Creating an Air Hockey Robot from a 3D Printer

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Air hockey is a game which, until now, required two people to play.

However, that has now changed for Spanish designer Jose Julio, after he created an air hockey robot out of 3D printer parts and a PlayStation 3 camera.

Jose Julio’s daughter is an air hockey fan, and Julio loves robotics. So it’s only natural that Julio would be inspired to create an air hockey robot.

According to his blog, Julio said that at first, the project seemed complicated and had many unresolved questions, but Julio said that those were all part of the fun. Undeterred by the challenge, Julio set out to construct his very own air hockey robot. In order to create the robot, however, Julio first needed an air hockey table – which he fashioned from wood and left over items, such as PC fans. But he didn’t stop there; he continued on to design a robot that would be able to compete in a functioning game of air hockey.

Julio designed the robot using standard RepRap 3D printer parts, NEMA17 stepper motors, drivers, Arduino Mega, RAMPS, belts , bearings, rods, and printed pieces. Julio said that the main advantage of using these parts is that the parts are cheap and easily available.

The real challenge came when “teaching” the robot to play air hockey. Julio used a PlayStation camera and developed a vision system that tracks the puck and its expected trajectory. The PlayStation camera was mounted above the table to predict the moves of the puck so the robot can react and move the paddle accordingly.

The invention was a success! While the robot can easily beat a small child, an adult with experience can still defeat the robot, “but I am sure that with some more small improvements it is going to be really hard to beat,” Julio wrote in his blog.

The design for the air hockey table and robot is available online.

This isn’t the first time Julio has experimented with robotics and 3D printing. In 2013, he created, designed, and printed another 3D robot. Julio sees great potential for his hockey-playing robot –such as robot vs. robot air hockey competitions, but for now, the air hockey-playing companion is enough.