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Star Trek: The Mirror Universe Pinball



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  • Star Trek: The Mirror Universe Pinball

    Started Oct 2012-

    A few months ago; I bit the bullet and got myself a membership for the Austin/RoundRock location. While not cheap; I expect to make good use of the money spent.

    For those that don’t know what Techshop is... in short it’s a “gym-membership” type of place which has over $500k in high tech machinery which the hobbyist can use once they’ve taken the required safety courses. Austin has a Waterjet, 2 shop bot CNC machines, mills, laser cutters, cnc sewing machines, tig/mig/welders, sand and powdercoating , etc.

    My first course was Shopbot CNC ... Last month I completed Waterjet.
    This means I’m now able to use either of these machines.

    For the last couple of years; I’ve been wanting to do my own pinball table. Those that know me... will already know the subject matter in question.

    About two months ago; I settled on a plan.

    Create a Star Trek: Mirror Universe pinball table.

    The plan; Scan in a 1979 Bally Star Trek pinball table. Mirror it. And customize it for the mirror universe.

    Before (my previous PF/machine restore):

    After: (click the picture to get a larger higher rez on flickr)

    Yeap; that’s right... the shooter lane will be on the left side (evil grin) and will have a negative feel. What has been done:
    Re-colored the playfield; fixed worn areas (in computer). Then flipped the playfield.

    Areas changed:
    1) “vectorized” nearly all aspects of the PF.
    2) removed “reversed” text and replaced with Star Trek: series font.
    3) USS becomes I.S.S. Enterprise.
    4) Space Station K0 becomes Battle Station K0
    5) Transporting people become their “mirrored universe” counterparts complete with sashes and skin.
    6) “enter Hyperspace” becomes “Avert Subordinate Promotion” “by thwarting and assassination conspiracy”.
    7) “jump to warp” becomes “Employ Agonizer on Crewman”
    8) “where no man has gone before” becomes:
    “Your Mission: Conquer all worlds and civilizations to expand the empire like no man before”
    (may be too wordy)
    9) “Ready Photon Phaser” becomes “ready photon torpedo”
    10) Spelling “bally” becomes “Terra” (Terra meaning Earth. Short for “Terran Empire”; the mirror universe’s “federation”)
    11) Removed same player shoots again language; opting for “shoot again” text over insert.
    12) Drop Target Special becomes Terran Empire logo.
    13) colorized planet with purple glow like the re-mastered series from cbs. Not sure I like it... may go back to original look.

    You’ll note that I’ve removed all the switch lanes from the design. The plan is to design a set of hall effect pcbs which replicate functionality without slots in the PF.

    I’m curious how Kevin O’Connor would have approached a project like this.

    I also did the inital CAD work on getting a CNC-ready Playfield.

    My next step is to see if I can source some inserts from Pinball Resource. I'll need to do this before I commit to keeping the same sized inserts as on the original.

  • #2
    I've been working on the Plastics for the machine...

    remember to click the images to get larger/higher rez renderings

    Here's what they basically looked like on a prototype machine ... I re-did the text here:

    Why ProtoType? Well... YEllow/Silver uniforms do not fit the theme of the known Mirror Universe... That and I really enjoy the Busty Blonde.

    So; now I needed to "mirror universe" it up.

    However, I'm kinda torn between two designs. First; here's a screen cap of Scotty put on one of the pieces:

    1) Busty Blonde has been Mirrorized.
    2) Spock has a beard.
    3) Uhura has been Mirrorized - complete with black stockings.
    4) Those.... um... who-knows what has been removed and cartoonized-screen-caps of Kor and the Romulan Commander have replaced them. With the req factional logos in place.
    5) Scotty Screen cap from Mirror Mirror.

    My issue with screencap is it kinda looks out of place with cartoonized Evil-Spock and Evil-Uhura... but "matches" the screencaps of the foes.

    Option 2:

    Took a screen cap of Scotty from The Animated Series (TAS) and heavily modified him to make it a mirrored version.

    I'm also thinking about putting Evil-Sulu on the other arrowed plastic. But depends on which direction I go in.

    Been in touch with Kevin at ; unfortunatly - the printer purchased by the Austin / RoundRock Techshop is only 24in wide... and the 4mil pressure sensitive adhesive film I wanted to use only comes in 36inch widths. The only material that comes in 24inch is a non-adhesive roll; meaning I'd have to find some kind of adhesive to attach the graphics to the PF.

