(Topic ID: 235567)

Are Boards that utilize Surface Mounted Electronics Throw Away Items ?


By whthrs166

5 months ago



Topic Stats

  • 33 posts
  • 14 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 5 months ago by whthrs166
  • Topic is favorited by 1 Pinsider

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    #1 5 months ago

    Yes I know about the whole "Node Board Argument" but this topic is clear. Is the electronic future of Pinball headed for (SME) Surface Mounted Electronics? (I think it is.) I ask this question to you guys after having an issue with my Scared Stiff involving a GLM 16 Switch Opto Board That is SME Technology. Loved this board, it had nice onboard diagnostics and self test mode. It was those very diagnostics that help me quickly troubleshoot the board failure. The Problem was : (when a ball was ejected out of the trough, half of the optos were not recognized by the board.) Basically half the optos died in the game. The problem was quickly remedied by replacing the board. I used a through component board from Marco. ( Big High Five to Marco and whomever is making those boards, Thanks Guys) Went to GLM'S website and found that the board is out of stock and has been for sometime. They also don't offer any repair service to repair the board. (although Tony might do it if I contacted him. Haven't done that yet.) So should I just pitch this GLM board? Do you guys think the hobby is headed for SME Technology? Should we be worried about the old boards not being made anymore in the future? What about the New Games using SME Tech, do you consider it being a drawback for buying NIB?

    #2 5 months ago

    Surface mount, in itself, does not make something unrepairable. The problem is that people need different tools (and some different skills) to do the repairs. Most general home repair guys have neither, making it more difficult.

    #3 5 months ago

    Yeah I know I am not going to try it. First of all like you say, I don't have the tools. My vision isn't what it used to be (at 54) that doesn't help. A lot of these SME boards are inexpensive so pitching them is more of an option.

    #4 5 months ago

    Personally, I generally attempt a repair first, rather than replace. It is generally a lot cheaper to replace a ten cent component than to spend $50-$100 on a new board like that. But, some people simply don't have the skills for it.

    SMD boards are harder to work on and require specialized equipment, but aren't unrepairable. (FYI, SME isn't really the term that's generally used. Typically it's SMD--surface mounted device or surface-mount device, or SMT--surface mount/mounted technology).

    In the case of Stern's node boards, because everything is packed so tightly together, it makes repairs very difficult in some cases. Additionally, the lack of schematics for those node boards are the main problem from a diagnostic perspective. However, Stern did announce they would be released by the end of the month, so I guess we'll see if they stay true to their word or not. Between that and the failure rates of those boards, a lot of people (including operators) have been hesitant to buy NIB from Stern.

    #5 5 months ago
    Quoted from whthrs166:

    Is the electronic future of Pinball headed for (SME) Surface Mounted Electronics?

    Yes. It's been there for years, it's just as far as people doing aftermarket boards, the replacement boards are still sometimes done as through-hole if the components are still available and/or if the person is doing hand assembly.

    Quoted from whthrs166:

    Went to GLM'S website and found that the board is out of stock and has been for sometime. They also don't offer any repair service to repair the board. (although Tony might do it if I contacted him. Haven't done that yet.) So should I just pitch this GLM board?

    I wouldn't pitch it. Offer it up here. Someone should be able to fix it and you should be able to get something for it or at least have someone willing to pay shipping and keep it from hitting the landfill. Could always save it until you have some other boards to "toss" them up as a lot too.

    Quoted from whthrs166:

    Do you guys think the hobby is headed for SME Technology? Should we be worried about the old boards not being made anymore in the future? What about the New Games using SME Tech, do you consider it being a drawback for buying NIB?

    GLM not having availability or actively selling boards, doesn't mean they won't get picked up by someone else. Pinside gets tons of traffic and there's plenty of people looking for something to create or recreate. If there's a heavy need, it's a niche for someone to fill.

    Quoted from whthrs166:

    What about the New Games using SME Tech, do you consider it being a drawback for buying NIB?

