Saturday, June 28, 2014

Modern Firepower at the Southern-Fried Gameroom Expo


Sometimes it was hard to get play time on the pins, the turnout was fantastic

Atlanta's first ever Southern-Fried Gameroom Expo has come and gone, though based upon the great turnout, I'm confident this will become an annual tradition.  We had a blast attending the event, and it was a joy to reveal Modern Firepower to an unsuspecting public.

Read on for the recap and video...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Atlanta's Southern-Fried Gameroom Expo is This Weekend - and Modern Firepower will be There!


The first ever Southern-Fried Gameroom Expo is being held in Atlanta, GA this weekend at the Marriott Century Center.

There will be over 100 arcade and pinball machines at the show, and your admission allows you freeplay on all machines.  Please come out and support this gathering, I promise you will have fun.

Being unveiled to the public for the first time, Modern Firepower will be on the show floor available for everyone to play.

I've been told that Modern Firepower will be staged in the Custom Pinball section, so if you can make the show, be sure to look for this one of a kind, fully custom hand-built machine.

The show runs Friday, June 20th through Sunday the 22nd.  We will be there every day, so be sure to say hi to the protective parent watching guard over his machine.


The Modern Firepower Pinball Project - Overdue Update

Modern Firepower - Build Complete!

Completely unintentional, I see now it has been just over a year since my last post.  You would be forgiven for thinking that Modern Firepower was just another project that was abandoned and didn't pan out.  Fortunately, the exact opposite is true.

It was a year ago that most of the pieces came together, and the machine became playable.  Ironically, this is the most difficult stage in any project.  It became much more fun to play than to continue the build, much less post about it.

At the same time, new challenges cropped up, primarily software related.  Before the machine was in a playable state, my software tests were very promising, but with Modern Firepower now playable, small behavioral ticks emerged.  I also had to learn the hard way how to properly multi-thread a very complex application using thread-safe techniques.

Read more inside...

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Modern Firepower Pinball Project - Playfield Test [VIDEO]

Over the past few years of doing research and development, many times I have had doubts about my ability to build a pinball machine from scratch.

Occasionally a milestone is achieved, like the first time a solenoid is activated from a home-built power supply, or the first time a program you wrote recognized a switch input and energized a solenoid.

Each of these achievements gives you new confidence, but the doubts still linger in the shadows of your mind.  Sure, the individual tests were great, but what happens when you scale up to a full machine?

After a few months of careful assembly and wiring, I was finally able to put all of my doubts to rest.

In mid March I was able to play my first pinball game on my 'Modern Firepower' playfield, and the early results were fantastic.  I put together a multi-angle video to show off my hard work, I hope you like it.

Make the jump for the video...

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Modern Firepower Pinball Project - Power Supplies

WARNING:  THE CIRCUITRY DESCRIBED IN THIS POST USES ELECTRICITY AT LEVELS DEADLY TO HUMANS.  SEEK PROFESSIONAL EXPERTISE IF YOU ARE NOT SURE HOW TO SAFELY USE THE PRESENTED INFORMATION.

One of my very first achievements on my long pinball quest was a home-built solenoid power supply.  Though it was many years ago, I still remember clearly the first time Troy and I activated an old, used and abused solenoid with my home-built power supply.  At that moment I felt like a magician harnessing an invisible, mystical power.

The bottom half of this Williams 'High Power Solenoid Circuit' actually describes most of the power supply design.  J102 is the signal coming from the Transformer, which runs through a Bridge Rectifier (BR3), and a small Capacitor (100uf) and Resistor (10KOhm) provide a small amount of line conditioning.  Not shown here is the circuitry (Switch, Fuse, Line Conditioner and Varistor) that are in the circuit between the AC power source and the Transformer.


But as with most things pinball, for the DIY enthusiast there is a great void of information for what should be a relatively simple topic.  I had spent months researching and building the power supply from scratch, and had no idea if it would really work with pinball solenoids.  It was at that moment, hearing the BAM BAM BAM of the happily activating solenoid, that I first felt capable of overcoming the challenges of building my own pinball machine.

I wish I had all the answers, but to be honest there's still several aspects of pinball power I haven't had the opportunity, or the need, to solve.  But many of the answers I will be providing here I have never seen published anywhere else.  And trust me, I looked.

Power supplies in and of themselves are not complicated beasts.  Any number of books and resources will teach you how to build any of the many types of various power supplies.  If you are interested in building a power supply, I highly recommend you read up before tackling your own project.  In case you're curious, I read 'Building Power Supplies' 2nd Edition by David Lines, which I had picked up years ago at RadioShack for other projects. 

I do not provide enough info here to guide you through the process; rather my goal here is to help you choose the correctly sized power supplies that are needed for a modern, DIY pinball build like my Modern Firepower Pinball Project.

Power supplies are needed for several items in a modern pinball build, primary among those are the solenoids and the bulbs.  In my modernized pinball build, I'm also using a power supply for an industrial USB hub (which in turn powers four connected USB peripherals), and for the ball trough opto-switches.  If you're using any special anima-tronics with motors, you might also need a different voltage power supply just for them.  Every build can have unique requirements, so your choice of components and features will ultimately drive your power supply requirements.

Since I'm using an 32" LCD TV for the backbox (which also powers the speakers), I didn't have to worry about backbox lighting and audio amplifiers.  Obviously the TV came with it's own power supply (built in).  The only other device in the pinball machine is the small PC running Windows, which came with its own power supply.

Since the only real challenging power supply is the solenoid power supply, I'll discuss the other power supplies first, and save the best (worst?) for last.

Read on for more info...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Modern Firepower Pinball Project - Lighting Demo

The lights are fully wired up and tested, and I thought it was time to show them off.

Switches, Lamps and Solenoids are all wired up.  The playfield is almost ready to go into the cabinet.

In the picture above, not only are the lights wired up, but so are the solenoids.  The playfield is almost complete, ready for installation into the cabinet.  I've simply fallen behind on updating the blog.

The only wiring left to complete is the switch and solenoid wiring for the very top eject hole.  I won't be able to install the eject hole assembly and switch until the playfield is removed from the rotisserie, so for the moment wiring is complete.

Click on through to see the pictures and video...

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Modern FIrepower Pinball Project - Shocking Discoveries

Though overall progress has been slower these past few weeks, wiring is coming along nicely.  48 lamps have been wired up, and I have about 30 more lamps to wire.

Lighting wiring:  Red wire is shared 5v power, green wires are ground control lines that run back to the LED-Wiz.

In the pictures, the red wires are providing shared 5v power to the bulbs, and I used all green wires for the individual grounds that run back to the LED-Wiz.  I have no idea which lamp connects to which port, and I don't need to know since my software will map the lights.

Yes, pinball bulbs are typically powered by 6.3 volts, but I already had a 5 volt 2 amp power source handy, and I found that the brightness was just fine using only 5 volts.  I will cover the power supplies in a later post.

For now, read on to discover the shocking oversight I made in my electrical design...