Nike is developing a 3D-printed golf ball that it says may last longer and outperform the best golf balls made today.
3D-printed golf balls are not brand new, but high-tech 3D printed golf balls are.
Nike is still using an elastomeric material for an inner core and a rigid material for an outer core, but the 3D printing process allows for smoother transitions between a multitude of layers as well as the introduction of unique internal geometric feature, such as voids, that may improve performance.
The key goal is to balance soft feel with resilience. Hardness allows long drives with minimal spin. Softer balls spin more, improving control for shorter shots to the green.
In one configuration of a new Nike patent, each shell comprises rings aligned at a different azimuth angle of 0 to 90 degrees. In another, each shell layer may be formed from many arcs extending away from the work surface. That type of construction is not possible with injection or compression molding.
In the final step, the golf balls would still be fused and overmolded with a material such as DuPont Surlyn. The type of 3D printing used is fused deposition, but no specific type of printer is identified in the patent. In fact, some aspects of the technology appear to be new developments, including control and mixing systems.
The inventor is Aaron Bender, a compounding chemical engineer at Nike, Beaverton, Oregon.
Nike developed its first golf ball 18 years ago, and ironically announced last August that it will be phasing out of the golf ball business and focusing on golf clothing. The invention application was filed at the end of 2013.