Quoted from Mitch:
Stern stopped using churchill presumably because Churchill started making jjp playfields and Stern got upset. They are now being made in by a company in Wisconsin that's involved in some type of coin op buisness.
It was a bad decision by stern and we are all receiving shitty playfields because of it.
Someone in the are you serious thread just mentioned stern is going back to Churchill but no proof of that yet.
I believe JJP uses Mirco in Germany for their playfields unless they recently switched. All JJP playfields for The Hobbit appear to use baltic birch (can tell by the multiple wood layers) which from what I read on here is a sign that the playfield was made in Europe as American made playfields typically use maple.
The rumors that I heard with the Stern playfields is that they hired a new company to make playfields that never made them before and that is why the issues are occurring. Whether or not they are still with that company (or ever were if that rumor is even true) remains to be seen. Since then I read here on Pinside that Stern has tried to make playfields in house.
Stern should just go back to Churchill as they are one of the few (maybe just two with Mirco) playfield manufacturers that have the process down to a science. If Stern was pissed that Churchill wanted more money per playfield (just speculating) then they should suck it up and pay them when Stern is increasing prices with every release.