(Topic ID: 82803)

Stern Star Trek multiball magnet *Solution found*

By nodyeliab

5 years ago

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  • 539 posts
  • 81 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 5 years ago by paul_8788
  • Topic is favorited by 34 Pinsiders


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#7 5 years ago

Can someone explain this mode to me. Are you supposed to try to release the ball as soon as you can, or are you supposed to try to hit the lit ramps first?

#23 5 years ago
Quoted from Aurich:

Pop the glass on your machine. Start a game and catch the ball. Tap the targets to fill up your photon torpedoes and bang the button until Vengeance is ready. Roll your ball up and let the magnet grab it. Catch new new ball that's launched. Now break the bottom opto beam with a pencil or something. Ball on the magnet should release. If it doesn't your opto isn't working right. It's that simple, take you 2 minutes tops to test it.

I just performed this test, and I learned two things. First of all, my opto appears to be working correctly. As soon as I broke the beam with my finger, the magnet released the ball and multiball began. I also discovered that my middle weapons target is not working.

#33 5 years ago

It could be that when the flipper coil is activated, it's drawing enough power away from the opto to make it unreliable.

#39 5 years ago

I just did some experimenting, and I was able to replicate nodyeliab's results by keeping the left flipper raised. When doing so, the opto doesn't trigger, and the ball ends up stuck to the other ball. This is more complex than just a flaky opto. There is definitely something funky going on here.

#47 5 years ago

So it's pretty obvious that there is some sort of flaw in the game that is causing this. The question is, why is it happening on some games and not others?

#54 5 years ago

Ever since I was made aware of this problem, I've been extra careful to always shoot the Vengeance release shot with a quick flip instead of holding the flipper up. I was playing tonight, and the ball got stuck. I was very conscious of the fact that it was a quick flip, so it's obviously not entirely dependent on the flipper state. Logic says that it has to be either an opto issue, a software issue, or a combination of both. I'm guessing there were a bunch of optos installed in these games that aren't performing to spec.

#59 5 years ago
Quoted from nodyeliab:

Thanks, yes I will give them a call on my lunch break today, I'll keep you posted.

Make sure to tell them that a lot of people are having this same problem. I would even point them to this thread.

#62 5 years ago
Quoted from nodyeliab:

Ok, I talked to Chas (super nice guy!), and explained the issue, he said he will talk to the programmer to take a look, I also told him I will send a video showing the issue. The video is taking a bit though, I'm trying to get it to a size that I can send to him. I told him that if I can't send it via email, I'll post it on youtube and send him the link.

Post a nice HD video on YouTube. That makes more sense than sending the file.

#63 5 years ago
Quoted from DarkWizard:

What a pain to get to that thing.

What does getting to the opto entail? Do you have to remove the entire Vengeance mech?

#71 5 years ago

Thanks for posting the video, nodyeliab! My game is acting exactly like yours. What's weird is that the problem seems to have gotten worse. I could have sworn that the opto failed to register only occasionally when I first got the game, but now it seems like mine is doing it every time when immediately followed by an activated flipper. If it's purely a software bug, I don't see how the problem could have increased in frequency like it has. It's also very curious that some games don't have this problem at all. It leads me back to my theory that some games have optos that are affected, while other games have optos that are immune to this problem. My guess is that swapping out the optos with new ones would solve the problem. It will be interesting to see if Stern can replicate this problem on one of the games they have at the factory.

#73 5 years ago

Can someone please explain the add-a-ball rules during Vengeance multiball. I was playing this afternoon, and I locked the first ball in the magnet. The game then launched a second ball into play, and shortly after that it launched a third ball into play. I ended up with all three of them stuck on the magnet.

Is it the Black Hole target that adds a ball, and is it possible to add a ball before dislodging the first ball? I just want to make sure something else with my game isn't out of whack.

#75 5 years ago
Quoted from sillyoldelf:

The third ball is added by shooting vengeance again with the second ball within a certain time after locking ball 1 in the magnet to start the multiball.

That's what I thought, but I added a third ball WITHOUT releasing the first. Was this some kind of glitch?

#82 5 years ago


Did you provide Chas with a link to this thread?

#89 5 years ago

I have an idea for an experiment. Try doing the test with the coin door open. This will shut off power to the coils, but the game should still be able to register the press of the flipper button. If the opto still has the same delay after pressing the flipper button, it's definitely a software bug.