    He did put me in contact with a local printing company:
    whom may have a large format printer which can print directly to the Playfield; which should make it easier to create as I won't have to "register" and "line up" the graphics to the inserts/table.


    • #3
      Mid week last week; I activated my membership and schedule myself for the Laser cutter SBU on Saturday. No; I didn't feel like I needed the SBU; but given my issues with my personal laser cutter - I still needed to make some progress.

      After class; I scheduled a 2hr block on Laser cutter#2. I wanted to use the Laser cutter to create the Inserts I'll need for the new playfield. I went to Regal plastics earlier in the week and got some material:

      Translucent White @ 0.25"
      Translucent Yelllow @ 0.25"
      Transparent Green @ 0.25"
      Transparent Yellow @ 0.25"
      Transparent Orange @ 0.25"
      I already had Transparent Red @ 0.25" so didn't need it.

      No; I didn't need all these colors to exactly match the existing Inserts; but I wanted to experiment to find the right mix for what I wanted on my pinball table.

      I drew up some inserts in CorelDraw X4 ... and decided that I wanted to take three different tests:
      1) Try Transparent Inserts without anything. Just "clear".
      2) Transparent Inserts Frosted.
      3) Transparent Inserts Clear with a "spiral galaxy".
      4) Transparent Inserts Frosted with a "spiral galaxy".

      I figured; since I was creating my own table... might as well add some enhancements for some added details. Hence the spiral galaxy might look good.
      I also figured that I don't really like "clear" inserts; some frosting would hide the bulb filament and/or the electronics/LEDs under the inserts.

      Here's a Corel rendering of my work:

      For the frosted; I hit the acrylic with a 220 grit orbital sander... the followed up with the sandblaster. The spiral galaxy would be etched into the acrylic with the laser cutter.

      The Translucent White and Yellow look really good. Here they are compared against existing inserts and being back lit by a White #555 LED:

      Now for the Red 0.61 insert test:

      Top is the clear insert, bottom is the frosted insert.

      Top is the clear/spiral insert, bottom is the frosted/spiral insert.

      Let's try the a bigger insert... how about the shoot again insert.
      Before (stock/old insert):



      Based on the current tests; I gotta say I'm diggin the Frosted/Spiral inserts. I wouldn't do the spiral galaxy for every insert... but as an emblieshment to specials like the green; red; amber inserts. I think they do a good job of defusing the led light while adding a little something extra.

      Here's the Clear Yellow and Green inserts. I didn't bother to photo each version; since I pretty much decided I like the frosted Spiral Galaxy versions.

      I didn't need to clear yellow; but I cut them anyway... because I need the smaller peices you'll see next. I think I'm going to use the clear yellow inserts to represent the 3X bonuses.


      • #4
        Observent people noticed there some details peices on the CAD drawing I showed earlier. These detail peices are for the Nacelle graphics in the original playfield. I was always... dissappointed these warp nacelles didn't light up on the original PF. So; I wanted to see if I could change that on The Mirror Universe.

        Anyone like Puzzles? If so... have I got some fun for you:

        All kinds of colors of the rainbow. And no... I not real fond of puzzles.

        I laser cut some plywood in about the size of the nacelle image on the PF. and put together the puzzle of Yellow, Red, Orange to replicate the nacelle. Once I had the 20some odd peices in the correct order I "tooth pick" clamped the pieces tightly together:

        and then used some acrylic solvent to glue the pieces using capillary action. I made sure these peices were tight together to ensure a tight bond was formed. I haven't really tried to "Break" these parts; but I've dropped them a couple of times and they haven't shattered.

        I made two with the Yellow/Orange/Red/Yellow combo - the identical combo as the PF graphic. Since I had the peices; I went ahead and created a combo which more closely resembles the Enterprise... W/ Red as the main color; orange/yellow/white.

