(Topic ID: 249870)

Continued playfield issues with JJP and Stern

By f3honda4me

6 months ago

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#1471 5 months ago
Quoted from luckymoey:

Pulling the art back from the posts is a step in the right direction but seriously doubt it will fully solve the problem. The clear is obviously not sufficiently cured / hardened and is easily damaged when the posts are tightened down or move laterally due to ball strikes or pressure from the rubbers. The art may be adhering more to the clear than the wood but the soft clear is the underlying issue. I haven't seen any examples of art lifting where the clear wasn't pooled. I worked for a company that made high end adhesives for bonding metal to metal. Believe it or not the metal would rip apart before the adhesive joint failed, but that didn't mean the metal was defective. I'd be very surprised if Stern doesn't also change the clear formulation and/or application process.

My personal opinion...

I have many games with this issue on route so I have seen multiple examples over the past few years ranging from minimal to VERY bad.
This issue is on Beatles, Maiden, JP2 most predominantly, but I have seen it on all title from Stern fro the past 4 years; just seemingly worse for the last 1.5 years.

I think it is important to note that "pooling" (e.g. clear still in liquid form resting into a puddle) is not really what is going on. Bunching may be a better term for this. The appearance looks like pooled areas but is is actually hollow but thick raised bunching where art and clear layer have lifted off the playfield while still in non-cured state.

I think the underlying issue is adhesion to the wood. This appears to be a chemical AND physical lack of adhesion.
This could be due to:
-the wood being used
-how the wood has been treated or prepped (or lack of prep)
-the ink being used or the timing between layers (no longer silk screened which means all one layer with reduced work time but also less total dry time?)
-the clear being used or the timing between layers
-the posts are differnet than they used to be and pressure is being displaced differently/ not spread as evenly as old posts do

I personally think it is a COMBINATION of root causes.
We know the wood is softer and different now than even a few years ago.
We have seen examples of poor wood prep and more dust which indicates technique and concern for wood prep before ink has decreased
We know ink is different chemically and now being layed down in one go (or one session of mutliple passes) compared to previous silkscreen process
We know time is being cut in every way possible so less cure time
We know clear coat chemicals continue to change and we can assume that they are given less time to cure off between coats
We know the whole process seems rushed and the game has changed to more titles and more often which means you have to assemble without cure off or as long.

I think the symptom is seen at posts and most quickly at sling posts because of the impact and abuse they take.
I think the clear is bonding pretty well to the ink layer (hence why ink and clear are lifting together). This tells me that clear is not given enough time to cure between layers so it is still pliable at assembly time. This tells me that ink is bonded more to clear than to wood.

The initial "solution" of adding washers under posts (e.g. JP2) was just attempting to displace pressure over a bigger area and hid the issue. This is the first visible acknowledgement that Stern knows they have an issue.

The new "solution" of moving art off of posts appears to only be a bandaid to hide the lack of finding a root cause. They have removed the ink adhesion issue from under posts and now we will get a chance to see if this helps remove the symptom (but still not the cause). I view this as a way for them to buy time or they are opting to just remove the visible symptom and moving on with life?? (I hope not but maybe the case). I will note that there are already examples on previous games where posts without art under them still have bunching, but the clear seems to be holding better than over art.

This is a multifacted issue and likely no one silver bullet to fix this.

I sure hope they can get it under control.

It is a very tough problem with likely MANY subcontractors, many moving parts in the manufacturing process, and also a very tough chemical and physical engineering problem to really get to the root cause and then solve (plus put in verification steps to make sure it does not go back to bad once fixed).

I think communication is always key in these matters and the company that comes out to more openly talk about it and the solutions being put in place will likely win the longer term loyalty of the customer base.

#1480 5 months ago
Quoted from snaroff:

Great post, but I'm skeptical it's "a very tough problem" from an R&D perspective. Why?

Thanks. I personally think it is difficult as there are lots of people, companies, etc... involved.
In my experience that can make even simple problems tough. It allows lots of blame shifting between them rather than accountability.

