(Topic ID: 195516)

NODE BOARD FAILURE- How common?


By o-din

2 years ago



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#1 2 years ago

I've noticed a lot of people posting about having to replace bad node boards and was curious how big a problem this is. It is something that could affect the serviceability of games that have them further down the road as the various versions of these boards get harder to come by.

If you have had any node board failures, please post about them here and how long you had the machine before the failure occurred.

#2 2 years ago

I service Stern games at a busy NYC location near Madison Square Garden. Games are on 12-15 hours a day, every day, and receive a lot of play by civilians and hardcore pinheads alike. Node board games we've had over the past 4 years...

Walking Dead LE (not sure if this is a spike game?), GB, Aero, GOT, GOTLE, KISS. Each one of those games was at the location for at least a year.

We have had one node board fail during that time, on the GOTLE. Failure happened well after a year and I suspect it was user error (there was a very sloppy playfield cleaning administered right before the failure). Wasn't my fault, I swear!

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#3 2 years ago

Avoid the node (resized).jpg

#4 2 years ago

Great info Levi but please don't scare huo Stern owners by telling them to be careful cleaning their playfields. For some wax the playfield everyday is the only enjoyment they get, heaven forbid they actually play the games

I know one location we play our monthly meet at had at least one possibly two boards fail on their GB pro. This was within a couple of weeks of it being out on the floor. I say possibly two because the game was taken off the floor for at least a week and when I ask the manager he said it was an issue with one of the boards. Game came back on the floor and was off again a couple of weeks later for about a week again. Didn't ask the second time if it was node board just presumed.

Same location also had a node board issue on their GOT Pro.

#5 2 years ago

Some people have reported node board failures after installing an update, so it's not always actual hardware failure.

All this will be a bunch of anecdotal evidence, but that's really the best we have to go on. All I'll say is that I sold a game I loved due to wariness over the node board issues. I saw too many things that worried me.

#6 2 years ago

OK, seems as good a place to ask as any.

What is a node board and what does it do?

I owned a WWE but only briefly.

#7 2 years ago

I've been involved with a couple of the main pinball operators here locally for years and it has been a big problem historically from Wrestlemania through to Star Wars currently. At our huge Ghostbusters Launch Party that featured Ernie Hudson, 1 of the 3 Ghostbusters pins there was basically DOA almost right out of the box with a bad node board and that put us in a big bind with almost 500 people showing up. At the Minnesota State Fair a couple of years ago Wrestlemania was down for over half the fair with a board issue. Currently Star Wars at one of our biggest locations here is down with 3 bad node boards. There has been more issues than just those, but those obviously stand out to me. It seems like for a route operator here it isn't "if" a node board will fail it's just how fast is it going to happen. The fix has always been board replacement and that means waiting for one while the game is down and not making any money.

#8 2 years ago
Quoted from CrazyLevi:

OK, seems as good a place to ask as any.
What is a node board and what does it do?
I owned a WWE but only briefly.

In electrical engineering, node, refers to any point on a circuit where two or more circuit elements meet. Without any further knowledge, it is easy to establish how to find a node by using Ohm's Law: V=IR. When looking at circuit schematics, ideal wires have a resistance of zero. Since it can be assumed that there is no change in the potential across any part of the wire, all of the wire in between any components in a circuit is considered part of the same node.

Voltage = Current * Resistance
since voltage is a measure of potential difference, the voltage between any two parts of the same node is:

Vab= (Current) * 0

So at any two points on the same branch of the circuit, the change in potential difference is 0. Therefore, throughout the entire node the voltage is the same.

Each different color in circuit above is a different node
In this circuit diagram the voltage in the green node is the same throughout, likewise, the voltages in the blue node and the red node are the same throughout.

In most cases, the voltage difference between one point on a piece of metal (such as a copper wire), and the voltage at another point of the same piece of metal or on other bits of metal with metal-to-metal contact with the first piece of metal, is so small that it is usually considered insignificant. So every bit of that connected metal can be considered part of the same node.

Some notable exceptions, where the voltage difference is large enough to become significant, include:

high-precision resistance measurements using a Kelvin connection
the difference in voltage between ground and neutral, between the "neutral wire" and the "safety ground in a domestic AC power plugs and sockets, can be fatal. A properly installed electrical system connects them together at one (and only one) location, leading many people to the fatally incorrect conclusion that they are at "the same" voltage, or that the safety ground is "redundant and unnecessary".
the Seebeck effect and the Peltier effect
joints involving aluminium wire
Dots used to mark nodes on a circuit diagram are sometimes referred to as meatballs.

