(Topic ID: 232863)

Board Tech - Where to start?


By TechnicalSteam

9 months ago



Topic Stats

  • 27 posts
  • 17 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 9 months ago by SarverSystems
  • Topic is favorited by 3 Pinsiders

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    #1 9 months ago

    So I've been around the hobby now for awhile.

    I'd like to take my skills to the next level and that requires some more fine grain knowledge of board tech.

    Soldering, desoldering, adding pins and connectors are not what I am talking about.

    I'd like to learn a bit more about what's going on behind the scenes.

    Is there a go to Pinball Tech for dummies book that can get someone started without asking to many questions?

    ;0) Asking for a friend....

    #4 9 months ago

    Have any surplus electronics stores near you? Getting circuit boards to practice desoldering, soldering on are a lot cheaper than goofing up a pinball board.

    #5 9 months ago

    You and chrishibler are practically neighbors. I would start by reaching out to him and see if he would give you some pointers

    #6 9 months ago

    I've done a few repairs that are fine but I want to understand deeper science behind it all.

    How are the light shows created? How do those controllers work.

    How are the Scores communicated to the Backbox on pinball machines.

    How are Scores communicated to the DMD?

    More of the Zen of the Art. Science behind the scenes.

    Things like firing a Solenoid and Flippers have been covered but deeper stuff seems to be gap

    #7 9 months ago

    Ahhh...I think what you are really looking for is a 101 course on computer processing, data lines, addressing, and memory. Perhaps even an introductory course in electronic fundamentals.

    #8 9 months ago

    its different for every manufacturer.

    90s machines basically had a cpu running code from eeproms which just read switch matrix states / drives lamp matrix outputs etc... usually all the boards in the backbox.

    newer machines swapped to faster microcontrollers running the show with node boards under the play field driving all the hardware linked by some sort of serial bus.

    latest machines are basically embedded pcs/socs running linux (far easier to drive screens etc...) but every company does it slightly differently.

    If you want to play best bet is something like Proc or Fast controller.

    #9 9 months ago
    Quoted from russdx:

    90s machines basically had a cpu running code from eeproms which just read switch matrix states / drives lamp matrix outputs etc... usually all the boards in the backbox.

    newer machines swapped to faster microcontrollers running the show with node boards under the play field driving all the hardware linked by some sort of serial bus.

    These are actually more alike than different with the only real difference being a lower manufacturing cost. Also why it now takes a pinball machine 10x as long to be playable at power on and is up to 100x more expensive to repair. Progress?

    Sorry, I'm getting off topic.

    #10 9 months ago
    Quoted from Pin_Guy:

    These are actually more alike than different with the only real difference being a lower manufacturing cost. Also why it now takes a pinball machine 10x as long to be playable at power on and is up to 100x more expensive to repair. Progress?
    Sorry, I'm getting off topic.

    Swapping to a tiny controller and all the drivers on a serial bus was a pretty big change from the older systems. I don't think the boot time is an issue definitely wont effect machines on location and maybe slightly annoy machines in peoples homes. SMD boards is far far cheaper for the manufactures to design / assemble in volume with an added bonus (like you say) no one can repair them so you have to just buy another one from them if they fail (win win)

    I personally think its all going in the right direction and is definitely progress on the older systems using the best technology available. If you want these feature/video rich machines you need the powerful software/hardware to create them which is a os driven system as its far easier to create video content on a os with a file system / drivers etc... then on a micro-controller.

    #11 9 months ago
    Quoted from Pin_Guy:

    You and chrishibler are practically neighbors. I would start by reaching out to him and see if he would give you some pointers

    im sure chris hibler is far to busy to be taking in students, best thing to do chris is take a couple online courses or a couple electronic courses at your local vo-tech or college. lots of online and night classes available.

    #12 9 months ago
    Quoted from TechnicalSteam:

    I've done a few repairs that are fine but I want to understand deeper science behind it all.
    How are the light shows created? How do those controllers work.
    How are the Scores communicated to the Backbox on pinball machines.
    How are Scores communicated to the DMD?
    More of the Zen of the Art. Science behind the scenes.
    Things like firing a Solenoid and Flippers have been covered but deeper stuff seems to be gap

    Read the theory of operations for each machine they explain how the stuff communicates. There are links to them on pinwiki (except for gottlieb, because, well, Gottlieb).

