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Slam Dunk with 3D! The complete record of making an Airless Basketball (Part 1) - Design

A few months ago, the famous brand Wilson launched the limited edition of the 3D printed basketball Airless Gen1, priced at $2,500. As believers in "there is nothing we can't do", we decided to DIY one. After many efforts, we finally succeeded! In the process, we used different tools and materials, and after many tests, we finally achieved the best results. Of course, we won't hide it, so we will record the whole process for anyone who is interested in making one.

This blog is the first half, mainly introducing the 3D model design part.

Experiment 1: Ready-made Model

Initially, we just wanted to do 3D printing and hadn’t thought about designing the model ourselves, so we just tried to find a ready-made model online. We found it and immediately printed it out at high speed using the Bambu Lab P1S 3D printer .

Since the existing model is only a single-layer design, it doesn't feel like a basketball at all when you hit it, and it will fall apart after a few hits, so we cannot be lazy and need to build our own model.

Test 2: Autodesk Fusion 360 Design Extension

The surface of a basketball is actually composed of a large number of hexagons. To create regular hexagons to form a sphere, Autodesk Fusion 360 is the best choice. We used the Volumetric Lattice function of Fusion 360 Design Extension to quickly create a double-layer mesh sphere, and then printed it for testing.

After the test printing, the double-layer structure really improved the hand feel greatly, but we found that the hexagons generated by Fusion 360 were irregular, resulting in many weak points after printing and it's easy to break.

Experiment 3: Autodesk Fusion 360 + Python Script

After some research, we found that we could use Python scripts to generate a Dual Geodesic Icosahedra in Fusion 360, a mesh structure similar to that commonly used in footballs, which seems to enhance durability.

After testing, it was found that Dual Geodesic Icosahedra does make the basketball stronger, but unfortunately it is too hard and not suitable for making basketballs.

Test 4: Blender

We certainly would not give up so easily. After further research and discussion, a colleague suggested using Blender's Icosphere subdivision function to generate a Goldberg Polyhedron , and then use the Bevel function to open holes in all pentagons and hexagons, and then use the Extrude function to give thickness to complete the entire mesh structure.

This method is more complicated, and it is not easy to achieve an accurate thickness , but after many adjustments and tests, we finally completed a model that feels good and is durable! You can watch the following short video of the complete production process:

Of course, no matter how well-structured a model is, it still needs the right materials to print. In the next article, we will tell you about the materials we have tried. Please stay tuned!

If you are interested in different 3D design tools, you can join our Idea to Done workshop and become believers of “there is nothing we can’t do”!

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