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I've been looking for ideas on how to launch a ping pong ball a small distance (< 1 metre) for a game. Solenoids look like they might be useful but I'm not 100% on what force/type I need. I can mount it under a base and have the balls roll over it, with a pin pushing the ball up a ramp to it's target.

As it's only a ping pong ball, it should be light. I was considering something like this: http://www.adafruit.com/product/412

Am I along the right lines? Or should I go back to the drawing board.

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A solenoid would be similar to the spring mechanism that's used in pinball machines. You may have some trouble actuating it to produce exactly the same amount of force every time, however.

You might consider using the solenoid to push the ping pong ball toward a wheel that is rotating at the desired speed, just like a pitching machine.

pitching machine

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Solenoids comes at different size and power. Big one are in home washing machine to control water drainage, so, can be very powerful.

This project bounces steel pin ball. More than likely, it can do ping pong, given choosing appropriate size/force model of solenoids (the seller you mentioned has 2 sizes, as a good start. May be, you can ask the seller to try out for you, before you buy).

video in http://pinballchameleon.blogspot.hk/2013/04/the-modern-firepower-pinball-project_24.html#more

Enlarge 200% to see many solenoids of various sizes http://pinballchameleon.blogspot.hk/2013_03_01_archive.html

Try Google Image search "pinball machine solenoid" https://www.google.com/search?safe=off&hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1764&bih=795&q=pinball+machine&oq=pin+ball+&gs_l=img.1.0.0i10l4j0j0i10l2j0i5l3.1434.3287.0.8985.9.9.0.0.0.0.174.751.7j2.9.0....0...1ac.1.49.img..0.9.739.-wtYmiDZYSI#hl=en&q=pinball+machine+solenoid&safe=off&tbm=isch

Hope it helps

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