    It's not going to explain the software-hardware link in fine grained detail though. You can look at the patent for Bally's Bow and Arrow, they actually put the source code there although it's not very well commented. There's source code for various other games floating around the net as well if you want to peruse it to get some idea of how it's done - they are all essentially similar although of course the way the hardware is utilized in each system is different. (There's only one practical way to pulse a switch matrix, for instance)

    #14 9 months ago

    Get some broken boards that go into your games and fix them. Old school bally SS is a great system to start on. The Bally service manual is good for beginners and tons of technical information out there.

    http://arcarc.xmission.com/Pinball/PDF%20Pinball%20Misc/Pin%20Repair.pdf

    #15 9 months ago
    Quoted from slochar:

    It's not going to explain the software-hardware link in fine grained detail though. You can look at the patent for Bally's Bow and Arrow, they actually put the source code there although it's not very well commented. There's source code for various other games floating around the net as well if you want to peruse it to get some idea of how it's done

    Mission Pinball Framework would also be helpful in learning code level stuff.
    http://missionpinball.org/

    #16 9 months ago
    Quoted from russdx:

    SMD boards is far far cheaper for the manufactures to design / assemble in volume with an added bonus (like you say) no one can repair them so you have to just buy another one from them if they fail (win win)

    I think my point was missed here. The only one that wins is the supplier as they can charge whatever they want for the replacement boards, so if you don't mind spending $100 or more for a replacement board because you have a light out or a switch that doesn't register then I guess you can call it a win; this of course also assumes that the board will still be available when you need one.

    #17 9 months ago
    Quoted from Pin_Guy:

    I think my point was missed here. The only one that wins is the supplier as they can charge whatever they want for the replacement boards, so if you don't mind spending $100 or more for a replacement board because you have a light out or a switch that doesn't register then I guess you can call it a win; this of course also assumes that the board will still be available when you need one.

    indeed that is what i was saying its win win for the manufacturer, cheap boards + extra income when they break.

    Home pin has kept with through hole for this very reason.

    #18 9 months ago
    Quoted from russdx:

    indeed that is what i was saying its win win for the manufacturer, cheap boards + extra income when they break.
    Home pin has kept with through hole for this very reason.

    Oh, I don't think so - people will just have to learn how to repair surface mount stuff. It's no different than learning how to solder through hole in the first place, and some might say it's actually easier.

    The biggest issue is as I've gotten older, I can't see stuff as well and will need to get magnification to work on it. The rework stations are getting cheaper, too, and people are developing techniques re: drag solder to make it easier.

    Now, the BGA stuff, that's a PITA.

    #19 9 months ago
    Quoted from slochar:

    Oh, I don't think so - people will just have to learn how to repair surface mount stuff.

    if it were only that simple...

    The problem is some manufactures (STERN) have not released any schematics for these boards which makes it difficult to troubleshoot. This is further complicated by some boards having their own programmed processors and no available code to program them with; an example would be the Magnet Control board STERN used in Metallica ... this is an expensive board with an extremely high failure rate; granted, aside from hitting the chip with excessive voltage, or a broken leg, this chip would have an extremely low failure rate.

    Quoted from slochar:

    The biggest issue is as I've gotten older, I can't see stuff as well and will need to get magnification to work on it.

    Unfortunately, I fall into this category as well.

    #20 9 months ago
    Quoted from slochar:

    Oh, I don't think so - people will just have to learn how to repair surface mount stuff. It's no different than learning how to solder through hole in the first place, and some might say it's actually easier.
    The biggest issue is as I've gotten older, I can't see stuff as well and will need to get magnification to work on it. The rework stations are getting cheaper, too, and people are developing techniques re: drag solder to make it easier.
    Now, the BGA stuff, that's a PITA.

