Are you a beginner table tennis player or a passionate fan who watches it a lot from the tv? Whatever the case may be, there will become a time when you will wonder what on earth ping pong balls are made of? That’s a valid question, and your reflections will be answered.
This article will teach you everything you need about what ping pong balls are made of, how they are made, and some additional important and fun facts about them. Before we go to the additional stuff, let’s find out what are table tennis balls made of?
In general, ping pong balls are made of Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), a thermoplastic polymer. More commonly known as ABS plastic. Also, another common material of ping pong balls is celluloid, a composition of nitrocellulose and camphor. However, celluloid balls aren’t made anymore.
In 2014, the plastic ping pong ball was introduced after many years of researching and designing because the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) wanted to put celluloid balls to history. In 2020, officially, the last supplier of celluloid balls had ended its operation.
ITTF wanted to move towards plastic balls was the flammability of the celluloid ping pong ball. At the time, there was a lot of talk about it and its safety hazard worldwide; therefore, all the eyes were towards ITTF. Nowadays, celluloid balls have been replaced by ABS-plastic balls.
In addition to celluloid and plastic ping pong balls, a third material is sponge foam composite, which I will talk about shortly. Let’s learn more about the materials individually!
If you are interested in what different ping pong balls are there, you should read my reviews about each one of them!
- How are ping pong balls made
- What makes a good ping pong ball
- How long do ping pong balls last
- Why are ping pong balls flammable
- Are ping pong balls biodegradable
- Can you 3D print a ping pong ball
- My Favorite Table Tennis Equipment
Celluloid is a transparent plastic made from camphor and nitrocellulose, and that material is also used in toys, jewelry, and old film tape.
Ping pong balls have been made out of celluloid for a long time, dating back to the early 1900s, and they’re still are millions of celluloid balls out there, even when they haven’t manufactured anymore, at least the well-known brands.
Celluloid as a ping pong ball material is really durable and good in all terms except its flammability, which is why they aren’t made anymore as much.
2. ABS plastic
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is a thermoplastic polymer that ping pong balls are made today. Also known as the ”new generation” table tennis balls.
As briefly mentioned above, the transition from celluloid to plastic ping pong balls was made because easily celluloid balls can set into a fire. This made storaging and logistics so much easier when there was no risk of fire.
Also, ABS plastic balls are usually +40mm in size which is a change from the celluloid ones that are 38mm.
3. Sponge foam composite
Sponge foam composite ping pong balls aren’t something you will exactly see every day; however, they do have a specific reason. Ping pong balls made from this material are used specifically because they don’t produce as much noise as celluloid or ABS plastic.
Therefore, if you have a ping pong table at the office, or home where you can’t make noise all the time because of a baby or something, sponge foam composite balls would allow you to practice in quiet.
How are ping pong balls made
It is interesting to learn about what ping pong balls are made; it is also important to know how they are made. Let’s start going along with the 7 step process!
Before anything, the ping pong balls come to the factory as small plastic sheets, and one sheet is only half of the ball; therefore, 2 plastic sheets are needed to make one ping pong ball. To ensure that the outcome of the ball will be even, the plastic sheets are first weighed. After that, they are ready for shaping.
When shaping, the weighted plastic sheets are placed into a mold where a round copper head presses the plastic sheet into a shape that looks like the other half of the ping pong ball. While the sheets are being shaped, hot water is dripped on top of the sheets to prevent cracks.
3. Edge trimming
After shaping, the halves of the ping pong balls start to look good; however, there is still work to do. The edges of the halves need to be trimmed and removed. This step is done fully automatically.
Now that the ball halves are trim and neat, they can be glued together. This happens by cooperation with humans and machines. After the gluing, the balls drop to large containers that are then distributed to a large hall where the balls are kept for 15 days at the temperature of 113-122°F (45-50°C).
5. Quality control
After 15 days, the ping pong balls need to go through quality control. First, all the balls are placed to an automatic quality control line, and the ones that pass go to a second evaluation done by hand. There are 5 steps to quality control by hands that are:
- Using a bright light, the seam and surface of the ball is checked
- Balls veer is checked by rolling the ball down to a table with line markings on it. The ball needs to pass a narrow space to be accepted. This is to ensure that the ball is indeed even from all sides.
- A machine measures the ball’s hardness. After the hardness is determined, the balls are distributed to different hardness categories.
