Wear Prevention: Outlane Mylar Protection

Honestly; I’ve been neglecting my Stern Star Trek Pinball machine. I got it new-in-box and didn’t do anything to protect the outlane hole which feeds the ball trough. My machine has seen some play at various conventions like Texas Pinball Festival since I purchased it back in 2016. The issue is that the steel balls tend to wreck havoc with the clearcoat and wood under the clear coat. I helped mitigate this problem shortly after unboxing by installing a set of Cliffy protectors. At the time; Cliffy did not offer an outhole protector so my ball return hole did get any love. A couple of weeks ago; I looked and noticed some wear on my outhole. ­čÖü

Stern Star Trek Outhole wear

You can see definite wear on the front and left side edges. It’s not massive; but enough to warrant some protection. I debated getting a new Cliffy outlane protector; but it only protects the front side from wear. As a result; I decided to try my hand at designing my own protector which would be cut out of 2mil adhesive Mylar (polyethylene) using my new Vinyl cutter.

I began by tracing the area with tracing paper so I could get the basic layout easily into the computer. I didn’t have a lot of room to work with so I decided to bring the mylar up to the black keyline just above the out hole. This would give me a little extra grip and make it easy to hide within the art work. I also decided I would wrap the mylar around the outlane hole pinching it between the ball trough and the underside of the Playfield. Finally; I would protect all three sides of the outhole to the metal ball guide seen the foreground. Finally; I decided to protect the outside corners of the PF in a similar way to protect the edges leaving cutouts for the legs of the metal ball guides so they wouldn’t “wrinkle” when the guides were re-installed. This was my initial design – and remains the my property (read: copy protected):

Copyright 2019 - Outhole
Stern Star Trek Outhole – Mylar

My design choices were to add the round corners created by the endmill when the Playfield was created and then add rounded Vs on the lines were the mylar would roll onto another perpendicular surface. This should aid in preventing wrinkles from forming at those junction points.

With the design created; there wasn’t anything else to do but cut it on the vinyl cutter and install it. It’s going to be very hard to photograph this crystal clear mylar but hopefully you can see it if you click on the pictures to get a higher rez image. Here’s the top surface with the mylar installed:

Copyright 2019 - Outhole
Stern Star Trek Outhole – Top

You can barely make out the outline of the mylar along the black keyline as designed. Additionally you can see the mylar where it wraps around the outhole sides and the two sides of the PF. Hear’s a close-up of the mylar wrapping around the PF:
Copyright 2019 - Outhole
Stern Star Trek Outhole – Wrap Around

Finally; the underside of the pf; where the mylar wraps around to be pinched by the ball trough:
Copyright 2019 - Outhole
Stern Star Trek Outhole – Ball Trough

I reinstalled the ball trough, all the ball guides, and put it back together. No issues what-so-ever with the installation and the mylar has no noticeable impact to the ball. Additionally; this should help minimize any additional damage to the clearcoat near the outhole.

If you are interested in a protector for yourself; I’m offering them forsale at my webshop: Stern Outhole protector – Mylar

Pin2k CPU Fan Replacement

When I first got my Revenge From Mars from a local Pinhead; the fan was clogged with dust and grime. At the time; I simply cleaned the fan, removed the sticker, and added some oil to the bearings. This lasted about 3months before the fan began to make some horrible noises because the bearings were shot. I “lived with it”; but it remained on my todo list.

For years; I had watched threads about Pin2k in Pinside… always feeling a little guilty I had not eliminated the risk that my CPU fan would die… overheat the cpu… and put my RFM in jeopardy of force converting to NuCore or Pinbox. Today was the day I vowed to resolve that noisy fan.

First; I did not want to buy NOS (new old stock) of some 50mm fan made back in 2000 or some china knockoff that wouldn’t last another 18 years. I wanted a high quality fan with very little noise; but a good performer. I’ve grown to like the Noctura brand of fans because they aren’t cookie cut china knock offs. Noctura does not sell a drop-in-replacement for 50mm fans. Going smaller usually means less air flow with a higher “whine” because the fan blades have to go much faster to move more air. So I decided that I was going to try and use the NF-A6x25 FLX 60mm fan:

and build an adapter to fit the larger fan over the existing heatsink. This blog entry documents my solution, provides a TAPR/NCLed DXF for my adapter, and links to a Shapeways implementation of my adapter my fellow pinball enthusiasts to use.

First, I removed the CPU box from my RFM and pulled out the existing CPU heatsink:

Stock Pin2k CPU Fan/Heatsink

Once I had the CPU heatsink free; I unscrewed the old FAN from the heatsink. This was done for two reasons;

  1. I need the heatsink to take caliper measurements in order design a 60mm to 50mm bracket.
  2. Eventually; I’d toss the worthless 50mm fan – but wanted to keep it incase I couldn’t find a working solution.

Obviously; the 60mm fan wouldn’t fit within the 50mm cavity of the heatsink; so I knew I wanted to use some 1/4inch clear Acrylic as an “adapter”. I went into qCAD resulting in a DXF file which I could then send to my laser cutter. I wanted to reuse the 50mm fan/heatsink screws and the 4 qty Vibration-Compensators provided in the Noctura kit. My second proto resulted in success and looked like this:

60 to 50mm Fan Adapter

Reusing the 4 qty 50mm countersunk heatsink screws; I attached the clear acrylic bracket to the top of the heatsink. Then I put the 4 qty Vibration-Compensators provided in the Noctura kit thru the acrylic bracket and into the NF-A6x25 fan. The whole assembly fit together quiet nicely.