    It's a drawback for some, but not a deal-killer for people that want the latest and greatest and have deeper wallets.

    I had a newer game for a bit, but the thought of all the boards with surface mount components & then the node board issue didn't really sit well. I'd rather games using through-hole boards and I kind of prefer WPC era on back anyway so it fits.

    #6 5 months ago

    Repair tools and technology change regularly, following the manufacturing tech as needed. It's not unique to pinball.
    Most things today have circuit boards, those boards are moving to SMT, so the repair tech will have to move too.

    It may be more expensive and/or difficult to be a shade tree pin mechanic in the future, or the tools required may become cheap and ubiquitous. Time will tell.

    #7 5 months ago

    Surface-mount technology (SMT) is in practically all new electronics now. This includes pinball machines. It is cheaper and faster to produce. It CAN be better than through-hole counterparts. There are advantages, like smaller (denser) board designs, less leads and traces, etc. But therein lies the problem...IF there is a failure, not only do you have the challenge of needing experience and tools to repair/replace SMT, but you have less space to work with from the start and that is best case scenario assuming that a failure did not damage the traces or circuit board around it. If a component fails catastrophically and burns the traces around it, then I believe you have something that can not feasibly repaired.

    I do believe this is throw away technology in most cases for that very reason. Nevermind the fact that Stern has not yet offered schematics. In most of the bad SMT boards that I have come across, the components failed (for whatever reason) and then typically damaged the board itself. This is because they are mounted directly to the board. Compared to a failed resistor on a Pinball 2000 driver board I was working on yesterday...the resistor is burnt up, and the board is scorched a little, but I can replace the resistor no problem because it didn't affect the traces around it. Even if it did, there is enough room to jumper further on down the trace. On a SMT board, forget it...there are other components mounted just millimeters away.

    Theoretically there could be SMT boards designed well enough to be reliable and repairable if something happened (like shorting a coil circuit to a switch or light circuit while working on a pin). But are they going to design them that way? And if we're thinking like a business, do you want people repairing their own boards or do you want them to be sent in for repair or, better yet, thrown away and replaced with a new one at a price that you get to set? Hmmm...

    #8 5 months ago

    It depends. The largest types of SMD's are fixable by hand. But I guess boards will be more expensive with those. If they are at all still in production.

    Power drivers are big enough to be replaced by hand and any old solder iron. And even better than hole-throughs. They may be changes with the board installed.

    Talk about give some and loose some.

    #9 5 months ago
    Quoted from ForceFlow:

    FYI, SME isn't really the term that's generally used. Typically it's SMD--surface mounted device or surface-mount device, or SMT--surface mount/mounted technology).

    Got it SMD. I was trying to be general on the surface technology. I have been repairing my own boards on my WPC games. I have also sent boards out to Rob Anthony from time to time when the board traces were damaged. I have a full set of WPC-95 boards as spares just so my games won't be down for repair.

    #10 5 months ago

    Have to say the more I read and understand about these boards, node etc, the more inclined I am to stick to a few games with this technology, and mix up my games with pre year 2000 games.

    At the moment no one knows how long these boards are going to last? 5 years, 10 or more?

    #11 5 months ago
    Quoted from ReplayRyan:

    Surface-mount technology (SMT) is in practically all new electronics now. This includes pinball machines. It is cheaper and faster to produce. It CAN be better than through-hole counterparts. There are advantages, like smaller (denser) board designs, less leads and traces, etc. But therein lies the problem...IF there is a failure, not only do you have the challenge of needing experience and tools to repair/replace SMT, but you have less space to work with from the start and that is best case scenario assuming that a failure did not damage the traces or circuit board around it. If a component fails catastrophically and burns the traces around it, then I believe you have something that can not feasibly repaired.
    I do believe this is throw away technology in most cases for that very reason. Nevermind the fact that Stern has not yet offered schematics. In most of the bad SMT boards that I have come across, the components failed (for whatever reason) and then typically damaged the board itself. This is because they are mounted directly to the board. Compared to a failed resistor on a Pinball 2000 driver board I was working on yesterday...the resistor is burnt up, and the board is scorched a little, but I can replace the resistor no problem because it didn't affect the traces around it. Even if it did, there is enough room to jumper further on down the trace. On a SMT board, forget it...there are other components mounted just millimeters away.
    Theoretically there could be SMT boards designed well enough to be reliable and repairable if something happened (like shorting a coil circuit to a switch or light circuit while working on a pin). But are they going to design them that way? And if we're thinking like a business, do you want people repairing their own boards or do you want them to be sent in for repair or, better yet, thrown away and replaced with a new one at a price that you get to set? Hmmm...

