(Topic ID: 232957)

Node Boards- Update- Stern tech fixes issue via email

By shacklersrevenge

5 months ago

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  • 744 posts
  • 148 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 2 days ago by russdx
  • Topic is favorited by 25 Pinsiders


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#59 5 months ago
Quoted from schudel5:

If you think a node board failure will keep the game from working, hope nobody finds out what happens if your SD card becomes corrupt. And, no, you cannot just go buy a new SD card and put the latest code on it. One reason why I clone the original SD card so at least I can get it up and running in a few hours.

Hmm...didn't know that. Mind elaborating a little bit as long as we don't derail the thread? What format is the SD card?

#84 5 months ago
Quoted from YeOldPinPlayer:

Format is irrelevant. You don't format a card, then copy the data. You make an image of your existing card, then write that image to your back-up card. Every time you update, save an image wherever you back up your important data. Then you will always be able to use whatever software version you prefer.
Data doesn't get corrupted often for any one user. A good back-up process means you can be up an running in a few minutes. No back-up means you're waiting on someone to send you something.

OK, got it - understand. Good to know. Thanks!

#87 5 months ago
Quoted from Bublehead:

My first technician job after the Navy was repairing manufacturing defect fall out from surface mount pcb’s for radar detectors. Now mind you, the biggest drawback to SMD repair is having a nice stereo microscope to look through when doing the repair and a micro tipped, temp controlled, static grounded soldering iron. Without schematics, you look for burnt items, fried traces, and do a one for one component swap until you find the problem. This was how I have had to service some very old equipment in the past that had no schematics and you guessed at chip functionality, soldered in something that fits, turn it on and wait for smoke. When I say “fits”, I mean it fits the function of what that chip MIGHT do in the circuit, not just has the right number of legs.
Edit, caught up to the rest of the thread...

One thing I do is to take detailed pictures of the boards before anything happens. And the bottom of the playfield and backbox from all kind kinds of angles. Those pics are more so for wires/nuts/bolts, etc. But for the boards I really try to zoom in on parts so I can see part numbers, RefDes numbers, maybe traces.

No doubt about it tho, a schematic sure would make life easier.

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#99 5 months ago
Quoted from Zitt:

Except that for many high density designs; you're now talking about a 4layer or maybe even 6layer board. Good luck ohming out an accurate schematic. I'd bet that Stern's Spike1/2 is a 4layer board at a minimum...

Looking at my pictures, and without seeing the backside, I would think this is a multilayer PWB. If it was just two, chances are there would be 0 ohm resistors scattered about to serve as jumpers to bridge across a trace blocking the path. Don't see any.

In my line of work...+10 layers has been about the norm for +3 decades. I even did a RF simulation on a 26 layer PWB once for a co-worker, to ensure the vias maintained a 50 ohm impedance. I've even seen buried parts INSIDE layers due to performance and density requirements.

At some point resistors will just be the resistive material deposited directly on the board. Not even a discrete part.

#115 5 months ago
Quoted from russdx:

id be surprised if they was more then 2 layers they are not complicated so dont need 4 layers (if they do its lazy routing or emi issues etc...) any one got high res photos of a common node board? (i don't own any spike games)

As you mentioned, it really just comes down to how well the components routed to each other. Some areas, like the bottom of the photo below appear to flow really well and looks like 2 layer would cut it. The larger square chip towards the top has a lot of vias around it, seems like that would need more than the back layer for connections.

Looking at the board edge, can't see anything that points one way or the other.

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#120 5 months ago
Quoted from cooked71:

And what do you think about repairing Spike node boards?

The surface mounted devices (SMD) are not really hard to replace. Actually usually easier than thru hole. Plenty of threads around here on that topic. Exceptions would be the large multi-pin digital chips. That would require some different desoldering tools, but not really out of reach for most here. Ball Grid Arrays (BGA's) are entirely different story tho. Need some expensive specialized equipment for that. Not just the removal, but for the install as well.

Someone mentioned the real possibility of propriety code in the chips. That would be a show stopper. Can you buy the chip...probably, no big deal. Do you have to code to load in it? Nope...you're done.

Without schematics tho, you'd likely end up chasing your tail just figuring out what goes where. Then if there's internal layers, at some point you just write a check for a new board and call it a day. The FET and associated parts for the solenoids looks like that might be fairly straight forward to figure out.

#128 5 months ago
Quoted from ForceFlow:

So...they tried to engineer a way to not have fuses?

By no means trying to take Stern's side here. Just more of a FYI.

That's actually not unheard of in some areas of industry. Some things need protected right away, and even fast blow fuses are slow. mS slow. Fuses might even still be there, but's it more of a last ditch effort to prevent damage from becoming really big damage.

