pic: Homemade Orbit Ball! (White Paper Coming Soon)

After searching through six Connecticut Wal-Mart stores and only finding four good Orbit Balls (we left one broken, unpackaged one behind at Wallingford) and the “calling card” (another broken, unpackaged one we found and left at Newington), we decided that enough is enough. It was time to use some Yankee ingenuity to solve this dilemma.

After slicing strips of 0.062" polycarbonate on the table saw, finding green and blue spandex (curse this! the only two colors which they had in stock were the only ones which don’t end up together!) and thin foam at Jo-Ann Fabrics, between my father, myself, and my sister we managed to make the first prototype homemade Orbit Ball this evening in about two hours.

It’s slightly larger than the regular ones (2020 hindsight: we should have measured the diameter before we pop-riveted them together), but functions almost identically to the four official ones we purchased. It’s slightly more flexible, however we think some of this will be eliminated when we make another one the correct size tomorrow.

We are currently working on streamlining the process (we’re aiming to be able to make 7-10 in a single evening), writing a white paper, and filming a corresponding YouTube How To video to help teams out. The final price right now cost us about $10 worth of materials for each ball, which is what we would have paid at Wal-Mart anyway had they been in stock.

WOW! Thank you so much for proving that it can be done. I cannot wait for the white paper/tutorial vid as all the local stores in my area have been cleaned out. I am sure that my team will be making these. Is the spring constant approximately equal between the real and reproduced? A good test would be resting a heavy book on one, measuring then depression then doing the same to the other.

Unfortunately this is also a good way to break them.

OK maybe a medium weight book :slight_smile: Start at Dr Suess, and move up to JK Rowling.

I also reccomend dropping the real one and fake one at the same time while videotaping. On the tape you can count the bounces and see the height, comparing the consistancy.

What are the actual balls made of?

If all else fails, it seems you have a potential future in the toy manufacturing busyness. :stuck_out_tongue:


I like the compression test Idea, maybe do 10 test with varied orientations of the ball with each, and compare the average?

Also, did you happen to measure the internal plastic on a stock ball?

This reminds me of a story one of the mentors on my team told me about the floppies from '97 which was the only case of FIRST using a game piece that was not readily available in stores so one rather enterprising team made the floppies for other teams for a fee. There’s a fundraising idea for you!

fixed :slight_smile:

gosh darn Orbit Balls

This reminds me of a story one of the mentors on my team told me about the floppies from '97 which was the only case of FIRST using a game piece that was not readily available in stores so one rather enterprising team made the floppies for other teams for a fee. There’s a fundraising idea for you!

That was actually '99.

Which was also the first year of alliances as well.
I think I still have a few of those floppies laying around, I know team 190 uses them for packing material in their crate year after year.

While we’ve been lucky enough to find a small cache (6) of them in local stores (and are scouring the region for more), we’ve also been pondering making our own.

Perhaps this might plant a seed of thought: We’re wondering if we can find a plastic jug (gallon or 1.5 gallon, maybe from a bleach bottle?) that is about the right size, and then slice it on a bandsaw to 1" strips. Finding such a container might make it easier to make, since A) you could use 2 or three rings whole, B) the plastic is already round, and C) the jugs might be readily available and essentially free.

Happy hunting!

The major concern I would have with this process is that, if you left the loops whole instead of riveting them together, they would not be nearly as breakable as the regular Orbit Balls. I really think that, just like last year, when we had to worry about balls that were not optimally inflated, we are this year going to have to worry about Orbit Balls that are pretty busted up (at least internally).


Hey, Thats a totally awesome idea…
That had not even crossed my mind. Luckily, our team snagged a dozen at a single walmart, but this may come in handy for when the ones we have become unreliable.
Nice job, and good luck making that video. For now though, I had found a video that shows you how to weave the ball.

Can you interlock the whole rings as the orbit balls are interlocked? I haven’t attempted to see the interlocking pattern because I don’t want to break any of them.

I just did this test by stacking six encyclopedia volumes each upon both the real Orbit ball and the reproduction side by side, and they compressed nearly the exact same amount (they were within 3/8" of each other, which I’d guess is within the tolerance of the balls anyway).

I also did this test by simultaneously dropping both balls next to each other, as well as a second test of throwing the balls at the ground at the same time with same velocity. In both tests, they bounced to the exact same height. Between these results, and the compression results from above, I’d consider these a nearly perfect reproduction of the Orbit Ball. (Except the polycarbonate rings don’t break easily!)

I still don’t know, but .062" polycarbonate provides a very good approximation for cheaper than many other plastics (using McMaster prices).

I don’t want to take apart one of our five actual Orbit balls, as they are all still unbroken. However using calipers I estimate that the interior ring is 1.00" wide with an I or C channel shape. The edges are about .093" thick, and I cannot really tell the thickness of the inside between the two, but I’m estimating it’s about .050"

Milk jugs or similar plastic containers are only a few thousandths thick, and lose nearly all of their strength as soon as the container is breached (with holes, cuts, etc). I don’t think it would be feasible to make full-scale reproduction with same characteristics, but they may have potential for 1/3-scale Vex prototyping.

We are eagerly looking forward to this whitepaper since it seems we have a much more time consuming repeat of the tetras year if we want enough to host our pre-ship scrimmage :frowning:

I guess the next challenge is to make them break realistically…

Thanks for this Art, and thank your dad too!
I can’t wait to see your YouTube help video and your white paper.

This is FIRST inginuity at its finest!
Way to think outside the box!

We might very well be doing this… I’ve never seen a Wal-Mart in our area. I searched, and the closest one (according to the store locator) is almost 10 miles away.

As a quick word to the wise, it may be worth checking with the manufacturer to ensure there aren’t any patent/copyright issues with reproducing the Orbit balls. I’d imagine most toy companies would patent any sort of unique designs of their products, to prevent mass (re)production by competitors.

Even if they are a discontinued item, they may still be protected legally. Better to find out beforehand, than find out the hard way later.