Regarding the playfield issues without knowing exactly what is happening in the manufacturing process none of us can know for sure what the causes are and Stern (or any company) will not be transparent about their failures or short comings.
I'm not in the Stern fan club although I do like many of their games. I also own a TMNT Pro.
I am familiar with manufacturing in general from conception to production, the upstream and downstream dependancies, and what gets affected by even the most minuscule of changes. Not to mention the after production support and warranty side. So sometimes reading suggestions and what it would cost to make improvements doesn't really mean that is the total expense considering how widespread that minor change may have effects.
Regardless, if they haven't made changes already they should and if the changes they have made are yielding these results than they are insufficient and more is needed.
I think the majority of members assumptions on temp/humidity as well as clear coat properties (type, activator, etc.) are definitely in the right ball park and are supported by the data. If what we have gathered as a group is accurate and the Pro playfields where made for an anticipated March release when the factory was closed than the time the factory sat idle allowed those playfields enough time to cure and is why we see so few problems with pros. Now that the factory is open and they're churning these machines out at a high rate is perhaps why we are seeing playfields that haven't had a chance to adequately cure before they are populated.
If this is true and the culprit is the sheer volume of machines being produced without proper time for things to cure then no matter what changes are required to remedy this it will incur costs. Not to mention manufacturing and workflow process changes (which equates to costs).
Maybe more time in a curing oven (if they have one), a different clear coat formulation, maybe adopting a different manufacturing technique more like the liquor industry where the products being packaged for sale are from the batch made "x" amount of time ago and has had a designated amount of time to cure? Not sure and I'm not sure how that will affect the bottom line at Stern.
The reality of all this is however that no matter how much everyone complains here if everyone keeps buying the machines there is no incentive for the manufacturer to change anything. Why change, they'll just buy it and complain.
If we are to affect change then we must stop buying, convey our concerns to Stern's distributors, and THEY have to tell Stern I will not carry or sell your products unless something is done because I can't sell them. Which also means, we can't buy new machines when they're announced, we have to be patient. If the money is affected then that's what gets people's attention.
Otherwise, we're all going to continue to get these pooling playfield issues, which by the way, from a metrics perspective might not actually be a "problem" to the manufacturer. This sort of a thing could be an acceptable margin in their manufacturing process.
I don't think Stern is an evil company, they're just a for profit organization trying to remain a profitable organization which is currently, at least by volume, the leader in the industry.
I appreciate these companies being here in the US and employing people in the US to build these machines. I will continue to support our domestic products as long as I can just like I keep using the post office because everyone needs a job to provide for their families.
I would like to see Stern not only be the largest in the industry but the best.
Sorry for the rant.