#91 5 years ago

Now that I thought about it some more, I don't think my coin door open experiemnt is possible. As soon as you open the coin door, the magnet will release the ball, and it will trigger the opto. If you don't have the plastic protector that goes over the standup, I suppose you could prevent the ball from falling without opening the opto.

#124 5 years ago
Quoted from nodyeliab:

Ok, tonight just for laughs, I swapped the vengeance opto board with the one next to it, and now it's working!

Wow! Let's hope this is truly a long term fix. Keep us posted.

#126 5 years ago

That's a pretty darn easy fix. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

#128 5 years ago

The only thing I worry about is that some people, myself included, have indicated that the problem has gotten worse over time. If there is some sort of power surge damaging the opto board, it could eventually damage the new board as well.

#133 5 years ago
Quoted from nodyeliab:

Ok, so last night I switched the opto boards, ran some test, and it was working, now today at lunch, I go and try it, guess what, back to doing it again! So when people on this thread say it has been getting worse I can see what they mean.

Shit. That sucks.

#135 5 years ago
Quoted from nodyeliab:

This make me wonder if it’s power draw+bad opto somehow.

Are you any good with a multimeter? Perhaps you can see what's going on with the power to your optos, and compare it to someone who has a game that is unaffected.

#138 5 years ago

I agree that it's probably a combination of hardware and software. My guess is that you will see a temporary drop in power to the optos after the flipper coil is engaged.

#141 5 years ago

What board number is it?

#144 5 years ago

I believe the boards have stickers next to them with numbers.

#148 5 years ago
Quoted from nodyeliab:

There are no stickers on the top of the boards

Interesting. It must be different on the LEs. On my game, every board has a yellow sticker next to it indicating Board 1, Board 2, etc ...


#165 5 years ago

So now I'm even more confused than ever. Is it the optos, the boards, the connectors, the software, or all of the above?

I actually have to go over to Stern today to pick up a new leg for my STLE. I'll call them and see if they can provide me some new optos while I'm there. I might as well cover all my bases. Do I need just new receivers, or new transmitters as well?

#180 5 years ago

Talked to Chas today. Picking up some new optos tomorrow. Will report back.

#183 5 years ago
Quoted from tonymiddendorf:

On another note, I had several instances of the drop target not falling on a square hit. I think that's in a thread somewhere else though. Probably just need to add a washer or something ...

Unlike the magnet/opto issue, you should find that this will get better over time. This was happening to my drop target a lot when I first unboxed the game, but now it rarely happens. If it isn't getting better, I believe you can increase the tension on the spring.

#186 5 years ago

There is something about this issue that I find perplexing. When the second ball is stuck to the first on the magnet, the flippers will score points. What do you guys think causes this?

#194 5 years ago

I went to Stern yesterday and picked up a new opto board and two new transceivers. It seems logical to replace one thing at a time and then see if the problem is fixed. Where do you guys think I should start?

#198 5 years ago
Quoted from Craig:

My opto was definitely shot.

Did you replace both transceivers, or just one?

#200 5 years ago
Quoted from Craig:

Just the lower one.

The lower pair?

#203 5 years ago
Quoted from Craig:

Just the one on the right.

Cool. I'll start with that one. It's a lot easier to get to than the one on the left.

#205 5 years ago
Quoted from Kneissl:

ne thing I noticed is the left flipper up to right ramp skill shot didn't seem to score every time, either that's a similar opto issue or the window on the shot is very small and you need to plunge a fast orbit to make the shot in time. anyone know the rules on that skill shot?

Are you referring to the skill shot when you hold the left flipper button before plunging? If so, this skill shot is not always the right ramp. I believe it's random between the left ramp, the drop target/Vengeance, and the right ramp. The shot is illuminated by a quickly blinking Enterprise insert. It's timed, and you have to hit it before the light goes out.

#206 5 years ago


I replaced the lower right transceiver board with a new one. I was able to get to it by only removing the plastic above it and the Black Hole target (see photo). It was still a pain in the ass to swap, though, as there isn't enough room to maneuver a screw driver between the opto and the pop bumper. Unfortunately, the new opto did not make the problem go away. I then replaced the opto board under the playfield with a new one. This actually made the problem worse. The second ball now sticks to the first ball every time. I have to say, this whole situation is very frustrating indeed. I know some people's games are working perfectly, but I'm still convinced this problem is partly caused by a software glitch.


#211 5 years ago
Quoted from markmon:

This is not a software problem. So what all have you done and why did you think to replace the opto?

