Not only tyres: the "airless planet" also reaches the sports sector. Sporting goods company Wilson Sporting Goods has unveiled a new prototype 3D printed basketball, with no air inside but with hundreds of hexagonal holes that allow it to bounce like a traditional ball.
The design team used a lattice structure and special 3D printed materials that maintain the right mix of hardness and elasticity: the look, already quite futuristic, is mitigated by the presence of fake seams that make it less different (but just a hair) than a basketball like the ones we know.
How was it made?
The prototype manufacturing process began with a first layer of material in the form of a white powder and a laser 2D etching the hexagonal design of the ball into the powder. As the layers came together, the 3D printed airless basketball came to life. The research team finally "sealed" the powder into the 3D structure with another machine before the third stage: the coloring that took the ball from its original white color to a very "bad" black.
The prototype was rigorously tested to ensure it had the characteristics of a traditional basketball. It had to look like a traditional basketball, feel like a basketball, and act like a basketball. And the mission was successful.
Will the basketball of the future look like this?
Very likely. It is in a sense already written: the evolution of objects passes through the evolution of materials, and sport is no exception. From the old hand-stitched leather balls we have moved on to rubber, and everything suggests that the next iterations do not need to be inflated to bounce. Sure, Wilson he is quick to say that there is still work to be done before the ball can be marketed. The process is still cumbersome, it takes a lot to make it industrial and produce each basketball in a very short time and at an affordable price.
But that's the way. the design team explored several prototypes, and the success could open up future innovations not only for basketball, but also for other sports that have a rolling or flying ball as the protagonist. We'll see. Meanwhile what do you say, do you like this ball of the future?