How Air Hockey Tables Work

By R.L. Cultrona
How Air Hockey Tables Work CC BY-SA 2.0

Table Basics

Air hockey is a miniaturized version of hockey that's played on a table between two players. Due to the manageable size of the table, air hockey can be played with relative ease in the home. Air hockey is exciting because of the speed of the game and the likeness to the actual game of hockey. In order to get the same quick feel as hockey, an air hockey table provides the puck a cushion of air on which the puck sits. The surface of the table is marked with many small holes that cover its entire surface. Within the table is an air compressor that forces blasts of air through the holes, slightly lifting the puck off the surface of the table. Because the puck sits on air, friction is minimized and the speed of the game is quite fast.

Air Flow

The most important part of an air hockey table is the air flow from the holes. If the air flow isn't strong enough, the puck can stop in the middle of the table. This reduces the enjoyment of the table immensely. Air flow on an air hockey table is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). A top-of-the-line table (such as the kinds in arcades or for tournament play) have a CFM rating of 350 to 400. Lesser tables have a lower CFM, but may be cheaper. The motor that produces the air flow is also crucial. The best apparatus for the job is a commercial-grade blower, which actually produces the required 350 to 400 CFM. Some tables advertise such things as dual or turbo fans, but these don't have the necessary power needed to get the 350 to 400 CFM.

Size and Construction

Another factor in an air hockey table is the size and construction. If buying a table for a child, remember that he will grow up and will most likely want to continue to play. Also, you may want to play as well. In this case, you should seriously think about spending the money on a large, arcade-sized table. This will provide a table that your child can grow into and keep you from having to upgrade your table for many years. Also, the more expensive your table, the better constructed than some of the less expensive tables. The more expensive tables use particle board or plywood in their designs, which will last longer than their plastic counterparts.