Friday, 4 March 2016

Weekly progress 29 February - 4 March

I’m at a crucial point in my MA studies, with only a few months left till the degree show, I’ve taken some time off my part-time graphic design job to focus on my projects.

The plan for my 6 weeks off is to make goals each week and try smash them to move the project on to make it a reality, this post is a journal of what I got up to during week 2.

This week my basic goals were:
  • Playfield & design + start printing process
  • Continuation of powering up the cabinet (and fixing problem from last week)
  • Finish & hand in print for the exchange project


Main focus today is continuing to translate the playfield to a digital cutter template, for lasercutting my own playfield. On Friday I was measuring and digitally drawing at the same time, but found it frustrating and long winded. So today I started making a note of sizes for larger areas before working digitally, as you'll see in the timelapse video of Mondays progress. 

The slow careful process of measuring the parts on the playfield and mapping them out in Illustrator.

I've made a sample to test my concept for making the inserts which glow up as the game is played. Instead of using predefined and expensive shapes of pinball plastics, I figured I could make any shape I liked by lasercutting. The only thing is when using more complex shapes I need the accuracy of lasercutting over CNC routing. Using CNC I could route out a lip or shelf for the plastics to sit into, however this isn't really possibly with lasers so I've tested this concept of using 2 sheets glued together.

I put in an order for some extra pinball parts to aid in the electronics and wiring side of things, along with some new buttons and the remaining LED bulbs I need to fully light the playfield.

Talking of LEDs... 
MyPinballs new auxiliary lamp driver
MyPinballs just released an add on board to supplement the pinball control boards I am using. I had been thinking the shooter lane felt very separated to the playfield, the new board will allow me to add in a set of strobing LEDs down the shooter lane. It's a simple board which can either work stand alone or be triggered by software. Have some ideas so look out for testing when it arrives.

Hopefully be an exciting week of postage!

Other excitement
I had a follow up call for an exciting project with State of Play games. I'm not sure how much I can give away just yet, but the project is based around my hand made prints with an embedded screen. I'm prototyping some amendments to the setup to allow cool things to happen.


Exchange Project
The deadline is looming so first thing today is to make sure I'm ready for the Thursday hand in. I need to prepare the second Raspberry Pi by cloning the SD card, quite a dull process. 

To make multiple versions of the same install, I follow this guide, it works best for me. It takes a long time (for 4GB - 20 minutes to backup the original, then 2 and a half hours to clone the new one). Terminal doesn't show progress, my advice is to type Ctrl+T in the terminal when running dd to make sure it is still running. Otherwise just go away to do something else in the meantime.

I had plenty to do in the meantime - fixing everything down into the frames. Hot glue and cable ties!

Hacking a Keyboard
I'm working on a version of my hand made prints with a digital screen embedded, which needs some custom input controls. Of course I could use something like an Arduino, but the setup would be significantly simplified if I could just hack a keyboard. So I'm on the search for old broken keyboards in Bristol! Trying out a wanted ad on freecycle to see if anything comes back.

Keyboard smash

More on keyboard hacking later in the week... maybe Friday.


Booked some laser cutting time to make a quick paper plan of the playfield cutter template I've been working on. I can lay this over the playfield and make any alterations - since it was all measured by hand there's bound to be a few bits a little off.

Ideally I would strip the top of the playfield to lay it flat against it.

Right away I can see the left slingshot cuts line up. Excellent, but on the other hand I can see a few that don't. That's ok, all I need to do is make a note and alter the files.

Exchange project
Getting everything prepared for hand in tomorrow, the mounted print gets glued directly into the frame (No More Nails glue) then packaged up.

But before packaging, I realise I probably won't really see these prints for a while, don't really want to take it down off the wall!


I signed and numbered the exchange prints, then went to fabrication to speak to Justin in woodwork about the best way to digitally cut the playfield. He suggested to increase strength, to sandwich a thicker core sheet of ply with two thinner sheets. This means I would have the inner core 6mm ply and the outer two 3mm ply to create 12mm in total, close to a traditional playfield. The wood is on order and should arrive next week.

Using my afternoon to make use of the photography studios at uni. As expected there was some reflection from the screen when using a flash to take a photo of the print - so had to do some creative tilting and balancing. Was a pain to get straight on the copy stand anyway, next time I'll use one of the larger photography studios so I can get more control.
Glare for the camera


I had a response to my freecycle advert for old broken keyboards, so took a bike ride out to Frenchay to pick them up since it was a sunny day. It was pretty straightforward and fun taking them apart and working out which pins need to be connected to control the correct keys. I took some documentation video of hacking a keyboard before wiring up to some test buttons. The buttons will/may control a pinball computer game at at exhibition in April, hopefully I can share more about that soon.

So this week has been busy again - the main aim of completing the exchange project and handing in went well, feels good to finish a big project.

I got a little further in developing of the playfield, again not as far as I would like, but I'm aiming to start cutting next week if I can. For my powering up the pinball machine goal that continued on from last week, I didn't receive the parts to start fixing the power issue until yesterday, so that is going to have to wait until the start of next week too.

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