60mm Fan Adapter – Test Fit

I carefully; reinstalled the fan-sink combo back onto the cpu and socket. This was a little tricky because the 60mm fan is bigger; but as you can see the whole contraption fits well:

60mm Fan Adapter – Motherboard Install

Conveniently; my Pinball 2000 motherboard had a FAN header right next to the cpu socket; so I simply attached the CPU fan’s 3pin PWM connector to that unused mobo connection:

60mm Fan Adapter – Fan Header

I powered up the Pin2k system on my bench with both the original and the new fan connected. !That old fan really needed to be replaced! This new fan is ultra quiet; I don’t think you can hear the fan over the PSU fan even when the box is open. You won’t be able to hear the fan at all when its in the backbox behind the backglass. Success!

I’ve decided release this design to the public under the TAPR Non-Commercial Open Hardware License which indicates:

You may make products based upon this design, provided you do not make more than ten units in any twelve month period for your personal use.

If you agree with the license terms; a DXF Drawing is posted here under TAPR/NCL license:
60mm to 50mm Fan Adapter Package

If you don’t have access to a laser cutter; you can 3D print this adapter from Shapeways:

Air Compressor: Automatic Drain Valve

For years I’ve been limping along with a very noise older model Air compressor for my Modding needs. Recently; I upgraded from a Universal Laser 25E laser to an Epilog Legend 24TT laser cutter. The former could be outfitted with Air Assist; while the latter came pre-plumbed for Air assist. The issue is that the Air Assist works best if the lens doesn’t get splash back form the Air assist when it contains water.

Air compressors work by compressing the gas of surrounding air which contains water vapor. This water vapor leaves the compressor very hot along with the compressed air stream. As it sits under pressure; the water vapor condenses as it cools leaving water in the air lines. A properly configured Air Assist needs to remove that water vapor so it cannot exit the assist nozzle and insta-cool a warm laser lens. This leads to cracked or otherwise damaged lenses which can be expensive or lead to downtime as a new lens is sought.

As a result I upgraded my noisy old air compressor for a slightly used California Air Tools 10010DC Ultra Quiet & Oil-Free 1.0 hp 10.0 gallon Steel Tank Air Compressor with Air Drying System

This air compressor was purchased straight from California Air Tools with less than 50hrs at a fair discount and automatically cools the air stream as it exits the Tank by running thru a radiator on top of the tank. This radiator is cooled by some fans to keep the radiator near room temperature causing the water vapor to condense out of the compressed air. The air then passed thru an air/water seperator. This separator causes a significant amount of water to be deposited in it’s reservoir where a tube just drips the water onto the ground (problem #2).

The Air stream is then plumbed to a Activated Alumina desiccant Air Dryer where additional drying is done by chemical reaction. The bottom of this air dryer is also plumbed with a tube which just drips onto the ground (problem #3). The main problem (problem #1); however, that the tank itself needs to be drained periodically as is required for ALL Compressors to prevent the air tank from rusting inside. If I had been purchasing new; I may have just purchased a 10010DACD which as a Automatic Drain Valve installed at the factory… but since this was a discounted unit; I couldn’t get drain valve option. Additionally; the factory charges an additional $150 to cover the installation and plumbing for the Auto-valve; I do not know if CAT will rectify the tubing outputs of the separator and dryer, so this may be an interest read for owners of the more expensive unit.

The result is I need to plumb my own automatic drain valve while making an attempt to tidy up the separator and air drier water outlets so they all exit the machine into a reservoir which can be dumped periodically instead of spraying the water all over my garage floor. This Blog entry is the documentation of what I did in the hopes it can help some other budding laser hobbyists in creating their own Air Assist setup.

I started by researching the concepts behind CAT’s Automatic Drain valve which is pictured here:

As best as I can figure is this is no different from any of the other auto-drain valves available for less than $30 on Amazon. It’s probably even made in China.

I started by researching auto-drain values on youtube where I came across Farmboy’s Garage’s implementation. While complete; it’s kind of scary how he just lets the valve blow water in the the corner of his garage. As he states in a later video; it scares him every time it triggers. My goal is to try to keep all of the water draining into a lidded bucket so the water can be contained and easily dumped as my garage doesn’t have any drains and the compressor is near the interior wall rather than the external garage door.

To plumb the cheaper auto-drain valve; I’m going to need to purchase some piping accessories and some vinyl tubing. I came up with this crude napkin sketch before I went to Lowes to “engineer” a solution in their plumbing section. Here’s a shopping list from Amazon if you’d rather purchase as much as you can using your Prime Membership. While this blog entry will focus on adding a auto-drain valve to my compressor; it will probably be very similar to your air compressor. Feel free to reuse as much of this design as you’d like. IF you decide to purchase from your local Lowes; I’ve included pictures of the bags for each step and included the bag part numbers in the shopping list below between ()s.

The total cost of this shopping list isn’t exactly known as the Author has some parts on hand. The plumbing and Auto-Drain valve combined costs about $80 in total. YMMV as costs on these items can vary. Time wise; again it’s tough to say because I had it spread over several days as I waited for parts to arrive from Amazon prime. I estimate you could finish the whole project in an afternoon if you have everything ready to go.

Shopping List:

Tools Needed: (suggested)

BF-815NL
Tools Needed

Please note: This retrofit process will likely void the warranty of your CAT air compressor especially if you perform the electrical modifications. The Author of this blog entry is not responsible for any damage you do to yourself or your property.

Duplication of or Plagiarizing from this blog entry is not permitted without written consent from the author and Pinball-Mods.com.

