HDD Driven Table Tennis Robot


Need to hone up your ping pong skills? Nobody to play with? That’s okay, you could always build a hard drive powered ping pong ball launcher!

[Vendel Miskei] must like 3D modeling. He’s drawn up his entire project in some kind of 3D CAD program (the textures look vaguely like Sketchup?).  It makes use of two HDDs, a computer power supply, a bunch of PVC pipe, a microwave synchronous motor, and an overhead light projector!

In order for the hard drives to grip the ping pong balls, it looks like [Vendel] removed all but one of the platters, then glued some foam to it, and what looks like the rubber from a table tennis paddle on top. He’s also made use of the original hard drive case by cutting the end off to expose half of the platter. It seems to be pretty effective!

The overhead light projector is actually just used as a convenient weighted stand for the entire project. The recycled microwave motor indexes the balls in a bucket, allowing for a huge number of balls to be queued up! Stick around after the break to see some of the awesome 3D renderings of the project, and the actual table tennis robot playing a game with its master!

[Thanks for the tip Paul!]

13 thoughts on “HDD Driven Table Tennis Robot

  1. looks good on paper but the problem is today’s hard drives have power saving and diagnostics that would shut down the drive.

    so you would either have to fool the firmware into keeping it spinning or use a brushless motor driver to run the spindle.

      1. Really? I’ve *never* been able to find a datasheet for one of the drivers on any of my old drives. And I’ve looked, in some detail. Though that could be due to the age of my donor drives, all I could ever find for the (supposedly) custom IC markings were references to places like “fixmyharddrive.com”, where people were asking for new chips.

        I spent a so long on trying to get a specific drive/chipset working, that I eventually designed my own driver board based on a TI BLDC motor driver IC, that will let me spin any (3-phase) BLDC motor I can lay my hands on. Probably one of the most useful boards I’ve ever designed!

  2. My only gripe is I’d rather it use a stepper for the ball feeder mechanism and adjust it so it shoots with a tempo that is closer to actual play, so it will give you a more realistic (though still predictable) practice session.

    Teach it to control the RPM/power of the throw and give it the ability to tilt and pan and it’d be a very convincing session indeed.

  3. Never ending ball supply:
    You need to connnect the Pipes on the sides of the table to a Vaccum cleaner, feeding it back to the bucket on the top.
    Is as easyly as you seal the top bucket and you do connect the vaccum cleaner to one side of the bucket and the pipe leading to the “catching pipe” to the other end.
    While the airstream cann pass the bucket, the balls will fall into it due to gravity.

    Just like this:

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