6 November, 2003
Pinball Expo started with the traditional tour of the Stern factory, and as usual everything was running late. Transport was the regular convoy of yellow school buses. The schedule said they would leave at 9am, but as usual we were still standing out in the cold half an hour later.
Fifteen minutes later, success...
...and we were away. We were in the last bus and after a thorough tour of the hotel car park and a disused factory forecourt - a delight passengers on other buses were denied - we arrived at the Stern factory.
For the first time I can recall, there was a check of our tour tickets and then we were into the factory. The tour guide for our group was Stern's Lonnie Ropp who explained each stage of the production process starting with the cabling section.
The game in production was The Simpsons Pinball Party - a second run - after which Lord Of The Rings would begin. As a TSPP owner it was especially interesting to see how it was made.
The wiring looms are made up using these panels and following instructions printed on the paper sheets behind. Curiously, the instructions are printed in English and Spanish.
The wires are then tie-wrapped at various points and removed for testing in another part of the factory.
Elsewhere in the factory, playfields are starting their journey along the assembly line.
As they are taken from the rack they are drilled for mounting screws and bolts through a metal template.
While the playfield is slowly populated with mounting hardware, in a different part of the factory various assemblies are being constructed.
These are installed as the playfield travels across the factory floor gathering more and more parts until it is ready for the cosmetic enhancements.
Then the completed playfield is ready for testing.
Here the playfield is connected to a test rig to make sure all the elements work correctly before it is installed in a cabinet.
Finally, the main cabinet is mated up with a backbox and the completed game is ready for crating and shipping to dealers.
On the way out we are given a selection of flyers. This was a nice gesture but a little bit disappointing as last year we received a translite and before that some Austin Powers toys and flyers.
However, it was great to see a pinball factory in full flow producing a second run of The Simpsons Pinball Party, with the eagerly awaited Lord Of The Rings coming up next so thanks to the folks at Stern for hosting this event.
© Pinball News 2003