RetroFit the plumbing:

  1. Begin by determining which direction you want the drain valve to go. I’d advise you put the air compressor in its final position and determine which direction the valve assembly should go and drain. The author choose to install his valve assembly going to the right as your looking at the machine. To ease working on the compressor; put the compressor on a work surface on it’s side so you can get easy access to the drain. The Author worked up in the Z direction as he assembled the plumbing.
  2. Remove the stock ball valve on the underside of your air compressor’s storage tank. On my CAT; the factory installed with some clear plumber’s goop to help prevent air leaks. The result is you may have to use a little bit of force to break the clear sealant inside the threads.
  3. Next; install the 1/4in MIP x 1/4in FIP Brass 90 Street Elbow in the drain hole as pictured:
    BF-739NL
    1/4in street elbow (90deg)

    Be sure to wrap the male end of the elbow in teflon pipe tape

  4. Wrap both ends of the 1/4in MIP x 2-1/2in Long Brass Pipe with pipe tape and install it into female end of the elbow. Use your robogrip or Pipe wrench to make the connection tight.

    BF-739NL
    1/4in street elbow (90deg)
  5. Wrap the male end of the 3/8in MIP x 1/4in FIP Brass Pipe Bushing with pipe tape and install it on the remaining end of the brass pipe. Snug it up with an appropriate sized wrench.

    BF-778NL
    3/8in MIP x 1/4in FIP Brass Pipe Bushing
  6. Install the 1/2in FIP x 3/8in FIP Brass Reducing Coupling onto the 1/8″ MIP fitting and tighten.

    BF-815NL
    1/2in FIP x 3/8in FIP Brass Reducing Coupler
  7. Carefully disassemble the drain valve using the top silver nut and the star washer. This should allow the black plastic body to be removed from the brass assembly. Then you have access to the brass nut holding the actuator assembly to the brass body. Remove it. Note how the device comes apart because you will need to reassemble the valve properly once its completed installed on the machine. Take care as there is a spring and small brass piece inside the brass could get lost. With the black electrical case and valve assembly removed; you’ll be able to install the brass fittings in the following steps.
  8. Now thread the drain valve assembly onto the 1/2 FIP coupler from above after pipe tape-ing the male end. Make sure the final tight position of the valve is parallel with the bottom of your tank. The black switch body and actuator should have enough clearance to set just under the tank. Open the assemblies ball valve now.

    drain valve
    1/2in Auto Drain Value assembly
  9. Tape the male end of a 1/2in MIP x 1/4in FIP Brass Pipe Bushing and tighten on the Valve assembly.
  10. Tape both ends of the 1/4in MIP x 1-1/2in Long Brass Pipe and install onto the 1/4″ FIP bushing.

    1/4in MIP x 1-1/2in Long Brass Pipe
  11. Install the 1/4in FIP All Ends Brass Tee as shown. Ensure the final tight position has the top opening in the direction of the top of the compressor. This will be the inlet of the Problem 2 and 3 filters drains.

    BF-703NL
    1/4in FIP All Ends Brass Tee
  12. Tape the male thread of the 1/8in ID Hose Barb x 1/4in MIP and install it on the top facing opening.

    BHB-85NL
    1/8in ID Hose Barb x 1/4in MIP
  13. Tape the male thread on the first 1/4in ID Hose Barb x 1/4in MIP and install it on the remaining opening of the tee. This will be the outlet for all water and will eventually go to the bucket.

    BHB-192NL
    1/4in ID Hose Barb x 1/4in MIP
  14. Thread one end of the 0.71ID vinyl tube onto the 1/8in hose barb. Cut the tube off about half way up the side of the tank.
  15. Slip the end of the 0.71 tube into the compression fitting and tighten it onto the bottom end of the Tee. For instructions on installing compression fittings; see this youtube video; however, note that the tee’s compression sleeve is build into the brass nut. Loosen the compression fitting from the Tee and verify the compression fitting is solid. Tape the male end of the fitting and reinstall.
  16. The fitting opposite the drain should be plumbed to the bottom of the Air/Water separator using additional 0.71tube. This separator will have the most volume of water; so it should have the easier path. Remove the existing black tubing on the bottom of the water seperator.
  17. The perpendicular fitting should be plumbed to the bottom of the Chemical Air dryer as large volumes of water are not expected from that part. Remove the existing black tubing on the bottom of the Air Dryer.

    0.71in ID Hose routing
  18. Secure the compression Tee fitting to the side of the tank using a self-adhesive tie down and a zip tie.

    CP-12NL
    1/4in x 1/4in x 1/4in Compression Tee
  19. Cut the 0.71ID tube between the compression tee and the 1/8″ID hose barb at about the halfway mark. This will be the location for the 4mm ID Check Valve. The direction arrow should face the hose barb so that only the water can drain and prevents at pressure air from the tank from back-flowing into the filters.

    Check Valve
    4mm Check Valve
  20. Reassemble the solenoid valve (reverse of disassembly).

    solenoid
    solenoid
  21. ReAttach the electronics to the valve as shown. Note that the “AC in” port of the drain valve should be in the same direction as the 1/8in ID barb (IE facing top of compressor).

    valve Electronics
    valve Electronics

The idea behind the Tee is that water drained from the filters will flow thru the check valve and pool at the outlet of the auto-drain valve. When the drain valve fires; the compressed air+water from the tank will force the pooled water after the valve up and into the bucket will provide later.

We’ll pick up the final bucket assembly after a short break of electrical wiring.

