Remember when airless tires starting coming out, around 2013? A decade later, now sporting goods manufacturer Wilson has prototyped a 3D-printed basketball that, like those tires, do not require air.
Apparently this 3D-printed ball—specific production method unknown, but my guess is selective laser sintering—is almost ready for primetime: "The 3D printed ball is truly playable, nearly fitting the performance specifications of a regulation basketball, including its weight, size and rebound (bounce)," the company writes. And while the ball isn't ready to be signed off on by the NBA for regulation play, Wilson did manage to slip it into this month's Slam Dunk contest:
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Assuming they iron out whatever kinks prevent it from fully meeting regulations, the question of the ball's viability will then be one of cost. Basketball and soccer are two sports that require minimal infrastructure and gear (as opposed to say, hockey or baseball), and if the pump can be done away with and the ball made affordable, entire generations of underprivileged kids stand to benefit.
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Always great to see innovation through geometry & pushing the manufacturing process! I am concerned with a few things: 1)Coating to match texture/feel of traditional/benchmark, 2)Spec'd material & wall-thickness will need to closely match weight of benchmark, 3)Air-Drag may be a big issue, though not when performing a "slam dunk", of course.
"... specific production method unknown, but my guess is selective laser sintering..."
one of the first examples I saw of nylon SLS prints, were a bouncy table tennis sized ball, with a hexagonal lattice design. I wonder whether making a big one needed an advancement in material properties, or maybe dimensionally accuracy. back then the dimensional accuracy was not great, and a basket ball that is not round is no good.
I hope it floats... so that it provides companionship for a cast away and fulfills its mission as an advertisement ploy.
This is a neat idea. The main problem of non-pneumatic tires, variable weight, isn't an issue in this case. I think the real issue will be the same as all 3D printed products: incredibly slow manufacture time.