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.