Case Study Custom Slap Shot Machine



Develop an innovative hockey sticks test automation solution.

In order to test the durability and reliability of its hockey sticks, a hockey stick manufacturing company required the repetitive human action of slap shots. Hundreds of slap shot must be completed to bring a single hockey stick to the breaking point necessary to gather data on its quality. However, the risks of injury to employees due to the repetitive movements of these tests are very present and could be avoided.

Rotalec was therefore mandated to create an automation solution aimed at designing an optimal slap shot robot in order to automate this action, to increase its precision and speed of execution.

Challenges and Issues

  • Increase the number of tests | Performing slap shots continuously induces fatigue in the human participant. Human testers become tired, slow down, and can no longer continue to test hockey sticks with ongoing constant quality slap shots.
  • Perfectly reproduced the tests | Human testers cannot perfectly maintain all critical parameters during each slap shot performed, introducing uncontrollable irregularities in the testing process, such as speed, hand placement, etc.
  • Accurately measure the various factors | It is difficult to measure certain factors precisely, such as the force with which the stick hits the ice on each shot, when the tests are carried out by humans.

Rotalec's solution

The optimal solution is the design of a customized reliable slap shot robot, simulating a human being holding the hockey stick to test the various sticks manufactured.

More specifically, a rotating robot with a powerful motor, taking precise measurements and distributing pucks automatically has been customized and designed.

  • Design of a rotating robot | From a robotic point of view, a rotating robot with two points of contact on the hockey stick to imitate a human slap shot has been designed. The two anchors simulate human hands on the stick, ensuring the stick behaves exactly as it it was on ice, such as bending simulation. The robot can be adjusted with repeatable and precise parameters, such as speed, attack angle, the position of the “hands” on the stick and so on.
  • Automatic puck dispenser | In terms of the process automation, an automatic puck dispenser has been added to the slap shot robot before each shot.
  • Accurate measurements | An HMI SCADA IIoT remote communication system has been added to the slap shot robot which aims to record and analyse critical data from each slap shot. As this system is refined and improved, the HMI is now able to predict and react when a hockey stick breaks. Even a small crack in the hockey stick can be perceived and recorded.
  • Powerful motor | In terms of motion control, in order to efficiently rotate the stick with strength necessary to perform a slap shot, the machine is quipped with a powerful motor which can withstand the force of the stick hitting the ice during each test. Due to many trials with various motors, a solution using a Kollmorgen servomotor and a special coupling with the drive to ensure repetition has been developed.

The company now benefits from an optimal solution to dynamically test the durability of its various hockey sticks when developing the next generation of durable blades.

The proven solution was greatly appreciated by the company, which was able to maximize its efficiency, on top of completely eliminating possible human injuries and experienced fatigue. The robot meets the requirements well since it is as robust as the strongest player, it is adjustable for all stick sizes and its automated technology is highly reliable and reproducible.

Key benefits of this customized engineered solution

  • Highly repeatable testing , ensuring the same precise conditions for each slap shot.
  • Increased efficiency by enabling a much higher volume of slap shots per day.
  • High degree of control over adjustable parameters.
  • Precise measurements to determine when the sticks begin to weaken.
  • Analysis of data allows for more insight in hockey stick development projects.
  • Fully automated process due to the combination of the robot, the automatic puck dispenser and the HMI communication interface.

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