• How Does a Tennis Ball Launcher Machine Work?

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How Does a Tennis Ball Launcher Machine Work?

Jul 12 2015

Ever wanted to perfect that slice backhand, work on that killer smash or master the art of a textbook volley? If so, a tennis ball launcher is your new best friend! Engineered to continuously shoot balls across the net, the contraptions are great for hobbyists and professionals alike. But how do they work? Read on for an overview of tennis ball launcher machine mechanics!

Wheel powered winners

The majority of tennis ball launcher machines on the market operate using counter-rotating wheels. When the machine is turned on an electric fan draws in outside air which is then pushed into the canister. To protect the fan motor from debris the air passes through a slab of foam as well as a screen barrier.

An electric motor powered hopper is used to channel balls into the landing area.

During this process the wheels squeeze the balls and put them under intense pressure, thus forcing them into a circular tube which leads to a small opening. This soft, rubbery circular area is called a detent. When the ball is lodged in the detent it creates an airtight seal at the end of the tube. Simultaneously, a plastic flap falls over the entrance which causes pressure to mount.

Under pressure

Eventually air pressure pushing on the ball overpowers resistance from the detent. This causes the ball to shoot down the barrel and onto the court. When the pressure has been released the entrance flap is released and another ball is able to enter the tube. The process is repeated until all balls are depleted.    

Creating the perfect shot

If you’ve ever used a ball machine you may have noticed that the angle, height, depth and spin of the shot can be adjusted to suit individual player preferences and the type of shot they wish to practice. This is done by altering the rotation speed of the wheels. For example, if the upper wheel is spinning faster than the lower wheel the machine will be able to create topspin. When the lower wheel spins faster than its upper counterpart backspin is created. You may have seen a similar effect created in T-shirt, confetti and fake snow launch machines.

Science can be found everywhere, including the sports industry. For a closer look at how the discipline influences our day-to-day lives ‘Life Science Research: Tomorrows Trends and Technologies’ looks at the changes, developments and challenges faced by scientists across the globe. 

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