Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Me and Hugh (OPP) finally meet!

So last week I was on vacation.  Flew into Boston, drove up to Maine.  Last minute I'm like "Who do I know in the area?", and I realized Hugh was like 40 minutes from the airport.  I didn't have his phone number so I emailed him early in the morning hoping he would check it.  I felt bad not giving earlier notice, but I couldn't pass up this opportunity.  Turns out he was going to be home that afternoon, so me and my wife drove up barely going out of our way.  He gave me a tour of his basement, and the opportunity to finally play SharpeShooter3 pinball.  Even though I've watched videos of him playing, it's more bizarre when you're playing the physical game and you hear your own voice on it.  We chatted a bit, and I think our biggest negative takeaway with both projects was much it annoyed us that the inserts were off.  It's most likely a combination of bad measurement / Photoshop and Microsoft ICE not doing a great job of merging scans, and the vinyl stretching during application.  The last can be fixed by printing art to something solid like thin polycarbonate sheet (same way outside edge does their hardtop overlays for existing machines):

Photoshop merge.. not much you can do about it.  Ideally you want to scan a playfield in one pass.  I do wonder if there was some sort of registration (like drawing out a grid pattern every inch) would help the software align better.  I should do a test on some art I don't care about (like a poster) and see if it improves the accuracy.

Since my day job has finally slowed down a bit, I want to start getting back to some ideas for the next playfield layout from scratch.  Before I start cutting full playfields, I think I want to test out some ideas on smaller chunks of wood as proof of concept.  Having multiple 3D printers I can quickly make real parts from 3D models.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

van halen delivered

So end of February, the van halen machine that Hugh from openpinballproject worked so hard on arrived.  We had used Uship.com to get a quote which I thought was fairly reasonable, especially since it was a van used to transport.  Nothing against large semi-trailers, but I've seen many games get destroyed by a forklift driver that just doesn't give a crap about merchandise getting damaged.

So right away, I had to pack my Back to the future game temporarily (there's only room for 3 games upstairs, and I'm at capacity).  I may still stick Van Halen in the basement, but I want to do some tidying up first.  So right away I took the horribly rusty feet off and replaced them with new ones.  The legs themselves are a little rusty, in fact one has a stripped thread (so I used a nut on each side to keep the height adjusted correctly).  I have about 16 used legs I'm trying to get powder coated black from a co-worker that will eventually replace these.  I don't feel it needs to have the period correct Bally legs since this is a custom homebrew.

Now I have to preface before I talk about the following that none of this is a knock on Hugh.  The fact that he was able to build up a custom game in such a short period of time (I think it was 6 months?) starting with what I imagine was a very beat up Dolly Parton is amazing.  He stripped the playfield (twice I believe), scanned all the existing plastics and sanded the playfield and scanned it so I could get artwork done.  I came up the rules and he implemented them by writing the code to get it done.

So I did make a couple improvements tonight.  Nothing bugs me more than a dirty and rusty lockdown bar mech.  Even though it's not seen while the game is in normal play, when you do take off the glass (get a stuck ball, fix something under the playfield), it's the first thing that sticks out like a sore thumb.  So I went to the local harbor freight and bought a few wire wheels for the drill and went to town.  I also hand sanded the lockbar with 500 grit sandpaper to get that a little smoother.

I also added the panama captive ball that I 3d printed.  It doesn't get in the way of the ball path coming off the spinner, it doesn't get in the way of the shooter lane, and it's shootable from the left flipper.  Sometimes the left sling will fire it up into it, or sometimes if you konk it just right from the side it'll make the ball travel up to hit the switch.  I never liked that odd opening that Dolly Parton had where the ball goes back into the shooter lane.  I felt like I was committing a sin driving that screw into the playfield, but sometimes you have to take a chance.

So the more glaring issue in general is the playfield overlay lineup.  I don't think this was an installation issue, but rather it's very difficult to get accurate measurements of inserts.  Not sure if I'll ever go through the trouble of trying to fix it or not.

The inline drop targets need decals, as does the spinner.  Both have the original from the Dolly Parton.  Speaking of which, the spinner never got code for a sound.  Hugh has sent me the files and instructions to update it, just haven't gotten around to it yet.