    I'm not so sure, depending on component size some of it is workable but the components are getting so small now you got no chance unless you have very specialised equipment i think 98% of people would not have the tools or knowledge to repair this stuff

    #21 9 months ago

    What really concerns me is I can see where this disposable technology leads I was recently working on a Monster Bash remake that had a credit dot, the problem turned out to be a failure of the right flipper EOS switch to register as closed; the switch itself and wiring all checks out fine up to the point where it enters the under playfield PCB. This board is roughly half the size of the entire playfield and is a game specific part ... is replacing this one massive board the actual solution to fix a single EOS switch failure? What would be the out of warranty repair cost for this one part be? What will happen when these boards start failing 10 - 20 years from now? Have we now turned entire pinball machines into disposable items?

    #22 9 months ago
    Quoted from Pin_Guy:

    What really concerns me is I can see where this disposable technology leads I was recently working on a Monster Bash remake that had a credit dot, the problem turned out to be a failure of the right flipper EOS switch to register as closed; the switch itself and wiring all checks out fine up to the point where it enters the under playfield PCB. This board is roughly half the size of the entire playfield and is a game specific part ... is replacing this one massive board the actual solution to fix a single EOS switch failure? What would be the out of warranty repair cost for this one part be? What will happen when these boards start failing 10 - 20 years from now? Have we now turned entire pinball machines into disposable items?

    This is why I won't buy a remake. Too many unanswered questions. You could be stuck with a 250lb wood box that cost you thousands. I'm comfortable with the WPC machines that have been around forever, are easy to work on and virtually have an endless availability of replacement parts.

    #23 9 months ago

    Im not happy either with the new direction of disposable boards. I am currently struggling with repairing a WOZ light board. Id like to stop spending $35 every time a board goes out, or worse yet, hundreds if a larger light board goes. I have a few main components but the controller chips are hard to find, the leds are about $10 a piece, its to the point where even if you have the components and the know how its still not worth repairing. I am still going to keep working at repairing these just for the challenge since i have the parts to but damn a 3mm x 3mm package with a slug and recessed legs is brutal.

    #24 9 months ago
    Quoted from Pin_Guy:

    What really concerns me is I can see where this disposable technology leads I was recently working on a Monster Bash remake that had a credit dot, the problem turned out to be a failure of the right flipper EOS switch to register as closed; the switch itself and wiring all checks out fine up to the point where it enters the under playfield PCB. This board is roughly half the size of the entire playfield and is a game specific part ... is replacing this one massive board the actual solution to fix a single EOS switch failure? What would be the out of warranty repair cost for this one part be? What will happen when these boards start failing 10 - 20 years from now? Have we now turned entire pinball machines into disposable items?

    The entire main board for MMR was two hundred something - I bought one to stash it for insurance. Nose boards can be pricey, too.

    #25 9 months ago

    As other suggested, every system is different. I would also sugggest understanding the Bally games from 77-85 that used the -17 and -35 boards and once you can repair them, move on the something like System 11 or even Whitestar.

    Start with pinwiki and it would also benefit you to completely understand the test modes of various games among different companies if you do not already.

    The way that the boards are designed are certainly different from the various generations of boards, but there are more similarities among companies than you may realize. Understanding the choices they made back when companies had a specific budget to accomplish the simple tasks of controlling a switch or solenoid or score display or sound board is the key to knowing what is happening.

    In reality, the latest pinball systems are essentially small PC’s with specialized outputs and inputs to match up with running solenoids and lamps. So, it probably would not benefit you to learn those systems unless you want to learn how a PC motherboard works.

    #26 9 months ago

    If you want to learn really how difficult it is to design a pinball machine, try this:
    https://pinballmakers.com/wiki/index.php?title=Main_Page

    Or something like this:

    If you are not that ambitious like me, just keep lurking on Pinside and repairing and playing old pinball machines.

    #27 9 months ago

    I'd start here: https://www.youtube.com/user/OneCircuit/videos

    Very technical, but in an easy to understand way.

    I've learned A LOT.

    He even mentions my name in the 2nd viewer mail video (he butchers my last name, but oh well).

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