Wilson Sporting Goods Co., the official provider of basketball for the National Basketball Association (NBA), has officially unveiled the world’s first 3D printed airless basketball prototype.
The revolutionary design was first seen in Houston Rockets forward KJ Martin’s hands for his second dunk in this year’s Slam Dunk Contest, demonstrating the ball’s real-life functionality.
A Wilson spokesperson expressed, “This is a ball unlike anything we’ve ever seen designed to play like the basketballs we’ve always known.”
3D Printed Airless Basketball Prototype
The Wilson Airless Prototype, which does not require inflation, relies on a unique structure and research-grade materials to replicate the bounce of a traditional basketball. The porous surface of the prototype, designed by the same team that created the official NBA game ball, is fitted with small hexagonal holes that allow outside air to freely pass through, while the traditional eight-panel seam structure remains.
While the Wilson Airless has been demonstrated to be playable, nearly matching the performance specifications of a regulation basketball in terms of weight, size, and bounce, it is still in the prototype stage, and “there is still work to be done before it is ready for courts around the world,” the company continues in a statement. The official game ball will remain unchanged for the time being.
“We are so proud to unveil Wilson’s 3D Airless Prototype basketball as a physical manifestation of our continued commitment to sport innovation. 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.”– Kevin Murphy, General Manager, Team Sports at Wilson
According to independent estimates, the airless basketball could cost between $200 and $250, roughly the same as the current official game ball.
Wilson Labs’ design for the 3D printed airless basketball prototype was created at the brand’s Innovation Center in Chicago before being brought to life with key partners. General Lattice provided computational design services, DyeMansion provided colour and finishing solutions, and EOS provided additive manufacturing from its AT&T-powered technical centre.
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