The LED strips in the backbox have hotspots, and don't cover it all the way.  This is an easy fix, just have to get to it.  Also there is a screw to hold the light panel together, it would be preferred if there was some sort of knob to make it easier to turn.  I'll probably get a hex version of this screw and 3d print a knob.  I also want to replace all the rubber caps used to hold the plastics on.  I NEVER liked these, my space shuttle even had them and right away I replaced them with locknuts because I can ensure the plastics are tight.  I like the colored nuts that mezel mods has started to sell, might grab some red ones to go with the theme.

The last thing I'm considering is moving the boards and transformer to the lower cabinet.  Right now there are velcro straps for strain relief for the heavy cables.  In my mind, the boards being the backbox never made much sense to me even from pinball manufacturers.  I'm sure initially boards ran hotter and needed venting.  I also get that it's easier to troubleshoot board issues in a backbox (standing upright instead of crouching over a box), but with modern hardware I don't think there's nearly the unreliability there once was.  Reason I bring this up is that if I ever decide to take it to a show, I worry about connectors being jostled around.  If most everything was in the bottom cabinet (at least the connectors for the cabinet plus playfield), the only wires going up into the backbox would be:
* power cable for monitor
* VGA cable for monitor
*12VDC for the backbox lights
* 2 pairs of speaker wire for the boombox topper

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

So much for ramping up, random thoughts

So I thought I was going to start working on this project again after the holidays.. Then my wife got a terrible earache infection that we're still dealing with (multiple visits to ear nose throat doctor, ear specialist).  Then to top it off my dog just got done with another spout of a pulled back muscle, thankfully this time it was just meds.  Then my 3d printer crapped out, thankfully my new prusa i3 mk2 came at the same time, and spent an entire weekend with my wife building it.  It still prints, but even with my fixes it consistently prints these weird artifacts on the sides that I can only attribute to some issue in the z-axis (or the board is garbling the g-code somehow?).  Here's what it looks like:

Speaking of which I must say, the new printer is awesome.  I read all the reviews, watched all the videos, they don't lie.  This thing prints flawless clean prints every time which is amazing considering how many 3d printed components it has.  The secret sauce as they say is in the auto calibration (in every axis).  Even when we were doing the initial calibration, it said (XY axis very skewed, but I can still adjust for it).  I said no way, let's get this as close to square as possible.  Loosened the nuts underneath, and kept bumping the one side until the x-axis bars were parallel with the grid pattern on the printer bed.  Re-did the calibration, said it was excellent.  Starting doing some generic solid test prints, came out great.  Then I went to re-print a job for a customer that had thin walls, super curling warpage on the bottom.  I noticed that the bed was jumping to 100C every time, I couldn't understand it.  Luckily prusa has a live chat support, and he walked me through some things.  Finally on my own I discovered I had a couple wires reversed, and basically the power supply was feeding uncontrolled voltage to the bed.  After swapping it out, accurate temperatures every time.  I've got my old printer up for sale locally on ebay, so far it's up to $102 with a day left.  Honestly if I threw it away I would still come out ahead.  It's made me some decent money over the past year.

So onto pinball.  In my last post I showed how I was updating my layout, and that I was going to have the shooter lane double as an outlane.  How innovative I am right?!  Wrong, turns out that SEGA did this on starship troopers.  I was listening to some podacst (coinbox?) and they talked about how that did terrible on route because if the auto shooter got weak or something obstructed it, you were basically draining balls.  I mean I could still do it and just realize that I need code to ensure that the player MUST score a minimum amount of points before it counts a drained ball.. Maybe I can come up with something even more innovative.

On a side note, I'm helping Hugh with another re-theme.  I know he hates that term when there's new programming involved, but mechanically it's the same layout.  So he's taking the Dolly Parton that's been sitting around, not changing the wiring, but re-theming it to Van Halen (per my suggestion since I'm so passionate about wanting a Van Halen pinball).  So far I've got the backglass nearly done, but still laying out the playfield and plastics art.  I'm going to try throwing as much at it as possible, including not only david and hagar, but every van halen reference in pop culture.