#9 2 years ago

I pulled pics of node boards from another thread. On each Spike game there are several mounted under the playfield and supposedly most are not interchangeable or easily repairable if repairable at all.

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#10 2 years ago

I've had one node board go bad in a Kiss and it's been on location since new, on 10-12 hours a day 7 days a week. Low volume play.

Relevant thread here: https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/any-serious-problems-with-spike-yet

#11 2 years ago
Quoted from spfxted:

In electrical engineering, node

This has nothing to do with a 'Node Board' on a pinball. Stern gave the boards the name and it is more akin to a node on a network.

Quoted from CrazyLevi:

OK, seems as good a place to ask as any.
What is a node board and what does it do?
I owned a WWE but only briefly.

The Node Board is part of the distributed system on the new Spike games. They take in a CAN bus message from the main processor, act on it if it is addressed to the board receiving the message and forward the message around the chain to the other boards. There is two way communication, so the boards can talk back to the main processor.

It is actually a rather robust system. Fault tolerant, tolerant of shorts, etc. This is the same tech that is used in our cars to talk between components and the CPU.

Quoted from o-din:

I pulled this pic of a node board from another thread. On each Spike game there are several mounted under the playfield and supposedly most are not interchangeable or repairable.

There are different boards, but there is a finite number of boards that are used throughout all the Spike games. Some boards are for controlling lights, some for high powered solenoids, some for low power solenoids etc. They are not all identical, but they are used in different machines. They are not specifically designed for a particular machine. There should be supply for a very long time since this is Sterns new system and they are a modular design intended to be reused between machines.

They could be repaired (surface mount components), but Stern has a replacement policy I believe.

#12 2 years ago
Quoted from SilverballNut:

This has nothing to do with a 'Node Board' on a pinball. Stern gave the boards the name and it is more akin to a node on a network.

I was kidding.....

#13 2 years ago
Quoted from spfxted:

I was kidding.....

Ok you got me. Hard to tell sometimes on pinside when people just act like they know it all. My bad...

#14 2 years ago

About a month after I got my GB the node 8 went... then another node 8... then finally the CPU node.

Even after replacing all of that I still had problems... the newer boards are extremely sensitive to changes in voltage and I believe the flasher above the left scoop was to blame. Everytime I hooked that flasher up the game would freak out and the lower GI would shut off, flippers stopped working etc. even after replacing the node boards. So I would basically play the game with the flasher above the left scoop unhooked.

As a last ditch effort they sent me a new flasher board... switched that out and my game has been 100% since. I honestly think it was the flasher board all along that caused all of that shit to happen. Apparently a 5 dollar flasher board can wreck over 1500 dollars in node boards... so much for automotive grade. A simple fuse could have probably kept all of that from happening.

All speculation though but I haven't had a problem since that flasher board was replaced.... thank god!

#15 2 years ago
Quoted from SilverballNut:

Ok you got me. Hard to tell sometimes on pinside when people just act like they know it all. My bad...

Sorry about that! As many know here, I'm FAR from a Know It All....

#16 2 years ago

BTW: I have not had any node board failures with my games.

I did manage to short the bus a couple times while researching interfacing with it (for a mod I'm slowly working on) and it simply shut down and came back up. I've also shorted the coil on GB (pulling out the playfield) which normally would have blown a transistor on a driver board, but the node board just shut down and then came back up.

I would suspect the design is strong, but they may just be ordering boards from a supplier and not really doing a lot of individual board tests, so you get some crappy boards going out. Where it is a distributed bus, one faulty board causing communications issues can make other boards look like they are not working. Sort of like the light boards on WOZ too. That's the downside of a 'ring' network.

#17 2 years ago

IME, node boards fail commonly with early code and more often post a code update.

I have found it frustrating to not know how to diagnose or work on these, so excited about the news that Stern is going to be hosting some sort of training for OPs.

#18 2 years ago

I had a board fail after about 1.5yrs of owning GOT..about 700 plays. Was told there should've been a jumper on the back and mine didn't. I had it sent in, they jumped it and no problems since!

