Monthly Archives: March 2016

3/25/2016, Kickstarter is a Go!

That’s about all I have to say.  I’m tired.  I’m going to bed.  Here is my suggestion to anyone wanting to start a Kickstarter campaign with a very low goal…don’t bother.  It is a heck of a lot of work, and is probably easier just to pay for it yourself.

Of course the goal was to see if people are actually interested enough in the project to support it.  If not, I will simply fade away into the ether.

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3/15/2016 -One step closer

The package of blank boards got to Mono-drop, and he immediately started building up the cards.  He is the test case to see if others can build OPP boards by themselves.  There was only one problem.  The documentation wasn’t ready.  Turns out that you can mail something from MA to somewhere in the southwest, and it can get there in about 2 days.  I was expecting it to take a little bit longer so I would have time to put the documentation together.  My bad for not having the documentation finished.  Through some email exchanges, he got the wing boards built and attached to the microprocessor card. The great part about this is it forced me to take the pictures necessary to fill out the documentation.  The document is pretty close to finished at this point.  I still need to add information on building the new incandescent boards because depending on if you want high side switches or low side switches depends on how many MOSFETs are populated.

Link to board assembly document:  populateBrd.pdf

So Mono-drop went through the excitement of building up the boards, got them finished, and then immediately asked how to program the boards.  I quickly sent him off a couple instructions on how to get that to work.  He hasn’t gotten back to me yet, but hopefully that went well for him.  Once he finishes those instructions (should take only a minute or two), he should be able to attach the boards to his whitewood and start flipping.  (I hope that happens soon, because it will be great to see another project using the OPP hardware flipping.)

On Saturday (3/12/2016), I received the new version of the incandescent boards.  It took about 4 weeks this time, but I mostly blame that on the Chinese New Year.  (I did get 10% off, which is why the extra week doesn’t bother me).  This was the first time using the panellization from Iteadstudio.  Basically, a v-cut is used to make separating boards easier.  Before I was using a tile saw which worked, but it was very time consuming and not very accurate.  (The wing cards need to sit flush with each other, and there is probably only about 20 mil of tolerance on each card.)  This meant I would tile saw the cards, then use a Dremel tool to shave off more of the card to get closer to the proper size, and finally use sandpaper, to remove the final bit of material.  All said and done, it would take me an hour to cut the cards apart for an order.  With the v-cut, all you need to do is gently flex the board one way, then back the other way a couple of times, and the boards break right apart perfectly.  Very, very nice.  Coming up with a way to separate the boards was the last technical hurdle that needed to be overcome.  Check!

This past weekend, started work on the Kickstarter video.  It is a sad state of affairs when I need to talk in front of a camera.  After spending a couple of hours to get multiple takes on everything that I wanted to say, I’ve currently got about a four and a half minute video.  The goal was a two and a half minute video.  I guess I’m a slow talker.  (I also didn’t take into account the amount of stuttering that occurs).  Showed the raw “can” footage to Joe, and he basically said, well, it needs to be better.  Crap.  Joe says, “I want a comedic intro.”  OK.  He’s going to help me work on that this weekend.  His “Theatre of the Mind” skits are great, so hopefully that will work out.  Note to Joe:  I would have linked to the skits here, but I couldn’t find any location that wasn’t part of a large podcast.

Strangely, he mentioned he never saw a video of SharpeShooter III working.  I went back through my videos, and he is absolutely right, I never took any.  I’m kind of bummed because it was in a good state before Pintastic, and then I tried a bunch of fixes and never put it back together the right way.  I’m planning on replacing all of the incandescent boards in it so I can run them through Mission Pinball Framework.

3/5/2016, Sold Out

Strangely enough, all of my solenoid wing cards are gone at this point.  I never thought that I would see that happen.  When I did my prototype order to make sure that everything looked OK with the cards, I only built about 15 of those cards.  With Joe, MPF, “The Sultan”, the Dolly retheme, and some random guy that I haven’t come up with a name yet (I think that I will call him Mono-Drop…he has a lot of single drop targets in his design).

I had talked to Mono-Drop over a year ago, and it now looks like he is moving forward with his white-wood.  He has parts coming in, so he needs something really simple to drive the solenoids.  He’s getting 3 unpopulated solenoid wing boards so he can drive 12 solenoids.  This is one more test to see if the instructions/pictures for building the boards are accurate enough to have other people populate them.  It will also give one more chance for someone looking at the documentation and seeing if they can make it work.  Mono-Drop is planning to use MPF (mission pinball framework) to drive the machine since he is a mechanical guy, not a programmer.

