Ping Pong Ball Diameter Explained In-Detail

This article will help you learn everything you need to know about ping pong ball diameter, along with supplying some fun facts.
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Last updatedLast updated: April 28, 2022
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A ping-pong ball is a hollow plastic ball with a fascinating history that is used to play table tennis. In this article, we will teach you a lot about ping-pong balls. You will learn about:

  • The history of the ping-pong ball
  • Ping-pong ball diameter and other regulations
  • What they are made from
  • What “true bounce” is
  • How you can fix a damaged ball (spoiler alert: dented balls can be saved, cracked balls cannot)

Ping-pong players spend a lot of time, effort, and money choosing the best ping-pong paddle- but they don’t really give much thought to the balls that they are playing with. If you’re just playing around, it’s perfectly acceptable to use the cheaper ping-pong balls. On the other hand, if you are competing in a tournament or you just want to improve your game, then you’ll need to take time to do your research and find the best ones.

Some of the best options are the Franklin Sports Table Tennis Balls or the Recreational 1-star Ping Pong Balls. Both have been rated by consumers 4.6 out of 5 stars, and the prices are comparable.

The history behind ping pong balls

When ping-pong balls first came out, they were latex spheres filled with air. They were used in a variety of games, such as whiff-whaff and Gossima. Then, in 1880, Mr. James Gibb introduced the modern celluloid ping-pong balls.

In 1903, J. Jacques & Son came along and decided to change the name of Gossima to table tennis. This became a fashionable game in England and took the world by storm.

The rebound characteristics of the new celluloid balls transformed the game into a legitimate sport. The older latex spheres were completely unpredictable.

Diameter

If you’re like most people, you can picture a ping-pong ball in your head. However, you may have a hard time estimating the size and weight of these balls.

As you probably know, a ping-pong ball is small. It’s a perfectly spherical-shaped ball made to play ping-pong. Their diameter is 4 centimeters, which is about 1.57 inches Trusted Source The Diameter Of A Ping Pong Ball (And Other Fun Facts) - Above House The diameter of a ping pong ball is 1.57 inches (or 4 cm). They weigh 0.095 ounces (or 2.7 grams). It’s about the same size as a golf ball. abovehouse.com . They only weigh about 2.7 grams, which is about .095 ounces.

At one time, the ping-pong ball was actually smaller, with a diameter measuring at 3.8 centimeters, which is 1.5 inches. Their circumference is 12.56 centimeters, which is 4.94 inches. However, though it’s a fun fact to file away in your brain when people are talking about ping-pong balls, they discuss diameter, not circumference.

While the size of a ping-pong ball is pretty much standard across the board, you will find variations in color. The orange ones are great for casual games since they’re easy to see. However, in official tournament play, the white balls are used because they work well with the blue or green tables- and are easy to see.

There are some people that have a hard time determining if a ping-pong ball or a golf ball Trusted Source Ping-Pong Ball | Table Tennis Ball Dimensions & Drawings | Dimensions.com Table Tennis Balls (Ping pong balls) are spherical polymer balls fabricated specifically for the sport. Ping pong balls are colored as either white or orange depending on the table surface and game style. White balls are official tournament balls and pair well with blue or green tables, while orange balls are used for casual games as they are easier to see in most settings. www.dimensions.com is bigger- especially at first glance. However, once you look closer and measure the two balls, it’s easy to see that a golf ball is bigger.

Ping Pong Ball Diameter Explained In-Detail

The increased size after the 2000 Olympic games brought the ping-pong ball closer to the size of a golf ball- but the golf ball is still slightly larger. The golf ball is definitely heavier than a ping-pong ball.

Other ping pong balls regulations

Until 2000, the International Table Tennis Federation, or the ITTF, had allowed players to continue using the celluloid balls that were discovered by Jack Gibb. Though there were likely some changes in manufacturing processes and very slight changes in weight, there were really no regulations on ping-pong balls, and the players were allowed to use what was readily available to them.

However, following the 2000 Olympic Games, which were held in Sydney, Australia, the ITTF decided to start flexing their muscles. They were concerned with the accessibility of the sport for people sitting in the arena and watching it to those sitting at home watching on their televisions. They decided that some rule changes were needed to make it more attractive to a growing audience across the world.

Among the changes was increasing the size of the ping-pong ball. Prior to these changes, as mentioned above, the balls had a diameter of 3.8 centimeters. The rule change increased it to 4 centimeters.

Many of you can understand why this would make people more likely to watch table tennis tournaments. Even a small increase in size results in increased friction with the atmosphere, which means the ball is slowed down. Additionally, this should decrease the amount of spin imparted to the ball.

The result was something that spectators loved to see: longer rallies. However, longer rallies meant longer matches- which is something the ITTF wanted to avoid. However, the other change that was made was the scoring system. Originally, it was a 21-point game but was changed to an 11-point game. Longer matches, but fewer points needed to win.

What are balls made from?

Ping Pong Ball Diameter Explained In-Detail

For a long time, the material of choice for serious ping-pong players was celluloid. However, as advances are made in manufacturing technology, plastic balls are becoming more popular since they’re less costly to produce.

For many years, celluloid was the only material that was able to produce signature gameplay. Since plastics have come so far, the ITTF is open to allowing more innovation into this area.

