Wednesday, January 25, 2012

laundry list started

Ok, so it seems I've had no plan on how to get this project started, other than "Hey look, I can make flippers move with a car door actuator and a 12v battery".  As with any project, it can seem huge.. and impossible, and then discouraging.  Therefore, looking at this from an engineer's viewpoint, I need to break this into pieces or it'll never happen.

So here's my basic list.  Keep in mind I am figuring out ways to do these with existing components, and not necessarily existing components.

1. Flippers - this is the start of it all.  Since I've already proven a concept (just needs refinement with linkages), I will skip this step for now.

2. Pop bumpers - In theory, I could recreate one using 12v by replacing this solenoid with an actuator as well, but honestly I'm probably going to skip this for now.  Pop bumpers were invented in 1936, and it seems it's intention was to randomize the ball's path.  In a modern game, pop bumpers seem to serve 2 purposes:
 a. give a pause to gameplay.  I am not a fan of this, I like a game that just keeps going with a fast pace.  I want it to race my heart when I play.  If I absolutely MUST have a pause, then you should be skilled enough to use your flipper to hold the ball momentarily.
 b. filler - that's right, I believe a rushed pinball gets pop bumpers added because they are easy to impliment.  No logic needed, just place them on the playfield, add some power, and the built in switches will activate them when hit by the ball.
I find pop bumpers to be a waste of precious playfield space.

3. Score keeper - I would have no clue how to do this.  There is a giant grid of logic that goes on in a pinball, and since I don't intend on creating my own CPU (and neither does the average person), I'm going to have to go with something real simple.  Best I can come up with is a digital counter.  You know, those things for counting.  Like if your counting church antendees, sports game atendees?  Simple device, cheap ($5-$10)
and good enough for adding.  Granted, it will only add by one (not 10's, or hundreds, or compute combos from completing targets), but for simplicity sake, it'll do for now.

4. targets - I will likely use an existing off the shelf target, but rather than it sending a switch signal to a CPU, it will simply add a point, and perhaps make a light activate (hitting it again would turn the light off).  Simple, but effective.

5. drop targets - I'm thinking some sort of spring load, where the ball un-clicks it from staying up (like a pen), and each one that drops has a metal strip on the bottom (which adds a point), and there's a bus bar on the bottom with gaps.  The metal strip on each drop target completes the circuit and would activate a servo which would reset all 3 targets.

6. ball lock - I'm thinking as long as I have a tunnel where balls can fall into, then add a switch where the 3rd ball would rest (switch needs to be activated for say 3 seconds), that will activate an actuator which moves a gate and releases all 3 balls.  I'm sure there is more to this than I'm realizing, but that's the general concept.

7. diverters = I like having randomness on ramps, so if I had a small servo that moves a gate, which can be activated by a switch on another ramp.

8. magnet save = this doesn't appear to be hard. electromagnets are simple and cheap, and can run off of 12v power supply.  Simply wire up to a button on the outside cabinet, and voila!  Only drawback is I'd have no logic for turning it off after use (and no reward system to activate), it would simply be on all the time.  Maybe have a random switch placed somewhere on the playfield that turns it on?

9. ball shooter lane - I would like to re-invent this a bit too.  I hate spring plungers, they seem so out of date.  I'm sure modern ones that use a switch simply have a solenoid to knock the ball up the ramp like a pool cue.  It would be neat to use some sort of air cannon to launch the ball.  I'm not sure I could get an air compressor to be quiet enough?  I could also possibly do it with some sort of magnetic propulsion:

Think in terms of a coil gun (but not quite so explosive):

I would also like to see an aluminum channel used for this section so that there is little wear in this area (or at least it could be replaced if it did, rather than having a section of the playfield that's worn out.

10. playfield spinners - This shouldn't be hard to do with small motors. Just needs to be adjustable with lead screw to adjust for tolerances in play field wear.

11. slingshots - I don't necessarily like these either (very much like pop bumpers).  I've had games where it kept playing a game of badminton with my ball, back and forth.  Either this needs to be toned down, or maybe it should just be the spring of the rubber.

12. Outlane (side drain) - I would like to reinvent this a bit too.  Sometimes all the nudging in the world won't save your ball.  I would like to see an actuator right before the middle drain, and a tube that directs the ball back onto the playfield.  It would have to be timed JUST right, but it would give you one final chance to save your ball.

13. Playfield - Reading up on the Maraplay's new pin (spain)

I am REALLY digging the plexiglass over MDF wood.  The artwork remains protected underneath.  No playfield wear (just plastic wear, which could easily be polished without rubbing paint).  MDF is usually cheaper than Baltic wood, but would remain just as stiff.

14. Sound - ahh, the coup de grace.  Every game needs sound.  I've been racking my brain trying to figure out how I would want to do this.  The problem doesn't lie in playing sound with a switch.  I can (and have) bought little sound modules off ebay for $2 (shipped from china).  It's essentially the same thing they put in talking greeting cards.  Press a button to record, press another button to playback (record 10 seconds).  Not only does the sound quality suck by today's standards (crappy sample rate, crappy amp, crappy overall), but it's a single sound.  Imagine how repetitive a game would get if every time you hit a target, the same sound played back.  I needed a random sound generator.  Oh but how to do this?  Not as easy as I'd imagined.  The closest I came to building a circuit was using a 555 timer chip, and interrupting the built in timer to select a bank.  I'm not entirely sure how this circuit is built, but I know that's about the only way to do it with common components (not easy for the average user).  It would be nice if I could like hack a silly slammer (record my own sounds).  You know, those little plush things that make noises when you throw them at the ground:

Anyway, since I've yet to find a hack for this, I'm going to assume there's either no way (probably potted inside), or nobody has the desire to do so.

Well  I did find this today:
For $50, it has an mp3 decoder, line-out, SD card reader, very low power consumption (3.3-5V at 45mah), and can playback 18 banks of sounds using pins.  Now for the great part, you don't have to manually select which bank you want to play, you can set it to random.
Aha! exactly what I wanted!!  For an average pin, 18 sounds seems to be plenty!  I can just spread these sounds all over the playfield, hooked up to different switches.

If I wanted to get fancy and have specific types of sounds for areas (I.E. targets have laser sounds, ramps play various swooshing sounds, drain ball plays "you lost a ball!", or "oh no!"), I could buy one board for each of these fields.  $50 a pop isn't exactly thrifty, but again we are talking about simplicity (it's the price you pay).

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