Announce: Frosted “clear” Drop targets

About 3 months ago; we announced on Pinside that we entered into a distorbution agreement with Pinball.Center to begin carrying their Frosted Clear drop targets for modern Stern, retro Williams, and old school Data East Pinball machines.

You can use these Drop targets anywhere you want to backlight them with LEDs but they have much better resiliency than the 3D varieties which were available a couple of years ago. Unlike the 3D printed varieties; these are injection molded out of Polycarbonate (Lexan) in Germany for maximum resilience until man can mass produce Transparent Aluminum.

To answer the question of ultimate resiliency; we sent a set of these drop targets to @vid1900 on Pinside to put them thru some checks. He reports that after 2 months of heavy commercial use, and over 900 games none of the sample drops have been damaged. You can read more about his honest review on Pinside.

We currently offer three styles of these “clear” drop targets in our store:

Already in Vid1900’s thread, several customers have begun to show how these drop targets enhance normally dark areas of their pinball machines:
Fytr on Pinside outfitted his Iron Maiden with our Clear drops.
Stern Iron Maiden Pinball
See more on Pinside.
roar on Pinside outfitted his The Walking Dead with our Clear drops
Stern The Walking Dead Pinball
but he went the added route of installing the stock decals over the drops. See more of Roar’s work on Pinside.

As expected; these drop targets are available for immediate shipment in our webstore:
Pinball Drop Targets

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:

Announce: Star Trek The Next Generation Popcap kit

We are pleased to announce the immediate availability of our Star Trek: The Next Generation Popcaps for the 1993 Williams Pinball machine by the same name.
This Popcap kit comes with three high quality Popcaps made of all metal, Zinc Alloy construction and feature a highly polished raised metallic plating for the insignia with a black enamel for the cap’s background. The kit comes with two round caps and one “cut down” cap to fit under the STNG’s beta ramp.

Go from this:
Before
to this:
After

In addition to the metal popcaps; the kit features a set of laser-cut acrylic Undercaps in your choice of colors. The stock kit offers the Undercaps in uniformed colors – IE one red (Command), one yellow (Engineering), and one light Blue (Science). There are also options to go All Red, or all Purple Undercaps to create a specific look for the game. For lighting; the kit comes stock with a 4-SMD #555 comet LED lamps but offers an upgrade to the 11-SMD popbumper LEDs in either Purple, Red, or uniformed colors. We actually offer two versions of the uniformed color 11-SMD configuration – the first being standard Blue:
Uniform - Standard Blue
with the other intended to match Troi’s uniform color:
Uniform - Troi Blue.

Comprehensive, step-by-step installation instructions are included in PDF form on our product page. This PDF also feature modification instructions for the BriteMods’ BriteCap EVO LEDs as they are the recommended LED product to use with these Popcaps.

Check out KnockerLover’s independant review of our Popcaps on Pinside in his STNG Full Title Modding Thread which is a very impressive read on it’s own. He decided to go with an 11-SMD, all purple configuration which looks stunning when combined his re-imagining.

This popcap kit is simple to install and is readily available at:
http://pinball-mods.com/oscom/game-specific-products-star-trek-the-next-generation-star-trekthe-next-generation-popcaps-p-24.html

Announce: Star Trek – The Next Generation VUK/Bracket Dress Kit

Pinball-Mods.com is pleased to announce we have reached an agreement with Nycon to distribute his laser etched decals for the Star Trek: The Next Generation Pinball machine by Williams in time for the 30th Anniversary and exclusively for the North American Market (USA & Canada). This 18 decal set will provide a much needed face lift for the two VUKs, several brackets, and the three flipper bats in this game. Each decal set is laser etched by Nycon in Germany out of high-quality brushed aluminum decal material to reveal the black plastic underneath.

The decal set dresses up the Left and Right Vertical UpKickers (VUK):
STNG: Left VUK
STNG: Right VUK

Decals for all three brackets and the spinner:
STNG: Alpha Bracket/spinner
STNG: Beta Bracket
STNG: Delta Bracket

Flipper-Bat Toppers are also included for all three flippers:
STNG: Flipper Toppers

For more information; please see Nycon’s thread on Pinside.

