Automatic boule return machines

I love weird and/or ingenious devices that are designed to help you practice petanque. In this post, I gather together a few pictures of the most interesting kind of device, the automatic boule return (ABR) machine. ABR machines fall into four basic categories, based (a) on whether the target boule is fixed in place or can be shot away, and (b) whether the machine uses gravity or an electrice motor to return boules to the player.

Fixed-target gravity-powered machines

The most basic design for an ABR machine uses a fixed target and gravity to return thrown boules to the player.

In 2007, the Midwest Petanque Alliance had a post about this machine, which was for sale on eBay France.

Description: Very nice machine for a Petanque club which returns shot boules. A target boule is attached by a cable to the center of the shooting piste. The machine takes note of the force of the shots, and displays them on a screen (1,2 or 3) while returning the shooting boule to the player.

CLICK to see larger image.bar_france_ebay_2007

Here is another machine of the same type. In the lower right-hand corner of the photo, you can see the entrance to the gravity-feed boule-return tube. Perhaps this was built as a promotional tool for KTK. CLICK to see larger image.

I built my own gravity-powered ABR machine. The boule backstop was a heavy old carpet. I would throw as hard as I could and the carpet absorbed it easily, so I would practice throwing as hard as I could.

The most ingenious design for a gravity-powered ABR that I know of, is Jeff Brown’s Boule-O-Matic 3000.

Fixed-target electricity-powered machines

Here is a video of an ABR machine (which calls itself a BAR machine, for “boule automatic return”) in Wateringen, the Netherlands. This device uses an electric motor to lift the thrown boules and return them, like the ball return machines in American bowling alleys. The target boule is fixed in place. If you are a Facebook member, click on the picture and you can watch a short video of the machine in action.

Movable-target gravity-powered machines

This is a picture taken, I believe, at the Marathon booth at the SEA games in Thailand. Marathon is a Thai manufacturer of sports and fitness equipment, including petanque boules. Most ABR machines have a target boule that is fixed in place. This machine, however, allows you to knock the target boule out of position. When you do, both the thrown boule and the target boule are returned via the yellow tube on the right. To replace the target boule that has been displaced, the player takes one of the boules that has been returned to him and feeds it back toward the head via the yellow tube on the left, which neatly rolls the boule into position to become a new target. There is no machinery involved in the process; gravity does all of the work. CLICK to see larger image.bar_thailand

Movable-target electricity-powered machines

There is a similar machine called the Petanque Shooting Trainer, or PST. Unlike the previous machine (but like the ABR in the Netherlands) the PST uses powered machinery to return boules to the player. The PST returns both thrown boules and displaced target boules along a track (the upper track). To replace the target boule, a player takes one of the returned boules and sends it back to the machine via the lower track. The machine then feeds the boule up through the floor of the device, putting it into place as a new target boule.

The PST was developed by an Australian player named Martial Leconte, who built the first prototype in his back yard in 2007. Later he and another Australian player built a second prototype and took it on an exhibition tour of pétanque events in Europe.[1] In the summer of 2016 the device was exhibited in several events in France, and tested by a number of well-known shooters— videos are available on Youtube and on the PST Facebook page. PST has announced that a new model will be presented on tour in the summer of 2018, and that the Rocher family website may become distributors of the device in France.

So that’s my collection of ABR machines. If you have photos or information about other automatic boule return machines, please leave a comment.


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