I told Chas what my problem was, and this is how he suggested to fix it. Granted, I didn't try replacing the left board yet. It just seems like such a pain in the ass to get to that board.

#213 5 years ago
Quoted from dug:

Does the opto work in switch test? If they do I doubt changing out the boards will do anything.
I would take a closer look at the connectors to the opto boards under the playfield.
This is very strange how it happens to some but not all. So it can't be a software issue?

The opto works perfectly in switch test, always has.

#216 5 years ago
Quoted from Aurich:

Did you verify that you have that same issue with the glass off?

Yes. Just like before, it works almost 100% of the time if I throw the second ball up there with my hand or trigger the opto with my finger.

#227 5 years ago
Quoted from rvdv:

I am at a loss

Replaced opto's , boards
Ball two still gets stuck on magnet ?
Even a third ball if you put it there ...

When this happens, does you game also score points when you flip? Mine does.

#230 5 years ago
Quoted from PunishersLEMC:

When you clip is it operating the warp ramp opto ??

No. There are no animations or callouts. The score just goes up every time I flip. If it was activating the Warp Ramp opto, wouldn't it be saying, "Warp 1, Warp 2, etc ..."?

#231 5 years ago
Quoted from RobKnapp:

How bad is this issue as it pertains to the actual game play? I am a perfectionist . I know it would bother me ... Does this ST Vengeance multiball hang up affect the game play so much that it ruin's the game so much that it has to be fixed? Or is it more of an annoyance in the way that The HULK toy would cause ball searches?

It only appears to affect the beginning of Vengeance multiball, but it affects it in a pretty major way. Normally, the first ball is captured by the magnet, and then you have a limited amount of time to shoot a second ball up the middle. If you do this before the timer expires, you are rewarded with a third ball. When the opto fails to trigger, the second ball sticks to the first one until it times out. Both balls then get released, but you get screwed out of the third ball. You don't have to be a perfectionist to find this unacceptable.

#238 5 years ago
Quoted from phishrace:

If no dots or sounds, I assume you can see the points being scored. How many points are being scored each flip? That's your clue.

Also, have you put the game in switch test and pounded on the playfield?

I'm out of town right now. When I get home, I'll do some experimenting.

#254 5 years ago

I've been out of town, but I plan on calling Stern as soon as I get home. Chas was very responsive when I called the first time. Unfortunately, his solution didn't fix the problem. Since I live so close to Stern, maybe they could send a tech out to my house and figure out what's going on.

#265 5 years ago
Quoted from Schabs81:

Also having it just hold one from time to time I can hit it dead center won't drop it.

I've had this happen occasionally as well.

#267 5 years ago
Quoted from Schabs81:

Gweempose does yours also stick two balls together almost all the time?


#269 5 years ago
Quoted from JimB:

So does mine. Stern has put out tech fix papers before for known problems this widespread no? They should do something with step by step instructions.

I'm not sure they have figured out exactly what's going on yet.

#275 5 years ago
Quoted from Skulz:

I was not having an issue for the first couple months, but recently my balls are always getting stuck on magnet. Have an LE with latest code too. I will have to test things out when I get back home, but just wanted to share that I now have the issue.

This is not encouraging news at all. I believe it's the first I have heard of a game without any symptoms at all suddenly developing the problem. This means that no game is immune. I sure hope Stern can figure out what's going on here.

2 weeks later
#288 5 years ago

I've tried everything I can think of, and the problem still persists. I flip flopped the wires, swapped out optos, swapped out boards, bent out the connector pins, etc ... Nothing has helped.

#291 5 years ago
Quoted from tktlwyr:

I'm curious...how many of you are playing with balls other than the ones Stern provided?
When I set up my game, I put in some balls I got from Pinball Life a while back and had issues with balls sticking together and not starting the game not starting multiball. When they were replaced with Stern balls, the problem seems to have disappeared.

I am playing with PBL "Oh so shiny" balls. I suppose I could try using some Stern balls, but I don't know why that would work.

#296 5 years ago

Just tried the Stern balls. As I suspected, they didn't help.

#297 5 years ago
Quoted from RobKnapp:

I am no tech. But if but if STERN has replaced all the hardware in question . and the end result is not working. Maybe it time to ask STERN for Main boards to be changed. What is Pat or Chas telling you after all this work and trail and error .

I need to call back Chas. I've just been busy.

