The question as to “how the air hockey table works” requires an understanding of how the game of air hockey originated. Air hockey is a relatively new comer when it comes to indoor games. It was conceived in 1969 by a certain group of engineers who were working at Brunswick Billiards. This group of engineers was passionate about the game called “ice hockey.” So they devised a miniaturized ice hockey game, save for the fact that it can only be played by two players or by four players depending on the size of the table.
The air hockey table is like the pool table. The big difference, however, lies in its playing surface. Its surface is made of a very smooth surface, with many tiny perforations. These miniature perforations or holes vent out air from a motor fan underneath the table. Jets of air rush out of these holes into the playing surface. These outflow of air makes the movement of the puck smooth and almost frictionless. Moreover, players stand at each end of the table with pushers or mallets in their hands. Each of the players strikes the puck (a flat disc) towards the opponent’s goal.
What is Air Hockey Table Made of?
An air hockey table usually consists of a flat and smooth playing surface. This slippery surface is surrounded by rails to prevent the paddles and puck from flying off the table. There is a slot on each end of the table that serves as the goal. A puck return is usually located behind the goals.
Most air hockey tables have a motor fan underneath that vents air out of the miniature holes along the flat surface. This is the main reason this table is called “air hockey table.” However, some air hockey manufacturers forgo of the motor fan in favor of a super slick table surface. They do this to minimize the cost of manufacturing. Yet, technically, these tables—without air vents—are not real air hockey tables. But they are classified as air hockey tables because of the similarities in functions and forms with the air hockey tables.
The Importance of Air Cushion
The jets of air on the table create an almost frictionless surface. These jets of air cushion the puck underneath making it appear to float while it moves along the flat surface. This air cushion makes the puck reach tremendous speeds. High-speed movement is necessary to allow a player to quickly move the puck around in order to elude the defense of the opponent and get a goal. It also allows a player to skillfully utilize the different sides of the table to set an attack from different directions and angles.
Common Problems with Air Hockey Table
The primary problem that besets frequently-used air hockey tables is that of a broken fan. Since the fan motor is a mechanical unit, it is vulnerable to wear and tear after an extended period of usage. Hence, more often it bogs down. You can, however, extend the lifespan of the fan by regularly cleaning it. Dirt and dust may accumulate on the blades of the fan. This may hinder the fan from working well and may even lessen the amount of air it vents out. Reduced air flow translates to an increased friction and poor playing condition. Thus, you should clean the fan blades regularly and ensure that the movement of the fan is unobstructed.
Dust and dirt may also accumulate and clog the minute holes on the playing surface. Unclogging these minute holes is surely a tiring task. This is because there are myriads of them, and if you use a needle to remove clogs from the holes, you may end up increasing the sizes of those holes. If you increase the sizes of the holes, you would inadvertently cause uneven airflow along the surface. It is better, therefore, to use a pressurized air can to free these holes of clogs.
The Size and Construction of the Tables
There are different models and brands of air hockey tables on the market today. Some have a length of 7 feet, while others are shorter or even longer than 7 feet. Of course, you usually get what you pay for when buying an air hockey table. Yet, before buying a specific brand or model, consider its size, design, price, ease of assembly, warranty, and the materials out of which it is made.
Moreover, if you are a competitive player, you should go for those tables sanctioned by the United States Air Hockey Association (USAA). These tables are 8-feet long or more. Examples of these tables include the Gold Standard Games 8′ tables, the 8-foot commercial-grade Brunswick tables, and some 8-foot long tables manufactured by Dynamo.