Air cushion table game
United States Patent 3887187

Invention is a game to be played on an air cushion table of specific design. The table includes an air bed or perforated surface to which air under pressure is supplied from below creating a multiplicity of closely spaced air jets upon which a game puck floats without touching the table surface. The table is bounded by a sturdy steel bumper rail which imparts a solid rebound to the puck. Each player is provided with a disc shaped bat which he slides across the table surface and into contact with the puck. An automatic scoring system is provided to receive and record the passage of pucks not blocked by the defending player, including means to inactivate the air bed upon completion of the game.

Crossman, Phillip E. (Ada, MI)
Kenrick, Robert C. (Grand Haven, MI)
Le Mieux, Robert W. (Spring Lake, MI)
Application Number:
Publication Date:
Filing Date:
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
273/129R, 473/588
International Classes:
A63F7/22; (IPC1-7): A63F3/00
Field of Search:
273/126R,126A,123R,123A,118A,121R,121A,121D,122R,122A,2,125R,125A 46
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US Patent References:

Primary Examiner:
Pinkham, Richard C.
Assistant Examiner:
Brown T.
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Olexa Jr., Donald Epstein Sheldon Lawler William L. G.
Parent Case Data:

This is a division of application Ser. No. 179,659, filed Sept. 13, 1971, now U.S. Pat. No. 3,773,325.
We claim

1. A game comprising, in combination,

2. The game of claim 1 wherein said bumper strip comprises

3. The device of claim 2 wherein said bumper strip has an opening therein associated with said goal through which said game piece may pass to said goal.

4. The game of claim 1 wherein said goal comprises an enclosure inaccessible to the players through which the game piece must pass when a goal is scored, a channel by which the game piece may exit said enclosure, and means associated with said exit channel for retaining the game piece in a position accessible to the players.

5. A game played by at least two players comprising:

6. A game comprising, in combination:

7. The game of claim 6 wherein the bumper strip extends upward from the air bed and has an inner face which is substantially perpendicular to the playing surface.

8. The game of claim 7 wherein the bumper strip comprises substantially non-deformable material.

9. The game of claim 8 wherein the material is a high density material.

10. The game of claim 6 wherein the goal comprises:

11. The game of claim 6 wherein the goal comprises:

12. The game of claim 6 wherein the means for engaging said game piece comprise:

13. The game of claim 12 wherein the bat comprises:

14. A game comprising, in combination,


The invention is in the field of games and more specifically games played upon a table-like surface. In early 1968 the inventors conceived the idea of creating a new kind of game to be played upon a near frictionless surface such as that provided by an air cushion table of the type described herein. In December of 1968 U.S. Pat. No. 3,415,478 issued teaching an air bed suitable for the game, and it appeared compatible with certain honeycomb structures which were then being employed by the inventors' assignee company in the production of billiard tables. However, after some experimentation the modification of existing honeycomb structure was found to be impractical and further study and experimentation lead to the structure described below.

While the concept of using air to move game pieces is illustrated in the prior art, such as U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,066,937 to Pslugmann and 3,367,658 to Bayha, the concept of using a basic air cushion table with non-directional jets as a surface upon which to play a game such as that herein described is novel.

In the course of developing the game, various configurations of the table bumper rails, puck and bar were evaluated prior to settling upon those of the invention. For example, rubber and wood bumper rails were tested, as were triangular-shaped pucks and square or oblong bats. It was found that resilient rails imparted excessive spin to the puck, and that triangular pucks were too difficult to control. The circular bat was selected because it added a degree of difficulty, compared to a rectangular bat, in the control of a disc-shaped puck. Overall, the objective was to achieve a combination of elements which produced a pleasing experience, yet presented a challenge which required increasing skill.

One problem that developed during the development of the game was that of the puck leaving the table in high speed free flight. A related problem was the tendency in early bat configurations for the striking edge to tuck under upon impact with the puck. This tucking and irregularities in the bat and rails were found to give the puck a positive angle of attack which caused it to take off from the air bed and leave the table. These problems were solved primarily by giving the bats, rails and pucks broad vertical edges, by lowering the center of gravity of the bat and by establishing size and mass relationships between the bat and puck of 4:3 and 10:1 respectively.

