By Larry Thoman
This column will consist of questions that have been asked of the staff at Newgy or our replies to questions posed on the table tennis (ping pong) newsgroup, rec.sport.table-tennis. This month's question was asked in an e-mail by Ray Miskimins , who is a USATT Certified State Coach from Reno, NV. We encourage readers to send in your own questions. You may email us at e-mail, fax or write us. All questions cannot be answered, but we will pick out one of them to answer in this column.
I received the Robo-Pong 1040 that I ordered from you last week. I got it set up and running and find that it works very well. It is more user-friendly, more consistent and more trouble-free than the $1000+ one I had 10 or 12 years ago. It is very easy to control the type of spin, the speed, the ball frequency and the oscillation of this robot. I have enjoyed hitting with it and I'm sure will find it very useful when coaching.
I have one question that you may be able to help me with; is there any way to control the amount of spin? When it tosses topspin, it pretty much is at a loop level; when it tosses backspin, it simulates a pretty severe chop. In the reality of table tennis play, topspin varies from almost no-spin (so-called "dead ball") to the extreme produced by the best of the loopers; backspin varies from near no-spin to the extreme you see from some good pushers or choppers. I have the impression that there is no way to vary the amount of spin the Robo-Pong 1040 produces (only the kind of spin). Is that correct? Does speed variation have any significant effect on the amount of spin? Does distance you set the robot from the player have any effect on the amount of spin (that is, will tossing the balls from well behind the table affect it)? Is there any way to get the machine to toss a nearly dead ball?
Thanking you in advance for your attention to these questions,
USATT Certified State Coach
Thank you for purchasing a Newgy Table Tennis Robot and for your kind comments. To answer your questions about controlling spin on the Newgy robot, here are some resources that discuss this issue on our website:
Also read the "Robot Positioning" section on page 12 of the Owner's Manual that came with your robot. (Click Here to download a PDF version of the Robo-Pong Owner's Manual) It will explain how to position your robot and the advantages and disadvantages of each position. Also the "Ball Spin" section on page 8 is worth reading to better understand how to adjust the spin settings on the robot and the limitations imposed by the robot's design.
Since speed equals spin with Newgy robots, the lightest spin you can get with a Newgy robot is at Ball Speed setting of 0. You will then need to adjust the robot's position and head angle to achieve the desired trajectory. If you have the robot mounted at the end of the table so the ball first strikes the table about a foot and a half from the table net, the ball will bounce over the table net, and by the time it bounces on the player's side, there will be little spin left on the ball. Of course, the ball will be very slow as well. Use topspin if you want the ball to go off the end of the ping pong table or backspin if you want the ball to bounce twice on the player's side of the table.
There is one other thing you can do to simulate dead balls and other such variations. Build a device that has a 6 inch by 6 inch flat surface that can be placed on your table tennis table and be adjustable from about 15 to 60 degrees. Cover the top of this device with some type of rubber cover and place it in front of the robot on your ping pong table. Put your robot in the serve position and aim the head at the ramp. By using different covering materials, such as regular inverted, sticky inverted, sponge only, hard rubber, pips out with sponge, long pips, and other like materials, you can achieve an interesting variety of ball effects. For each different material you will have to experiment with the head angle, the ramp angle, and the ball speed setting to get it to simulate the type of shot you want to practice against.