Every step has questions, possible root casues, and possible changes (many may not be divulged)
-Where does the wood come from/ what has changed?
-ink chemical changes?
-pf prep changes?
-clear chemical or application changes?

There is even a chance that this could all come down to a very simple thing which could easily be overlooked because a subcontractor does not even think of it as a change. For example "well yeah we put a new nozzle on our automatic clear coat robot, but all that did was change the spray pattern for better coverage in fewer passes" This could in effect change density of product which would impact the need for longer cure time between coats.

Sometimes these imperceptibly small changes can have huge down stream impacts.

Just a guess, but quite possible that you have a variety of wood providers to the pf cutting company. That pf cutting company has a variety of people handling the blanks differently on different machines. The printed has lots of automation and more each day and some ink colors may change chemical composition without them even knowing as they may come from lots of different supplies. same with basically every step of the process and we are dealing with wood, ink, clear, and assembly at minimum.

Even if the ink and clear are one subcontractor, then they have likely multiple sources for base ink and clear (or accelerators, etc...)

TLDR >> lots of possibilities for change that happened without people even realizing it and now you have to pick apart everything to get it fixed.

On the flip side, it can be easy to just restart and walk the process... but the time and cost associate with it can be huge.

#1483 5 months ago
Quoted from Multiballmaniac1:

Easy remedy. Don’t buy nib.

yeah, I agree.

This is also the ONLY sure fire way to influence any company to find the real root cause and make the change.
If the buyers speak by no longer buying AND reach out to your distributor AND Stern directly to let them know why you are not buying, then they will change/fix it and respond.

#1518 5 months ago
Quoted from Talon2000:

It took several calls to Stern after initial email with pictures. I was told that QC has determined this to be Normal. That the clear is solid and hard (which it's not, it's a frigging blister) To which I was told to send in more pictures showing that I could press down on the affected areas, which I did, and sent video. Nothing back. I will be calling again.
However I was also told that many people are calling about this (as they should be).

honestly, it took probably 5 months of monthly pictures, calls, and emails. They have said they would replace, but that was over 6 weeks back and still no replacement has shown up.

If customers want this to be fixed then I suggest daily polite calls to both your distributor and Stern directly. Let them know you are not satisfied with the product and wont be buying more until they properly resolve this for you. Follow up with an email each day to document the phone call and give more photos.

They seem to have some threshold of "acceptable" which is far beyond what pretty much any customer deems acceptable for a NIB game. After the most recent frustration of being strung along for months, then being told they would replace, and still no replacement has arrived; I think their threshold is that you have to show blistering/ bunching in multiple areas that cant be hidden with a metal washer and show cracking/lifting of art.

#1587 5 months ago
Quoted from Talon2000:

I just got my new Elvira Pin, or rather spent my money I saved for Elvira on a CGC game. Much happier.[quoted image]

what is wrong with MUN and Maiden?

#1592 5 months ago
Quoted from Rum-Z:

Let's play a guessing game before Talon2000 tells us. I'm guessing node boards.

I am going with one of the following

Flipper coil stops imploded
Ramp optos on Maiden
Munster mini pf issues
pulling apart to add washers for pf post issues
node board issues
gi bulb shorting issues

#1704 5 months ago
Quoted from T7:

I just got a new JPLE and it has the no-art circles and a much thinner clear, but still glossy.
So far it looks like this will fix the problem, absolutely no signs of pooling so far.

Pls report back after a couple hundred plays.

#1779 4 months ago
Quoted from Chrizg:

I will post when I hear what will be done with the 4 pros I have with the clear coat issues.

please do.

Took us month after month after month after month of sending more and more photos of how bad Beatles was (nevermind the fact that it is also on JP, BK3, Maiden; just not as bad as Beatles was). They finally agreed to send a new playfield blank about 6 weeks ago. We are now told we will get that pf in about 1 more month from now. I will update when it arrives.

It seems to me that Stern does not think it warrants any sort of fix (beyond washers on new games?) unless it continues to get worse over time and the bunching ends up cracking/chipping off art.

It also frankly took WAY too much effort to get a replacement.

I got the impression they hoped we would eventually just stop sending pictures and then they would forget about us.
NO customer should have to go through anything besides filing the very first report.

