Pinball Machine Playfield Overlay Project (Page 2)
Page 1 here
A Different Approach: Direct Ink
The advent of flatbed UV curable ink electronic printers such as the Colorspan 9840uv has brought about the possibility of printing the artwork directly onto the playfield plank. Thus instead of first printing onto a multi-layer piece of plastic, the artwork is completely sanded off the old playfield, and it is then directly used for printing. John Greatwich decided to develop this process, and I sent my old playfield along with the modified artwork file to attempt the Direct Ink method. My only cost was the shipping of the playfield to him.
His first operation was to sand all the old artwork off, and to level the surface.
The playfield, that was used for the overlay calibration
and test printing, sanded smooth.
Step 2 is to mask the inserts and spray the white layer.
The Colorspan 9840uv flatbed printer.
and the printing of a Paragon backglass.
The resulting product is shown in the image below.
The printed playfield at the next step: white letters.
Note the misalignment of the "USA" inserts at the top.
The solution was to first clearcoat the UV print with water-based Varathane, and then applying the automotive clear. This mishap was a blessing in disguise as the first print had a misregistration at the top of the playfield (near the "USA" inserts). Since the application of the white masking is a separate manual process, it is possible to get misregistrations between that and the color layers.
I sent John another file with the top part skewed over (based on photos of the above), and the reprint did not have the problem (composite photo below).
12/09 update. I adjusted the artwork and John reprinted
the playfield. Registration is now much better. Click
image for full size version.
First, the clearcoat layer is excellent. John did a good job with the auto clear.
In his words, this is the process that John used:
Sanded playfield gets 2 coats varethane, mask &
white auto acrylic
white high gloss (rattle can Sherwin Williams), 2 coats varethane,
printer inks with color span 9840uv printer, 3 coats varethane, & 2
coats of finish DuPont!
clear. The entire playfield is wonderfully flat with no edges on the inserts.
I am quite proud of the artwork file that was printed.
Sections of the playfield. Click for full res version.
The two playfields side-by-side. Click for full resolution.
(Note the autographed plastics on the machine).
For now, the playfield will be used as artwork for display in my home.
It just looks really good.
I want to thank John Greatwich for his perseverance, dedication and
hard work during this experiment. He has produced a means to
restore playfields to their original appearance using modern
technology. The result is a beautiful playfield.
- July 28, 2007 - Sent old playfield and file to John for printing.
- July 2009 - It has been two years, and John has hit a snag with the quality of printing and the registration accuracy. He has now moved onto printing glass for backglasses. It appears this printing process is not viable.
- December 2009 - John has decided to try again with Direct Ink onto playfields.
- April 2010 - I finally receive my playfield back
and it has been beautifully restored.
Artwork is submitted in vector format, instead of raster. This allows artwork to be infinitely enlarged without problems. A common software for this is Adobe Illustrator. Since my knowledge of this software was poor, I decided to join forces with Cameron Jensen, and we started to redraw the Space Shuttle playfield.
The playfield is printed with the authentic silk screening method. This allows very saturated inks to be used with the 'true' color. This is superior to "process color" methods used by four color ink printers (such as the Colorspan 9840uv). As a result, the artwork needs to redrawn in separate layers, each layer representing one screen. Our artwork file has over ten layers, and includes the calibrated Photoshop file. Having this latter file made the redraw process much easier, and we surprised Kevin Wayte (from CPR) with the speed of our progress.
The pink layer represents the bare playfield.
The layers are printed from light to black, and are as follows:
- Pink - the bare wood
- Light Yellow - for the areas under the plastics and the main ramp.
- Light Blue
- Light and Dark Grey - combined into one layer here for file size
- Dark Blue - mainly the sky in the lower playfield
- Black - the upper playfield space background, and all the artwork lines.
One area of considerable effort was what I called the 'gradient dots'. This was of some difficulty in the overlay as well, and Cameron was able to find a way to define a series of dots with increasing size. This ballooned the size of the Illustrator file from ~2MBytes to 8MBytes, but there is no other way to transition color gradually when using silk screening as the printing method. This is shown in time image below. Each object has been 'selected' causing an outline of it to appear. One can see that the dots are individual circles in the file.
Close zoom of the ball lock area shows that the gradient dots are
individual objects. This drastically increased the size of the file.
In the Fall of 2011, the playfields started to be printed. This is an image
of the layers without black.
Click here for a YouTube video of Space Shuttle being printed (Sept 2011).
Mike at CPR posted the following note on 9/14/11 regarding their progress:
Ok, it''s not exactly a Hollywood Blockbuster but
think it's pretty cool. Space Shuttle seemed like a
Anyway they turned out SWEET!
In the middle of March 2012, I received the finished playfields, and was very happy with the result. Kevin at Classic Playfields produced a special 'white' version with the Commemorative Space Shuttle logo design.
Left: Direct Ink. Middle: Screened playfield. Right: Screened 'white' version.
This is a close-up of the medallion with the
Space Shuttle Commemorative design.
Above: Screen snap of CPR's webstore page.
Click image for the photo gallery
I received this playfield and signed it for the purchaser.
-Due to one-pass printing, layers will not have misalignment.
printed on playfield
||$100 - $200
||-Lowest cost for
-No change in location of inserts and posts due to an original playfield being used.
|-Need to completely
strip playfield including all parts, wires, and
-Process in development.
restoration and the best looking colors.
requires completely removal of all parts, including
wires and fasteners.
|$600 - $800
- July 5, 2008 - Start of construction of vector Illustrator files from bitmap Photoshop files.
- August 30, 2008 - Files completed and submitted. We now await the playfield to be made.
- July 17, 2009 - Kevin sends me an e-mail asking me the exact size of my playfield (41 7/8" x 20 3/8"). They are placing the order for the wood.
- August 19, 2010 - Website shows orders for Space Shuttle have closed and that it will be the next to be made.
- September, 2011 - Kevin is printing the playfields and sent me a photo of the status.
- October, 2011 - Playfields are shipping. See the gallery. What a nice result.
- 15 March, 2012 - I received three playfields from Kevin. One is the commemorative 'white' edition.
Page 1 of the Space Shuttle Playfield project here
(c) 2010 Edward Cheung, all rights reserved.