Crazy 3D Prints: Making a Ping Pong Paddle

What do 3D printing, a table tennis, Gigabot and PETT have in common?

An amazing use case for custom, functional outdoor prints!

Until recently, printing large objects on FDM 3D printers was limited to small scale objects subjected only to controlled, room temperature environments. However, with the introduction of high strength materials like those offered by 3D printing filament expert taulman3D, making functional objects that can weather the Texas heat is now a possibility.


Enter t-glase. This material prints like Bridge Nylon, but with almost no shrinkage. You can learn more about the main features of t-glase on the taulman3D website. We heard about t-glase during a call with Tom Taulman when we shared a need of another local start-up seeking to 3D print custom table tennis paddles. Originally they attempted to 3D print their original design at the University of Texas. After several failed attempts to fit a set of paddle parts on a desktop printer, a local professor suggested they speak with us. In our conversation, we learned a lot about table tennis and the amazing potential 3D can offer those looking to customize paddles!
Uberpong™ makes custom ping pong paddles by blending art and design with the sport in a revolutionary approach that goes beyond the game itself. Uberpong also introduced us to Pongtopia, an app to find ping pong tables around the world. As you can see on Pongtopia, table tennis is played both inside & outside, suggesting that in addition to needed a high strength material with a little give, we also needed to source a material that wouldn’t warp or crack in heat or cold playable weather conditions. This would be similar if we were printing a regular sized tennis racket that would be used by a tennis coach for beginners sessions for example, so it’s good to bear in mind the material that needs to be used must be hard wearing.
In support of the experiment to see if ping pong paddles could be successfully printed on Gigabot, Tom shared some red t-glase samples. We printed Uberpong’s original ping pong paddle 3D design at our Houston office on Gigabot live during our June Open House with 3D Hubs. It was an awesome opportunity to have 3D printing veterans weigh in on the outcome & settings.
The experience was hugely educational. As seen on the paddle on the left, I originally forgot to use a glue stick on the print surface to increase adhesion. Also, initially I printed a little too low at 225 degrees Celsius. After getting some guidance from the t-glase webpage, I increased the temperature to 235 degrees Celsius which resulted in a better finish. Using 235 degrees Celsius and a glue stick, the second paddle turned out great. Unlike the paddle on the left, which has a slightly rough temperature until I increased the temp and curling from the lack of a glue stick, the right was firm, glossy and completely flat.
With the paddles complete I drove them to our Austin office, which is nestled downtown near Pongtopia. We agreed that the next step would be to find a proper table tennis facility to test the prints. Using their app, we discovered Easy Tiger, a casual hot spot with multiple tables set up on their patio. Prior to meeting up, I took the initiative to glue the handles together with Gorilla Glue, and press them in a vice overnight. While the adhesive was plenty strong, I neglected to consider the foam that Gorilla Glue inspires, so as you will see in the videos below, the paddles were a little less aesthetic than they could have been with clear superglue!

After playing a match and drinking a couple of pints of cider at Easy Tiger in Austin, Rebecca and Dave shared their musings on the paddle performance and applicability for 3D printing in table tennis.

Overall, despite my adhesion and profile hiccups, we give taulman3D’s t-glase two thumbs up! We’ve even decided to resell t-glase on our shopping site! The ping pong paddles were firm, but offered a slight give. Despite the 100 degree Farhenheight Texas heat, we weren’t worried about the paddles deforming in the rays. This new material gives table tennis players worldwide a unique opportunity to customize their paddles. We can’t wait to follow Pongtopia and see how 3D printing and this industry evolves!

Happy Printing!

Samantha

  • Twitter: @samanthasnabes
  • Email: samantha@re3d.org

Want to chat with the users? Reach them here:

  • David Lowe at Uberpong/Pongtopia: dave@uberpong.com
  • Rebecca, a Gigabot Ambassador: rebecca@re3d.org

Looking to chat with the t-glase wizard?

  • Tom Taulman- taulman@taulman3D.com
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