        Once I had the pieces welded together with the solvent; I need to make them level. However, I notices that even tho I cut these parts from the same file; their with minor gaps between some of the pieces where they didn't meet. I didn't want to see unfiltered light come from between the acrylic. I pondered; thought about Epoxy w/ some kind of dye... but remembered that I created some crafts with the wife many years ago. It was some plastics stainglass in a bottle. I had pearl white; but couldn't find the Red or Yellow. I tried Michaels... and all they had was some sh1tty martha stewart glass "paint" for $4 a bottle. "Meh" I thought. So I waited until Monday when Hobby Lobby would be open. A lunch trip turned up the exact thing I remembered:
        Ruby Red Gallery Glass and the Sunny Yellow. These two oz bottles were like $2.75 a bottle. Using the bottle applicator; I filled the cracks with the appropriate color. I didn't get the Orange- because I wan't sure Pumpkin Orange would match the acrlyic orange. Since red and yellow always border orange; I could use one of the two. I used pearl white for the center "star" on the red insert.

        Once I had the cracks filled; I proceeded to attempt to use the orbital sander to help level these inserts; at which one of the yellow inserts went flying into the neather regions of my garage. a quick search didn't turn it up. At that point I went to manually sanding these parts flat.

        The result?

        And the money shot:

        I like the red a lot better than the yellow.


        • #5
          I can’t claim originality here... as I remember the XENON machine at a past TPF which had NIXIE tubes instead of the standard VFD displays. I always thought they were cool.

          Now that I’m designing Star Trek: The Mirror Universe; I’m thinking that I want to put NIXIE displays in the machine instead of stock Bally displays.

          I’ve been doing some design work; and have come up with the following schematics which use the IN-12A tubes from Russia. They are nearly the same digit height as a stock display and and are relatively inexpensive compared to other tubes.

          Just put the finishing touches on the silk screen for the Base board for the Nixie display.

          Here’s a image of the boards as they stand today.
          Base Board:

          Display Board:

          New features added:
          1) The “Right angle” Display board has surface mount LEDs under the tubes; the idea here is that when the display is “active” meaning PlayerX is up... the switched LAMP driver on the side of the display turns on these LEDs causing them to backlight the display ... to help identify which player is active. A Brightness POT on the baseboard controls the brightness.
          Opto-Isolated the “lamp” input from +5V logic.

          2) I added decode logic to support 7digit display ROM hacks:
          Update 6 Digit Bally pinballs to 7 digit
          where buy D5 =1= D6 causes the 7th digit to become active. U3 & U4 provide this functionality.
          Feature is jumper selectable to for native 7digit or Rom-Hack 7digit mode via JP1.

          3) Clearly labeled Test Points with voltages. Added 80V test point.

          4) Additional decoupling caps near U1,U2,U3 and well as a bulk cap for 5V.

          5) Nixie tube display board is at a “right angle” to the base board (like original); but is back set far enough so “front” of IN-12A displays are near same position as the VFD display.

          6) HV areas “inside” dotted lines. Generous ground planes to help with thermals.

          7) Same PCB sizes as original.

          The Schematics are posted here for review... I’ve never designed a display before... so will probably need to do some design tweaks once I get the Tubes in.

          At this time; the design remains my copy-protected property! Once I've proven the design; I'll consider open-sourcing the design for others to build.

          I went 7digits instead of 6... so they can be used in other machines. I’ll either de-pop NIXIE_A7 or figure out how to make my Bally FW run a 7digit display.


          • #6
            It is great to see pinball machines are making a come back. They had a booth at CES that show all kinds of them that you can make. The weird thing is that they are small than the older ones. My first job was working at a huge arcade and we probably had 30 plus pinball machines.
            Cut it, Paint it, Mod it. Void Your Warranty
            #moddersinc @moddersinc


            • #7
              Originally posted by Americanfreak View Post
              It is great to see pinball machines are making a come back. They had a booth at CES that show all kinds of them that you can make. The weird thing is that they are small than the older ones. My first job was working at a huge arcade and we probably had 30 plus pinball machines.
              I assume "they" was Stern.
              Stern has a new line they are calling the cheaper more affordable home use machines. they are very ugly IMHO. and are still in the 2-4k range IIRC. No self respecting pin-head would own one of those.

              Pins do seem to be making a come-back. Lots of smaller / new companies are comming on board including one here in Austin.

              Tonight I finished the CNC work on the Playfield as I have a 1pm reservation on the CNC machines for Saturday. Earlier this week I got some Russian Birch in 4x8 sheet to create the PF on. The veneers/cores look to be dense and high quality which should yield a good looking PF.