RetroFit the electrical:

Please note: The following electrical retrofit will likely void the warranty of your CAT air compressor. When in doubt consult a licensed electric professional. The Author of this blog entry is not responsible for any damage you do to yourself or your property.

The drain valve operates on 110VAC on the CAT air compressor. MAKE SURE you unplug the compressor from the wall and verify no AC power is present before proceeding. Always make sure the unit is unplugged before continuing work.

There is no clean way of getting switched AC from under the compressor’s switch cover. The Author decided to tap into the wiring harness outside the switch cover. This means that the Auto Drain valve will not always have power and the timer functionality will be effectively disabled unless you are running the compressor at a very high duty cycle. In the Authors case; he expects the auto drain valve to fire each time the compressor comes on; which should be good enough.

You could choose to wire this directly onto an AC plug so the auto drain valve fires as it is intended. This would mean you would have to unplug it each time you power off the air compressor. The Author chose to keep the wiring “inside” the compress as a single unit with one plug to supply power.

The author went overboard on this wiring job; channeling his sleeving powers to make the installation look nice, neat, and professional. He installed some “molex” style connectors as a “y” in the harness to allow the auto-drain valve to be disconnected in the future (or re-wired). This is by no means required; as you could use the same technique CAT used with crimp style connectors. The Author’s method is just one way of solving the problem.

  1. Begin by locating the AC wiring harnesses. The Author checked under the power switch body and identified the black harness. Showing that inside the black harness there was a blue and brown wire which goes to a couple of the AC powered components on the top of the compressor. These were sealed in black heat shrink. Cut the heat shrink away to reveal CAT’s crimped pin connectors.

    valve Electronics
    remove heatshrink
  2. Cut away the existing crimped-on connectors and use a 0.093 2pin connectors with a Y connection (white/brown) in the picture. Basically we’re adding another connection the compressor side of the harness. Crimp the 0.093 male connector for the compressor side and the female connector on the accessory side. The Author used female sockets on the male connector and male pins on the female connector. The idea here is that the pins when disconnected from the main harness cannot easily be touched – lessening the shock possibility.

    0.093 AC connector
    0.093 AC connector
  3. Crimp on the 0.062″ connector for the new auto-drain valve. Again male connector, female sockets compressor side. Female connector, male pins on the drain valve side.

    0.062 AC connector
    0.062 AC connector
  4. Route the drain valve ac connection over the top of the compressor, down near the Tee. Disconnect the AC inlet on the drain valve and wire the socket. The author connected the white hot wire to pin 1, the brown neutral to pin2, and the green ground to pin3.

    valve electical
    valve electical connection
  5. But… wait Seymour. A 3rd Ground connection? I’m lost… Clearly the AC wiring harnesses of the compressor only have a hot and neutral connection. There’s no third wire. The Author got the ground connection from a screw at the top of the compressor. If you look under the power switch; you’ll see that the ground basically ties into the metal tank. My multimeter check show that any threaded connection will serve as a good ground. More data to follow.
  6. With the drain wired; put a 1/2in strain relief in the hole and route the ac cable up to the same mount used for the Tee and secure it there.

    strain relief
    strain relief
  7. Route the drain power behind the handle and secure it with another mount and zip tie.

    make it look pretty
    secure AC
  8. Finally, secure the new connectors onto the other side of the compressor tank. The Author didn’t have large enough heatshrink for the 0.093″ connector; but, he secured it the 0.062″ connector with heatshrink and a zip-tie mount.

    make it look pretty
    secure AC harness

With the electrical complete; you can test the functionality of the auto drain valve. When you first turn on the compressor; the auto valve will fire releasing air out the 1/4in barb fitting. Note your tank will probably be empty when you first fire it up. For that you can watch that the LED comes on Green then goes to red when the valve is closed. You can also let the compressor run for a minute or so and then turn off the compressor with some air in the tank. Then turn it back on and you should hear the drain valve open.

Because the author has his valve fire each time the compressor turns on; he set the time open to the shortest value. This should keep the tank empty of water each time the compressor turns on.

RetroFit Plumbing (continued):

With the electrical complete and tested; it’s time to plumb the exit barb into a reservoir of some type. For this it’s really up to you as to what container you want holding the water. The Author had just used up the last of his Windshield additive so this made a simple, cost effective reservoir. You can use anything you’d like; but we’d recommend something sealed (with a lid) to limit accidental spilling and blow back from the compressed air+water.

  1. On this reservoir; we cut 3 ‘v’shaped holes in the top of the jug above our intended inlet. This is to allow the air to escape but try and contain the water. Failure to put vent holes will likely lead to catastrophic failure of your container. ­čśÇ
  2. Identify an inlet location which will be the final 1/4in ID Hose Barb x 1/4in MIP. Wanted the water under pressure to eject downward; so drilled on the top angled surface of the jug. Using a 3/8″ drill bit; drilled the pilot hole and the used the step drill to get right sized hole so the barb could be threaded.

    reservoir inlet
    reservoir inlet
  3. Connect a section of 1/4in ID vinyl tubing to the reservoir.
  4. After about 4-6 inches of tubing; cut. Install the swagelok quick disconnect. On this part; connect the button side which auto closes to the reservoir side. This way; the reservoir remains pseudo-sealed until while you transport it to your dumping location.

    Quick Disconnect Coupler
    Quick Disconnect Coupler
  5. Connect the other end of the coupler to 1/4in ID tubing.

    Quick Disconnect Coupler - male
    Quick Disconnect Coupler (male)
  6. Finally cut a suitable length of the tubing and connect it to the exposed 1/4in barb on the bottom of your tank.

