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Pickleballs... Why some are better

22. March 2017


In Mike Nichols classic film 'The Graduate' Mr McGuire tells Ben Braddock the future is all about Plastics.  In the last 50 years Dustin Hoffman has aged and Walter Brooke (Mr McGuire) has died… but his wisdom lives on.

Plastic is the crux of a pickleball.  Which plastic is used and how it is formed will determine whether your $3.00 a ball was well spent.  There are bazillions of types of plastics.  They can do anything, Mr McGuire was right.

Organic polymers for dummies. AKA: Plastics

You can divide the world of polymers into a couple of broad based categories….

Thermoplastics can be re-melted and essentially returned to their original state—sort of like the way an ice cube can be melted and then cooled again. Thermoplastics usually are produced first in a separate process to create small pellets (virgin plastic); these pellets then are heated and formed to make all sorts of consumer and industrial products. Thermoplastics include plastics you're likely familiar with: polyethylene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene, nylon, polycarbonate, and others.

Thermosets are usually produced and formed into products at the same time—and they cannot be returned to their original state. They generally are formed using heat ("thermo") and become "set," like a cooked egg. Thermosets include vulcanized synthetic rubber, acrylics, polyurethanes, melamine, silicone, epoxies, and others.

Pickleballs come from thermoplastics pellets.  The pellets can be virgin or a bit slutty.  Virgin pellets are the strongest, best base you can build from.  Non-virgin pellets or Barbie Heads are bits of plastics which were once something else, then reheated to extend the yield of a production cycle.

As you can imagine sweeping up imperfect Barbie heads from the floor to make G I Joes is of little consequence.  Neither action figure will likely be dinked out of the kitchen.  Using a once heated plastic in a high performance pickleball on the other hand is like trying to win a NASCAR event with second hand tires.

Types of manufacturing

Once you have standards and commit to only using the finest plastics you come to the next big decision, how and where to manufacture your ball.

Rotational Molding is typically used for creating hollow or partly hollow objects. It involves heating a hollow mold and then filling it with melted plastic. As the plastic disperses through the mold, it is rotated and cooled until the plastic is set. This process is quick and very cost effective, because it is only one step. The downside is gravity.  As the plastic cools it moves like an ice cream scoop on a summer day in St George, slowly working it’s way from the cone to the hand tooled rich Corinthian leather of your Cordoba or other fine car. This causes soft spots, hard spots, thick spots and thin spots on the walls of your pickleball. The Monarch and Dura Ball are examples of rotational molded pickleballs.

Injection molding is the process used to make plastic army men, frisbees and most other solid plastic things you have owned. Injection molding forces hot plastic, with a uniform consistency into a mold. This eliminates the production anomalies which cause roto molded balls to bounce funny or lose their shape before you even take them home. From a manufacturing prospective, injection molded balls are a Profit Buzz Kill. You can only produce halves, not whole balls. This requires a second step.  The halves must be joined together either with exotic welding machines or tiny mice using glue guns, the balls are made round.

The Onix, Onix 2 and P7 Pure Pickleball, co-marketed by Paddletek, are injection molded balls.  You can easily identify injection molded balls by their seam. Where balls are manufactured also plays a role.  Some companies use Chinese labor, while others create jobs in the United States.  At this time Pure Pickleball’s P7 is the only nationally distributed outdoor pickleball made, marketed and designed from one of the 50 United States.

Comments (9)

Raymond on December 04, 2017

Honestly, I’d preferably miss a serve than miss a ball wide. What I mean is it’s more imperative to me to complete the point with a ball hit in the court at that point to miss a possibility in the first place. I am not saying that it isn’t critical to build up a solid serve. You likely won’t win in the event that you miss your serve constantly.

Harry on May 24, 2017

There is a reason the Onix2 swept the courts like wildfire. Practically everyone I play with thinks it is more fun than the dura or p7. Plus it rarely breaks in the cold while I have gone through 12 of the harder balls in the cold in a single morning. Some matches in a recent (not cold) tournament I attended went through 3 balls in one set with the dura. Now at the courts we have two groups of players, those with an upcoming tournament who want to be used to the dura or p7 and play with that, and everyone else using the Onix2. If you manufacture balls the recent ball changes are money in your pocket as the new ones do not last very long.

Ron Marianetti on March 28, 2017

Great job of educating the customer! A company that puts in this effort insures consistent quality and value for the customer

Jay Jackson on March 28, 2017

I love the P7. Now I know why. I am so happy to see a return to the original style of outdoor ball and away from the Onix 2 that even while not capable of passing the USAPA standards without “manipulation” swept the courts like wildfire. Now that the realization of the December 31st date of losing USAPA certification is fast closing all I hear is complaints that “this ball is so different”. Yeah. Because it is back to pickleball standards. Good to see tournaments using the Dura 40 and P7 again.

Diane on March 28, 2017

Love the Pure 7 Pickleball bounce and color, by far a superior ball, it should be used in all the tournaments. Best Ball!!!

Deb Richter on March 28, 2017

Great information. Now if they can just conform to the rules right out of the box…both indoor and outdoor.

George Thimpson on March 24, 2017

P7 rules !!!

Long live Purepickleball.com !!!

Jeanie Simpson on March 24, 2017

Clearly, these USA made balls are superior!

Turner Fellers on March 23, 2017

LOL, The Graduate to a mouse in a tennis ball.

This is funny and I learned something.

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