              The CNC simulation yielded this rendering (click for full size image):

              The simulator says 44minutes of machine time – but I’m guessing it’s gonna be longer than that.

              With luck by 6pm; I’ll be back at home with a fresh playfield.

              There are two things missing from this PF at the moment – One is the ball lane and the other is the beveled edges of the kickout hole.

              I’m not sure yet how to generate these with the tools I have on hand. I need to learn Cut3d and figure out how to incorporate it into the design. I’m hopeful I can add it later after the PF is already CNCed or do some of the work by hand.


              • #8
                This weekend was suppose to be the weekend for real progress; sadly – it didn’t happened.
                On Friday; I went to techshop to check on file readiness and water jet a unique piece for the Playfield.

                Turned out all the work I’d done (6hrs or more) in the Trial version of Cut2D wasn’t usable in the production version Techshop had. Those a-holes think it’s cute to prevent files created in the trial version from working in the production version unless you spent 500 on the full version. OFcourse the Trial version only outputs from their trial library so I couldn’t export tool paths. I recovered; but I spent a lot of late night hours rebuilding the CNC files. I understand a company wanting to protect their IP – but this is just well – going too far.

                I kept my Saturday reservation time - as I worked OT to get the files repaired... When I got to techshop; I realized the didn't stock a full line of Collets for the Shopbot. They only stock 1/4" and 1/2" collets and they don't provide a drill collet for drill bits. I needed a 3/8" ER25 collet and a drill holder for the PF. I don't blame them really - they clearly stated as such in their SBU for the shopbot. I mis-read it. This puts the Pinball table on hold until I get an 3/16" and a 3/8" ER25 collet for the machine. I proably also need to get a v-cut bit and/or a ball nose bit to do the kickout hole and ball lane.

                Now onto the unique piece I was to water jet. I built the file in CorelDraw. Let’s just say CorelDraw is absolute crap when it comes to outputting DXF files. When I bring it into FlowPath to generate the waterjet files... the parts have in-exact curves and broken lines. I have to repair it in FlowPath which takes about an hour. When I take it to the waterjet; the part some how grew by 1.2x ... not that I caught it at the time. So; 40 in aluminum and 40 dollars in machine time is down the drain. I’ve recreated the design in a real cad program and we’ll see about cutting it in a few days when I get more material.

                After about 4 weeks; my 12A Nixie tubes arrived from Russia. First thing I noticed is that the numbers are upside down to what I thought the proper orientation was. To make matters worse the Library that I dled for the Nixie tubes was incorrect and the pin numbering was off. This renders one of the two circuit boards for the nixie displays invalid. I’ve fixed the pinout in the library and have re-laid out the display board. Plan on submitting it to BatchPCB tonight. I think the PCBs are running behind because of Chinese holidays... so not sure if I’ll actually get the PCBs in time for TPF’13. I gambled by committing the PCB before I had the tubes... and lost that bet.

                I did get my ColorDMD for the STNG installed last Thursday... so at least that went well.

                Hoping your weekend was better.


                • #9
                  Holly smokes man... this sounds like more work than building a rocket
                  Cut it, Paint it, Mod it. Void Your Warranty
                  #moddersinc @moddersinc


                  • #10
                    Well - as you know; awesomeness doesn't come easy. This project looks to be no different.


                    • #11
                      Tonight was a good night. I figured out the toolchain to take the ball lane and kickout hole from Sketchup into the CAD software.

                      I used Sketchup 8 to create the files (easiest 3D software I can barely use). Once I had the file created in Sketchup; I exported the model to a 3D model in DAE format. Then I used Meshlab 1.3.0 to convert the .dae into an .stl which could be read by Cut3D. Here’s the models as the look in MeshLab:

                      Once I had the tool paths figured out; I imported the .v3d file into Cut2D and aligned it in the file. The simulation shows me this:

                      This should allow me to cut, drill, and carve the PF in one "session" on the shopbot. Simulation told me 1hr 7minutes... but I'm skeptical.

                      I couldn’t figure out why the Ball lane path is “etching” the non-lane wood. I tried a couple of things but they didn’t seem to make it better – only worse. So; I plan on leaving the 1/4” ball mill a little higher when it’s cut to try and avoid the etches.