    Final Connection
    Final Connection: 1/4″ barb

I have yet to use this system extensively; but I’ll report back if there are any issue and their possible solutions. Hopefully, you have found this blog post useful. If so; feel free to comment below or share on social media.

Enjoy!

Stern Star Trek: Custom Shooter Knob & Housing

A customer of mine graciously agreed to sell me his Shooter housing decal from aurich‘s Alternate decal set; as a result, I was able to finally finish my custom shooter housing and knob.

custom Star Trek Knob
custom 50th Anniversary Shooter Knob – Stern Star Trek

I had a shooter housing custom powder coated LE blue and installed the Decal. The knob is 3D printed at Shapeways from my custom design:

in polished Nickel and I powder coated it LE blue to match the housing.

A Star Trek 50th Anniversary Pin was then JB welded to the knob and it was encased in EasyCast Clear Casting Epoxy to give it a smooth surface for the palm of your hand.

Overall; I’m very happy with how it turned out.

Data East: Chase rope for Star Trek and Hook – Part 1

The Data East Chase rope lights used in two Data East Pinball machines (Star Trek: 25th) and Hook) are a huge problem on the game. So much so; that my Ebay-purchased game came with no rope lights at all. ­čÖü This blog series walks thru my intention of recreating the chase rope lights – but made out of LEDs so they use less current, generate less heat, and can be used for decades without any issues.

First, some credit – Patofnaud on Pinside wrote a great tutorial on repairing these chase lights. I used this pinside thread almost exclusively for this blog series and if you happen to have the original rope lights; please take a look at his tutorial.

My game has no chase lights to repair; so I’m going to have to replicate the chase lights. I decided that I didn’t want to try and re-configure a standard off the shelf rope light because they likely don’t support doing a +12VDC common with three ground leads as discussed in Patofnaud’s post #1. Additionally; I don’t have exact specs of the rope light w/ regards to light spacing, diameter of the rope, ect. Since I’m going to have to recreate the lamps; I have decided to do a conversion to LEDs… specifically, using some “fairy light LEDs” which have recently become available on the market. I started by going to Hobby Lobby and buying a set of their battery operated lights using a 40% off coupon. Amazon has a whole bunch of alternate versions of this product… so you might be better off looking at Amazon if you don’t have a Hobby Lobby near you. B072NH2FQ1 seems to be a nearly identical match to what I got from Hobby Lobby.

These strings appear to be made of discreet 603 Warm White LEDs soldered to a common anode and common cathode. The LEDs are encased in a hot-glue like product to protect the LEDs from mechanical stress and help with water proofing. The fact that all LEDs are in parallel might end up being an issue because you can’t control the current into each LED. LEDs wired this way means that any variance in forward voltage drop (Vf) between the diodes in a series may mean that LEDs with low Vf would get more current that LEDs with higher Vf and could lead to premature failure of those leds. We’ll see long term if this becomes an issue with this project.

Taking apart the battery pack of the fairy LED light uncovered what I thought… A power switch and a 1/4W series current resistor of 15ohms. 3AA batteries supply 4.5V which is current limited by that 15ohm resistor. I did some quick measurements of the entire string and IIRC; the whole string took around 113mA with the 15ohm current limiter. I don’t recall what the series Vf was for the whole string.

Because the LEDs are powered with a 4.5V source; it becomes rather obvious that I can’t use these as a drop in for the 12V incandescent rope light originally in the machine. I’m going to need a conditioning circuit which will drop the 12V down to ~4.5V and provide some current limiting. I started by measuring my machine’s ramp to determine the approximate length of the chase lights. I measured with a piece of string to be about 15inches. The fairy LED lights have spacing of about 3inches which means that my largest segment would be about 15/3 = 6 leds, max. These 6 will become important for the series resistor calculations in the future.

Before I got to far into designing a voltage level shifter and current limiter; I looked at my machine. I couldn’t find the chase light connector shown in post #6 of pat’s thread. I couldn’t find it because the previous owner connected the left and right .156 connectors together with a Z-connector. That may mean there is now an issue with the chase light board (DE #520-5054-00 or #520-5054-01) in my backbox but I’m thinking connecting them together did no future damage since they are wired together in a OR configuration in the schematic manual. Meaning OUT1A is tied to OUT2A via the Orange/Black wire in the cabinet (See post #7, picture 1). I decided that Zconnector is a good place to put my Incandescent to LED converter circuit. My plan is to replace the Zconnector with a board which does the conditioning.

I decided I was going to abuse a LM1117 style +5V regulator to voltage shift the +12V common down to +5V common then use a series resistor to current limit for the LEDs. Since +12V is the common; I’d need to do a wired-OR configuration with a set of fast Recovery SCHOTTKY diodes to the OUT connections on the chase light board. I have no idea if the LM1117 vreg can operate properly with a v+ common connection; but I suspect it will have no issue given the frequency a which the lamps operate. Additionally, given the previous incandescent lamps had issues blowing the NPN Darlington arrays on the lamp chase board; I figured putting in a PTC resettable fuse would be a nice addition. My circuit took shape in eaglecad using Digikey as a part reference.