They really need to get on top of the pf issue. However, they also need to get on top of how they are shifting blame and treating their customers.

I can deal with and understand mistakes happen. It is how they deal with and treat the customer on the back in that really matters.

#1862 4 months ago
Quoted from hawkmoon77:

For what it's worth, I build musical instruments as a hobby, and there is a known issue with lacquer pooling around the guitar tuners on the headstock. I don't know if it is a similar cause here, but with regard to guitars -- if this happens, it has almost everything to do with curing. Here are some factors:
- 3 thin coats spaced 30 minutes apart, then a full nights cure, then repeat the next day. Then allow a few weeks before tightening the guitar tuners on. This allows the solvents to evaporate correctly between sprays. Applying too thick of a coat too soon will trap the solvents as the outer layer "skins." And while reducing the overall thickness of the clear would help prevent the problem, super thin clear coats aren't generally well received in the guitar world (where applicable) because they lack visual depth and have poor wear resistance.
- Tightening a guitar tuner on uncured clear will trap solvents under the nut. These trapped solvents will soften the paint or finish underneath. This will manifest as a flaking clear coat.
- In the luthier world, it's called creep. It happens to glue and clear coats. A thick glue, when squeezed together,will push out slowly over time during the drying process resulting in what is being called pooling here. This is removed before finishing, but a thick, built up clear coat will do this too. The continuous pressure on uncured clear will cause it to slowly migrate toward the outer edges and pool or bubble. The trapped solvents will then leach into the underlying finish, softening it, and making it flake off. If is unpainted natural wood, it is less likely to happen because the solvents leach into the raw wood and disperse better. The hardest part is that creep is difficult to catch because it all looks fine at first until a week or so later when the clear slowly migrates out to the edges.
The luthier community solved this problem a long time ago by applying more thin coats instead of fewer thicker coats, letting them dry between coats, and then allowing it to cure before covering up portions of it with screwed down nuts. Every so often, the issue re-emerges when a manufacturer decides to save time by changing up the process.
I am NOT saying that is what is happening to the PFs, and there are other things that can cause similar problems (like overtightening, bad lacquer chemistry, bad surface prep, etc.), but I can't help notice a similarity between these problems.
[quoted image][quoted image][quoted image][quoted image]

Great post. As a point of reference, I recently pulled a piece of Mylar from the upper orbit of maiden. The smell of uncured clearcoat was so strong it was amazing! Do doubt about how soft it still was and just sealed in by the Mylar.

#1894 4 months ago
Quoted from NeilMcRae:

I think we should be constructive and ask the question constructively and positively rather than the pinside torch and fork brigade.
"We notice some ongoing questions with playfield curing, what can you tell us about it? and what help can pinheads give you to solve the problem and what can pinheads do to look after their games to the best effect?"
I want to get a response from Stern knowing that they won't want to admit a problem exists, if we put them on the spot we will get nothing and that would be frustrating so lets be smart about it.

I like your attitude. Unfortunately, when many people are rightfully pissed about being sold a knowingly defective product, it is sometimes hard to bottle that emotion. Esp if you have to deal with the smugness that Stern can often come off with towards their paying customer base.

At a certain point, you have to remember that we are the customers and nice goes out the window.
Sometimes it is important to back a manufacturer into an uncomfortable spotlight.

#1897 4 months ago
Quoted from PanzerFreak:

"Well, there are no widespread playfield issues. We've only had 6-8 reports of playfield problems. Don't hesitate to buy a Stern game. If you have a problem contact your distributor".

I guess I would reply

"That is odd, I have reports in for Deadpool, Maiden, Beatles, and JP2. Very interesting that I am 50% of the reports and it has been on 100% of the games I have purchased in the past 18 months."

"My real world experiences do not match yours"

#1907 4 months ago
Quoted from PtownPin:

Do you know of any cases where Stern has replaced a play field due to chipping?


They have in the past done the populated pf replacement thing. They send you a box with pre-paid shipping. You disconnect and send your entire pf.
They take off your parts and repopulate a brand new pf and return it to you. You connect your new pf.