These decals are simple to install and are readily available @:
http://pinball-mods.com/oscom/game-specific-products-star-trek-the-next-generation-stng-vukbracket-dressing-p-25.html

Modernized Williams Serial Kit

For the last couple of months; I’ve been working on a redesign of the willams printer kit for my Star Trek: The Next Generation pinball. Much of the work as been in the Complex Programmable Logic Device (CPLD) which is in 256BGA form. Why a CPLD? Long term I intend to replace the Intel 8251A USART (which is becoming increasingly difficult to find and expensive) with a “soft IP” core. The only pseudo-free 8251A core I could find was by ALTERA. They allow free use of that IP; but only as long as you put it in an Altera device. I’m ok with that; but to be honest, I really do not like the company. My first tech-support request was “refused” because I wouldn’t provide them with a company or university name. I’m a hobbyist for crying out loud; support your damn products or bite me. If I had any other choice I’d go with another CPLD/FPGA company for this reason alone. But I digress…

This is a 1mm pitch BGA – needed it because the whole design requires logic blocks which only come in bga form factors. 🙁
I was forced to go to a 4 layer PCB to get the smaller 13mil drill sizes for “escape routing” the bga signals. I designed the pinout of the BGA to mainly use the outside peripheral pins of the bga. Pinouts were made to make for easier routing to U3 (Ti’s 74LVCH16T245), U2 (Ti’s 74LVC4245A), and U6 (FTDI’s FT232RQ) chips.

The design used the Ti 245s to translate between the MaxV’s VCCIO of 3.3V and the WPC/USARTs system voltage of 5Vs. Linear 1.8V and 3.3V LDOs from Ti drive the MaxV VCCINT (1.8V) and VCCIO (3.3V) pins. 3.3V also drives the other support chips; the UART->USB (FT232RQ) and the RS232 charge pump (U5/MAX3242UI). Logic in the CPLD controls “enables” to the MAX3243 from the USB chip; so that if a laptop/computer is plugged into the usb (J710U); the rs232 port at J710 is “off”.

This leaves a question; Why have the i8251A device onboard. This is a debug feature. Given I’ve never done a CPLD or FPGA design before; I’m thinking it may not work “right out of the shoot”… so I’m providing myself with a short term verification feature; where I can prove a real 8251 works … but there is a bug in the IP core (or my implementation of it). Long term; my goal is to de-pop U1 and U2 to reduce bom costs once the design is proven functional.

The FabA schematics and FPGA high level schematic is posted in the PDF below:
Williams Serial Printer Kit (pre-debug)
I retain all rights to the implementation and schematics.

The top layer board will look something like this:
FabA PCB top layer

When installing in the pinball machine; one would disconnect the main cpu ribbon cable and plug it into J701B. The connect a short “jumper” ribbon cable from the cpu board to this board via J710A.

I got to be honest; the bga on the board is very scary. $20 a piece… and BGAs aren’t really known for their ease in the DIY workshop. But; it’ll be fun to see how pcb assembly goes.

I hope to order the PCB shortly… then be “waiting” for the batch pcb service to pool with others. I may quote with PCBFabExpress.com as they seem to have very reasonably priced 4 layer boards with a quick (compared to batchpcb, 5 day turn).

Next step after ordering boards and BOM for assembly; is to get back to the visual pinmame source code in order to begin “simulating” the printer kit from a software prospective. Long term; I want to test the ROM hacks to dump the high scores via serial port and the Serial kit. Once I’ve tested the roms in pinmame; then I can commit them to the real machine. I did have some success compiling pinmame from source; but for some reason I get an assertion about filetypes when running the compiled images.

I’d also like a benchtop WMS debug system… thought about using a P-Roc – but not sure if close enough to the original WMS board to be compatible with the WMS printer kit.