#302 5 years ago
Quoted from Kneissl:

I twisted my wires and tried to keep them away from the magnet.. seems to be working so far

Re-routing the wires away from the magnet was one of the first things I tried. It didn't help. I hadn't considered twisting them.

#321 5 years ago

I tried moving them, and it didn't help. How would one go about shielding them?

#333 5 years ago
Quoted from Kneissl:

I twisted my wires and tried to keep them away from the magnet.. seems to be working so far ...

Holy shit!!! Twisting the wires actually worked. I twisted the crap out of all 4 wires going in and out of opto board #1, and the game is now working perfectly. Prior to doing this, it would fail to release the ball 95% of the time. I just played 10 games in a row, and the opto registered every single time. I can only surmise that the theory about EM interference being caused by the magnet was spot on. I had suspected this, which is why I tried to re-route the wires away from the magnet, but twisting the wires hadn't occurred to me. My guess is that the magnet is more powerful on some games than others, which is why not all games are affected by this issue. Stern needs to change the way they are building these and issue a service bulletin.

Anyone who is experiencing this problem should immediately try this fix. I assume it will work on all games. Many thanks to Kneissl for coming up with this solution. It was a very annoying problem. Fortunately, it's an easy fix.

Happy happy, joy joy!

#338 5 years ago

I wonder if ferrite cores would do the trick as well.

#340 5 years ago
Quoted from Gorgar1:

Good fix why would twisting wires help? More insulated?

This is hardly my area of expertise, but I believe that twisting the wires helps to equalize the amount of noise that each individual wire is exposed to. The net result is that it cancels out the interference.

#344 5 years ago
Quoted from KeithinMI:

On re-inspection of the pic a few posts above I think I may see what the problem is. Those leads run damn close to the magnet in the playfield AND the motor for the Vengeance. When that coil is energized (as it would be when the first ball is trapped), I'd gather there is all sorts of magnetic flux leaking from that coil. That magnetic energy would induce a voltage in those wires easily which might be enough to fool the cpu into thinking the opto is in a state it is not (eg., when the second ball breaks the beam, there is still sufficient voltage to make the cpu think it is in a 'high' state (beam not broken) when it actually is broken.

I think you are on the right track with this line of thinking. It would certainly explain why the problem is more prevalent after a flip.

#346 5 years ago

I played a bunch of games today, and the fix is still holding. This seems like the real deal. Should I change the thread title to reflect that this problem has been solved, or is this premature? Ideally, I'd like to see a few more people step forward first.

We should probably let Stern know about this. For all we know, they are still cranking games out that could potentially suffer from this issue.

#350 5 years ago

I just updated the thread title as well as the first post.

#356 5 years ago


The fix is super easy. There is a pair of optos at the entrance to the Vengeance tunnel (one on the left, and one on the right). If you follow the wires coming from these optos, you will see that they plug into a board below the playfield. Disconnect each wire one at a time, twist it a bunch of times, and then plug it back in. Easy as pie.

#366 5 years ago
Quoted from Kneissl:

Each opto has two wires (they are attached to each other) going to it. You twist that pair ...

Exactly. You twist the pair to create a double helix. It will look like this when you are done:

twisted wire.png

#370 5 years ago
Quoted from LP30:

I just did the twist on each of the 4 pairs. First game, first shot on the captured ball and the 2nd ball hung on the magnet until the clock ran out like so many times before. Hoping for at least better performance. I'll try a different route for the wires as well.

How many twists did you do? I twisted mine A LOT!

#372 5 years ago


Have you got it working yet, or are you still having problems?

#374 5 years ago
Quoted from Docray1:

I twisted all 4 wires connecting to the opto board beneath the Vengeance ship to the point where they started twisting on themselves. I still occasionally get the 2 balls getting hung up, though it is occurring less often. Should I have twisted 2 or 4 of the wire pairs together, or is there a specific route for the wires that would correct the problem completely? I am wondering if I need to get some type of shielding around the wires instead. Any thoughts?

The twisting alone fixed it on my machine, but given the fact that some people never experienced the problem in the first place, there is obviously a large variance in the amount of stray EMI from one game to the next. If the twisted wire trick alone didn't fully resolve the problem on your machine, I'd suggest adding some ferrite beads as well. We know what the problem is, it's just a matter of fully tackling it on every game.

#377 5 years ago

Just following up. My game continues to work great. I only had one incident where the balls stuck together since I applied the fix. Has anyone gotten confirmation from Stern that they are aware of this issue and are implementing changes in the new games being built?

