This Arduino-based claw machine is faster, fairer and more controllable than anything in the arcade.
Just think how much of your parents’ money you spent as a kid playing those candy or stuffed toy-grabbing machines. You know, the ones where you put a quarter in and maneuvered a joystick in hopes of snatching a piece of junk that cost less than the amount of coins you inserted. Well, Maker Ryan Bates and the Retrobuit Games crew has developed a fairer, faster and more controllable version of the infamous claw game. The best part? It won’t require you to dig deep into your wallets.
Instead, this arcade-inspired tabletop device measures only 20” x 26” x 19” in size and is made out of aluminum extrusion and custom laser cut acrylic/wood. At the brains of the it all lies an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) along with some NEMA 17 stepper motors.
“Everything is custom designed, from the XYZ gantry, to the claw, to the game logic. Stepper motors move the gantry, and a servo motor controls the claw (giving the claw an analog grip, not just open/close). Some parts are sourced from the plentiful DIY 3D printer market, other parts I went for cheap alternatives like replacement shower door nylon rollers,” Bates explains.
The game itself is based on a 55-second timer, which counts down on an LCD display. Simply insert a quarter (or set it to free play), and press start. Then, no different than in the arcade of yesterday, you have just under a minute to move and position the claw, grab a prize, return it to the chute and continue to reach for more. Once the clock hits zero, the claw closes, the gantry moves back to the ‘home position’ and the claw opens releasing anything it might be carrying.
Unlike the traditional arcade machines, however, this DIY model provides players with total control of the X, Y and Z axes. Horizontal and vertical movement is handled by a joystick and two buttons (up and down), respectively. Meanwhile, a knob lets users open and close the grip.
“Personally, the game is more fun since it’s based less on one-time spatial judgment and more about motor skills and planning the best route for multiple prizes,” Bates adds.
Although he began this project three years ago, the Maker has since upgraded his proof-of-concept, which includes an improved layout of the control panel (relocated the screen to the center), an increased height to allow for a gravity fed prize chute, and a ‘return to home’ function when the game ends.
He also added LEDs that illuminate the play area and offer visual cues for the game’s start and end. For instance, the lights flash when time expired” is displayed and turn off whenever the machine goes idle.
Admittedly, as awesome as the project may be, Bates still has a few things he’d like to change. He shares, “I wants to make the frame just a little bit taller (about two inches) as the coin acceptor is a big crammed, but really I am very pleased with everything! The electronics have been beefed up to handle more power if needed. I did add a secret switch on the back that can switch the power given to the z motor from 5V to 12V. This boots the lifting power from ~6oz to ~3lbs.”
Intrigued? You can also check out the entire project in more detail here.