#19 2 years ago
Quoted from Whysnow:

IME, node boards fail commonly with early code and more often post a code update.
I have found it frustrating to not know how to diagnose or work on these, so excited about the news that Stern is going to be hosting some sort of training for OPs.

What is this training you speak of? I'm an op and would be interested in finding out more about the training.

#20 2 years ago
Quoted from Whysnow:

IME, node boards fail commonly with early code and more often post a code update.
I have found it frustrating to not know how to diagnose or work on these, so excited about the news that Stern is going to be hosting some sort of training for OPs.

So have you experienced node board failures? Please post details as requested in the OP.

#21 2 years ago
Quoted from o-din:

playfield and supposedly most are not interchangeable or easily repairable if repairable at all.

Just looking at that pic, I can assure you that anyone that does a decent job soldering will be able to learn to repair/replace *almost* anything on those boards once they practice reworking/servicing surface mount boards. The only new tool you'd need to buy is a hot air station for surface mount reworking (I've seen decent ones for sale as cheap as $50). The part that could be a headache to replace is the microcontroller given the rather short leads and possible heat sink pad under the chip. Outside of that, the components are easier to rework than through hole components once you get the hang of it .

The CPU node uses a really cheap Microchip processor (Stern probably gets them < $10 a device in quantity). The problem with that microprocessor is that it's a frigging BGA package and is basically impossible to replace with tools one may purchase at home. However, there are many companies out there that can replace a BGA device at a reasonable charge if you provide the part. (On a side note, I have no idea why they're using such a dated processor ... I wouldn't expect any fancy graphics using that device ... I understand that doesn't matter much for pinball playing, but I think it'll become more and more important if Jersey Jack catches fire ... in my worthless opinion, a standard, off the shelf PC running Linux is the way to go for a pinball system)

Overall, the idea behind Stern's new system is fine ... surface mount parts won't scare anyone in another year after a few places learn how to rework stuff ... it seems they addressed potential vibration issues by using a proper number of mounting points on long/wide boards (the problem with Capcom boards having solder joint issues on surface mount parts is mainly due to the size / lack of mounting to prevent the board from vibrating a lot) ... if node boards are dying due to electrical failure, chances are there are grounding issues (these will be worked out over time). All in all, Stern took the right design approach though you can certainly argue that the release of the system for public consumption wasn't tested well IF node boards are dying in significant quantities.

The *big* problem is lack of schematics. That's ridiculous that Stern doesn't provide those anymore in the manual and it's going to be a huge PITA to properly diagnose & repair boards. It's ridiculous that they withhold those.

#22 2 years ago
Quoted from ita47:

What is this training you speak of? I'm an op and would be interested in finding out more about the training.

JJ and game exchange mentioned in another thread that Stern/ Gomez noted they are making improvements to Spike system for diagnosing and would be offering some sort of training to Operators. First I have heard about it, but it would be a HUGE plus in my mind and a nice thing for ops to be able to do!

Quoted from fosaisu:

So have you experienced node board failures? Please post details as requested in the OP.

Yes, pretty much every Spike game to date has had atleast 1 failure early on. Stern has sent replacements quickly in all cases. After code stabalized then they have been holding up well. I have noticed on KISS the left flipper gets intermittently weak and previously that was indicative of a node failure looming. Most recent known node eater was early SW code. I did not experience it but heard the reason some games were shipped without code was because at a last minute they found out the early code realease was killing node boards when you wnet into shaker motort test in settings.

#23 2 years ago

I had to replace the node board on my Kiss LE when it was a year and a half old with very low plays. I was disappointed that something like that had already happened to such a new game, but on the flip side, it was a quick easy fix that I was able to do myself in a matter of a few minutes. Ordered a new Node Board from Marco, received it in a couple of days, sat the dip switches like they were on the old board , installed the new board . In a few minutes , I was playing again. Quick easy fix.

#24 2 years ago
Quoted from ronlisa:

I had to replace the node board on my Kiss LE when it was a year and a half old with very low plays. I was disappointed that something like that had already happened to such a new game, but on the flip side, it was a quick easy fix that I was able to do myself in a matter of a few minutes. Ordered a new Node Board from Marco, received it in a couple of days, sat the dip switches like they were on the old board , installed the new board . In a few minutes , I was playing again. Quick easy fix.

