paddleballHave you ever known anyone who was actually good at paddle ball? You know–the wooden paddle with a rubber ball attached to it by a string? It’s a toy that no child I’ve ever known (myself included) has mastered but grandfathers the world over prove themselves paddleball champs. Maybe it just takes years to acquire the necessary skill or possibly we’ve all just needed a little extra help. Who would have thought that little, added finesse would be provided by 3D printing and Arduino?

Apparently, maker and 3D printing expert Mike Rigsby wasn’t much good at paddle ball either. He also seems not to have been willing to accept defeat, so he designed a 3D printed, Arduino-enhanced paddle ball rig that actually doesn’t make you want to fling the toy, throw up your hands, and vow never to attempt such folly again.

Rigsby, who is a frequent contributor to Instructables and goes by “MikeTheMaker” on the site, provided instructions, .stl files, and, most importantly, positive reinforcement for all of you would-be paddle ball champions (I’ve long since given up hope).

This project requires a servo motor, an Arduino Uno, four AA batteries, some hardware, a bit of glue, a soldering iron, a few 3D printed parts, and, of course, a paddle ball set-up. You begin by printing the base of the enhanced paddleball game. The base slides onto the end of a table, so it’s held in place when the fun begins. You’ll print the two other 3D printed parts, a rod and the bracket for the servo motor.

paddleball clampsAssembling the various parts is pretty easy. First mount the motor to the bracket and then mount them to the base. Rigsby, who has published a book, A Beginners Guide to 3D Printing: 14 Simple Toy Designs to Get You Started, shared a helpful technique for joining 3D printed parts: He “welded” the PLA pieces using a low-wattage soldering iron, which basically melts them together. Be sure you’re working in a well-ventilated room if you do this.

Next, Rigsby affixed the rod to the servo motor horn using magnet wire, although he suggests that fishing line would be just as effective. Glue the paddle to the rod assembly using super glue (he used the gel form).

Rigsby has also written an app, “How to Make a Science Fair Project,” and has written a number of articles on electronics, DIY, and 3D printing, so it’s clear he has plenty of experience using electronics, including Arduino. He used pin 7 of his Arduino Uno as the control pin for the servo motor and installed the sketch “servo.ino” to make it run. The servo itself is powered by the four AA batteries, with the negative from the batteries tied to the negative on the Arudino. He powered the Arduino with a 9 volt battery.

And that’s basically it, aside from sliding the device onto a glass table and turning it on. As far as the whole skill issue is concerned, Rigsby remarked, “If you don’t expect to hit the ball, you won’t be disappointed.” That’s encouraging advice. In its own way.

What do you think about this kind of Arduino-based project? Would it make you feel better about your skills with paddle ball? Let us know in the 3D Printing, Arduino, and Paddle Ball forum thread over at 3DPB.com. Check out a video of the results below.

paddleball main

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