American sports equipment manufacturer Wilson Sporting Goods Company has created the world’s first 3D-printed airless basketball prototype.
A first-of-its-kind breakthrough, the black-dyed airless prototype eliminates the need to inflate the ball, relying instead on a 3D-printed structure and research-grade materials to replicate the bounce of a traditional basketball. The ball’s surface consists of small hexagonal holes, arranged into a 3D lattice, allowing air to pass through freely. “Featuring eight panel-like lobes and a familiar seam structure, this is a ball unlike anything we’ve ever seen designed to play like the basketballs we’ve always known,” comments a Wilson spokesperson.
“The Wilson airless prototype is just that – a prototype, and there’s still work to be done before it is ready for courts around the world. But we’re thrilled by the possibilities this ball represents in terms of the future of Wilson’s products and other sports, the revolutionary sustainability through additive manufacturing, and so much more. This is innovation made to push boundaries and open imaginations,” says a company statement.
The futuristic ball was created by the Wilson Labs team at the brands’ innovation center in Chicago before bringing the design to life, partnering with Chicago-based software company General Lattice for computational design services, German developer and provider of 3D-printed finishing systems DyeMansion for colour and finishing solutions, and German technology provider for 3D-printing solutions EOS that provided the additive manufacturing from its technical center powered by AT&T’s high-speed fiber network.
The revolutionary product was first seen in the hands of Houston Rockets’ forward Kenyon Martin Jr. for his second dunk in this year’s AT&T Slam Dunk Contest as a demonstration of the ball’s real-life functionality.
“We are so proud to unveil Wilson’s 3D airless prototype basketball as a physical manifestation of our continued commitment to sport,” says Kevin Murphy, vice president and general manager of Team Sports at Wilson. “This is just one example of how our team approaches the game and why we are the number one basketball company in the world today.”
While the 3D design showcases the shared drive for innovation between Wilson and the NBA, there will be no changes made to the Wilson NBA official game ball, which will continue to be made with the same leather materials, eight-panel configuration, and performance specifications currently in use.
Starting with the 2021 season, Wilson became the official ball supplier for the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).