#1909 4 months ago
Quoted from PtownPin:

I'm aware they've done this in the past (i.e. GB fiasco), but have they done it recently due to play field chipping / pooling issues? The perception is many have contacted Stern with this issues and I haven't heard of one case where Stern has provided a response...in the eyes of the consumer a "no response" is basically a big FU....

after 4 (or was it 5?) months of continual communication and updates on how bad it was and things getting worse, they agreed to provide a blank Beatles playfield to us. It has not arrived yet (I assumed they are trying to figure out the issues).
I am told it will arrive soon/ by expo.

#1911 4 months ago

I think the real reason that Stern and JJP need to not only fix this issue but make a public statement about it is for their own bottom line.

There is no doubt in my mind as a personal collector that the high price of games is being propped up by the only 15-20% loss at resale. As a collector I am willing to buy a NIb game, knowing that I am basically renting it IF i opt to sell in the future. I can put a couple thousand plays on a game in the comfort of my own home and then sell for $500-800 less down the road. (in many cases the rising prices of NIB have actually allowed you to sometimes sell for more)

When we start to see sales of these games and people are taking 25-35% loss at resale then I believe the new sales will dry up. People will all have a different point of cost they are willing to put into any hobby. I have to think we are getting closer to that point sooner rather than later with this pf issue.

Everyone seems willing to take a hit on one dud game, but when they start to pile up then NIB sales will also (they appear to be already with how quick EV3 comes after JP2 in my opinion). This is a very slippery slope that they can still get out in front of... or they can lie, deny, and treat their customer base poorly.

#1928 4 months ago
Quoted from Wickerman2:

I’ll help fund a t-shirt lot to be given out at entrance to Stern/JJP seminars.
White shirts, black lettering, “GOT POOLING?” or some such.
You got to grab their attention. A hundred people walking around with these would get the message across.

worked for "where's the code?"

#1956 4 months ago
Quoted from Chambahz:

Again, the silver lining appears to be that currently produced playfields are ok.

currently as in stuff coming off the line right now?

because there are already pictures of stuff made last week with the same issues.

#1964 4 months ago
Quoted from yancy:

Where? (I'm not doubting you, just really curious to see.)

JP prem/LE which just started going out the door and have the same issues.
Pics out there of it.

I assume JPLE 'just' started shipping?

#2153 4 months ago
Quoted from yancy:

So this is an interesting, promising development. Last night I played a freshly unboxed JPLE. It had the old style playfield, with art all the way under star posts, and no washers (except under the third flipper post). I checked all the problem areas with my phone flashlight. It looked absolutely perfect.
Pretty sure the local Chicago distributor had just picked it up Thursday or Friday, so it’s very newly made. Sorry I forgot to check the date. Anyway, for Stern to ship a game at this point with art under posts and no washers, means they at least think they have it figured out. Or so I hope.

Possible they just had to use up old pf stock so they used an art under posts version.

Also possible that they made it a while back and it has been sitting in warehouse waiting to be unboxed.

Wait till the game has around 300-500 plays and then use it as a data point would be my suggestion.

1 week later
#2281 4 months ago
Quoted from Riffbear:

Just checked my Beatles Platinum and all clear. Phew!!

Beatles seem to be the worst of all IME. If it has not blistered yet then just wait a few hundred more plays. You may be a lucky one but you are not out of the words yet.

4 weeks later
#2828 3 months ago

I dont know about AP service, but pretty much every Houdini from the first few runs had pf issues. The one on route locally had inserts falling out after a couple thousand plays.

I never heard if they resolved the issue as honestly I have not found either of their offerings very fun so kinda stopped paying attention to the pf quality issues.

#2856 3 months ago
Quoted from BarryJ:

Inserts falling out?
Think there would have been a service request for "inserts falling out"

I assume there was. Game was at geeks mania in Madison. I think the distributor had to get involved to get it sorted out.

Honestly I dont know/remember the details, but that was one of the worse PF issues I have seen of all the things that have plagued many of the manufactures.
I hope you really are not trying to act like it did not happen...

