Automation of mini bowling alley

I just chanced upon Arduino and its really very interesting. I wonder if Arduino's capabilities are good enough for me to automate a toy self-built by me a few years ago.

Years back, I built my own table top mini bowling alley.


For those who know how commercial automatic bowling pinsetters work, I tried to implement some automation inside this alley. Where the ball return acts purely on gravity and that the pins can separate from the ball by using just a simple barrier and a sloping pit area.


The ball rolls back to the player via the ball return ramp and the fallen pins collect here.


It has always been my life-long dream to bring the commercial bowling pinsetter automation standards into our homes where we can enjoy bowling with the same kind of automation, fun and excitement we get from hitting the lanes for real.

What I have done so far is just mechanical automation. I am halfway there, solving part of the automation to sort pins and return the ball. I still need to clear, set pins by hand and track scores manually.

What i need now is a good platform to build my own mini bowling pinsetter that can perform all the automation you can find in commercial lanes with automatic pin setting, pin clearing and score tracking via data feed to a screen. Thats why I am looking at Arduino to potentially achieve this.

I'm looking at making my own mini bowling pinsetter based on AMF pinsetter design. AMF pinsetters have that pin-wheel and conveyor system to cycle the pins to the top for re-racking.

I wonder if the capabilities of Arduino are sufficient to make this dream a reality. Hope to hear your advice.

I think that the mechanics is the most problematic part of your project, the code will be much simpler.
Keep in mind that the first AMF pinsetter had a weight of 2 tons, just to guess the complexity of the machine.

A much simpler approach works with pins suspended on strings. During pick up the state of the pin (standing/fallen) can be detected from the winding motor currents, then the remaining pins are lowered again. With light weight pins, solenoids eventually can increase the force required to pick up the still standing pins. Some “shaking” should be implemented, to ungarble twisted strings. Such a mechanism also allows for certain (sparse) pin patterns, for training purposes.

Stated another way, a simple and mostly fool proof and mosly reliable system is a mechanical problem.

I see the pins needing to be oriented into the vertical. then lifted some way and placed onto the alley.

I think that you could find any number of ways to do something

and, the Arduino would be a big help in automation.