There's circuitry out there which monitors current and can shut down a 'pass transistor' (the transistor that supplies the voltage) very quickly if needed. Even in uS. These same parts can do double duty and help prevent inrush current at power up.

Of course, I doubt if Stern utilizes this circuitry. Wouldn't take much to spot it on the board tho if a person can read the chip numbers and nobody's mentioned it yet.

#129 5 months ago
Quoted from russdx:

looks like 2 layer to me nothing there warrants a 4 layer board, the vias most likley pop out on the bottom and are routed some where else.

No doubt about it tho - 2 layers would be cheaper. And Stern appears to excel at being a penny pincher. Simply using some 0 ohms resistors for jumpers are a lot cheaper than adding layers! Done it myself plenty of times.

#138 5 months ago
Quoted from bicyclenut:

Just to add to this thread, I posted this issue in the Aerosmith owners thread. I thought I would post it in here as well just to let everyone know of my type of issue with the CPU board. The most current UPDATE, is my friend is waiting for yet another board to be sent back to him. The replacement board Stern sent him had no backbox lights. He had to ship his "new" board that he just bought, back to them before they would send out another......Thats not good customer service in my opinion.
From AS thread:
I have a friend that bought a really nice AS pro with 143 plays on it. He's had it for about 2 weeks. Yesterday he was playing it and it Froze up. Then it wouldnt load at all. No lights and a blank screen. So I jumped in to try and help fix the problem. We got Stern on the phone and Chaz was a great help and totally patience with our questions. With Chaz on the phone we eliminated the problem being the power supply. I took the SD card and put it in mine and updated the code to the most recent. Went back to my friends house, put the SD card in and the game booted as normal. I played about 2 balls until it froze again. Pretty sure the problem is going to be his CPU board. My friend was calling Stern back for further instructions on what to do. Anyone seen this problem before?
UPDATE: My buddy had to buy and new CPU board from Stern...wasnt cheap. Stern said they couldnt fix the old board. That being said, he got the new board. I put it in and the backbox lights dont work. Anyone ever seen this before?
(response to a question)
My friend didn't tell me the price and I didnt ask. However I do know the price is somewhat negotiable. I think Stern will try and fix it first and if thats not possible then sell you a board. When I was on the phone with Chaz, he said they would work with my friend.

Did Stern recommend a new CPU board? So the game plays now, just no backbox lights?

#179 5 months ago
Quoted from pinballaddicted:

... parallel manufacturers will start making replacement boards at a much cheaper price. This time will come, it is only a matter of time and demand...

I would think Stern has proprietary software on the board, forcing any after market vendors to write their own code that doesn't violate Stern's patents. Not saying it isn't possible, just that the software is likely more of an issue then hardware.

#181 5 months ago
Quoted from pinballaddicted:

We have a board repair guy that also repairs common boards in the lighting and sound industry. We have given him a node board. Most of the components (micro processors, switches, transistors, capacitors etc, etc) are the same part as what is used in the sound and lighting industry. Nothing pinball only related on the node boards. The node boards are only I/O boards. The firmware to run the boards is in the software and software updates for each machine. I do not think there is any pinball rocket science on the node boards.
I understand why Stern have not released circuit diagrams to anyone, the CPU and node boards are not very complicated and can be reproduced quite easily if a person or company really wanted to.

I don't disagree about the hardware, it's just of the shelf stuff that anyone can by at plenty of supply houses. However, this did catch my attention when I was reading the manual not long ago (I just got a AS Pro, so it was still be fresh in my memory). No clue what the 'embedded code' entails, but they would be (sadly) silly to make it simple. Playing the devils advocate - they would load it up with proprietary code so after market vendors would spend more money in court than selling boards. Sad, but that's how the world works today. Hope I'm wrong! Sort of reminds me of back in the 80's when there was an Apple clone...that didn't last long.
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#191 5 months ago
Quoted from pinballaddicted:

Thanks for the info. We have not got that far with Spike and Node boards yet. Our goal is to see if we can fix a CPU or Node board if it stuffs up. We do have some great help if needed. If we can fix it, post on Pinside to help others with the same issue. We have a current post about some LED back box lights not working. Since I started the post, the lights have worked every time.

Keep us posted. Good luck! russdx did a good job of expanding on the problem a few posts above. The code/micro-controller is more of his bailiwick, I'm more of an RF/analog designer.

#196 5 months ago
Quoted from schudel5:

They have metal corner brackets in the games now.

Really? Good for them if true. With what pin did they start doing this?

3 weeks later
#349 4 months ago
Quoted from barakandl:

NXP says they will make that chip for a while longer now...

Just a short FYI below. I deal with this fairly often in my line of work since I've had designs in production for +20 years.