- The fourth step is the weighting of the ball. This is done on a scale, and the ball needs to weigh between 2.68g and 2.76g to pass.
- The fifth and last step is the roundness of the ball. This is checked by hand using a specific machine to ensure that the ball is between 40.00mm and 40.40mm to pass.
6. Logo printing
Now, it’s time for the logo! Depending on the manufacturer, of course, their logo will be printed on the ball. This is done automatically with human supervising.
The ping pong ball manufacturing process is done, and the only thing left to do is packaging and shipping! If you believe it, the DHS company can package +600,000 ping pong balls a day, which equals more than 200 million ping pong balls per year! The packaging process is fully automatic.
Making a ping pong ball doesn’t seem so easy, now does it? It is a long and accurate process, but when you think about it, a ping pong ball must be perfectly round and the right size for the athletes to play well. If you prefer visual learning, check out the video below by ITTF!
What makes a good ping pong ball
A good ping pong ball is equipped with an ITTF-approval label. This means that the ball’s weight is between 2.68g and 2.76g. Also, if you see a 40+ mark on the ball, it means that the ball is larger than 40mm in size. Finally, a 3-star mark ensures that it is the highest quality fit for competition.
There are three different star categories on ping pong balls from 1 to 3. Usually, large training ball packages that come with a reasonable price are filled with 1 or 2-star ping pong balls. However, 3-star ping pong balls are usually found in 3-packs, or that the price is far higher than the lower star balls.
If you are confused about how to choose table tennis balls, you can learn more about it in my step-by-step article with clear instructions!
How long do ping pong balls last
Generally, a ping pong ball’s lifespan is determined by its star rating. Meaning that a 3-star rating ball will last the longest because it has reached the required weight limit; therefore, it has more material on it than 1 and 2-star balls. The actual time that it will last depends on how often do you train.
Why are ping pong balls flammable
Ping pong balls are flammable if they are made from celluloid. This is because celluloid is partly made of nitrocellulose, a highly flammable compound made by nitrating cotton fiber through nitric acid. However, after 2014 ping pong balls are mostly made from ABS plastic which isn’t nearly as flammable.
Are ping pong balls biodegradable
Regardless of whether the ping pong balls are made from celluloid or ABS plastic, they are not biodegradable. However, both celluloid and ABS plastic ping pong balls are recyclable.
To further understand the facts behind ping pong balls and their recyclable properties, check out my article where I explain it well!
Can you 3D print a ping pong ball
You can 3D print a ping pong ball; however, it won’t look just like the original one. 3D ping pong balls have holes in them, enabling air to pass through them. This is because if you were to 3D print a sealed ball, it would have too much mass to be classified as a ping pong ball.
Also, 3D printed ping pong balls aren’t officially called such; however, you can effortlessly play with them, which is cool!
My Favorite Table Tennis Equipment
Thanks for reading this article. I hope it brought you great value that you can implement into your own life! Here you can find my preferred table tennis equipment that I believe you could benefit too!
- Racket: My favorite racket choice is the beautiful Killerspin Jet800 because it fits my offensive and speed-focused playstyle. The two carbon layers, 2.1mm sponge, and 190g weight makes this racket powerful.
- Ping Pong Balls: New technology and design have made the JOOLA Flash Seamless 3-Star Balls stand out from the other balls. These balls are seamless, meaning they are more durable than any ball with a seam! Even when these balls come at a higher price, they will pay themselves quickly. As a bonus, the design makes me excited!
- Table Tennis shoes: The famous Butterfly Lezoline Rifones is my choice as it is for many others because they are designed specifically for table tennis standards. I like the excellent support, comfortable cushioning, and lightweight sole with great traction, which gets you exploding fast to whatever direction you need to.
- Fan Equipment: If you’re a fan more than a player, you don’t want to miss Fan Equipment by Fanatics. You can find items from various sports that bear your favorite team’s logo, such as jerseys, gift ideas, or other surprising things.
ABS plastic is without question the most used ping pong ball material nowadays. Given that celluloid balls were made over a hundred years, millions of celluloid table tennis balls are still out there. This article showed a lot of interesting and valuable information about the production of ping pong balls as well, and it is no easy task to produce them.
I hope that this article gave you real value, and you now know a lot more about ping pong balls than before reading this post. Next time you play table tennis, keep an eye on the ball’s features and see if you can tell whether it is made out of celluloid or ABS plastic!