Ping pong balls are an absolute favorite of every athlete, but you must have wondered at least once in your life what exactly are they made of. Ping pong balls are so bouncy that wondering what they are made of is a very valid question.
So, if you have the same question, keep reading because we have got you covered. Below is everything you need to know about how exactly ping pong balls are made. Let’s get right into it now.
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An Introduction to Ping Pong Balls
Ping pong balls were first introduced to make table tennis easier than ever. The tennis industry is currently thriving on plastic balls that were recently introduced, and because they are not that big of a fire hazard, everyone is considering them safe so far.
The very first ping pong balls were made with cork, and the sport transitioned, and people started taking it seriously; ping pong balls also transitioned with time and took the shape of so many different materials.
Ping pong balls are made to bounce on the surface of the table so that table tennis players can play the sport without any hassle. But for the purpose of bouncing, they also need to be super-lightweight and airy.
For this reason, specialized materials are used in the making of ping pong balls, so they don’t weigh down, and the players can hit them flawlessly. Want to know exactly what ping pong balls are made of? Keep reading because you are in for a treat.
Materials Ping Pong Ball is Made of
Let’s get right into it:
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene is the material that is currently being used in the making of a ping pong ball. However, it is not ordinary plastic but a thermoplastic polymer. The balls made with this plastic are considered the new generation of modern ping pong balls.
This plastic material is comparatively lightweight and quite easy to store, which makes it the first choice of ping pong balls. It also gives just the right kind of bounce and does not pose any serious hazard.
The ABS plastic that ping pong balls are made of does not catch fire that easily, so it is really easy for the manufacturers to store them in the factories. The ping pong balls made from ABS plastic are sized at 40mm that is slightly bigger than that celluloid balls.
Celluloid is yet another material that ping pong balls were usually made of, and even though it is not mainstream these days, it was the first choice of players for several years. It is more of a transparent kind of plastic and also pretty lightweight.
The Celluloid is also a kind of plastic, but the only difference is that it is made with nitrocellulose and camphor. Celluloid is the material that is usually used in jewelry and toys. Even in the 1900s, ping pong balls were made with celluloid which makes it a very reliable material, and people who like this material still play with the ping pong balls made only with celluloid.
Despite the fact that the top ping pong ball manufacturing brands have stopped using celluloid, there still are millions of balls out there, but the only problem is that celluloid is highly combustible, which makes it a very risky material for storage.
However, when it comes to durability, celluloid is great for long-term use and does not damage easily even after long hours of constant gameplay.
3. Sponge Foam
The ping pong balls made with sponge foam composite are so quiet that you will not even feel that someone is playing. This type of ball is suitable specifically when you are playing in offices or at a place where you cannot make excessive noise.
All the other materials that ping pong balls are made of are super noisy, which is why people often prefer using sponge foam over ABS plastic and celluloid. These are a rather new and modern type of ping pong balls.
But, some people don’t find sponge foam composite very efficient when it comes to maximum bounce, but nothing is better than something, right? Also, those who are fond of the ping pong ball noises might not find this particular material satisfying.
How Exactly is Ping Pong Balls Made?
Now that you know the material used in ping pong balls, it is also important that you also know how exactly ping pong balls are made. So, let’s get right into the process.
Ping pong balls are made with sheets, so it is important to weigh the sheets just the right way. In the making of one ping pong ball, at least 2 plastic sheets are required to make one ping pong ball, and they are weighed to make sure that the ball is of the right weight.
The weight measuring is also important because a little less or more weight can disrupt the overall efficiency of the ping pong ball. So, both the sheets are properly weighed before they are turned into a proper ping pong ball.
The plastic sheets that were weighed earlier are now shaped properly, and they take the shape of half of the ball. First of all, the sheets are put into a mold shaped like a ping pong ball. The plastic material soon takes the shape of the mold without any hassle.
While shaping the sheets, manufacturers also need to consider the risks of crack and breakage, which is why most of the time, hot water is showered on the sheets to mold them smoothly and to prevent any cracks in the sheets.
Trimming is also very important because it makes the edges of ping pong balls really smooth. As both the halves of ping pong balls take the shape of the mold, they are trimmed properly so that there are no bumps in them.
The trimming process usually is done with the help of machines, but in smaller factories, it could also be done by the people manually. The machining process is more flawless and gives faster results. Trimming is a really important part because if any of the bumps remain in any one of the halves of the ping pong ball, the gluing process will be affected.
Once both the halves of balls are trimmed, it is time for assembling them, and for that, usually, glue is used. For this process, both machine and manual application could be helpful, but in either case, you need to be very careful that the halves are glued together perfectly.
Once the gluing is done, the manufacturers need to confirm that the halves of the ball are completely stuck together, so they put the balls in a large container in which they stay for 15 days. The temperature of that container ranges from 113F to 122F.
It makes sure that the glue is perfectly stuck to the ball and the halves will not break that easily. So, this basically is a process of making the effect of glue stronger so that your balls become highly durable and intact. This process is the longest because it takes 15 days, and you have to leave the balls in the container and do nothing.
Check and Balance
Having a check and balance is also very important because if the quality of ping pong balls is not constant, you might not be able to sell them. So, once the ping pong balls are out of their hibernation period of 15 days, they are sent for proper quality control trials.
The first trial is done through a machine that checks the size, durability, weight, and literally everything of the ball. If everything is fine, it lets the ball pass through, and the rest of the failed balls are discarded.
But that is not it, another quality control is also done, which is manual, and the experts check intricate details during this process like the seam, performance, and hardness of the ball. This process is so complicated that only experts can understand and evaluate the balls by using this process.
The final steps of making a ping pong ball usually are logo printing and packaging. All the balls that pass quality control are now printed with the logo of the manufacturer. The next step is the packaging.
Packaging usually is completely automatic, and not a lot of human contact is involved in it. That is the reason why it is so fast and why the top manufacturers make millions of ping pong balls every single year.
Ping pong balls are one of the most interesting sporting things, and once you understand their make, you will also understand why they perform in the way they do. The materials used in the making of ping pong balls are of very high quality.
Also, the balls go through several steps to finally reach the stores, and the current balls available for professional sports are made with very high-quality standards, so you can most certainly count on them.