Pinscape V2 has been around for more than 3 years. I thought I would go back to talk about why I like Pinscape so much and why you should consider using it in your cab. This append is specifically referring to the Pinscape expansion boards rather than the stand-alone KL25Z version.
Pinscape is based on a set of 100mm x 100mm PCBs which provide everything you need for a virtual pinball cabinet including:
- 24 input buttons for everything from flipper buttons to a tilt bob
- Integrated plunger support and calibration
- Nudge support using an accelerometer
- TV remote control using IR or power on using a relay
- 16 current limited LED outputs for 5V LED lamps as used in lighted buttons such as “start” and “launch ball”. One nice use is for RGB clear flipper and optionally magnasave buttons. This makes a table even more realistic by showing the correctly colored buttons. The PWM feature allows for a wide range of colors by altering the hue of the red, green, and blue LEDs.
- 16 power LED outputs (up to 1.5A) which can be used for up to 5 Cree RGB flashers plus one left over for strobe or other high power LED.
- 32 MOSFET power outputs for driving higher powered devices such as contractors, solenoids, motors, fans etc
- 9 MOSFET power outputs with hardware-based timers for driving noise-maker solenoids such as a knocker, chimes, or real pinball solenoids that may cause issues if driven continuously (either deliberately or via a software failure).
Pinscape is provided as a set of Eagle PCB schematics and boards that allows anyone to build their own boards using through-hole parts. All of the support software for configuring and using Pinscape is Open Source with active support provided by the author – MJR. Full credit to MJR for creating and maintaining the Pinscape platform.
Pinscape is compatible with the older style LED-WIZ type of keyboard controllers and uses the Windows joystick interface for nudge (X/Y) and plunger position (Z). The older style type of controllers based on LED-WIZ and relay boards have several limitations not present with Pinscape. You would need three 32-port LED-WIZ to provide a similar number of input/output ports. Then additional relay boards or MOSFET boards need to be added as LEZ-WIZ has a very limited current capacity. Pinscape uses MOSFET for power outputs with PWM (pulse width modulation) capability. This is superior to relays which can only be on or off whereas PWM allows for any percentage from 0 to 100 thus providing the ability to control the color of a RGB LED or the speed of a motor. In the case of a motor control the MOSFET provides a half H-bridge which is sufficient to control the speed of the motor using PWM.
Pinscape also provides for timed outputs using a hardware timer. This means that a solenoid is automatically turned off after 2 seconds to prevent burnout and excessive power usage. For example this can be used for flipper solenoids where you don’t want to keep the noise maker energized the whole time a flipper is being held. In a recent Pinscape software improvement, you can also turn off an output after a predetermined timeout in milliseconds to allow for reactivation such as chimes. Note that software timeouts are still not a fail safe for a solenoid staying on.
Pinscape is modular in nature. Additional power output boards and timed output boards can be daisy-chained to provide a total of 128 outputs that can be controlled by the direct output framework (DOF). Pinscape provides a complete solution and very little extra is needed besides wiring, resistors for Cree RGB LEDs, and fuses. Fuses help protect Pinscape and like insurance are optional until the time that you need them. I recommend using slow-blow fuses on all the MOSFET and timed outputs to reduce problems.
Pinscape does not support addressable LEDs and a separate solution such as using Teensy is required.
Pinscape uses standard 0.1” headers for all of the input and outputs. This requires the creation of several connector blocks with crimped connectors and investment in a crimping tool. The connector blocks are hard to change later without more crimping and provide a certain level of inflexibility.
While Pinscape is modular and this helps with expandability, most people will not need more than the main board, power output board, and timed output (Chime) board. It would be nice if all of this was integrated onto a single board for convenience.
Pinscape is very much a DIY solution which is fine if you have the skills and patience to collect the PCBs and solder all of the various electronic components. One company (GGS) does provide pre-soldered boards but per other appends on this forum, I would recommend against using them because there have been so many reports of significant delays in delivery (months), poor communication, and boards that simply don’t work because of poor soldering and part placement issues.
Edit: Corrected a few typos but no content changes.
Edited by MikePinball, 05 August 2019 - 01:24 AM.