All About Mods: What are plastic protectors?
Frequently, we get questions about the purposes and use of plastic protectors by customers who are new to pinball modding. In this post, we talk about not only why you might consider buying plastic protectors but the variations you can find on the market.
So what are pinball plastic protectors?
Protectors are pieces acrylic or PETG cut in the shape of the factory plastics in your game. These plastic protectors are used on areas in the game where they get the most abuse from the traveling pinball, such as the lower playfield. Often when looking at older machines (pre-2000's), you'll find the slingshot plastics are broken. The purpose of plastic protector sets is to remedy this problem by creating a buffer layer between the factory plastics and the ball.
Plastic protectors also enhance the visual appeal of your pinball machine. Our plastic protector sets come in colors that compliment the game artwork. When the light shines under the plastic it provides an accent color to the playfield.
Types of Material and Colors
Two of the most common materials for protector sets are acrylic and PETG. Each type has its own strengths depending on your needs.
Acrylic is used broadly in the industry by many companies to make plastic protectors. It is thicker than the games plastics which provides great protection and it is available in a variety of fluorescent colors. The fluorescents provide vibrant edge lighting when placed over an area in the game with LEDs. Currently our flourescent acrylics are available in orange, yellow, green, blue and pink-aka 'red'. Clear acrylic is also available for those who do not want to change the visual effect of their playfield.
Rush Pro Pinball Plastic Protector set in fluorescent orange
Acrylic is a great material for those who want durability as well as enhancing the look of their game. The drawback for acrylic is that the thickness of there material can mean that some games require longer hardware than the ones that come with the game.
PETG in the pinball industry has historically been available only in clear and is popular due to its cost effectiveness, strength and thin profile. Because PETG protectors are often thinner they therefore doesn't typically require you to replace any of your games hardware (longer screws, etc). Recently our friends at Color Guard have developed a variety of colored PETG protector sets; red, green, purple, orange, yellow and blue. The colored PETG provides a much more subtle color accent than the acrylic.
True colors that are often not found in the acrylic style protectors such as red, purple and green are available in PETG. These truer colors do not block the light like their equivalent fluorescent version in acrylic.
The primary strengths of the PETG is their lower profile (additional hardware not required), their strength and the color availability. The slim fit and true colors of PETG are better for those who want a much more subdued effect on their playfield.
Plastic protector sets are relatively simple to install and require a nut driver (be sure to have a variety of sizes) and a screw driver (Phillips head). The type of set you purchase will dictate how much of the factory hardware must be required.
Types of Plastic Protector Sets
Protector sets come in a standard style that typically includes four pieces- two for the slingshots, two for the return lanes. These are the areas of the playfield where your plastics are most commonly likely to break.
You can also purchase sets that have a few additional pieces to protect or accent other areas of the playfield. Sometimes multi piece sets also come in multiple colors.
Lastly, sets are available for the entire playfield. These sets include fluorescent plastics for all of the lit pieces on the playfield. They have quite a dramatic effect on the visual experience of the game but are more challenging to install given the more complex installation of removing more playfield parts.
The Munsters Pinball CLiP plastic protector set
Most plastic protector sets are available in either colored or clear. All colored protector sets change the look of the factory plastics. Take this into consideration when purchasing the protectors to be sure you are happy with the color change on the factory plastics. In situations where the change in color is not to your liking, consider a clear set which offers protection and a clean look.
There isn't a doubt about whether you need plastic protectors- these pieces break over time and are worthy of the protection. What specifically you buy is the more important question. When you are buying, consider what effect you want the protectors to have as well as how much time investment you want to make for the installation.
Check out our most recent video on this topic for more information on pinball plastic protector sets.