In the coming weeks we’ll be losing the shirts from our backs during ‘off-time’ at events in Monaco and Las Vegas, so we thought it a good idea to investigate some casino technology design.
We stumbled across Gamesman, the UK-based firm that provides the key buttons, reels and other components to the flashing wonders that are the slot machines, and they were more than happy to explain the complexities of a slot machine (which cost in the region of $50,000 each to design and build) and the intricate part that they play in the process.
Having started by making parts for UK pub machines, the company expanded to include a facility in China and an office in Las Vegas, and now makes the parts for gaming machines in all the major casinos – for which every new machine is a bespoke job.
“We do a range of standard products, but nobody wants standard products: Everything’s bespoke and themed around a new game,” explains Gamesman’s senior mechanical design engineer, Richard Löffler. The companies that buy the parts are buying a period of exclusivity for its machines, which they build into the themed cabinets that make up the full machine.
All have slight differences in size, shape, the proximity of the reels to the glass front, and how the reels are mounted, while buttons have to be able to take a constant pounding. Add to this the issues of having to design in anti-tamper measures, space for individual countries to fit their own tamper detection equipment, and then the mechanical issues involved with constant spinning and bashing, such as heat and electrical problems, Richard notes that it’s no wonder the big manufacturers turn to them to produce these specialist components.
The parts are designed fully in 3D using Solidworks – each of the company’s 10 designers working on individual projects, and sharing parts using the Vault PDM system.
Prototyping plays a big part – Gamesman need to produce realistic parts for validation, and to show to its customers – and it outlays a budget of nearly £30,000 annually for this, working with Protomold for a lot of what it needs. By using Autodesk 3ds Max to render its products as a means of marketing, it finds that it can help lower the cost.
In the coming months they are hoping to invest in an Objet 30
or 260v printer to take a lot of the smaller work in house, but still rely on bureaux to help them build parts, such as the larger ‘Toppers’, the eye-catching light installations that sit on top of the casings.
More importantly for us there appears to be no special way to beat the system, with all parts solidly and legitimately tested, so we’ll just have to take comfort in the free drinks…