    Well said and noted. I think it should be noted here that I do have soldering skills. I have degrees in electronics EET and EMT. But even with this I do have some limitations. I would be more prone to pitch the SMD board and get a new one. But in this case I don't have that option because the GLM board is not available.

    #12 5 months ago
    Quoted from Shapeshifter:

    At the moment no one knows how long these boards are going to last? 5 years, 10 or more?

    And will they be available then? with Stern I would expect them to be. CGC Hmmmm not sure...

    #13 5 months ago

    Maybe if costs to import things keep going up & more manufacturing moves to the US.. it'll be cheaper for people to repair things again like it used to be 20-30 years ago when you got your TV, VCR, etc repaired instead of just tossing & buying new.

    Just a thought Probably not likely to happen, but hey who knows!

    #14 5 months ago

    Repair tools for SMT aren’t dramatically expensive. A fine tip for a soldering iron, a soldering braid, and tweezers will work for most. A magnifying glass helps.

    Personally, I prefer working in SMT assemblies opposed to TH assemblies. I feel like it’s easier to de-solder, which can be a pain on TH components.

    #15 5 months ago

    The other direction I expected Pinball to go is PC based games. example Houdini, JJP games, even my CCC. I really like the all the new avenues that a PC based game can explore. More code that is easily upgraded. That means more toys with better abilities that are supported by such code. However, I do have concerns about PC hard drives and PCs that need cooling via fans ect... They are prone to age and failure. Expensive repairs and replacement. And there again will that pinball company be there for me in 10 years when I need that new PC...

    #16 5 months ago
    Quoted from Allibaster:

    Personally, I prefer working in SMT assemblies opposed to TH assemblies. I feel like it’s easier to de-solder, which can be a pain on TH components.

    I may have to see if you could fix this board for me!

    #17 5 months ago
    Quoted from Grangeomatic:

    Surface mount, in itself, does not make something unrepairable. The problem is that people need different tools (and some different skills) to do the repairs. Most general home repair guys have neither, making it more difficult.

    I don't think field techs for route operators would be able to do surface mount board repairs on location.

    #18 5 months ago
    Quoted from KenLayton:

    I don't think field techs for route operators would be able to do surface mount board repairs on location.

    Yeah this is a completely different situation. I would think that operators would have extra boards to just switch out. Then either do the repair on the board at the shop or pitch it.

    #19 5 months ago
    Quoted from whthrs166:

    Yeah this is a completely different situation. I would think that operators would have extra boards to just switch out. Then either do the repair on the board at the shop or pitch it.

    That's the blessing and the curse of the "node" boards. A 10 minute "fix" to replace them, but then you have to have them on hand and have capital tied up in them.

    I see the advantages and disadvantages. It seems to come down to what is an acceptable price point.

    #20 5 months ago

    Repairing boards with surface mount components. In fact, there are some advantages (no thru holes comes to mind ... you don't need to fight sucking solder out of the hole and destroying pads when you yank a component from a board).

    Repairing/replacing these parts just requires a little practice. Using Chipquik helps a LOT when learning how to remove/replace components. In time, you won't even need that stuff.

    As for tools, you need a hot air station ... these can be had on the cheap these days ... and maybe a pack of dental picks from Harbor Freight.