#383 5 years ago
Quoted from wvpinball:

Haha! I'm not sure where that came from!!
Moderator, please help me get that removed...

I loved that game as a kid!

3 weeks later
#385 5 years ago
Quoted from Nokoro:

Does anyone know whether Stern implemented this fix on new production machines?

That's a good question. They haven't issued a service bulletin about it yet, which seems long overdue.

#388 5 years ago
Quoted from nosro:

Don't let this thread throw off your perspective. For each person who had a problem with this, there are probably hundreds who don't. You won't see a Pinside thread called "Chime in if your Vengeance magnet is working perfectly".

I agree that a thread such as this can make the problem appear more prevalent than it really is, but enough games seem to be affected by the issue that a service bulletin is surely warranted.

2 weeks later
#394 5 years ago
Quoted from freezie:

Mine is new , straight from the factory two weeks ago . Wires were bundled up in zip ties right across the magnet . I had to cut the zips and twist them myself for the problem to go away .

This is really disappointing to hear. I know for a fact that Stern is aware of this thread. Why haven't they addressed this issue yet?

#402 5 years ago
Quoted from steve1515:

Does the twisting fix also correct the problem where you can double flip to get hits to the ship during the 2nd Vengeance mode while the ball is still behind the drop target?

That's a very good question.

#411 5 years ago
Quoted from Nokoro:

Hey guys, I think Stern took your suggestion and implemented the fix. I haven't had the problem you all have had. I received my game a week ago. I just lifted the playfield and saw twisted wires around the magnet. Here are some pictures. Is this what everyone is referring to as the fix? If so, Stern is doing it.

Thanks for the photos! Apparently, Stern solved the problem using the same fix that has been discussed in this thread. The thing I still don't understand is why they haven't officially created a service bulletin detailing the fix.

Quoted from sillyoldelf:

I put ferrite beads on them which completely fixed it - the twisting alone still had the very occasional issue.

I've been thinking about adding ferrite beads myself. Like you, the twist method mostly solved the problem. Every once in a great while, though, I still get the 2nd ball hanging on the 1st. I'd be very interested to know which ferrite beads you used, and where you purchased them. I'd also love to see some pics of the install when you get a chance. Thanks!

#415 5 years ago

Did you loop the wires through the ferrite core like this?

ferrite core.jpg
#440 5 years ago

I guess I should probably remove the "solution found" from the thread title. This sucks. I thought for sure we had it licked. I wonder if Stern changed something in the way they are building them that now causes the twisting fix to NOT work.

#451 5 years ago
Quoted from nicoga3000:

Yeah, I'm confused. I thought I was doing it right by twisting the two wires together as I show in my pic.

Each connector has two wires attached to it. They are bonded together, but they are two separate wires nonetheless. In your photo, it looks like you have actually twisted tow PAIRS of wires together. This is the way Stern seems to be doing it now, but I agree that this may not be the best solution. Try separating them and twisting each pair individually.

1 month later
#475 5 years ago

For those of you that are experiencing this problem, when was your game manufactured? If Stern is still cranking out games with this issue, I'm at a loss for words.

#485 5 years ago
Quoted from halpain24:

As previously stated I had the problem and twisted wires, installed ferrite cores, switched to Pinball life ultra gloss balls and none fixed the issue. I received a new opto board from stern and after replacing the board the issue was immediately fixed and have had zero problems with the balls staying since. I have noticed those balls were slightly magnetized but even that has diminished since.

Two questions:

1 - Before you replaced the board, were the optos registering properly in switch test?
2 - Which board are you talking about? The PCB under the playfield, or the little tranceiver above the playfield?

#498 5 years ago
Quoted from Aurich:

No, that's not the problem. There's this misunderstanding that you're "knocking the ball off the magnet". That's not how it works. You simply have to break the front optos, and the held ball will be released. You don't have to even physically contact the held ball.

Aurich is absolutely correct. As soon as the lower opto is tripped, the magnet is supposed to shut off, and the multiball should start. You can test it with the glass off. Lock the first ball on the magnet, grab the second ball after it is launched into play, and then carefully break the beam with your finger. The first ball will be released. The problem people are having is that the opto isn't registering the second ball. As soon as the second ball trips the opto, you should get a "Vengeance hit" audio clip. When the opto doesn't work right, there is no audio clip, the magnet stays on, and the second ball sticks to the first.

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