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Anyone Can Become a Pinball Wizard with Model-based Development

The elusive high score in pinball is a test of reflexes, determination, and focus. But most of us succumb to human error at some point. Reacting a fraction of a second too late, the ball falls fruitlessly past the flippers. Game over!

What if a smart machine could be automated to play the perfect pinball game? And how would you go about designing such a system?

Initial pinball table model created in Altair Inspire

Achieving greater operational efficiency and overcoming human error are central tenants of mechatronic system development. Smart machines can be automated to execute complex tasks, improving product quality, and shortening time to market. But first, manufacturers need powerful tools to understand and optimize how these systems operate.

The combination of mechanical structures and mechanisms with sensors, actuators, and computing power has changed product performance expectations. Mechatronic systems require full-system simulation to drive the mechanical, electrical, and control requirements necessary to deliver outstanding customer experiences. Development strategies addressing machine builder’s industry challenges set simulation at the core of their innovation strategy.

To keep it real, this often goes beyond what CAD kinematics can do. The foundation of a mechatronic system simulation is to create an accurate simulation of the system’s structures and mechanisms. The goal is to make the simulation match the physical test. Therefore, details like contacts and the selection of the modeling approach are important to get right. This allows you to eliminate vibrations and improve the machine dynamics.

The challenge of developing a mechatronic system, however, is won only when a manufacturable result can be derived. This is where optimization comes in, allowing designers to optimize for weight, fatigue, noise, and kinematics.

Linked M-CAD, E-CAD, and PLC challenges can be addressed through system simulation, co-simulating the high fidelity representation of the machine. Math and system design software enables users to execute concept studies, control design, multi-domain system performance optimization, controller implementation, and testing. Equally important is the ability to combine these 1D system models with 3D physics simulation to get a holistic picture of the system in operation.

Sounds complicated, but if we take these principals back to the pinball table, we find that creating a fully automated system is less daunting than it appears.

Altair provides a highly integrated software platform that guides a designer from geometry creation and multi-body system simulation to controls, and even further to create photorealistic product renderings.

The video below shows the process of creating the geometry, applying motion, creating a 1D system model, and rendering the final design.

Automated pinball table created with Altair Inspire and Altair Activate, including geometry creation, motion, and 1D system modeling, and rendering with Inspire Studio.

Altair InspireTM is used to create free-form smooth geometry using PolyNURBS and study the assembly configuration. In the same unified platform, users can then generate dynamic motion of the mechanism and automatically identifying contacts, joints, springs, and dampers.

Altair Activate® is then used for multi-disciplinary system simulation to design the sensors and controls of the automated pinball machine. By integrating co-simulation blocks for the dynamic motion and control logic of the flippers into the 1D system simulation, an accurate representation of the system behavior can be developed and exported back into Inspire for animation and rendering.

Building intelligent machines requires a mix of concept design, engineering, embedded control systems, data acquisition and control loop, and data analytics to complete the intelligence loop. Altair provides software and expertise to guide developers of mechatronic systems to modernize their processes and achieve IoT, digital twin, and smart manufacturing innovations.

It plays by motion sensors
I’ve never seen it fall
That mechatronic system
Sure plays a mean pinball

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