Careful consideration was also given to the size relationship between the diameters of the puck and bat and the width of the goals. It was determined that the width of the goals should be approximately 31/3 times the bat diameter in order to effectively prevent static blocking of the goal and place upon the player a significant goal tending responsibility. Conjunctively, it was deemed imperative that the goals be constructed so as to avoid any argument on whether or not a participant had scored. This problem was solved by taking the puck completely out of play when a goal is made and by automatically scoring the goal to the maker.

In addition to the above, in the course of the development of the invention it was determined that a table proportion of two to one with a minimum length of approximately 8 feet was most desirable, and that a puck having a minimum diameter of 3 inches was required to obtain acceptable flotation where the table employed a one inch grid of air jets.

Lastly, it was recognized that numerous variations of the game and its equipment were possible; for example, the addition of one more puck deflecting obstacle at mid-table to make scoring more difficult.

It is an object of the invention to provide apparatus for the playing of a game involving high speed omnidirectional movement of a game piece upon a horizontal lubricated surface, and which requires quickness and dexterity on the part of the player.

It is another objective of the invention to provide a new game table, game piece and bat which together create a game heretofore unknown.

It is a further objective of the invention to provide a game table having an air cushion table bed bounded by high density non-deforming bumper rails, and including goals at each end of the table into which a game piece will pass when a goal is made.

It is a still further objective of the invention to provide a disc-shaped game piece suitable for floating movement upon the aforesaid air cushion bed, and a bat for propelling the game piece upon the table.

It is still another objective of the invention to provide means for automatically detecting and recording goals scored during the playing of the game.

It is yet another objective of the invention to provide a coin operated mechanism in conjunction with the game table which will retain the game piece within a goal upon the completion of a game until the coin operated device is again actuated.


Basically the invention comprises an air cushion table including a playing surface laced with a grid of tiny air holes, and an air supply system beneath the playing surface for ejecting air under pressure through said holes. The playing surface is bounded by a sturdy non-deforming rebounding rail. The game is played with a game piece or puck, of such size and weight that it will float upon the air cushion table surface, and a bat configured to slide upon the game table surface and suitable for engaging the puck and directing it to a goal. The goal takes the puck out of play and electrical goal tending means detect and display the scoring of a goal. A coin operated play control mechanism may be employed to retain the puck in an inaccessable position within the goal until the operator has paid.

Other objectives, advantages and various further features of novelty and invention will be pointed out or will occur to those skilled in the art from a reading of the following specification in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.


FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a game table of the invention illustrating how the game of the invention may be played.

FIG. 2 is a vertical cross section of an air cushion bed of the invention taken parallel to the long axis thereof.

FIG. 3 is a cutaway plan view of the air bed of FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is a cross sectional view of a side rail of the invention as attached to an air cushion bed of the invention.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a bat of the invention.

FIG. 6 is a vertical cross section taken along Line 6--6 of FIG. 5.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a puck of the invention.

FIG. 8 is a side view of the puck of FIG. 7.

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a portion of an alternate construction for an air bed of the invention.

FIG. 10 is a partial vertical cross section of an air bed of the invention utilizing the alternate construction of FIG. 9.

FIG. 11 is an alternate construction for a bat of the invention.

FIG. 12 is a cutaway end view of a goal of the invention.

FIG. 13 is a cutaway side view of the goal of FIG. 12.

FIG. 14 is a perspective view of a score panel of the invention.

FIG. 15 is a schematic electrical wiring diagram for a coin operated table of the invention.


FIG. 1 illustrates a mode of play of the invention. A puck 1 slides virtually friction free across the playing surface 2 of the air cushion table. Contestants 3 standing at opposite ends of the table slide their bats 4 across the playing surface and attempt to knock the puck 1 into the opponent's goal 5. Upon entry of the puck 1 into the opponent's goal 5 a light within one of a bank 6 of vertically extending score boxes 7 alongside of the table is automatically illuminated registering the score.

