If you play table tennis, you might have sometime or the other wondered ” How exactly is a ping pong ball made”?. Or What is a table tennis ball made of?
I have done a little research on it and in this post, you will find the answers?
What is a Table Tennis Ball made of?
The table tennis/ping pong ball is made of celluloid polymer. It is a thermoplastic. It can be molded into any form. Celluloid is a composition mixture of nitrocellulose and camphor. The celluloid sheets are soaked in hot alcohol to become soft. It is molded into hemispherical balls. The two hemispherical balls are aligned perfectly with adhesives to form a complete table tennis/ping pong ball. It is then allowed to harden.
In 2014/2015, the material used to make table tennis balls changed from celluloid to a non-flammable plastic (often referred as “plastic balls”, “poly balls” or “40+ balls”). So, for professional and Recreational play, these non-flammable plastics are used today.
The celluloid is the same material from which photographic films are made. This celluloid is not much used today. Mostly they are used for Guitar picks, Musical instruments, and ping pong balls.
What’s inside the Ball?
Table tennis balls are filled with air.
If you have ever broken a TT ball ( I have broken tons while playing) and ever tried to smell it, ( NOTE: not recommended at all) it smells of camphor. The reason we have seen above, that it’s actually made of camphor and nitrocellulose. So, it’s quite obvious, you’d smell of camphor.
The balls can be filled with any gas, but generally, as far as I have experienced, it’s always filled with air.
Also, the Celluloid is highly flammable. That is why the ping pong balls catch fire easily. Please don’t burn a ping pong ball indoors. The fumes are quite dangerous.
Read also: How to select a table tennis bat
Are Ping-Pong balls Toxic?
The short answer, No. They are not. The plastic of the table tennis/ping-pong ball is harmless.
Yes, if you try to consume it, It’s harmful.
Yes, it’s also toxic if you burn them. Stay from the noxious fumes and you are safe.
Quite recently, the ITTF standards changed the material and hence, the balls aren’t toxic anymore.
The Dimension of Table tennis Ball
The official rules specify that the ball should be a sphere having a mass of 2.7 grams (0.095 oz) and a diameter of 40 millimeters (1.57 in).
- spherical, with a diameter of 40mm
- weigh 2.7g
- made of celluloid or similar
- be white or orange, and matte, — rules say that the ball shall bounce up 24–26 cm (9.4–10.2 in) when dropped from a height of 30.5 cm (12.0 in) onto a standard steel block.
Balls are now made of polymer instead of celluloid as of 2015. They are colored white or orange, with a matte finish. The choice of ball color is made according to the table color and its surroundings. For example, a white ball is easier to see on a green or blue table than it is on a grey table.
- Read also: Rules of Table tennis a beginner must know
Grading of the balls
The grading of the table tennis balls represents the quality and of the ball. It is done with a star rating system, usually from one to three, three being the highest grade. For example: If you have 1-star ball, the quality is low and if you see 3 stars, it’s the highest grade ball.
This system is not standard across manufacturers, a ball may be used in official competition upon ITTF approval (the ITTF approval can be seen printed on the ball).
How are Table Tennis balls made?
Watch this amazing manufacturing video which shows how balls are made.
History of the Table Tennis Ball
The earliest tabletop version of ping pong or table tennis dates back to the late 1800s, according to the International Table Tennis Federation museum.
Since that time the ball has gone through several changes including the type of material used to make it. Early variations of the game were unsuccessful because they were unable to find the perfect ball.
The bounce characteristics of the first balls — rubber covered with cloth and cork wrapped in webbing — were poor. The rubber ball was too bouncy and the cork ball had the opposite problem.
Because of this, a celluloid plastic ball was introduced around the year 1900, which provided the right amount of bounce. Celluloid, which is a composition of nitrocellulose and camphor, is a synthetic plastic material similar to what’s used to make a film for photography. Since then, the table tennis as a sport started gaining popularity.
Changes in Ball
Original 1926 laws relating to ball remained unchanged until 2000. Although there were several changes in ball color. It stated that the ball must be “pale colored”. Later in 1947, it was changed to ” White”.
In 1971, the color was an issue. So, they changed to ” white or yellow”. It didn’t stay for long as in 1993, the rule changed to keep the ball ” White or orange/yellow”.
And finally in 1997, the change to ” white or orange” and since then it is same.
After the year 2000, there have been 2 major changes in the table tennis ball. Those major changes were:
- From 38mm balls to 40mm. ( 1 October 2000)
- From Celluloid to Plastic balls. ( 1 July 2014 )
In 2014 the ITTF approved a new plastic ball, which is used for all sanctioned international events.
The 40 mm ball was introduced after the 2000 Summer Olympics. However, this created some controversy at the time as the Chinese National Team argued that this was merely to give non-Chinese players a better chance of winning since the new type of ball has a slower speed (a 40 mm table tennis ball is slower and spins less than the original 38 mm one, and at that time, most Chinese players were playing with fast attack and smashes).
If you are an aspiring table tennis player, then you should definitely be using the new plastic table tennis balls.
To identify if you are using the new plastic balls is that it will have “40+” printed on the ball.
The + symbol indicates it is a new size. If your ball just says 40 or 4mm, without the + symbol, it will most likely be the old celluloid ball. So make sure the balls you buy have the 40+ symbol.
Some of the brands selling Table tennis balls:
Nittaku Premium 40+
Double Fish V40+
Some Indian Brands :
The history of Table tennis is interesting. I hope you had fun knowing about the Table tennis balls. If you feel that any information is missed or omitted, please leave a comment and I would update it. Let me know in the comments what you think about this article.