Home Applications & Case Studies Wilson, DyeMansion, General Lattice & EOS present the First 3D Printed Basketball

Wilson, DyeMansion, General Lattice & EOS present the First 3D Printed Basketball

Wilson‘s airless prototype has generated a great response – far beyond the AM industry. It is Wilson’s first 3D-printed basketball, developed in collaboration with DyeMansion, General Lattice and EOS.

One of the main challenges of the project was to combine the new technology with a specially developed material to create a ball with a unique surface structure. This was to be different from conventional rubber or other composite materials. Initially, the ball coming out of the 3D printer was white and had a surface that was not ideal for players. However, the final product had to offer athletes comfort, an appealing look and feel in order to be successful. A familiar gaming experience was critical.

“DyeMansion added a lot of value to this project because the ball comes out white and with a finish that is not favorable to the player. So taking the ball from a blank canvas to a finished painting is exactly what DyeMansion did for us. Also, the smoothing process seals the part and just makes it more consistent so that it performs better in our testing”, says Nadine Lippa (PhD), Innovation Manager at Wilson Sporting Goods Co.

“We knew the person actually using it was going to be an athlete. One of the most important things for an athlete is comfort, look and feel. If the athlete doesn’t feel comfortable with it, the application will never make it. So what really needed to happen from the print to the athlete was to make this application more feel and resemble an actual product that someone was used to”, comments Michael Schorr, General Manager at DyeMansion North America Inc.

With the help of General Lattice’s Computational Design Services, the final design was achieved through precise adjustments of various parameters. EOS was able to find the specific, high-performance material and the appropriate printing solution. To transform the raw printed ball into a playable product, VaporFuse Surfacing and DeepDye Coloring from DyeMansion were used.

“What’s unique about the basketball is that it needs to be completely spherical, which is very simple in design but can be challenging in AM. The printing process involves depositing thin layers of material. In the case of the basketball, the challenge lies in maintaining the perfect spherical shape throughout the printing process”, said Dave Krzeminski (PhD), Senior Additive Minds Consultant at EOS.

VaporFuse Surfacing, performed with the Powerfuse S, uses a solvent in the form of steam introduced into the process chamber to create condensation on the ball. This process is repeated to achieve the desired smoothness. The residual steam is then removed. The ball was now ready for the next step – dyeing using DM60. In this process, the dye chemically binds to the polymer compounds of the ball, leaving no residue on the surface.

“Seeing the final ball being used at the NBA dunk contest by KJ Martin was an incredible experience for me. I got to be courtside when it was rolled out. In the arena I felt the energy of the people around me and the players that were standing on the sidelines with me. It would just inspire so much passion and so much discussion around basketball.

The result of this innovative technology is impressive:

  • The surface is completely sealed and does not absorb dirt or debris.
  • Thanks to the sweat-resistant texture, the ball offers a seamless feel.
  • The homogeneous coloring is reproducible thanks to a reliable process using cartridges.
  • The system for smoothing the components is fully automated.

The collaboration between Wilson, DyeMansion, General Lattice and EOS has achieved a groundbreaking advance in 3D printing of sporting goods. The 3D printed airless basketball demonstrates the potential of this technology for the future and offers athletes a completely new playing experience.

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