#2860 3 months ago
Quoted from BarryJ:

Geeks Mania received the first ever pinball machine off our line. I am not sure what happened before I started at American Pinball... But I am in possession of a Geeks Mania playfield (which was changed out in 2018), the playfield clearly shows inserts in tact.
Not saying there wasn't problems with their game.. The first machine off the line of a brand new pinball company probably shouldn't be the standard.
We go out of our way to make sure everyone that has a problem, is addressed, and an outcome acceptable to all is reached. Sure there are problems that slip between the cracks for whatever reason... But in the end, given a chance, we will do whatever we can to correct a problem.

glad to hear it got sorted out for them.

#2871 3 months ago
Quoted from flynnibus:

Maybe you should go back and update your wildly inaccurate stories with corrections.

you likely understand that what a company is going to say here publicly about a manufacturer that ended up resolving a problem and the reality of seeing and playing a game myself which had major playfield issues are two very different realities. You will never trust me but I dont really care to be honest.

Wish I had taken pictures. The game was a wreck. I went over 3 times specifically to play the game and evaluate it for purchase. I spoke with one of their employees about the issues and got their honest opinion on it at that time. Needless to say it convinced me to wait/not buy. I also heard the full story from the distributor of that game, which further helped me make the decision at that time.

I think the bigger explanation of issues and importance is that it was a 1st run and has been resolved. That is what important and glad to see it was resolved for the customer.

That however does not change the reality that the game/pf had major flaws.

Pretty sure the “pill inserts” in the chain had cracked out. Tech told me he had to reglue them and arrow inserts were showing same issues. I remember playing and ball trajectory changing as it rolled over the chain inserts cause they had dropped.
At that time they were understandably not happy with the situation. Again, glad they got a replacement pf, and were all taken care of.

#2951 3 months ago
Quoted from BobC:

What have folks who have had success done?

in short >>

-4 plus months of weekly or biweekly emails showing the issues to both distributor and Stern support
-Lots of work to keep on them (I get the impression they are hoping many will just give up over time)
-once our playfield bunching started to chip off in 1/4 to 1/2 inch sections at posts, then it finally seemed to cross the threshold from "acceptable" to "defect" in their eyes. BS in mu opinion but that seemed to be what it took.

We received a supposedly new/ 'fixed' blank playfield that we can swap in at some point.

Honestly, the response is a joke and the most frustrating thing is that it took regular communication from us with basically no return communication in order to keep the case open.

#2955 3 months ago
Quoted from romulusx:

If anyone is considering buying a Wonka ,do so with confidence.
I just got a Wonka SE that was built 10/30 and it’s playfield is perfect!

that is good news!

You are the second person that I have heard this from.

Now the question is... what are they doing for those of us that got defective pfs right out of the box?

#2958 3 months ago
Quoted from romulusx:

I guess they’re doing the same thing that Stern is doing and just being evasive as possible so it saves them money but all I can tell you is a new one is excellent

can you share a bunch of photos?

I am contemplating a purchase for myself and would love to see.

4 weeks later
#3223 75 days ago
Quoted from TomGWI:

I was told I would be sent an unpopulated playfield Nov 1st for my Jurassic Park that had wear around the post direct from the factory. Still nothing from Stern.
I’m moving on from Stern and not dealing with this shit any longer. They clearly don’t want my business Or want to correct the situation and I’m sick of contacting my distributor to try and make it right. Keep your fucking playfield Stern!

Good call and god damn Stern! Wake up. When long time and big time collectors like Tom are saying F your brand then you need to take notice.

Sad it has gotten so bad that even fervent long time collectors are packing it in.

#3236 74 days ago
Quoted from NintenBear:

Two JJP pins down and out at level 257.[quoted image][quoted image]

Stuck balls happen

2 weeks later
#3448 56 days ago

Pretty sure Stern has and continues to use multiple manufacturers for playfields.

They may use one for the initial run of quick titan around for first set of games.

They use others for the main run.

They have used others for overflow or when the main cant get stuff done on the timeframe.

They have some woodworking in house and are likely doing the majority of cutting and insert placement for main runs.

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