Here’s my original Fab A circuit, keeping in mind this is untested – but I retain all rights to this circuit for the moment:

Chase Light to LED
DE Chase LED conditioner

Some theory of operation:
D1&D2 provide some polarity protection – for paranoia. D3-D8 are the Schottky diodes which provide wired-OR back from the ground of the +5V regulator (U1) back to the chase light board’s OUT* connections.
C1, C2, C3 provide some filtering for the +5Vreg to help it maintain stability with the wired-OR configuration. D9 provides some additional protection for the Vreg – probably not needed; but extra insurance. R2 – R7 provide the series current-limiting resistors for the various LED strings. Why the different values of 13.3 vs 16.9? Well; my quick napkin calculations shows that there may be 5 or 6LEDs on the longest string and then one less on the shorter strings. I plan on connecting the longest string on the 1A & 1B lines while the shorter strings (with the higher resistors) will be on the others. F1-F6 are the resettable PTC fuses. The bidirectional LEDs at the bottom are monitoring the output of the chase light board to give me an indication the chase board is working properly. They will chase green if working properly. I basically created a small “Z-connector” board to condition these LEDs but also added some small connector boards to help me interface from the LED strings to a simple 4 pin 0.1″ pitch latchable connector. The idea is these smaller connector boards would be fixed to the end of the “rope lights” and allow for a quick connection.

A little background on the Series resistor calculations. Basically; Vf isn’t known for the parallel LED strings. You can’t measure Vf with the diode setting of a Digital volt meter which btw; my favorite is a Fluke 87 series meter. Vf according to my DVM is around 2.4V and we know that no current white leds operate at 2.4V for 20mA. Since I don’t know which LED the chinese put in these strips; I had to make an educated guess. To do this I went to digikey.com and drilled down on warm white 603 LEDs, downloaded the table (using the button near the bottom of the page) and then imported the data into excel so I could get an average of the Voltage – Forward (Vf) (Typ) column. I calculated Vf ~= 3.23V. Armed with Vf, and the knowledge I wanted to operate the LEDs near their 20mA operational current so they would be their brightest I was able to calculate a theoretical series resistor. Here are the “knowns”:
Vf = 3.23.
Each LED should operate at ~18mA.
With the ground diode in the Vreg path… assume Vfdiode = 0.4V. This would cause Vout of Vreg to be 5+0.4V, or 5.4V.
“ground” will be thru the UL2003A darlington on the chase driver board. VCEsat = 0.9 min.
Assume 5 leds needed for longest string and solve using Ohms Law. R=V/I.
V = 5.4 – Vfled – VCEsat
I = 18mA * numOfLEDs in string or 18mA * 5
R = (5.4 – 3.23 – 0.9) / (5 * 18mA ) = 14.11 ohms
Subtract off typical Fuse resistance of 0.9ohms and you arrive at ~13.3ohms. Repeat the calculation for a 4 led string and you arrive at ~16.9ohms.

The only “gotcha” with this theoretical calculation is that what happens to the LED if we are drawing near 18mA? There’s no real ground plane or PCB to draw heat away from the LED. The only “heat sink” is the hot glue used to encase the LED and the wire LEDs connecting the LEDs. I’m hoping the low duty cycle of the LEDs will help keep thermal runaway in check. This is something I’ll have to watch in the final assembly. If LEDs start dying… we’ll know it’s either getting too hot… or the parallel LED VF vs current is a problem.

Here’s the Fab A boards as committed to OSHPark. This is their render of the boards as I don’t have them back from fabrication yet:

DE Chase Fab A (Top)
DE Chase Fab A (Top)
DE Chase Fab A (Bottom)
DE Chase Fab A (Bottom)

I’ll post more on the circuit boards in Part 2 when I get them back from OSH Park and have them built. We’ll see if my little experiment bears fruit.

Now onto the actual chase lights themselves. I thought about using polyurethane blue tubing from Granger.com as I posted in Pat’s Pinside thread on post #19. But honestly, I don’t really feel like the blue rope light fits the ST:25th theme very well. To me; it looks like some attention getting feature to draw in the eyes of a would be quarter-dropper in an Arcade. Not that is a bad thing; I just figure since I’m not going to an have original rope light assembly with the proper Light spacing… I might as well try to make it fit the theme a little better. If not blue, then what? Well Clear is definitely an option… but it won’t really hide the led wiring very well. I had a lot of extra 1/2″OD, 1/4″ID rigid Acrylic tubing left over from the guide plastics from Star Trek: The Mirror Universe custom pinball project. I was thinking of doing that with some custom Acrylic etches on the tubing. The problem is that Techshop.ws failed due to piss-poor-Management so I can’t really go there to use their rotary attachment on the Tortec. My new-to-me Epilog Laser doesn’t have a rotary Attachment, yet. Not sure what I’m going to do about that yet… Even if I get a Rotary… what would I put on the Tubing? Then there’s the issue of bending it properly… which shouldn’t be too hard given the Youtube videos for Hard Tubing in water cooled case tutorials.

Then I stumbled across ENT Corp on Ebay who seems to have colored versions of this rigid tubing available in cut-to-order. I went ahead and ordered 6 pieces of the smoke acrylic tubing custom cut to 15.25inches. After I experiment with the etching and try my hand at the clear tube bending… I’ll proably finalize the chase lights using the smoke tubing on the final machine.

That’s it for Part 1 of this blog series… I’ll start Part 2 when I get some tubing experiments done and/or when I get the PCBs back from OSHPark. For now, Peace and Long life…

M.2 60mm to 80mm bracket for Udoo X86 maker board

I recently received my Kickstarted Udoo X86 maker board but did not actually end up ordering any of their Accessories. They offer a Transcend MTS600 SSD (M.2 60mm) with somewhat small capacity. I decided I wanted a Transcend MTS800 256GB SSD from Amazon.com for the SSD and a Intel Dual Band AC 8260 WIFI NGFF card. Additonally; I ordered a set of Wifi Antenna’s to connect to the AC 8260 card.

