Retrotechtacular: Robots and Bowling Pins

On a recent bowling excursion it occurred to us that this is one of the most advanced robotics systems most Americans will directly interact with. That’s a bold claim today, but certainly one that was correct decades ago. Let’s take a stroll back to 1963 for a look at the state of the art in bowling at the time, the AMF automatic pinspotter.

With their basis in industrial automation, bowling was a perfect problem for the American Machine and Foundry company (AMF) to take on. Their business began at the turn of the 20th century with automated cigarette manufacturing before turning their sights on bowling pins after the second world war. The challenge involves more than you might think as pinspotters are confined to a narrow area and need to work with oddly-shaped pins, the bowling ball itself, and deal with setting up fresh frames but also clearing out the field after the first roll.

Separating the ball from the pins is handled by gravity and an oscillating plunger that pushes errant pins back onto a conveyor. That conveyor stretches the width of the lane and moves pins back to a pin elevator — a wheel moving perpendicular to the ground with orients and raises them to a swiveling conveyor belt that can drop them into the setting jig waiting for the next full frame setup.

Everything in this promo video has jargon which is just delightful. We especially enjoyed the non-mechanical mention of how the machine “clears dead wood from the pin deck”. We could watch this kind of automation all day, and in fact found some other gems while searching about. Here’s a more recent look a the AMF 82-70 (the same model as in the promo video). We also wondered about manual pinspotting and found this manual-with-mechanical-assist setup to be interesting despite the audio.

Much to our surprise we’ve featured AMF in a Retrotectacular article before. Once their bowling automation started to take off, they set their sights on restaurant automation. Looks like Brian Benchoff’s visit to the robo-hamburger joint was actually a retro experience!

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Hackaday Links: November 20, 2016

The Raspberry Pi 2 is getting an upgrade. No, this news isn’t as big as you would imagine. The Raspberry Pi 2 is powered by the BCM2836 SoC, an ARM Cortex-A7 that has served us well over the years. The ‘2836 is going out of production, and now the Raspberry Pi foundation is making the Pi 2 with the chip found in the Raspberry Pi 3, the BCM2837. Effectively, the Pi 2 is now a wireless-less (?) version of the Pi 3. It still costs $35, the same as the Pi 3, making it a rather dumb purchase for the home hacker. There are a lot of Pi 2s in industry, though, and they don’t need WiFi and Bluetooth throwing a wrench in the works.

So you’re using a Raspberry Pi as a media server, but you have far too many videos for a measly SD card. What’s the solution? A real server, first off, but there is another option. WDLabs released their third iteration of the PiDrive this week. It’s a (spinning) hard disk, SD card for the software, and a USB Y-cable for powering the whole thing. Also offered is a USB thumb drive providing 64 GB of storage, shipped with an SD card with the relevant software.

Mr. Trash Wheel is the greatest Baltimore resident since Edgar Allan Poe, John Waters, and Frank Zappa. Mr. Trash Wheel eats trash, ducks, kegs, and has kept Inner Harbor relatively free of gonoherpasyphilaids for the past few years. Now there’s a new trash wheel. Professor Trash Wheel will be unveiled on December 4th.

YOU MUST VOICE CONTROL ADDITIONAL PYLONS. With an ‘official’ StarCraft Protoss pylon and a Geeetech voice recognition module, [Scott] built a voice controlled lamp.

Everyone loves gigantic Nixie tubes, so here’s a Kickstarter for a gigantic Nixie clock. There are no rewards for just the tube, but here’s a manufacturer of 125mm tall Nixies.

Here’s an interesting think piece from The STL file format is ancient and holding us all back. This much we have known since the first Makerbot, and it doesn’t help that Thingiverse is still a thing, and people don’t upload their source files. What’s the solution? 3MF and AMF file formats, apparently. OpenSCAD was not mentioned in this think piece.

Retrotechtacular: Automatic For The People

Throughout their long history, American Machine and Foundry (AMF) have made forays into many areas of automation. And as the American cultural landscape of the 1950s and ’60s shifted toward fast, cheap, and convenient foodstuffs available for consumption inside of spacious, finned automobiles, AMF was there with AMFare, an (almost) completely automated system for taking orders, preparing food, and calculating bills.

AMF named the system “ORBIS” after its two main functions, ordering and billing. But ORBIS was not completely autonomous. A human operator received orders from a table-side telephones inside the restaurant and intercoms used by drive-in customers, and entered them on an enormous console. Orders were routed to several machines to prepare the food, cook it, and package it in various ways. We witness the odyssey of the burger in complete detail, from punching out perfect patties to their final, plastic-wrapped form.

Surprisingly, the AMFare selection wasn’t limited to delicious burgers, fries, and milkshakes. It could crank out sixteen different menu items, and do so pretty quickly. In the space of one hour, AMFare could produce more than 400 burgers, over 350 orders of fries, or about 700 milkshakes. Even so, collating the orders required human intervention. We imagine that the awful task of cleaning all that expensive Rube Goldberg-esque machinery did, too.

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