A 3D printed recyclable tennis ball

German designer Fabienne Kille designed a recyclable tennis ball which can be made through 3D printing.

Every year, 325 million tennis balls are manufactured. They consists of two half-shells of rubber which are connected and then covered in nylon or wool felt to get the fluffy yellow ball we know (read all about the process here). But while rubber on its own is recyclable, because the tennis ball is made of a composite material, recycling the balls is not easy.

In order to make a tennis ball that is recyclable, Kille designed Loop, a 3D printed tennis ball made of just one material. The ball is printed in one piece and can be printed on site to avoid long transport routes.

“The precise regularity of its construction due to the additive manufacturing process has a positive effect on the overall bounce, flight and impact behaviour,” Kille says. “Its surface texture provides the ball with a solid grip. Its non-pneumatic configuration eliminates any pressure loss that could affect its characteristics.”

The balls are held together in a material-saving packaging that is also 3D printed. It is made of recycled nylon tennis strings. The tennis balls can be popped out of the package easily.

The project won the Green Concept Award 2021 in the category sports.

Photos via Green Product Awards