Armed with this new equipment I set about figuring out how to install them on the Udoo X86 board. The board is only setup to support 60mm M.2 drives; so I opened up SCAD and created a quick 3D printed bracket to bridge the gap between the 60mm mounting hole and 80mm M.2 drive’s mounting hole. I 3D printed this using my M3D printer, drilled out the 3D printed #4-40 holes and taped it so I could run some #4-40 polycarbonate screws I had in my modding bins. Any 4-40 screw should work. The bracket I created also has pockets for a #4-40 nut incase you want to drill out the bracket and use a nut. Printing took about 45minutes on my M3D using clear PLA.

I’ve decided release this bracket design to the public under the TAPR Non-Commercial Open Hardware License which indicates:

You may make products based upon this design, provided you do not make more than ten units in any twelve month period for your personal use.

If you agree with the license terms; OpenSCAD and .STL files are posted here under TAPR/NCL license:
M.2 60mm to 80mm Bracket

For those that do not have a 3D printer; I’ve made the bracket available at my Shapeways shop:

Here are some OpenSCAD renderings of the bracket:

M.2 60mm to 80mm Bracket Render Top
M.2 60mm to 80mm Render Top
M.2 60mm to 80mm Render Bot
M.2 60mm to 80mm Render Bot

Actual 3D printed bracket (In use):

M.2 60mm to 80mm Bracket
M.2 60mm to 80mm in use

The Fluorescent Green Zip Tie is used to stabilize the WIFI antennas so they do not come loose from the AC 8260 connectors.

M.2 60mm to 80mm SSD Bracket
M.2 60mm to 80mm Bracket (SSD side)

Finally here’s a side view of the stack of both cards:

M.2 60mm to 80mm SSD Bracket
M.2 60mm to 80mm Bracket (side)

Announce: Stern Star Trek Laser Upgrade Kit

Pinball-Mods.com is pleased to announce the immediate availability of a Laser upgrade kit for your Stern Star Trek Premium or Limited Edition pinball machine. We offer a higher power Red laser module if you wish to remain “stock” but have just a little more “punch” so it can be seen. We also have a green laser module similar to other offerings. However, what sets us apart from the competition is we are the first to offer a blue laser module for these machines. Why blue; well I think it’s a better match to the LE machines and the Playfield graphics.

Our kits come with the laser module, a custom cable harness with bolts into the stock harness – no alligator clips, no fuss,┬áno mess. Our harness has a built-in Voltage Regulator Modules to power our custom-designed modules.

Detailed Step-By-Step Instructions are available here or on our product page.

Not sure which color you want? Check out our Youtube videos comparing the three colors against the stock red laser pointer.
Please note: These videos were taken without our Stern GI Dimmer installed; so the General Illumination is at 100% as it came from Stern. These videos are 1920×1080 HD; so feel free to click thru to Youtube and/or go full screen.

Announce: Translucent Early Solid State Pinball Buttons/Housings

I’m excited to announce the immediate availability of the C904 Housings and C905 buttons in 10 different pinball friendly translucent colors. The Colors are intended to closely match the colors of many pinball plastics such as lane guides, star posts, and switched inserts and are intended to be back-lit with LEDs. These new buttons are replacement parts for the following manufacturers / Part numbers:

  • Buttons:
    • Bally C-905 button
    • Gottlieb B-16680 button
    • Stern / Chicago Coin Machine 4B-200 button
  • Housings:
    • Bally C-904 housing
    • Gottlieb C-13900 bushing
    • Stern / Chicago Coin Machine 4B-199 housing

The Gottlieb BUSHING FOR DOUBLE PUSHBUTTON #B-21018 is not currently available; however, it should be possible to modify our buttons easily to replicate them. I’ll try to spend some time in the future to publish a how-to-modify here in this blog if there is interest.

These buttons are available in the following translucent colors:

  • Yellow,
  • Amber,
  • Orange,
  • Red,
  • Blue,
  • Green,
  • and Purple.

Additionally we’ve created some unique custom colors which should be of interest to the pinball community:

  • Clear
  • Teal,
  • and Smoke Black.

We also have some limited stock of:

  • Lime Green,
  • Smoke-Blue,
  • and Light Purple.

Colors are show below and should represent the colors available. Please Note:Keep in mind your monitor and my camera’s color balance will throw the colors off a bit from the actual product you receive so use these as an approximation of what will be shipped to you.

Pinball Button

C905 Translucent Pinball Buttons

The Housings:

Pinball Button Housing

C904 Pinball Housing

C904 Translucent Pinball Button Housings

Both the Housings and Buttons are made out of PMMA (Acrylic) so they can be easily laser etched and paint filled like I did on my Original Bally Star Trek Restoration.

Please let us know if there is a color not represented here… or if you’d like to see some opaque colors made.

To buy a set for you Pinball Machine; please see the following product page:
http://pinball-mods.com/oscom/index.php/cPath/28

Bally Flipper Button Mod

I’d also like to call Attention to a product we’ve had on the website for a couple of months… The Bally Flipper Mod was designed by myself several years ago for the Bally Star Trek Restoration. Each PCB features 12 LEDs in either Red or Green and rotated the LEDs to simulate a rotating pattern. I’ve held off announcing them here because I wanted to get the companion buttons on the website so fellow Pinheads would have the option of buying them with the colored button of their choice – IE one stop shopping.

This Flipper button mod is available as a 2 PCB set and looks like this in Green:

Here are a couple of videos of the Red in action:

Green LEDs:

Please take a gander at our product page:
http://pinball-mods.com/oscom/product_info.php/products_id/5
for more information or to purchase this modification.

