Want to practice your air hockey skills? Tinkerer Jose Julio used standard parts of a RepRap 3D printer, an Arduino controller, two discarded PC fans, and some plain old wooden slats to construct an air hockey table complete with a robot opponent.
The robot, inspired by his daughter's love of the game, returns pucks with enough speed and precision to beat a child. "An adult with some experience... can still win [against] the robot, but I am sure that with some more small improvements it is going to be really hard to beat," Julio writes on his blog.
A 3D printer isn't a logical precursor for an air hockey robot. The robot needs to make sudden moves in reaction to the puck, while printers move steadily and consistently. However, RepRap parts are cheap, accessible, and powerful enough to do the job. Julio used the stepper motors, belts, bearings, rods, printed pieces, and more, although he rewrote the code from scratch. He used a Playstation 3 camera for the vision system.
Julio published the code for the project on GitHub with the hope that others will build and expand on it. He hopes the next iteration will be able to detect goals, for example. "All contribution to the project are welcome," he writes.