Lastly, I've been thinking a lot how I want to approach this next build.  Originally I was trying to 3d print the lower half so I could quickly toss them onto a blank piece of wood (which I may still, at least most of it), but I'm thinking I want to somewhat borrow Ben Heck's concept of splitting the playfield.  Many Pinside users had talked of such a concept in the "what's the minimum parts to build a whitewood" thread, but he actually did it.  I do NOT like foamcore.  I realize it's easy to cut, but it costs just as much for a sheet of foam as it does for 1/2" birch.  I would far rather have real material I can drill into than trying to work on something so flimsy.  Here's his rotisserie setup:
I'm going to try to do something very similar, but replace the foam with another piece of wood.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

slowly ramping up again

So it's been a couple weeks since my dog had his checkup from the doctor, and he seems to be 80% back to normal (once the other dog decided to play, and when he twisted his neck around he yelped loud).  Even the doctor said it might be a few more months before his neck muscles are completely healed, but at least the "don't let him jump and watch his every move" phase is over with.

So in the meantime, besides printing some jobs to earn money, I HAVE been working on the layout in CAD, and doing more tweaks on 3d printed mechanisms.  The trough and apron are simplified, and closer to a standard apron shape.  I'm also trying to make the cuts very basic and simple (so anyone with a jigsaw can make their cuts fast and easy), and so long as you have your 3d printed parts ready, you can make all your cuts, bolt all your parts onto the plywood, and have a lower end built in about 30 minutes (minus wiring).

I was struggling for a while where to put the VUK to bring the ball back up from the lower playfield, but I think I have it figured out.  There's going to be a lane just above the trough that will allow the ball to sneak back in without the player seeing what's going on.  Honestly my end goal is to potentially 3d print everything (so long as it will hold up).  I have a sling mechanism modeled up that I think would work quite well, and it would only require you to drill a couple 1/2" holes to mount it, plus the two 1/2" holes for the switches (again, make the cuts as easy as the mechs themselves).

There's this video recently of a guy that supposedly completely 3d printed a pinball machine (playfield, pop bumpers, flipper mechs, EVERYTHING).

I'll admit it's impressive, but the flippers are weak, and I didn't see the slings fire once (but the pop bumpers seemed to work well).  Problem is, that guy will never share his files, so that project dies with him.  My intent is to eventually get all of this on pinballmakers.com so anyone can jump in.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

May be on hiatus again for 4-6 weeks

One of my dogs has been slowly been showing signs of age.  I'm kicking myself for not looking into insurance, but yesterday it got at it's worse.  He suddenly couldn't put any weight on his front right foot which freaked me out.  To top it off, my wife is out of town for work until this morning.  Anyway long story short, he had disc surgery last night which went very well but he's going to have to rest for the next 4-6 weeks (which means either crate, but I know he'll cry), or sitting with him making sure he doesn't try to jump.

Now granted, I may still be able to work on the layout on the computer, or model stuff in solidworks, but fabrication is likely not going to happen for a while since he'll need my attention.  My wife will likely take turns, but I just know leaving her alone with the dog probably isn't going to happen.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

New loop ramp tested

So on the latest, I didn't do an ellipse but I did add a chamfer to keep the ball centered (and curved the transition in better).  Did a quick test with the flipper..

Good: It's pretty consistent in being able to make the shot and have it loop around
Bad: I assumed there would always be enough speed for the ball to clear the ramp.. at least a few times the ball was too slow and it sat there at the end of the exit... stuck.  My solution is going to be to make the entry and exit a ramp (at least a 10-15 degree incline).  That way even if the ball drops right at the end of either side of the corkscrew, there will still be enough gravity to make the ball exit.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

What made Williams Pinball good?

I'd like to think there's something to titles on Williams being more memorable than some of the modern pinball, particuarly Stern.  As Gary says, they are making "modern retro pinball", and it couldn't be truer.  They really are building retro pinball with a modern twist.  What do I mean by that?  Most of their titles have everything above the playfield.  There are no hidden doors, no mechs that pop out from the playfield, no subway tunnels.  I know this is done partly for reliability, but I know cost reduction and ease of assembly / disassembly also plays a part.

A lot of things were hidden on Williams.  You had a moving gun on T2, Shaker motor on earthshaker, spinning fan topper and spinning discs on whirlwind, mist multiball on BSD, adams family hand that pops out, twilight zone magnet flippers, funhouse toy that came alive.  Every time a new title came out, you wanted to play those games just to see what hidden features you'd discover, sort of like playing a miniature golf course for the first time (at least ones with tunnels that lead your ball to a random spot on another place on the green).

I'd like to implement some of that magic into my revision 2 layout.  What happens when I shoot the ball up this lane?  A hole just got revealed, where the ball go from here?  I just saw it pop out, but where did it come from?  That ramp looks different, what's the ball going to do when I shoot it up there?