Each player attempts to score by sliding his bat into the puck so as to knock it either directly into the opponent's goal or bank it off of one of the stainless steel bumper strips 10 into the opponent's goal. The puck moves very fast when solidly hit and unless intercepted off center by the opposer's bat will quickly return to the striking player's end of the table. This high speed rebound action by the puck tends to force the contestants alternately into offensive and defensive roles for brief periods of time depending upon who has gained the control of the puck.

FIGS. 2 and 3 illustrate the construction of the air cushion bed 11 of the game table 12. The top 13 or playing surface of the bed is a one-sixteenth inch sheet of a smooth durable material such as Melamine. Air holes 14 having a diameter of 0.032 inches are drilled in a one inch grid pattern covering the playing surface 13 of the table 12. The melamine playing surface rests upon and is securely affixed to a one inch thick core 15 of pressed wood, into and through which air channels 16 and ducts 17 have been cut. Each channel 16 extends over the length of the playing surface 13 of the table and has communicating therewith one row of holes 14, so that each row of holes is supplied by a single channel 16. Air is fed into the channels 16 through slot-like ducts 17 which vent the channels 16 through the lower surface 18 of the core 15.

A one-eighth inch sheet of phenolic 20 is mounted to the bottom of the core 15 to strengthen the entire air bed structure. Apertures 21 matching the ducts 17 in the core 15 are cut in the phenolic 20. A plenum chamber 22 is created by mounting a bottom panel 23 of one-half to three-fourths inch plywood or the like one inch below the lower surface 24 of the phenolic panel 20. The plenum chamber 22 is bounded at each side 25 by 1 inch thick spacing stringers 26 which extend the length of the table 12 and are secured between the bottom plywood panel 23 and the phenolic panel 20 above. The plenum chamber is restricted in length by one inch thick cross braces 27 which extend across the table between the side stringers 26, and are also securely attached between the bottom panel 23 and the phenolic panel 20 above.

The plenum chamber 22 is supplied with air by a fan 30 mounted to the bottom panel 23 so as to exhaust upwardly through an aperture 31 therein and into the plenum chamber 22. A housing 32 may be placed over the fan 30 for purposes of appearance and noise abatement. A series of apertures 33 in the fan housing 32 provide a sufficient air supply to the fan intake.

It will be apparent from the foregoing that when the fan 30 is in operation, air will be supplied under pressure to the plenum chamber 22 and will flow from there through the ducts 17, into the channels 16 and out the air holes 14.

Referring to FIG. 4, a quarter-inch stainless steel bumper strip 10 is mounted flush with the playing surface 2, and extends vertically upwardly therefrom to the height of approximately three-fourths inches. The steep bumper strip 10 may be epoxied or otherwise securely fixed to the wood side rail 41, or the rail and bumper strip may comprise an integral metal component, but it is important that its inner face 42 be smooth and extend substantially perpendicular to the playing surface 2 in order that it not exert any vertical forces upon a striking puck which could cause it to take off.

The side and end rails 41 of the table are anchored upon the air bed 11 by a key 43, preferably of steel, which extends equally into the rail 41 and the air bed 11. The wood rails 41 may then be securely fastened to the air bed 11 by bolts 44 which threads into tee nuts 45 embedded in the air bed 11, or alternately by the bolts 44 which may extend through the entire air bed structure. A skirt 46 extending from the outer edge of the wood side and end rails 41 may be utilized as illustrated in FIG. 1 to hide the sub-structure of the air bed and fan assembly.

FIGS. 5 and 6 illustrate the preferred embodiment of the bat of the invention. The bat body 49 is a one inch thick disc of high-density thermoplastic such as polyethylene, covered on the bottom 50 with a thin layer of felt 51 to avoid scarring of the playing surface of the air bed. The top 52 of the bat 4 is dished as at 53 primarily for two reasons. First, to lower the center of gravity of the bat by lowering the handle portion, and second, to provide protection for the fingers of the player. A spherical handle 54 such as a billiard ball, is attached to the center of the bat 4 and at the bottom of the dish 53 as by a screw 55 extending up through the bottom of the disc 49 forming the body of the bat 4. This configuration lowers the center of gravity of the billiard ball handle 54 and the point of application of any force which may be exerted by the contestant's hand to a level closest to the level of the center of gravity of the puck to minimize the "tuck" effect. The thickness 56 of the bat 4, or the height 56 of its vertical side face 57, should be at least twice the thickness 58 of the puck 1 and slightly greater than the height of the goal opening in order to avoid any possibility of the bat 4 sliding under the puck 1, permitting it to strike the hand of the contestant, and preventing the bat from being caught in the goal. In the preferred embodiment of the invention, the heighth of the vertical side face of the bat 4 is 1 inch, and the thickness 58 of the puck 1 is approximately one-fourth inch.