If you’ve seen the movie Inglorious Basterds, you’re probably asking: “Isn’t celluloid the material that was used to burn down the Parisian theater at the end?” Yes, you are right. They did use celluloid to start the fire. This material is extremely flammable. This is something that you definitely need to keep in mind if you choose to use balls made from celluloid.

You should absolutely never combine a celluloid ping-pong ball with fire. Well, if you want to see a spectacular show, go ahead- but only under supervision by a responsible adult. Ideally, you should be keeping your ping-pong balls away from open flames at all times.

How are they manufactured?

Ping Pong Ball Diameter Explained In-Detail

Most of the ping-pong balls in the world are made by a company based in Shanghai, China, called Double Happiness Company. In China, table tennis is almost a religion.

Ping-pong balls are manufactured by a machine. After all, machines do everything. The process will be explained below. However, keep in mind that this is an oversimplified explanation. There’s much more to it than can be put into words.

However, before we get into the explanation, let’s take a look at what the International Table Tennis Federation says regarding what is required for a ping-pong ball to be considered as “official.”

  • The ball must be perfectly round
  • The ball must have a weight of 2.7 grams
  • The ball must be white or orange
  • The ball must have a matte- not glossy- finish
  • The ball must be made from celluloid or other plastic

The first step in the manufacturing process is to take a sheet of celluloid and immerse it in heated alcohol. This will give it the softness that is required to mold it. The softened sheet is pressed into a mold, which creates perfect half-spheres. Then, it’s allowed to cool down and harden.

Once the edges have been trimmed to ensure the shape is absolutely perfect, they will be weighed. If there are any that are not ideal, they are tossed out. Only those that can be joined to another half-sphere to create a perfectly weighted ping-pong ball are kept.

Since there needs to be no evidence of a seam because that would have an effect on the trajectory consistency and bounce, the process of joining two halves is quite delicate. Double Happiness Company has been able to perfect this process. While it’s true that its almost inevitable that there will be a seam, they use a mechanical process that smooths it away through a gentle chafing process. This results in a perfectly round ping-pong ball.

Bouncing

Ping Pong Ball Diameter Explained In-DetailWhile it’s true that the bounce of the ping-pong ball really has more to do with the table than the ball, we do want to mention that the International Table Tennis Federation does have rules in place regarding the bounce of the ping-pong ball off the table’s surface. The ITTF states that the ball must bounce at a consistent height. This is known as “true bounce.”

According to this rule, this “true bounce” is measured like this:

When the ball is dropped from 30 millimeters high, it should bounce to 26 millimeters. Therefore, no matter how the ball is manufactured or where it’s bounced on the table, it must achieve true bounce in order to be legal to be used in a tournament.

How to fix a damaged ball?

If you know anything at all about the game of ping-pong, you know how extremely fragile ping-pong balls can be. While it’s true that the higher quality ones are made to stand up against robust rallies and smashes- there are many other ways that a ping-pong ball can become dented, cracked, or otherwise damaged.

If a ball is hit into one of the posts holding up the net, which is quite common, it can sustain some damage. Sometimes, in your rush to try to keep it from rolling down a set of stairs or towards an open door, you end up stepping on it. This can cause some major damage as well.

If you’ve played enough ping-pong, you’ve probably found some pretty creative ways to damage the ping-pong balls. Since damaged balls are so common, there are many people that will ask if it’s possible to fix a ball that has been cracked or dented.

We will give you the bad news first. Once a ball has been cracked, there’s no saving it. You will either need to throw it out or use it in a fire experiment if you’re feeling like seeing a show. The best thing to do is make sure that you have a lot of balls available when you are playing. Of course, you may play all day and not damage any- but that’s highly unlikely. However, the good news is, you can save a dented ball. We’ll explain how below:

The easiest way to re-inflate a dented ping-pong ball is to immerse it in hot water. Start by boiling some water and then put it into a cup. Then, place the ball in the water. This will result in the air inside of the ball expanding, which will gently push out the dent. This method will almost never fail. However, be careful that you don’t drop the ball in the water while it’s still boiling. This will bring you a whole new set of problems.

Of course, since ping-pong balls are buoyant, you will have to gently push them into the water with a spoon to make sure it’s immersed. Once the dent has popped out, you can use the spoon to remove the ball and lay it on a towel to dry.

Final thoughts

As you can see, ping-pong balls have a fascinating history. The ITTF has set specific standards in place regarding the ping-pong ball diameter, as well as other specs so that it would get more people interested in the game.

Perhaps knowing this information is only interesting to those who are interested in the game. On the other hand, perhaps learning this information will spark your interest in the game. Even if you are only interested in messing around and not playing in tournaments, learning to fix a dented ball is something that will help you and your game.

Hopefully, this has helped you to learn everything you’ve ever wanted (or maybe didn’t want) to know about ping-pong balls, their history, how they’re made, and much more.

References

1.
The Diameter Of A Ping Pong Ball (And Other Fun Facts) - Above House
The diameter of a ping pong ball is 1.57 inches (or 4 cm). They weigh 0.095 ounces (or 2.7 grams). It’s about the same size as a golf ball.
2.
Ping-Pong Ball | Table Tennis Ball Dimensions & Drawings | Dimensions.com
Table Tennis Balls (Ping pong balls) are spherical polymer balls fabricated specifically for the sport. Ping pong balls are colored as either white or orange depending on the table surface and game style. White balls are official tournament balls and pair well with blue or green tables, while orange balls are used for casual games as they are easier to see in most settings.
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