    One problem looming out there though ... BGA packages. These are chips with no leads on the perimeter ... instead, all connections are made to the board by directly soldering it to pads on the PCB. The newer Stern CPU board is an example of this. Repairing/replacing these requires relatively expensive equipment.

    Now I, personally, don't care about BGAs, but some people don't like them (it'd be pretty hard to damage the CPU board with the way its grounded and the protection switching power supplies provide ... they almost always fail "open" meaning that you won't get runaway voltages taking out everything downstream unlike linear supplies ... the PROC uses a BGA packaged FPGA and I haven't heard anything about them failing).

    Bottom line is that the industry is moving away from thru hole components. It's pretty silly to design new stuff with thru hole components (I am talking about stuff that would go into mass production ... obviously, it is somewhat desirable to use thru hole for pinball replacement board level production). Adapting and learning the skills to repair PCBs with SMT components isn't very hard, isn't very expensive, and is just another skill you'll acquire to keep these games alive .

    #21 5 months ago
    Quoted from Lamprey:

    I see the advantages and disadvantages. It seems to come down to what is an acceptable price point.

    I hate to be price police, but Stern's node boards are priced thru the roof for no real reason. Those boards should be CHEAP. At $75 a pop, they'd still be making a comfortable profit on the boards and collectors would certainly buy more spares. I have no idea why they price them so ridiculously high.

    While not a node board, I inadvertently fried the small PCB that drives the red LEDs on the sides of a STLE ... that little PCB, with a $1.50 shift register component (that's low quantity pricing too ... buying 1000 at a time, I could get the same chip for under $0.50!), was priced at $45 ... that's ridiculous really. Swapping the component took me 10 minutes. If the board was sanely priced, say $15, I would have bought a new one as a spare. Stern probably would have made around $12 off me. As far as I'm concerned, they're leaving money on the table pricing their boards so high.

    #22 5 months ago
    Quoted from megadeth2600:

    I hate to be price police, but Stern's node boards are priced thru the roof for no real reason. Those boards should be CHEAP. At $75 a pop, they'd still be making a comfortable profit on the boards and collectors would certainly buy more spares. I have no idea why they price them so ridiculously high.
    While not a node board, I inadvertently fried the small PCB that drives the red LEDs on the sides of a STLE ... that little PCB, with a $1.50 shift register component (that's low quantity pricing too ... buying 1000 at a time, I could get the same chip for under $0.50!), was priced at $45 ... that's ridiculous really. Swapping the component took me 10 minutes. If the board was sanely priced, say $15, I would have bought a new one as a spare. Stern probably would have made around $12 off me. As far as I'm concerned, they're leaving money on the table pricing their boards so high.

    Yeah, fully agree there.

    I was going to post in the Node Board thread, but it got kinda out of hand. Obviously, if one has the skills and the tools, it's great to make a repair. But, I get it for operators that want to keep earning, swapping out a board is quick and easy. If node boards where $35/$45/$55/$?? would it be such a big deal?

    As it pertains to Stern, hopefully they actually release their schematics and it helps with repairability!

    #23 5 months ago
    Quoted from Lamprey:

    As it pertains to Stern, hopefully they actually release their schematics and it helps with repairability

    They should at least do that for their operators! Can't believe it has taken this long.

    #24 5 months ago

    My dad would say nothing is throw away...he has the garage and multiple sheds, houses to back it up.

    #25 5 months ago
    Quoted from Pinballlew:

    My dad would say nothing is throw away...he has the garage and multiple sheds, houses to back it up

    I can identify with this! We call our selves "Pack Rats" here in Colorado!

    #26 5 months ago
    Quoted from megadeth2600:

    I have no idea why they price them so ridiculously high.

    small PCB that drives the red LEDs on the sides of a STLE ... that little PCB, with a $1.50 shift register component (that's low quantity pricing too ... buying 1000 at a time, I could get the same chip for under $0.50!), was priced at $45

    Overhead. Every item a company buys has to be tracked, stored, packaged, shipped, moved, moved again, moved yet a third and fourth time, inventoried, and on, and on, and on. That $5 board they bought isn't worth dealing with if it sells for $20. I doubt their parts business is a huge cash cow. It's got to bring in enough to pay for itself.