What is the cost to replace one of these?

#25 2 years ago

Probably not cheap because Stern wouldn't send a new one till the old was sent. Kind of a pain because the game is down.

#26 2 years ago

$200- $250

#27 2 years ago

Looks like Marco charges between $150-200 for these. So not cheap is correct.

#28 2 years ago

Is there a revision number on any of these boards? I'm curious if anyone that had one go bad had it replaced with a newer revision, maybe some of the early revs had issues.

#29 2 years ago
Quoted from CrazyLevi:

What is the cost to replace one of these?

They are not cheap. Any where from $160 and up. Some even a lot more.
Don't get me wrong, I know that is a lot of money , but if you factor in that you didn't have to pay for a service call and a technician to show up several days or even weeks later to fix your game, it essentially a quick easy fix. Stern just needs to get these node boards to where they will interchange with other games making it even more economical.

#30 2 years ago

Beginner/No debugging experience/Board Repair Experience, then the Spike system is great. $200/board is cheaper than $150/hr for a technician plus parts.

Intermediate and above/Moderate Debugging Experience/Basic Board Repair Experience, then the Spike system is costly. $20/component is a lot cheaper than a $200 board.

#31 2 years ago

I'm not sure which is easier to diagnose but for some paying $200 for the ease of not having to solder a $2 transistor on a traditional driver board may be just what they are looking for.

#32 2 years ago

The transistors on the node boards are through hole, just like every other transistor so not sure why they are hard to repair.

I have had 2 flipper coil transistors desolder them selves from node boards and the coil also shorted. Not sure which happened first. New transistor and coil fixed the issue. Stern replaced both quickly.

I have a lot of Spike games out and some with 50k+ games and no node board failures, yet. I did have a CPU on one of my GOT fail and was replaced quickly by Stern.

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#33 2 years ago

As a pinball tech since 1984 I have always been able to resolve issues with peoples home games quite easily. I like to be able to go on a call and have redundancy in place should the game heaven forbid develop a new issue when I work on it. I like to stand behind my work. If I quote a customer $$ on a repair I don't want to go to them and say now its going to be an extra $$.

On example is I had a WLMS IJ that I worked on . Cleaned it up, lamps etc. flipper issues. As I was leaving the customers driveway he comes out and says the sound quit. I went back in and sure enough no sound. It came up on report of sound board ram failure. I could not and would not charge the customer for a repair on the sound board as it was working when I gave him the final bill especially after 5 minutes.
The nice thing was is I had a STTNG in my studio and I was able to swap the board for him at N/C and get him up and running. I replaced the ram on his board and used it in my game. Maybe 15.00 for repair. Everyone was happy.
I always have back ups for situations like this even though its rare it does happen.

I always like to have redundancy in place for the unknown on a call. I cannot fathom quoting a customer 3,4,500+ or more on a Stern game that has a weird issue with unrepairable node boards on my end.
I don't like the idea of fixing a flipper on some ones GB game and getting that call a week later that the game is dead for something that maybe is a total coincidence but puts me as a repair tech in a bad and uncomfortable situation. I don't need that stress. At least with the older games if they call me back with a coincidental failure I can fix it quick and for little to no cost for the client (maybe parts only) I did have a guy call me on a GB . He attempted to update code and has Node issues.
Many people like to tinker and put mods on their games. In doing so the worst would be a shorted uln2803, blown fuse etc. Now with this new system it seems like it could run into several hundred dollars for a misstep.

Fast forward to present day with Node boards and their serviceability/cost. I have spoken with other repair techs and they are starting to have apprehension with working on this newest system due to complexity and replacement cost of these boards.
In closing I'm considering holding off on repairs on Spike systems at least until replacement node boards are more affordable or someone offers repairs on them. It may not be worth the liability for me. I have a good reputation and want to keep it that way.
I don't need a customer in the wild saying. "Yeah I had a bad flipper on my game 2 weeks later my game is dead and the tech (me ) says its 300+ to fix because of these node boards failed." Regardless of what I explain to the client it will be me that worked on it last and I either eat the $$ and comp his node boards or charge him for replacing the node boards and taint my reputation. Because in his eyes I made is game worse. JR

#34 2 years ago

I will say $200+ a piece on these node boards is total bullshit. They should be like 50 bucks for how small they are.

