Monday, 18 May 2015

Heighway Pinball: Part 2

I have recently completed seven days of work experience with Heighway Pinball between March & April 2015.
See part 1 or continue to part 3.


If I could summarise using only one word to describe my time at Heighway Pinball, I would say, quite confidently: “parts”. This is really the main area I hoped to learn more about, in order to understand more about how to build a pinball machine.

Some of the many fabricated parts, these were made locally.

A pinball machine has so many different components, most of which needs to be specifically designed and manufactured. Although I was aware of this, the reality of quantity to mass produce machines is something I had not taken into consideration.

With such a huge amount of stock, worth many thousands of pounds, it’s important for Heighway Pinball to manage the stock well. Heighway have put into place a catalogue software system to organise stock and record where everything is located. It’s a booking system, where parts are signed in and out of the stock room.

When I was there, deliveries were coming in every day from all around the world from specialist pinball suppliers as well as local fabricators. Every single item needs to be checked and counted. There is also a strict quality control which comes into play here, Heighway don’t want to supply its customers with scratched metal parts or misprinted playfields due to errors in manufacturing process.

Rejected parts area

This level of quality control is clearly making things take a bit longer than anticipated, but they must be respected for ensuring the product put to market is of a high standard and uses locally sourced products where they can.

Slingshot assembled

Amongst the many deliveries I helped check and count was from American supplier, Marco, is bumper parts. When counting I notice the number 66 seems to be an important number. Sandor tells me this is because the original plan is to make a run of 22 machines and there are 3 bumpers per machine.

Another memorable delivery was of thousands and thousands of specially made electronics wire from China that we had the epic task of counting, when at the same time each different type needed to be checked by Baptiste Fontaine, electronics technician.

The caged, secure parts room

After counting, the parts are placed in separately numbered boxes and put on the appropriate shelf or trolley in the secure parts room.

Soldering switches

Now parts are in stock, some items such as bumpers, slingshots and flippers can be sub-assembled to make the process of the final assembly much easier and faster.

Sub-assembly of bumpers

When assembling we consulted with the original 3D CAD drawings which were produced by James Rees, Senior Design Engineer using SolidWorks (he gave me a quick overview, I need to learn this software!). Sandor would put together a sample assembly for each item which was first checked by the Technical Director, Romain Fontaine before we set about the production line of sub assembly.

I have recently completed seven days of work experience with Heighway Pinball between March & April 2015. See part 1 or continue to part 3.

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