Ball Bounce Engineering

Have you ever thought about how high a ball is supposed to bounce off a playing surface? And how a court can provide grip for your shoes, yet not be so rough that falls tear your skin? Designers at Sport Court share their secrets in this episode.

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Transcript For This Video

Have you ever wondered how high a basketball should bounce? Or how a tennis ball should bounce on different surfaces like clay or a hard court? The secret to the bounce is in the floor. Basketball court manufacturers measure their surfaces against the industry benchmark, which is concrete. A basketball court has to return at least 90% of the bounce that it would have on concrete in order to be played in competition. Tennis courts aren¦t like basketball courts because they may be designed to play like clay, hard court or grass. That means getting the levels of softness and grip just right.

Sport Court, the makers of the PowerGame surface system has designed a modular polymer surface that is used in courts around the world and across virtually every game. They use a high speed optic camera to record imagery that demonstrates the trajectory entry and exit angles on a tennis ball, for example. By adjusting the polymer compounds, the design of the legs and the surface properties, they are able to create a surface that provides true basketball and tennis ball bounces.

The next big challenge was to design a surface that would be as safe as possible. That means shock absorption, so players have a lower risk of injury from a fall or just from running hard. They cleverly designed varying leg lengths of the underside of the court. You can¦t see it very well, but half of these legs are 30/1,000ths of an inch shorter than the other half. That means the court will deflect for a heavy weight, like a person, but won¦t deflect for a light weight, like a ball.

They also have to allow for extreme variations in temperature. As polymers heat up, they expand a lot more than other materials. To allow for expansion, they designed this loop and lock mechanism that allows for expansion.