Homebrew Pinball #3, Part 29

Cross posted from the original Pinside thread, this is one of many posts regarding my third homebrew pinball machine, creatively nicknamed 'P3'

I've spent a good amount of time playing with the upper magnet. It's positioned next to the shooter lane, right orbit, so that it can drop the ball to the upper right flipper.

The magnet had two use cases:
1. for the skillshot, if you plunge the ball up so that it stops next to the magnet, and then the magnet activates, pulling the ball sideways from the shooter lane to then release it to the flipper
2. to feed the upper flipper via left orbit shots. this is the main use case, with the skillshot just being a bonus. I didn't really forsee a problem with this while designing, but I've come to realize that this just isn't how magnets are normally used in machines. Games like Twilight Zone will stop a fast moving ball on an orbit, but they have the magnet directly under the ball's path. The magnet acts only as a ball grabber, not a diverter. Most cases I can find of magnets being used as diverters are things like TWD's crossbow, or WCS's lock. WCS is the closest to my use case, since it specifically grabs a moving ball, stops it, then drops it. But even WCS has issues grabbing a fast moving ball.

I quickly discovered that my original plan of wiring and mounting this magnet the same way the magna save is mounted just won't work. The magna save coil is being powered using 25V, while most newer games use 50V for their magnet. So I hooked up my 50V line to my magnet relay, instead of 25V, and... immediately fried my relay. The 50V is strong enough that, when the relay deactivates and its contacts move apart, the voltage will just arc across the gap and continue powering the magnet while melting the contacts. I had a similar issue with the 5-bank reset coil, and was able to fix it by adding a 10uF, 300V capacitor across the contacts. For some reason this doesn't work on the magnet. I wondered if the magnet was stronger, but the magnet actually has more resistance than the drop target coil. My random relay was only rated for 3A@25V though, so I ordered a really beefy relay, which was rated for 30A (!). I think my magnet should be drawing about 10-12A at 50V, so that should be plenty. But that relay also had constant arcing issues. I tried bigger snubber capacitors, other snubbing solutions, even disassembling the relay and physically bending it so the contacts are farther apart, and nothing helped.

It seems like switching 50V@10A just isn't reliable via a relay somehow, though I don't understand why. Modern games all control their magnets via transistors and mosfets, although I don't know if that is specifically to avoid this issue, or for other reasons. The problem is, I can't use those here, since my 50V has a separate ground from my 25V. My next plan is to get a TIP36C (which is what williams used for their 50V coils in the 90s), and then try to use a relay to switch the gate (instead of having a microcontroller switch it like normal) which feels like horrible overkill, but it may work. Even at that point, I'll still have issues because I can't PWM a relay, so I'll basically be running the magnet at full power. I'm not sure how long I can power the magnet like that, hopefully it's long enough to get the ball settled.

The magna save is also a completely 'below playfield' magnet, with no visible core. Adding a core that goes all the way through the playfield helps make the magnet stronger, and I assume that this is why games like TWD, which need to grab a ball shot at their wide bash toys, use an even bigger exposed magnet core. At first I figured I should just order one of those larger exposed cores, but they're incredibly expensive somehow (the large core costs more than the magnet itself!). Even a regular size core is expensive. I don't really want to spend that much money on something that may not even be useful, so for now I've just bought some 3/4" steel roundstock that I'll use to test the smaller exposed core. I can't find any info on how much stronger this make the magnet.

All this is still up in the air, too, as I don't know if the magnet will be able to grab the ball properly even with a large core and 50V, given the crazy speed my left orbit shot has. I've spent a lot of time trying just to get the 50V to work, and still haven't been able to even do a single test yet to see if the 50V can grab the ball since it keeps melting stuff

I'm also trying to consider other approaches, such as replacing the magnet with a physical diverter, but currently I can't find any good way to fit one in with my current constraints, and I would still need a magnet or an up post to hold the ball for a reliable side flipper shot after the diverter gets the ball to the flipper...

I may also try putting an up post in the shooter lane, specifically to stop the ball as it comes down the lane from the left orbit, and then using the magnet to pull the stopped ball over the flipper. I am running low on drivers for the coils though, so I want to avoid adding in more coils if possible...

Posted Tuesday, September 29, 2020
at 08:58 PM

Tags: Blog Post, Pinball, Project, P3,

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