Date: August 2014
Eighteen months ago we reviewed a clear full-playfield overlay which protects the playing surface from scratches, wear and insert damage. That product came from Playfield Protectors, and now we have another of their products to review - protectors for the plastics on your playfield.
Despite simply being flat pieces of printed cellulose acetate butyrate, playfield plastics are relatively expensive items and many are almost impossible to replace without breaking up a donor machine. So it makes sense to protect them if you can, as long as the price is reasonable and the look is attractive.
But these protectors do more than just protect, as we shall see.
For our review we took a Fish Tales machine which was being repaired and given a clean before heading off to a pinball show. The review kit for Fish Tales from Pinball Protectors contained six pieces.
The six protectors fit beneath the two slingshots, the two inlane ball guides, and the two plastics behind the fish standup targets on either side.
You'll notice the fluorescent green colour of the protectors. These acrylic pieces are not designed to fit unobtrusively under your existing plastics and perform their guardian role unnoticed. These protectors want to announce their presence loud and clear.
So the green is the colour of the plastic pieces and not a protective film layer, although the pieces do have one of those on each side too.
We began installation with the two slingshots.
The game was unmodified and used incandescent lamps for all playfield lighting, but we decided to fit some LEDs to the slingshots to really make the protectors pop. We used our GI device of choice, the Optix Maximus from Comet Pinball, which has a pleasing illumination pattern, no flicker in normal use, and a nice neutral colour.
Protection had been previously provided by a metal washer. It has done its job, but was aesthetically a bit of an eyesore. If the new protectors do their job, we won't be needing it anymore.
The green protector was an easy fit and looked pretty good by itself.
You can now see the effect these protectors produce. Along with the protection for the slingshot plastic, they also create glowing highlights around the edges of the plastic. With the slingshot cover replaced, the full effect can be seen.
The lower posts on each slingshot only just had enough extra thread to accommodate the thickness of the protector. It's enough to ensure it won't shake loose, but only just.
The edges of these protectors do have a knack of emitting light absorbed from many angles. Pick up a piece and it almost glows in your hand.
After completing the installation for both slingshots, it was on to the lane guides.
Having put LEDs in the slingshots, the incandescent lamps in the lane guides looked out of place, so they came out and another two GI LEDs were installed on each side. The bolts holding the lane guides were plenty long enough to cope with the additional layer of plastic.
The remaining two pieces fitted further up the playfield. One wrapped around the fishing reel ball lock mechanism, and the other fits in a similar position on the right side of the playfield.
The protectors are approximately twice as thick as the original plastic pieces, so they should withstand the rigours of being in a pinball machine. Just in case they are too thick for the existing fixings, a replacement threaded post was provided in this kit. There were no instructions provided with our sample kit, so we weren't sure where it went. In the end it wasn't needed anyway.
During installation we discovered that the protector around the reel mechanism was quite a bit longer than the plastic it protected. We hadn't noticed it before, but a section of that plastic was indeed missing on our game. Presumably if we'd fitted the protectors earlier we could have prevented this damage. Anyway, another item was added to the pinball shopping list.
When all six pieces had been installed, the transformation was remarkable.
The playfield was bright, colourful, and the glowing edges of the protectors produced a neon-like effect without any of the problems of installing LE wire. It may not quite be to Tron LE standards, but it looks pretty impressive nonetheless.
The warm-white light provided by the LEDs was lightly tinted green and reflected by the protectors, giving the whole game a much more attractive appearance.
These fluorescent plastic protectors are available for more than fifty modern games, and can be purchased from Freddy's Pinball Paradise in Germany. The six-piece Fish Tales kit costs €54.50 ($72.40, £43.60), while other kits vary in price and number of pieces.
Do they represent good value for money? When you consider the cost of replacing the plastics they protect, then the answer is a yes. When we checked a popular online parts retailer, the slingshots were $22, the right side plastic was $31 and so on. More of a concern though was that these parts were all out of stock.
The shields from Playfield Protectors are not the only plastic protectors on the market. A typical set of clear protectors for this game will cost half as much as the review set. The cheaper versions are designed to remain unobtrusive and are generally around the same thickness as the butyrate originals.
Whether you think the extra protection and the attractive lighting effects provided by Playfield Protector's product is worth the extra cost is going to be a personal call. We really like them, and will be showing them off at the UK Pinball Party in a week's time. If you're attending, just head for the green glow.
© Pinball News 2014