Project ClusterPuck

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The thread that started it all.

An air-hockey table is fun, but has the potential to be made much better with some creative hackery. Additionally, this project is sure to be a massive hit at a Makerfaire and will appeal to young and old alike.

A general "ClusterPuck gettin' organized" brainstorming session will be held at 21:00 after the Arduino introductory class on Tuesday February 5th. This page serves/will serve as a general placeholder for the great ideas already suggested through the Google Group and those that are sure to be generated in the brainstorming session.

?? have graciously donated a table and has been brought to the space. Some lessons have been already been learned and are summarized on the Clusterpuck Test Table page.

With so many ideas, things can quickly get out of hand and so two guiding principles have been proposed:

  1. Always have a working air-hockey table in the space, because air-hockey is fun.
  2. Keep it simple, at least for the first table, so that we stand a chance of completing it.

Keeping that in mind, we might want to keep the first version in Arduino land before discussing Cray-compatible builds. The possibility to open the table up and having modular add-ons would be a good thing to strive for.

To see the project page for the first iteration see ClusterPuck v1.0.

Future iterations will include any number of the ideas listed below, tentatively sorted into categories.


It would't be a clusterpuck project without multiple pucks. Some important things to consider are puck weight and colour. For puck designs (that may include logos) there needs to be a slight cup design in the center. It's required for the thing to stay balanced on an air cushion. If it's flat on the bottom, it will not tend to remain flat. As one end comes off a jet of air, it will be more inclined to tip and have all the air rush out under the other side. So it wont glide as smoothly. It serves the same purpose as the skirt on a hover craft.

3D Printed Pucks

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3D printed puck with KnoxMakers logo

Thingiverse has some models for 3D printed pucks but we wanted some with the Knoxmakers logo on it. Adan is busy making some prototypes based on specifications. Current design weighs 12g.

Pucks with Embedded Magnets

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cross-section of a 3D model of a KnoxMakers puck with space for an embedded magnet

Printed prototype with an embedded NdFeB magnet has been made and tested. Add 3g to weight for magnet.

Pucks with Active Electronics

Budgeting a certain amount of weight for embedded electronics in the design is advisable.

Pucks with RFID

Embedding the pucks with RFID can pave the way for proximity induced activation of various game elements.

Aluminium Pucks

Casting Pucks from 3D printed model? An aluminum puck would interact with a magnetic field through hysteresis. Manipulating the field could provide motion... with no magnets on the field of play. A fixed field would dramatically slow the puck; a motile field would drag it. Extremely powerful forces.

Invisible Pucks

Printing pucks the same colour (or also transparent) as the table surface makes them "invisible". The possibility to turn sidelighting (UV or otherwise) ON/OFF can make them visible/invisible.

Fan and Laminar flow

Picking the right fan is going to depend on the table and will eventually dictate some limits on puck design.



-triple bellow?

Laminar flow

[Laz] has indicated that he has some experience with flow modelling.

Table Surface

Deciding on a table surface material, size, shape and hole pattern are all elements that can be varied. Cleaning/waxing, issues with scratching.

Multiple Players

Why limit ourselves to the classic 2 players and a rectangular table? What about a hexagonal table? It increases the game mode possibilities significantly, as well as being extra ClusterPucky.

Transparent Table

A see through table made out of plexiglass, acrylic or polycarbonate showing the guts of the beast or Rube Goldberg like contraption moving parts like puck-return slides or have some part of the ClusterPuck system mechanically computed. Making the table see-through will open up a world of possibility regarding EL-wire, side lighting and showing active areas. Scratching might become an issue.

Projection onto the table

Projecting score or "active areas" onto the table from below of via a canopy. Possibility exists to make the projected image change based on scores, sensor inputs and active game elements. The idea has been suggested to project a fractal

Special Features

Electromagnets under table surface

Ring lit electromagnets that can interact with pucks embedded with a permanent magnet or metal pucks. Ability to turn them on/off is a must. Electromagnets that slide back and forth under the surface on rails are also a possibility.


How about pinball-style flippers in the corners... with a twist. Literally. Curve the flipper surface and it'll spin the puck.


Goal design is another part of the game that can be altered- triangular, circular, different points per goal zone.


Apparently the "official" name for the device you use to whack the puck with is a mallet. It is yet another aspect of gameplay that can be altered, with many alternatives to your run-of-the-mill mallet possible. Think different geometries, grips, flashing LEDs and buttons that do awesome stuff.

Mallet Gloves

Inspired by a desire for hand protection after some octomagnet-puck induced pain.

3D printed Mallets

Some mallets can be found on thingiverse.

Mallets with active electronics

Many possibilities here for pinball like action and communication with other table elements. Mallets communicate wirelessly (XBee?) with the ClusterPuckController, enabling various actions. Most notably.... the firing of the GAPguns. So much potential for these mallets. Dream away, people.

Puck Returns

General Return

To add pucks into play: shoots directly across the table at the midline to add a new puck when all other pucks have left the table. Must have retracting wall so surface is appropriately puckflective when not in gun mode.

Goal-Aimed Puck guns (GAPguns)

two aimed at each goal, from ~1/3 way down-court, one from each side (left and right). Must have retracting walls so surfaces are appropriately puckflective when not in gun mode. Each pair is controlled by one player via buttons. These communicate with the ClusterPuckController, enabling various actions. We must decide how a player earns the ability to fire the guns... through what power-up or whatever. I agree with those who've said this shouldn't be a rich-get-richer thing, but rather an alternative way to stay competitive, maybe through accurate pinging of pucks against a sidewall feature? Or something? Alternatively, hitting within an inch of the same spot on the sidewalls on three consecutive returns. That makes the player have to make the decision to potentially jeopardize his/her game by shifting the focus off the opposite goal, and encourages the opposing player to mix up the return to thwart the repeat efforts. "Puck Ewe".


Scoring can be simply one point per "pucking" or can be dependent on:

  • time of pucking
  • number of pucks in play

Automatic Scorekeeping

Overhead display/through table display/each goal kickstarts a lightshow

Player Specific Pucks

If different pucks are different colours, scoring can be team based. Alternatively each player can have player classes:

  • Arch Enemy : 2 points
  • Enemy : 1 point
  • Ally : -1 point

when your colour puck goes into their goal.

Game modes

The more elements that can be turned on/off and the more sensors and features built into the table the more the game modes can be created. Modes can be universal or "table limited" or players can have certain abilities can be activated based on points scored or other inputs.

Features that can contribute to game modes (neither complete nor exhaustive):

  • Number of players
  • Increased airflow (localized)
  • Magnets ON/OFF ("gravity wells" - puck sticks)
  • Magnets ON/OFF ("land mines" - puck goes flying)
  • Magnets ON/OFF ("accelerator strips")
  • Active electronics in pucks
  • Active electronics in mallets
  • Puck returns
  • Scoring
  • Pucks with magnets / without magnets
  • Visible / invisible pucks
  • RFID activated regions
  • Flippers


Fold-able table for easy storage and portability to other locations such as Makerfaires. Built in level and adjustable legs to ensure quality gameplay. Isogrid plenum structure. Not necessarily because it's necessary, but because it's awesome.

Remote interaction

By being able to control aspects of the table remotely you and allow non-player participation. Talk eventually digressed into interspecies-telepresence- Enders game style.

Incorporate cameras and remote control.

Augmented Reality play

The idea was to wear glasses while playing to add an augmented reality layer to the game.



"Table View"

Camera feed from two corners of the table, one into each eye via video goggles.