Intel Edison: USB Storage Sled

I’ve been spending the last year or so playing with the Intel Arduino products – Namely the Intel Galileo and the Intel Edison. One of my projects the last few months has been Making a LinuxFromScratch Linux Kernel with full build tools, Xwindows, and QEMU running WinXP SP3. Included in this build is a XWindows software FrameBuffer w/ VNC capability; that way I can run a networked gui and do some GUI type work.

Chrome x86 running on Edison under XWindows
Chrome x86 running on Edison under XWindows

The Edison is cool because it’s just powerful enough to run WinXP under QEMU without any software emulation. While I wouldn’t call the Edision a speed demon – it should be good enough to allow printer drivers to function. The onboard storage for the Edison isn’t really big enough to run WinXP from the eMMC flash; so I opted to run a SSD attached to the USB2.0 port of the Edison. Edison runs as the “master”. The end goal of providing “always on” scanner and printer driver capabilities for my old HP all-in-one color laser and the ULS-25E laser cutter.

Windows XP SP3 running on Intel Edison
Windows XP SP3 running on Intel Edison

I also wanted to run a rotational drive .. to act as a swap space for both Linux and for the Winblows PageTable. To do this; I built a Microdrive FLEX to 44pin 2.5″ IDE adapter board and attached it to the Edison via a usb->ATA adapter. I verified all of this works with a usb hub.

With the concept proven; I set about generating a Intel Edison USB Storage Sled. This PCB provides power to the Edision and then connects up a 4port USB hub. This hub then serves the USB->SATA->mPCIe->Intel SSD, a USB->PATA->flexIDE Microdrive, and an extra device port. I set about putting the Sled in a SparkFun Edison Block compatible form factor early in the design phase. Clearly this much stuff on one board prevents me from adhering to the tiny formfactor; so I grew it in the X direction to 4.5″ wide and about 2.1″ tall. This board provides all the power to run the SSD and PATA interfaces. The board is 4 layers; due to USB2.0 routing requirements / impedance matching.

Why the Sparkfun Edison Block formfactor? Well simply put; I wanted to be able to expand the “system” with more features I don’t forsee at the moment. Example: I do not currently need an SDIO card on my Sled – honestly; I’m lazy and don’t want to route the pins. But; if later I need it – I can just buy Sparkfun’s Block and add it to the system.

I’m requesting comments / suggestions / peer reviews for the design; as a result I’m posting it here. The first 3pages of schematics are Licensed to you as Derivative works of Intel and Sparkfun. The last 3 pages and the PCB Layout are currently ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Copyright 2015 by John Zitterkopf. ATM; I’m thinking I’d release the final design under a TAPR/NCL license… but I haven’t committed to that yet.
Prototype Schematics / PCB Layout

In addition to the features above; I’ve designed in some USB Muxes to aid switching the Edison into Device or Host mode (similar to the Intel Edison Arduino board). I’ve also included the Lipo Battery charging circuit to provide a limited UPS type capability to the design incase of small power outages due to lightning or what not. Lastly; I added an I2C eeprom which can be programmed by the Edison for the USB to SATA bridge chip.

Update 8/28/2015:

Here are some pictures of the finished prototype:
Secondary/Edison Side

Primary/mSATA side

Feel free to leave a comment here (which will be reviewed by a human prior to posting) or provide comments in the various threads / project logs below:

Stern Star Trek: Warp Ramp LED Mod

One of the items that somewhat bugged me about my new Stern Star Trek LE Pinball machine, was the LED in the warp ramp popup insignia. Specifically; I always thought the two SMD red LED didn’t quite fit where it was placed in the machine.

Photo Credit: Kawydud@Pinside
Original LED in Popup. Photo Credit: Kawydud@Pinside

The plan was to “replace” the LED round lens with a laser cut lense which duplicated the artwork on the insignia’s plastic. To this I disassembled the plastic by removing the four screws… and took the plastic to my HP scanner where I scanned the art into my computer. Then using Corel Draw, I traced the Red Arrow from the plastic art:

Portions (c)2013 Stern Pinball
Scanned Plastic with New Arrow Art

I recreated the arrow using red; then added the black border around the plastic to block light and give a round area to mount the new LED. Once I had the recreated arrow; I broke it into two laser cut pieces. One would be cut out of the matte/diffused Red acrylic which was used on the Stern Star Trek Pop Undercaps. The second would be cut out of 1/8″ opaque black acrylic – this piece serving as an outline for the red piece and support from the LED.

I took these files to Techshop.ws where I laser cut several of each piece for experimentation later at home. Once the laser cutting was complete; I used the black cad files to laser etch some 1/4″ plywood to act as an assembling aid/surface. When I got home; I used the plywood and some wooden toothpicks to clamp the two pieces together:

Acrylic Clamping
Acrylic Pieces Clamped for Bonding

With the pieces together; I used some acrylic bonding solvent to glue the two pieces together. I let the acrylic bond overnight.

The next afternoon; My Comet Pinball Red LEDs had not come in the mail – so I decided to go ahead and use the original LED for experimentation. I cut the round lens off the original LED using a new XACTO knife and then using some two part 5minute epoxy; I glued the lamp to the new lense:

LED Clamping
LED Clamped to new LENS w/ 5minute Epoxy

I allowed the epoxy to cure for about an hour. I then reinstalled the plastics and the new LED assembly:

LED Clamping
Warp Arrow LED Installed

I’m really quite happy with the way this turned out. It defiantly spruces up the warp assembly.