FIGS. 7 and 8 illustrate the preferred embodiment of the puck, a flat circular disc also made of high-density thermoplastic, e.g. polyethylene. With a diameter of three inches and a thickness of one-fourth inch the weight of the puck will be supported by at least four air jets at all times.

It is important that the sides of the puck 1, bat 4, and bumper strip 10 be as nearly mutually vertical as feasible to avoid imparting to the puck an angle of attach which would cause it to leave the table. Further, in order to provide the contestant with a feeling of solid contact when hitting the puck, and to further avoid any tucking or other reactive movement of the bat upon contact with the puck, it has been found most advantageous to use a bat to puck weight ratio of approximately 10-to-1.

FIGS. 9 and 10 illustrate a promising alternate construction to support the perforated playing surface 2 of the air bed 11. In this construction, the one-eighth inch Melamine playing surface 2 would be backed by a supporting layer 60 of pressed wood or the like having quarter-inch holes 64 therein each communicating with one of the smaller holes 14 in the playing surface 2. This supporting layer 60 would in turn rest upon an egg crate-like supporting assembly 61 such as that illustrated in FIG. 9 where the crossing members are notched and interfitted so that the lateral members 62 are elevated above the longitudinal members 63. The supporting layer 60 rests upon the lateral member 62 and the bottom panel 23 is attached to the longitudinal member 63. Air from the plenum 22 is free to circulate over the longitudinal member 63 and under the lateral elements 62 to reach all of the air holes 64-14 of the playing surface 2.

FIG. 11 illustrates one form of bat conceived and tested during the development of the invention and is included for purposes of comparison. The body 65 was made of a solid piece of steel. It is apparent that the rectangular shape, additional weight and handle configuration of this bat would result in a significant change in the character and mode of play of the game from that accompanying play with the circular bat 4 of FIG. 5.

One of the more difficult problems presented in the development of the invention was the design of a suitable goal. As seen in FIGS. 1, 12 and 13, the goal 70 basically comprises a horizontal slot 71 in the bumper strip 10 and rail 41 of the table having an opening approximately 31/2 times the diameter of the bat 4 and a housing to retain the puck 1. Initially the puck slides through the slot 71 in the bumper strip 10, and through the end rail 41 of the table. Upon reaching the edge of the playing surface 2, the puck is transitioned from the horizontal to the vertical plane by a curving nylon liner 73, and delivered into a slender vertical chamber 74. The side walls 75 of the vertical chamber 74 are configured to guide the puck as it continues downwardly into an exit channel 76. As the puck passes through the exit channel 76 it momentarily engages and displaces a trip element 77 extending from a spring biased switch 78 mounted adjacent the exit channel 76. The tripping of the switch 78 actuates the scoring mechanism described below to record the score.

During the course of the game when a goal is scored, the puck will continue through the exit channel 76 and into a retaining basket 79 from which it can be retrieved by a player. At the end of game, a solenoid operated blocking pin 85, actuated by a coin operated timer and control circuit explained below, extends into the exit channel 76 and retains the puck in an inaccessible position within the goal housing.

FIG. 14 illustrates one form of illuminated score presentation suitable for use with the invention. A translucent housing 80 is mounted upon the rail 41 along each side of the table. Within each housing 80 are a series of compartments 7 separated by opaque baffles 84. The side windows 86 of each compartment have numbers 81 etched or otherwise placed thereupon such that they will be illuminated when a lamp 82 is lighted by the scoring circuit. As each successive numbered chamber is lighted, the preceding chambers remain illuminated. When all of the chambers on one side of the table are illuminated the game is over; however, the boxes 7 will remain illuminated for a short period of time after the game is over or until the coin mechanism is recycled.

