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DIY Jurassic Park Backbox Light Panel

My friend, Marc, bought a Jurassic Park from our other friend Dave back in December. It was missing the light panel from inside the backbox. Someone replaced it with a flourescent light, which is unfortunate.

JP Fluorescent Light

The reasons for this modification may be any of the following:

  • Too damn distracting (It's a Data East 90's game)

  • Electrical problem (It's a Data East 90's game)

  • Burned something out (It's a Data East 90's game)

  • Got too hot (pre LED era)

  • Owner was evil

Anyway, Marc doesn't like the flourescent light. I agree. I am still disheartened that light shows have been cut from the modern Stern machines to reduce the BOM. In fact, I bought a nice interactive backbox lighting mod for $269 from Cointaker. for my Avengers LE machine.

We had a local pinball tech rock star from quote $350 to $400 to custom build a replacement, and the guy does great work. It would have kicked ass for certain. But, we thought we might get away with something for less.

Fair warning, I have neither the tools nor the skills to do this correctly...

Since I made the animated playfields for Attack from Mars and Creature from the Black Lagoon with the Arduino (FastLED library) and a lot of individually addressable LEDs, I figured we could get something workable (not beautiful) for under $100 for certain.

My first approach was going to be the same as the playfields. I picked up a piece of plexiglass at Home Depot for $13 and traced the relevant parts of the playfield onto it. It didn't have to look nice, just be a guide, since the lights are about 2" from the glass. They will glow and bounce all over.

I was going to make the 6 solder connections to each bulb. That was a lot of soldering, so I sort of stared at it for a while. I am pretty lazy, so I sat for a few weeks. Then, I remembered I had purchased some 50 light strings of individually addressable LEDs for $15. So, that meant just drilling some holes. Eureka! That removed almost all of the soldering from the project!

Oof. Well, now I know to drill slow on plastic. I cracked and chipped the hell out of it. A fellow Pinsider (Freeplay40, the ramp god) told me to drill slowly with a dull bit. So, lesson for next time. So, back to the drawing board. I was looking for something cheap and sturdy-ish. I wound up with a 2' x 4' piece of dry erase board from Menards for $6.

So, I drilled some holes, numbered them, and put the lights in there. I hooked up an Arduino Uno to it. I used my old program from Creature from the Black Lagoon as a base.

Arduino Uno

So, I coded up a basic show. It flashes several groupings with appropriate colors, including; the sky, the T-Rex, the people along the bottom, and the Jurassic Park sign. Additionally, I have some groups of lights that flicker to not overwhelm. I also have them turn on sequentially in a golden color. There is a bottom to top fade that I am still working on. All in all, the show cycles once a minute. It's not interactive, because I haven't messed with Pinduino yet (and it would have added another $100 to the BOM.)

Take a look if you like!

All in all, I am into this thing for $60:

  • $12 for the initial plexiglass

  • $15 for the string lights

  • $6 for the dry erase board

  • $9 for the Arduino

  • $2 for wire/solder for the harness

  • $9 for a power adapter

  • $7 for a case for the Arduino

I still have to work out some brackets and tap into the power. Next time, I might work directly on a piece of plywood and paint it. The dry erase board had a great mix of sturdiness, thickness, and price. But, it doesn't drill cleanly. I also have to attach the bulbs better. Hot Glue if I am lazy, some extra rubber rings if I want to put an extra $10 into it.

I want to update the colors. If anyone reading this is a solid coder, email me. I am making some dumb mistakes, and I'd love to get a 2 hour crash course. I don't have a lot of great tools, so the fit and finish is pretty bad on this, but it's behind the backglass.

#DataEast #InHomeGames #Prototypes #Maintenance #Underlights #Arduino #FastLED