                      Collets are on order via Fleabay since Monday... I’m going to order the 1/4” ball mill before I got to bed (I hope).


                      • #12
                        A while back; I put the breaks on further work on the Plastics. The reason I stated was that I was working on a plan to knock your socks off. Tonight is the moment I reveal the plan and work that has been done.

                        When I realized my art skils were not up to the task... I decided to consult a professional. I approched a well known Star Trek graphic novel artist with the project; and he agreed to do the work on commission. It wasn’t cheap; but I decide to do it because I was spending so much effort to make this a one-of-a-kind original; that it would just stupid (in my mind) to leave the plastics art to an armature artist like me.

                        The schedule we settled on was for him to deliver me Pen and Ink drawings electronically by this past weekend to enable me some time to create the plastics prior to TPF'2013. Monday he delivered the drawings.

                        Oh; and BTW: I'm retaining all rights to the art for now... as I have worked out final rights with the artist. No one is allowed to reproduce these for any reason.

                        Now that I had the ink files; It was time to do some photoshop work on it ... I decided I wanted to color the drawings rather than hire another professional; thereby spending more bank.

                        TBH; I'm very pleased with the results.
                        Gordon did an EXCELLENT job giving me the baseline for the art don't you think?

                        I may do some more work on Sulu as he looks off with the teeth.

                        Comments / Suggestions?

                        Now I need to send him the plans/Ideas for the BackGlass. First; I have to scan the existing backglass and measure the critical parameters. So; now is your chance to provide ideas for said backglass; I want to get him something by Friday.

                        On other fronts, the Nixie tube boards and digikey parts came in today... I’m only missing the backlight leds ... once I have them; I’ll be ready to start assembly.


                        • #13
                          The plastics look killer!!
                          Cut it, Paint it, Mod it. Void Your Warranty
                          #moddersinc @moddersinc


                          • #14
                            Holy freaking coolness!!!!

                            I too dont think the real pictures match the theme of the 'cartoonized" ones ... could you cartoon the real Scotty ? .. I know that the App for my phone's camera does a real good job at affects (in real time) "Paper Camera" .. wonder if you could do something similar ?

                            EDIT: oh, did not see this page .. Awesome!! great call on hiring a professional!!!

                            Good luck, cant wait for the next update
                            Last edited by DB; 03-03-2013, 06:22 AM.


                            • #15
                              The Mirror project was put on hold for the last three weeks... First due to the SxSw Intel LANfest I was hosting... and then Texas Pinball Festival this past weekend. Now that I had the Pins back in the Garage'cade; I've refocused my effort on the Nixie Pinball Display.

                              I hand assembled the base and display boards and soldered them together.

                              I didn't want to commit the untested display to my Bally Star Trek... so I needed to figure out how to facilitate debug.

                              First problem was how to supply 190VDC to the HV section. Some googling found me some 555 timer circuits which would run off of a 9V.
                              Had most of the parts except a 250V 4.7uf cap and a pot. A trip to Frys solved that problem.
                              A bread board and an ATX power supply and I had a 190V psu. The ATX supply provides +5v to the display and +12V to the 190V psu's input.

                              Here’s a picture of the prototype 555 190V Nixie supply:

                              Initial debug turned up a dumb assembly mistake..– I swapped U1 & U2 despite the clear labels on the silkscreen.

                              I hardwired the display inputs to only lite digit 1 and display an 8 (1000b). 8 because it's the digit which uses the most current given the largest area. This will allow me to verify the anode current before committing to a final anode resistor. To "latch" the 8 digit; I used my RatShack Logic pulser to toggle the LE pin.

                              I was able to empirically calculate the Anode resistor using the built-in test point and pot. 21.4k... now I just need to find some 22k 603 resistors to make it work. 21.4k gives me 2.5mA of anode current which is typical for the NH-12A tubes I’m using.

                              Here’s the top view of the display boards:

                              And the money shot for the backlite display:

                              I decided early on that I wanted the backlite to be purple rather than some other color because I thought it’d contrast nicely against the orange digits.
                              You can see the testpoint and Anode pot right below the Nixie tube. Obviously; these will be de-poped for “production” boards.

                              Here’s a picture I just thought was cool. A result of playing with camera shutter times:

                              With the resistor calculated; I need to focus on creating a Display tester so I can run the display thru all the digits and functions.