Ultimarc MagStick Plus Modification (Potential Sanwa Hack?)

I was pretty disappointed with the MagStick Plus from Ultimarc. It wasn’t due to a lack of engineering, or the overall cool factor of the stick. No, it just didn’t “feel” right to me. It was nice that it has such a small throw, but you have to push entirely too hard to make it do its thing. It seemed that I’d even miss directionals at times, having not pushed the stick hard enough. Either that, or the switches were just sticking. I’m unsure which it was. The final straw was during a particularly heated session of Pac-Man: Championship Edition. I was almost certain that the MagStick had resulted in my demise via ghost touch on a few occasions, but never more-so than during the specific game in question. I hit down, I know I did, and the MagStick Plus didn’t register. As any gamer would do, I forcefully “punched” the stick in the direction it had missed. Lo and behold, the stick no longer registered the downward direction at all. That’s it. I have to do something about these crap microswitches.

This modificiation will make your MagStick Plus perform much better (in my opinion) with a lighter throw and a perceived greater responsiveness. Click on “More…” to see the full detail.

The MagStick Plus uses microswitches that have metal actuators attached. One thing that you’ll notice when looking at the bottom of the MagStick Plus is that it uses switches that have shorter actuators than what you’ll typically find in the wild. No problem there, I have a Dremel.

I needed some donor parts, so I went to the box of arcade crap and found a potential victim donor stick. It was some garbage no-name stick I bought off of eBay (mostly just to get the other stuff that was in the auction lot).

Here’s our brave parts donor stick (it’s a no-name Seimitsu knock-off, and a pretty bad one at that):

eBay Donor Stick

It has microswitches from “Acemake”, whoever that is. I’m sure they are junk, but would suffice for my purposes.  I’m going to order some Sanwa microswitches and do this mod with them, but for now I’m using these.
Here’s the bottom of the craptastic donor stick once I got all the metal plates and restrictors out of the way. Just raw exposed microswitches, baby.

Bottom of eBay Donor Stick

ANYTHING had to be better than the stock Ultimarc parts. For the record, the stock Ultimarc switches are SAIA brand, a Switzerland-based company. Upon having the raw switches in-hand, it became apparent that the SAIA/Ultimarc ones needed FAR greater pressure to actuate than the Acemake (which are very similar to Cherry, by the
way).

Here’s the bottom of the MagStick Plus for comparison.

Ultimarc MagStick Bottom

On some microswitches (like the Acemake), you’ll have the luck that the switch is easily disassembled so you can remove the metal actuation lever for easier cutting. On others (like Cherry), the switches will have melted tabs or rivets holding them together. Either way, cut the actuator on the line you drew using a Dremel or other tool of wanton destruction. Note, you’ll want to deburr and round the corners of the freshly cut part. That’ll prevent you cutting yourself on the edge, and will also make less of a chance that the part will want to get caught on something and bind-up. The original SAIA sticks are riveted so you can’t just steal the actuators off of those and use them on the new switches.

Here you’ll see the Ultimarc/SAIA switch on top, and the Acemake switch on the bottom. What needs to be done should be fairly apparent.

Switches Compared

Below, you’ll see the cut-line marked with the ultimate in precision:

Switch Comparison with Precision Mark

Below is the same process repeated 4x. You’ll note that I’m lucky enough that these Acemake switches disassemble easily, and I can remove the metal actuators for the cutting.

Switch Tabs all Marked

Once you have the switch actuators cut down to size, reassemble the stick. You’ll note that the Ultimarc switches used a .250″ quick disconnect, yet most common switches are .187″. You can use your existing .250″ quick disconnects, just pinch the connector’s sides with a needle-nose pliers. You’re not trying to make it “narrower”, but so that it grips tighter. You are going from O_O to o_o if you look at the end of the connector, not O_O to OO. Ascii art for the win.

You’ll have to use your imagination for some of the steps, as the last picture I took was it all assembled.

MagStick Plus all modded up

You may ask yourself if there are tangible results from this mod. The answer, my friend, is a resounding YES. Prior to the mod, the best I could do in Pac-Man: Championship Edition was ~170,000 points placing about 14,000th in All-Time Ranking in Championship Mode. In my SECOND GAME after this mod, I now place 7,500th in All-Time Ranking with about 230,000 points. That, people, is a 60,000 point increase and around 7,000 people higher rank, all for about 20 minutes of work. To me, that PROVES beyond the shadow of a doubt how bad the original Ultimarc switch elements are.

One Response to “Ultimarc MagStick Plus Modification (Potential Sanwa Hack?)” »»

  1. Comment by Michael | 06/16/12 at 10:18 pm

    Excellent rundown on the Joystick and modifications that would make it better.

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