Vendors (i.e. NXP) typically notify the manufactures that use the part, that it is going obsolete so they can do a 'lifetime' buy. That allows manufactures (i.e. Stern) to buy stock needed for the expected production runs plus whatever is needed for some stock. Also, there's the possibility of a new NXP part which still performs the functions of the old part. Maybe they simply changed a clock frequency, or increased the ROM or RAM and the original part goes by the wayside. That actually happens a fair amount on the analog side of the design fence, not sure about digital parts. But it is a 'new' part nonetheless, so the manufacture would need to update their BOMs (Bill of Material, fancy way of saying 'parts list'). There's even been times where a 3rd party comes in and buys the old design and they manufacture the chip instead. If the quantities justify it, manufactures can even pay a vendor to produce extra wafers (I doubt that applies here) and the vendors build the parts when needed.

If you look at the LPC10xx series, it looks like they make +20 versions of that chip...so it could be as simple as the LPC1112E going obsolete, not the entire series.

#396 4 months ago

You beat me to the punch, but at the same time that was more fraud due to a shell game accounting, if I remember correctly.

#408 4 months ago
Quoted from yancy:

The market will fill that void if/when there are dozens of Kiss, Ghostbusters, etc. literally unplayable due to dead, irreplaceable, and unrepairable node boards. There was no crowdfunding to replace Bally MPUs. When enough of them were dead in the field that an opportunity existed, Alltek seized it.
When there's money to be made replacing node boards, a smart guy will figure it out and do it. Until then, not enough motivation, and we can only speculate about Spike games in landfills.

Ditto^^. I'm more worried about plastic parts, at least w/games that have low production numbers. Same issue I have with some of the 90's games when trying to find ramps, subway plastics, etc.

However, releasing schematics sure would go a long way to calm everyone's nerves.

#458 4 months ago
Quoted from rotordave:

...the fact is these boards are shitting themselves at an alarming rate - far more than Whitestar or Sam ever did...

A sincere and honest question here...what is that percentage rate based on actual numbers? WhiteStar/Sam vs. Spike 2 (not just your experience, but industry wide)?

As a Spike 2 game owner, I'm curious.

#460 4 months ago
Quoted from rotordave:

I’m not the distributor, so I can’t answer that.
All I can tell you is, I’m not aware of a SAM board failure in my circle (news would soon travel in our community) and I know of multiple SPIKE failures.

A poll would be interesting, but doubt if the results would be valid - far too many variables.

#601 4 months ago
Quoted from hoby1:

Who says they cant be fixed..... I have an AMAZING friend that can do extremely intricate surface mount. Seen him replace those 60/80 pin surface mount ICs on Sam flawlessly...

Ditto^^ Don't know why people think that. Other than proprietary code being a possible issue, they just use off the shelf parts that anyone can buy. If there's a BGA part somewhere on any of the boards, then that would be an issue too. No easy way to unsolder/resolder a BGA.

I haven't heard of Stern removing markings from some parts, are they? Some manufactures have been known to do that.

#611 4 months ago
Quoted from DNO:

So would everyone be OK buying "node insurance" to cover node board failure for 5 years, at say..$250??
...asking for a friend named Gary.

That's not a bad idea, especially for those w/o electronic experience. Including the CPU board too? $250 per game? That might get pricey then...

#637 4 months ago
Quoted from YeOldPinPlayer:

Knowing mods are a part of the market they should be designing a power budget into the system and releasing the specs. The power budget should include some available for mods. Stern could even sell a splitter for the wiring harness.

Ditto above, but a side issue is people fat fingering around the underside of a PF. Most have seen the thread with people posting all the kludges they've found over the years. First place I look for a problem on my used pins is what did the previous owners dork up over the last 30 years.

Granted, if the mod is plug 'n play - less chance of problems.

#638 4 months ago
Quoted from Durzel:

Give me a break.. it's not as if mods add any real load to these boards. In 99% of cases they're a few watts at most. If they aren't built with that kind of tolerance then that's bad design pure and simple.

The designer sizes the parts and thermal path appropriately, based on the load requirements. It's not really your call to decide what is proper or not when hanging a 'few extra watts' on a node board. Sorry - don't mean to sound snippy, but it's the truth. Granted, if we had some specs, at least some simple calculations can provide a rough yes/no.

A transistor has what is called a 'Safe Operating Area (SOA for short). It describes the limits of the device over time. What a part can do for 1uS vs. 1 sec are vastly different. One of my designs normally would only draw about 30A, but the 'in-rush' currents were close to 800A for less than a 1uS. Guess what drove the MOSFET selection? It wasn't the 30A... So the point I'm trying to make is we don't have the insight of the original designer. A few watts may not sound like a lot to you, but there's a lot more to consider. Vid's comment about EMI was another good example.

#675 4 months ago
Quoted from Luckydogg420:

Schematics are coming this month hopefully stern comes through

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JK, hoping they do.

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