shooter lane.  Then at the end, I went straight down the shooter lane to clean the extra clear coat that was deposited when I started the brush to the left of the shooter lane. In that way, I didn’t get any starting/ending brush strokes.

Brushing on clear coat is definitely not going to be as flat as spraying it.  I believe that it will be good enough to play well, but there are definitely going to be some waviness that the ball will ride over.  Spraying simply gives you a much more even application of the clear coat.

Next week is going to be spent repopulating the playfield.  Hopefully next weekend another big update will happen.

5/18/2015, Just when things were going soooo well

I was originally considering using auto clear on the cabinet and the playfield, but after reading all the warnings, I decided it would be easier to simply polycrylic the cabinet.  Polycrylic is not nearly as hard, but I can also work on it in the basement without killing the family with the fumes.  (When you read the warnings on the auto-clear it causes things like blindness, permanent lung damage, etc.  You need to use swim goggles and a respirator when applying it even with a brush.  If attempting it yourself, read every warning that you can find and take it into consideration.  Auto clear is scary, scary stuff and don’t use without the proper precautions.)

So it is time to polycrylic the cabinet.  I did  a quick test on a piece of the clear vinyl that I had leftover from the cabinet.  I used 400 grit sandpaper, 600 grit sandpaper, and no-sandpaper to rough up the surface.  The polycrylic stuck to all the surfaces really well, so that didn’t seem to be an issue.  With the 400 grit sandpaper, I could still see small scratches from the sandpaper after the first coat.  (I tried to take a picture, but the scratches are so minor that I couldn’t get a clear enough picture).  The 600 grit sandpaper worked the best.  The surface without sanding worked well (i.e. good adhesion), but I felt that the polycrylic coat was really thin.

With this information in hand, I decided to start sanding using 600 grit.  As soon as I rubbed the sanding block across the side of the backbox, I noticed that the printing was coming off the overlay.  I assumed the overlay was layered as follows:  vinyl, printing, glue.  It turns out it is printing, vinyl, glue.  It completely makes sense because that would be easier for them to manufacture, and they wouldn’t need to do a separate step to add glue to the vinyl.  They would simply buy it in a big roll.  With that additional information, sanding was not a possibility, and now the sides must be clearcoated to protect the printing.  Not much of an issue, but something that must be considered.

That took up most of my Saturday, so I was blocking out my whole Sunday to put on the playfield overlay.  Attaching that overlay should only take 15 minutes, but I wanted to make sure that I was not rushed in any way.  When Sunday rolls around, I get everything set up, and start putting down the overlay.  Within 5 minutes, I realize that the overlay is not printed in 1:1 ratio with the file I sent.  The center stuff lines up well, but they have stretched the art in both directions.  I went back and reverified everything and insured that the file I sent them was 100% correct.  I now have a trouble ticket open trying to figure out what went wrong with the printing.  Strangely, the overlay is really the last thing that I don’t have completely under my control.  I’m not sure what the resolution is going to be at this point.  Here is a picture of the issue:

Not 1:1 print

Not 1:1 print

After being in a very disappointed mood for the next couple of hours, I decided I had to keep getting stuff done.  I sent in a trouble ticket for the overlay.  That’s as much as I could do on a Sunday with that issue.

Next up were side rails/legs.  There is some surface rust on them which needed to be cleaned off.  I tried the old coke/aluminum foil method and it work like a dream.  I was completely surprised…and in a good way.  I can definitely see how this would not work if it was more than just surface rust, but for those times when there is a small amount of surface rust, it works wonderfully.  Here is the link to the pinside thread talking about it.

Last up, I worked on the speaker panel some more.  A couple more days and it should be finished.  I’m gluing the fake leather to the plywood, and so I do one small section, clamp it, and let it sit for a couple hours.  I repeat that with the next small section.  It doesn’t take that long, but there is a lot of waiting for it to dry.