    #27 5 months ago
    Quoted from YeOldPinPlayer:

    Overhead. Every item a company buys has to be tracked, stored, packaged, shipped, moved, moved again, moved yet a third and fourth time, inventoried, and on, and on, and on. That $5 board they bought isn't worth dealing with if it sells for $20. I doubt their parts business is a huge cash cow. It's got to bring in enough to pay for itself.

    Also all the development cost, they had to pay people to develop these boards and pay for all the development tools and equipment / prototype boards etc.... But they are hugely over priced. But as they are only ones making them they can pretty much charge what they think they can get away with hehe.

    #28 5 months ago

    What are we talking about for one of those Node Boards? Is the price comparable to say WPC-95 Driver Board?

    #29 5 months ago

    So I am still a bit hazy on the topic title here. If the SMD boards are cheap enough, then it would economical to just buy a new one and toss the old one right?
    Ok I know there are those that will want to fix it for a few bucks and could stand to make a few bucks off selling refurbished boards. But if the board was cheap enough it would be just a throw away.

    #30 5 months ago

    Stern dont make high enough volume to be throw away they need to be making hundreds of thousands to be cheap enough to throw away. Ie mobile phone pcbs / tv mother boards etc... made in the millions.

    I reken the the more complex node boards still cost them at least $25-$35 each. Which i don't think is throw away.

    #31 5 months ago

    Well if it's a $50 board, I would just toss into file 13. But if it is a $100 or more, I would want to see if it could be fixed. And how dependable would a repaired SMD board be anyway? Are they really intended to be repaired in first place? My concern is if Pinball is going the way of SMD because they are cheap boards and crappy quality. If so, they should be priced accordingly, so we can throw them away.

    #32 5 months ago

    Just spit-balling.... But, posts from people that claim to know about electronics have been very critical of the design of Stern's node boards. I'm being honest is saying I know enough to be dangerous when it comes to repairing non-SMD boards. So, I don't know the details of what needs to change, if anything, with Stern's design. Is it a simple as adding a fuse, probably not. Would it help, I don't know. Maybe I'm out of my depth and fuses aren't even needed. It just seems logical to have more "hard" protection. But, perhaps Stern has learned a thing or two. Will these learning apply to the current generation? I doubt it. But, perhaps version-next of Stern's hardware will incorporate the learnings...?

    As I mentioned, I can repair non-SMD boards, usually, by going through some checks using my digital multi-meter or logic probe. I'm guessing that similar tactics can be used with SMD boards, but I have no experience with repairing them. I'm hopeful, that I might be able to repair a board if something minor, like a transistor, fails. But, if a processing chip fails, that might be beyond my skill level. I guess I should do some research on hot air stations..

    I don't know what people are thinking/feeling about the node boards. Obviously, I don't want to spend 100's of dollars to replace one, but I would if it meant keeping my machine going. My fear is how long will these boards be available? I'd hate to have a non-working pin in ten years.

    #33 5 months ago
    Quoted from Lamprey:

    I'd hate to have a non-working pin in ten years.

    I have lost sleep over this at times. That's why I have a complete set of spare boards for my games. My games are all WPC-95 now but I have owned others in the past (Stern, CGC) that use SMD boards. I am "outside looking in" on NIB games right now and board design and dependability is a concern for me as a buyer. I look at my games as long term purchases and I choose games that I believe have long term collectability. For Stern (IMHO) It is GBLE, STLE and Possibly Munsters. There are others like Tron. Like you I really want to know that these boards are going to be dependable in the long term. If they are, then their prices are justified. If not, and they are cheap throw away junk, then they should be priced accordingly (like one poster implied, $35-$75)

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