July 2, 2008 Up until now foosball aficionados have had to find another living, breathing human being to engage in rod spinning combat. Not anymore, thanks to a group of engineering students from The University of Adelaide in Australia who have teamed up with motion control experts to build a highly competitive automated foosball table capable kicking human opposition ‘off the park’.

Comprising a motion sensor system, software written by the student team for decision-making, and a precision actuation system for manipulation of the controls, the automated game gave the students the top award in their final-year mechatronics project competition. A 96-pinhole camera and LED sensor grid system was used to keep track of the ball’s position on the table. This information was read into the AI software via a digital I/O card, with decisions on movement commands fed into a PC-based SoftLogix platform while Kinetix 2000 motion control technology was designed to manipulate the game’s controls. This interfaced with the students’ custom-written ‘AI’ software, which acted as the brains of the game.

Since both the AI and SoftLogix software were housed on the same PC, communications were all handled using PC memory, meaning there was no need for additional PLC hardware - SERCOS communications to the servo system come straight out of the PC. The SERCOS PC card interfaced directly with the Kinetix 2000 motion control platform, where actuation was performed by eight Kinetix 2000 servo-motors - four controlling linear motion of the rods via rack-and-pinion systems, and four controlling the rotation, or ‘kicking’ of the players. This design allowed rotational and linear movement to be carried out simultaneously and independently.

The project was sponsored by Sage Automation’s training arm, Sage Didactic, and supported by Rockwell Automation motion control technology and expertise in the hopes that the finished project could be used to promote interest in engineering. Thus the automated foosball table will be kept at Sage Didactic’s new training facility in Adelaide, as an example of the vision and ability of engineering students - and presumably also to give employees a chance to regain human foosball superiority.

For further info visit Rockwell Automation.