Date: 10th July, 2015
This weekend Andrew and Romain from Heighway Pinball have travelled to the Pintastic show in Massachusetts, USA to show the first two production Full Throttle machines. But before they headed to the airport, Pinball News paid a visit to the Heighway Pinball factory to check on the team's progress.
We last visited at the end of 2014 when the company had just moved from their single unit just across the street to the much larger double unit.
All the equipment had been transferred to the left-hand unit while the right-hand one was cleaned and dried. That was completed soon after Christmas so that operations could be moved in January.
Since then, development and ordering parts for Full Throttle has been underway, with further development taking place on the company's second game, Alien Pinball, and their other upcoming titles.
Part of that development of Full Throttle has been the change of the in-playfield LCD panel from a 4:3 aspect ratio model to a 16:10 widescreen one.
Widescreen monitors are now the standard shape in the LCD manufacturing business, so adopting them from the start of production provides continuity across future models and helps ensure supplies are available well into the future.
But the change also results in redesigned playfield artwork and modifications to the LCD graphics to make the most of the new screen's real estate.
To show you the new display graphics we went behind-the-scenes into Heighway Pinball's software development area to see Janos Kiss, who showed us a selection of the new animations and some of the software he uses to develop and test them.
As a side note, a second LCD panel will be able to purchase as an add-on to fit between the two backbox speakers, mirroring the in-playfield LCD to act like a traditional DMD, but in higher resolution and in full-colour.
While modifications to Full Throttle have been underway, Heighway Pinball have been investing in equipment to reduce reliance on external suppliers and bring several more aspects of pinball manufacturing in-house.
First is their new flat bed printer.
The Océ Arizona 350GT prints CMYK and white UV-cured inks, and can direct print onto playfields, as well as plastics and paper.
The printer contains a strong UV lamp so that the printed ink dries almost instantaneously.
The current batch of playfield were not printed in-house, but it is certainly Andrew's intention to change that as soon as possible, and clearcoat the playfields in the factory's spray booth.
But if you're going to make playfields, you're going to need one of these.
The CNC router can cut, drill and dimple playfields, and also cut plastics using a variety of different tools.
And just to complete the set, here's their new injection molding machines which can make plastic parts from character models to inserts, pop bumper parts and flipper bats.
All these new pieces of equipment will obviously take time to master and bring on-line, but they illustrate how Heighway Pinball doesn't wish to be totally reliant on external suppliers (and their associated lead-times, mistakes and delays) for their game parts.
As we visited, Full Throttle machines were being built in the factory.
At that moment they were waiting for the last few parts to arrive from suppliers to allow the playfields to be completed. These were expected to have arrived by the time you read this. In the meantime, playfields were being built-up as far as possible.
Interestingly, the ball guides were made from polished steel rather than the more common brushed finish. This mirror-like finish helps reflect light and gives the playfield a more open feel.
Speaking of game parts, we also visited the factory's parts store.
Back at the production lines, the cabinets are also being fitted out.
The cabinets feature a new slide-rail mechanism which allows the playfield to be slid out easily for exchange or replacement, while nylon blocks provide two different positions to raise the playfield for maintenance.
Although the lock bar latch is a traditional style, the lock bar itself is built into a metal frame which holds the playfield glass.
The top of the magazine slots in at the top under the backbox to secure it.
When the games are fully assembled and tested they need to be shipped, and there is plenty of packing and shipping material in the factory.
That concludes our look around the Heighway Pinball factory as production of their first game, Full Throttle, begins.
We'll be back with much more from factory soon, including our report on the UK Pinball Party which, this year, is being held in the second empty unit right next door.
© Pinball News 2015