FIG. 15 is a schematic diagram of the electrical circuitry and related devices which control play and scoring on the table. A period of 15 minutes is allowed for the game. The insertion of a specified amount of coin money into a coin operated mechanism 90 starts a 15 minute timer 91 which controls a power supply 92 to the fan 30 and the remainder of the scoring mechanism.

Line power of 110 volts AC is connected to the fan motor 93 through a fan relay switch 94, and to a transformer 95 which supplies 24 VAC to a rectifier 96. Actuation of the 15 minute timer 91 closes a first switch 97 which will remain closed for the allotted period of 15 minutes. The switch 97 is connected in series with the low side 98 of the transformer 95 and the rectifier 96, so that its closing supplies power to the rectifier for the 15 minute period. Closing of the switch 97 also causes power to flow through the fan relay switch 94, closing that switch and initially connecting line power 92 to the fan motor 93.

As the scoring indicating panel 6 and related circuitry for each goal is identical, only one need be described. Matching elements for the other goal are identified by the prime symbol after their numerals.

Operation of the coin mechanism 90 also momentarily closes a second switch 99. Switch 99 is in series with a 24 VAC reset coil 100 connected across the low side 98 of the transformer 95. The momentary activation of the coil resets a stepping switch 83 to the zero score position.

The stepping switch 83 functions to connect 24 VDC power sequentially and cumulatively to the lamps 82 in the score indicating boxes 7. The stepping switch 83 is advanced each time a goal detecting switch 78 positioned within the puck exit channel 26 is actuated by a puck passing through the goal. Goal detecting switch 78 is spring biased to the open position and is momentarily closed by the displacement of its trip elements 77 by a puck 1 as it passes through the exit channel 76. The switch 78 is connected in series with a relay 101 incorporated within the stepping switch 83, and across the low side 98 of the transformer 95. Each time the relay 101 is activated by the closing of the goal detecting switch 78, the contact arm 102 of the stepping switch 83 is advanced one position. At the first actuation of goal detecting switch 78, after the commencing of a new game, the arm 102 is advanced to a contact 103 completing a 24 volt DC circuit 104 from the rectifier 96 and through a lamp 105 which illuminates the No. 1 goal chamber of the score indicating bank 6. Unidirectional diodes 107 are connected between successive lighting circuits, like circuit 104, so that as the stepping arm 102 advances, power will continue to be supplied to all previously illuminated score indicating lights keeping all lighted until the end of the game.

In the illustrated embodiment of the scoring circuit, provision is made for an arbitrary number of seven goals. Upon the scoring of the seventh or last goal, the stepping arm 102 reaches a contact 108 which in addition to illuminating the bulb 109 for the seventh goal, also connects 24 VDC power to a final score relay 110. Final score relay 110 controls a switch 110A which is in series with a puck gate solenoid 111 connected across the low side of the transformer 98. Contact 110A is closed when switch 97 is closed, supplying power to the puck gate solenoid 111 and holding the spring loaded blocking pin 85 in the withdrawn position. When the seventh goal is scored, the final score relay 110 disconnects power to the puck gate solenoids 111 permitting the spring loaded blocking pin 85 to extend across the exit channel 76 and trap the game puck in an inaccessible position.

The advancing of the contact arm 102 to the last contact 108 also connects 24 volt DC power to a second fan relay 112. Relay 112 controls a switch 112A connected in series with the power supply 92 and the fan 30. Activation of this relay 112 opens the switch 112A, which is biased to the closed position, cutting off power to the fan 30.

While play is terminated and the fan 30 turned off with the making of the last goal by either party, the score indicating lights will remain on until the 15 minute period allotted for the game is completed and the switches 97 and 99 opened, or until the coin mechanism is again cycled.

While the principles of the invention have been described in connection with the above specific apparatus, it is to be clearly understood that this description is made only by way of example and not as a limitation to the scope of the invention.