By Alice Tym
Most players take it for granted that the pickleballs they use will have a consistent bounce, last a long time and not go out of round.
Franklin Sports, Dura, Onix and Gamma manufacture their own line of top-notch pickleballs. Alice Tym sat down with Adam Franklin who explained how the balls are made.
Adam explains the rotational molding process whereby the optic yellow plastic powder is poured into a round mold, which is then enclosed, evenly heated and consistently spun for an extended period of time. "The rotation ensures that the balls come out of the mold truly round and evenly weighted one hundred percent of the time," Adam says.
The cavity mold is then dipped into temperature-controlled cooling water so the ball hardens evenly. The durability of the ball itself is controlled by the chemical formula of the powder. Next, the balls are placed into a machine that drills the holes called the Four Roto process. The spider look-alike machine has 10 rotating drills that drill each ball four times to produce forty holes. By automating this process, every ball should be exactly the same. When drilling into plastic, there are shavings, and Franklin has a secret heating process to singe off and remove the shavings from each ball to make sure the surface is smooth. The design of the machinery is secret and the chemical formulas are kept under lock and key at the Franklin headquarters.
After fabrication, the balls must be inspected. A dozen balls from each batch in the staging area are randomly selected, quarantined and sent to Quality Control. Here, each ball is shot out of a pitching machine 750 times at 60 mph into a granite slab 3 feet away. If that sample passes the test and is approved, the balls from that batch are sent to the packaging area where they’re packaged into groups of 3, 12, or 100.
Consistency and durability are primary goals and Adam is confident the Franklin X-40 and X-26 meet those criteria. They are also working on a cold-weather ball.
Currently, the company produces 5,000 balls a day with the ability to flex up to 10x that amount. "We expect the sport to grow at a rapid pace. It’s no accident major retailers are adding shelf space for pickleball,” Adam says. “It will continue to grow through sheer visibility, and we’ll have an exciting announcement to make at the US Open."
10 Fun Facts!
- Pickleballs float.
- Pickleballs are not recyclable, yet. Franklin is working on it.
- There are 40 holes in an outdoor ball, 26 in an indoor ball.
- The outdoor ball is slightly heavier than the indoor ball.
- Players should store balls at room temperature.
- There has been a 10,000 percent growth rate in the production of the Franklin ball.
- The Franklin X-40 is carried in more than 12,000 brick and mortar locations, including 2,000 Walmarts, 1,000 Targets and 3,000 Walgreens.
- Franklin balls are shipped as far away as India. They are the official ball of the 11 AIPA tournaments in India.
- Franklin can produce 35,000 balls per day.
- A dozen balls per batch are tested by pitching them 750 times at 60 mph into a granite slab 3 feet away.