We’ve all been disappointed at some point in our lives after yearning to play air hockey and not finding anyone to play against. This is no longer a problem at [Jose]’s house. He has built a very amazing Air Hockey Playing Robot. This robot moves in 2 directions, can predict the movements of the puck and also decide to block, shoot or a do a combination of both.
Surprisingly, most of the ‘robotics’ parts are 3D printer left overs, which includes: NEMA17 stepper motors, an Arduino Mega, a RAMPS board, motor drivers, belts, bearings and rods. The bracketry, puck and paddle are all 3D printed. The air hockey table itself was built from scratch using off-the-shelf wood. Two standard 90mm PC fans are all that are responsible for creating the air pressure used to lift the puck. A PS3 camera monitors the action and is literally this robot’s eye in the sky.
Check out the video and learn more about this project after the break.
Perhaps the most impressive part of this build is the way that it works. The camera mounted above the table watches the puck and determines its trajectory. The the robot then moves the paddle to the appropriate position to block and return the puck. The trajectory prediction can even take into account bounces off the wall. In case you are a sore loser, it is easy to adjust the robot’s speed, acceleration and strategy algorithms in order to guarantee yourself a win.
This is a complicated build and [Jose] did indeed have some problems to solve along the way. Originally, the rails that spanned the table were made of steel and turned out to be too heavy for the performance characteristics required of the gantry. The steel rods were replaced with carbon fiber tubes intended for kites. The lower weight reduced the gantry’s inertia and allowed for faster movements with less effort from the motors.
If you would like to try your hand at building one of these robots, [Jose] has written an extremely detailed manual and makes all of the software and firmware files available on his site. If only he had developed this just a year ago, we are sure he would have taken home the cup at this tournament.