#35 2 years ago
Quoted from Chrizg:

I will say $200+ a piece on these node boards is total bullshit. They should be like 50 bucks for how small they are.

They can go up to 300. The motherboard for spike 2 (video) is is 900

#36 2 years ago
Quoted from SimonBaird:

For some wax the playfield everyday is the only enjoyment they get, heaven forbid they actually play the games

I'm getting a bit tired of this one. All of us here play our games. This is trying to make the few that don't sound like the majority, and they are not.

#37 2 years ago

Gb node 8 after about 750ish plays. Was gift for brother, thinking it would be less maintenance than something older given it was his first pin and he's too busy to mess with it much being a doc with 3 little kids. Board fried twice, had to replace flipper coil, then on back order forever from Marco. Not sure if it ever got shipped over. First was free on warranty, then somewhere in the 200 range for 2nd, all because of (apparently) a bad transistor.

#38 2 years ago

The node board inside the coin door on the left was bad out of the box on my Star Wars. Stern was helpful in diagnosing it and sent me a new one immediately. Luckily I was able to use my Ghostbusters one until the replacement arrived. Haven't had any problems since.

#39 2 years ago

The Node 8 board on my NIB Pabst Can Crusher failed after 1 week of use.

#40 2 years ago

My node board 23 (drives the mini LCD) failed after the 0.75 FW update. Game was about 5 months old, few hundred plays on it. Worked fine before the update. Makes me wonder if just part of the node board could fail before the update but you don't know that part of the board is bad until it tries to do an update?
Frustrating that it took 7 weeks to receive a replacement board. For any technical issues I had in the past with prior games I just called Stern directly and was taken care of right away. This time however they said I needed to go through my distributor. I think the 7 weeks was mainly due to bad communication between my distributor and Stern. Replacement cost was covered under warranty, I just had to pay shipping to send my bad board back to Stern. I did notice that the new board had a later revision number (ended with "-00B")than my failed board (ended with "-00A").

Added 24 months ago: I reported the wrong number, my bad node board was #24.

#41 2 years ago

That looks like quite a few node board failures in the short time they have been used. And I'm guessing this is only a small sampling.

Any more?

#42 2 years ago

Does anyone have pics of the CPU node board in Star Wars? I'd like to see if there are differences with the old one as I heard it was a "rev 2" board.

#43 2 years ago
Quoted from Mbecker:

Gb node 8 after about ...

My GB node 8 died super early...like 100 games.

#44 2 years ago

Node 8 on a GBPro went at about month 11. Stern tech support told me over the phone that it was out of the original warranty but they do sort of extend that warranty up to about 6 months. Even though the owner of the game wasn't the original owner, it was replaced by the distributor free of charge.

#45 2 years ago
Quoted from Whysnow:

IME, node boards fail commonly with early code and more often post a code update.
I have found it frustrating to not know how to diagnose or work on these, so excited about the news that Stern is going to be hosting some sort of training for OPs.

I've never heard of this. I was thinking on selling my GB while it's still perfect, but maybe i'll hold out for the class and see what I think after that.

#46 2 years ago
Quoted from schudel5:

they do sort of extend that warranty up to about 6 months.

That's great! If only how something was designed and tested in the first place was sort of as good.

#47 2 years ago

GB node 8 replacee here as well. All good since then.

#48 2 years ago
Quoted from o-din:

That's great! If only how something was designed and tested in the first place was sort of as good.

They take an old board and beef up a resistor and send it out

#49 2 years ago

I've personally run four Spike games in my locations, no failures. I regularly service two other Spike games, no failures to date. So in total that's six Spike games I'm personally familiar with on location.

Of the six:
-Two are no longer on location (GOT Pro, Kiss Premium).
-Three of them are still on location and have been for well over a year with no issues (GB Pro x 2, Kiss Pro).
-The last is Star Wars and it has only been on location for four weeks

I did have the backbox sound (both channels) go out on SW and had get a replacement motherboard. So I had a failure, but it wasn't a node board.

-1
#50 2 years ago
Quoted from o-din:

That looks like quite a few node board failures in the short time they have been used. And I'm guessing this is only a small sampling.
Any more?

I imagine most people that don't have any issues aren't replying here. That's the general human nature of complaints, you are far more likely to hear from those wronged.

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