Dave Mabry reports from Chicago, IL, USA:

After arriving in the middle of the night, Wednesday night, avoiding all the traffic, and sleeping in the van, we got up in time to register for the Stern Factory tour.

Mike Pacak arranged for seven school busses to take the anxious pinball enthusiasts from the Ramada to the factory itself, about 40 blocks away.

At the factory we were greeted by Ray Tanzer (below), the director of mechanical engineering,

and divided into groups of 15. Each group was led through the factory by its own Stern representative.

We observed and asked questions about all the stages of manufacture, from the creation of wiring harnesses on pin boards to the final assembly and testing of the completed machines.

Our group was led by Wesley Chang, project engineer, who did a fantastic job of describing the processes involved in building pinball machines and answering our frequent questions.

I was impressed by the lack of numerical control machines and all the labor-intensive processes.

Wesley told us that the machine below was originally in the Gotlieb factory, passed onto Data East/Sega, and now to Stern. He was proud of the history of it. It is used to press starting dimples into playfields to guide the wood screws and the drilled holes.

All the holes in playfields were hand drilled through a metal template. At another stage a worker was hammering in the T-nuts, and the next station a person was installing wood screws to secure each T-nut.

As the playfields progressed down the line they materialized into fully assembled pieces.

After testing as a complete playfield they are assembled into the cabinets and tested as complete machines.

It was fascinating to see these approximately 3500 parts consisting of 33 assemblies, 115 lights, 68 switches, 24 solenoids, 357 tie wraps, and 88 terminals materialize into the machines that we all cherish.

The end of the tour brought two special treats...each guest was given an Apollo 13 translite as a souvenir and a personal greeting by Gary Stern.

It was a truly memorible event and I appreciate all the work that went into organizing it and especially to Gary Stern for hosting our group.

Dave Mabry.


Editor's note:

Dave was also able to snap one of the new NFL games:

The playfield looks like a Striker Xtreme which makes more sense than the Star Wars Trilogy shown in previous adverts. The game looks complete except for the team specific translite, ROMs and instruction cards. Presumably the teams names on the playfield have changed from the countries used in SX to other NFL teams.


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