So where do we go from here.  Nothing is final on this, but I’m planning on doing a small Kickstarter.  The hope is to get enough money to run one more set of boards.  (A full run of interface boards, and solenoid boards).  After all the Kickstarter fees, I need to get pledges for about $60.  You may ask, why even bother with all the hassle of Kickstarter, and just pay the $60 myself.  I look at it as idea validation.  If I can’t get three people to pledge $25 for a set of boards to drive their pinball machine, I should not be wasting all of my time on writing up documentation, blogging, etc.  At that point, I should simply go back to supporting all the people that I’ve met so far.  For $25 (I’m calling the level the “Do it Yourselfer”), the pledger will get up to 20 wing boards which will run most pinball machines.  (I think the Sultan is currently winning for number of boards needed in his machine which ended up being 18, 5 solenoid, 8 incandescent, and 5 interface).  Each “Do It Yourselfer” will get blank boards, and list of parts/part numbers to be purchased from Mouser to build their own boards.  There will be a higher level for around $55, where I will build the cards. (The cost for the parts will have to be paid when number of type of boards is known).  I’m going to limit the number of people that can pledge at that level because I don’t really want to populate cards.  That’s why I designed the cards with all through-hole parts.

My personality is that I would hide the fact that I’m going to do a Kickstarter until the day it starts.  That doesn’t really benefit the campaign because there are probably a good number of people that don’t check in on the blog frequently.  As such, I’ve started reaching out to The Pinball Podcast, and a few others to see if they would mention it sometime next month.  I’ll also do an entry on the Mission Pinball site, but most of those people are mid-development, so they already have their hardware.  The goal is to start the Kickstart on 4/1/2016 and run it for a month.

The last two people (the Sultan, and Mono-Drop) have been willing to build their own cards.  That is a good change.  As of yet, they haven’t built them, but they are basically the test guinea pigs to see if this will work.  I’m sure it will involve a bunch of emails, but if it was anything like Cactus Jack rewiring his playfield, it went rather well.

Now onto the problems I hit this week.  The new high current connectors for the boards use Molex Mini-fit Jr connectors.  They should be cheap because bazillions of them are used for Motherboard connectors.  (It’s those same 20/24 pin connectors that power the motherboard.  I found a good inexpensive version of those connectors and ordered them from Mouser.  Turns out there are two mounting hole patterns for connectors with exactly the same pitch.  The connectors have a 4.2 mm pin pitch.  I’ve been cutting down motherboard connectors, and between the rows, the pin that is soldered to the board is 5.5 mm.  Not really a problem, but 2 pin connectors cost 58 cents instead of 12 cents.  The 6 pin connectors cost 85 cents instead of 16 cents.   Connectors end up being about half the cost of the boards.  Next version of the solenoid board (the one hopefully ordered from the kickstarter campaign) will be changed to use the 4.2mm x 4.2mm parts so it can move to the cheaper connector.

3/1/2016, Got OPP Boards?

It is getting to a point were some people are starting to ask me about getting OPP boards.  Most of them will probably simply disappear into the ether, but one or two of them might actually want to build their own homebrew pinball machine.  That’s pretty exciting because I think that the cards have the possibility of breathing life into many an old machine that would otherwise be destined for the big pinball machine in the sky.

Let’s say that you want to retheme a pinball machine that you got for cheap because it a) doesn’t work, b) has a playfield that is worn down to the wood, c) has a really crappy theme that there will be no tears shed when it disappears.

Here is the standard disclaimer that I tell everybody that wants to build their own machine.  (To the guy that I just sent this list, sorry, but I feel it is clever enough to reprint here, and I have given this same information to multiple people who want to start building their own pinball machine.)  Here it is, the standard OPP disclaimer on reasons not to start building/retheming your own pinball machine:

  1. Creating your own pinball machine from scratch takes multiple years.
  2. You will gain no bonus points from your wife/significant other.  (actually you will probably lose them).
  3. Retheming a pinball machine can be done in about a year, but it is a lot of work.  (again, at the end of it, people will only be amazed at how much time you wasted on something that really is only significantly meaningful to you.)
  4. Building your own pinball machine isn’t cheap.  (it is death by 1000 paper cuts).
  5. You are not going to create a Medievel Madness for $4000.  (You can do it, but when taking into account your time, regardless of how much you make, you should just go out and buy one.)
  6. Building your own pinball machine is personally rewarding.

I’m actually feeling confident enough that the boards will work.  I just got the shipment notice that they were sent from China, but since I chose National Express Line for shipping, I’m hoping that it takes approximately the same amount of time as Hong Kong Post.  We shall see.

A bunch of people have discussed building their own boards.  Tonight I’m going to do a video which displays how long it takes to solder a solenoid wing card.  My prediction is that it should take less than 5 minutes for the wing card.  We will see how much time it actually takes.  I keep telling people that it is all through hole soldering, so hopefully the video will show just how easy these boards are to make yourself.

It looks like it took me about 7 minutes to build the board.  Of course I was trying to do a video at the same time.