Nike Engineers soccer ball with truer flight, cool technology

True bullet flight. The kind of flight that field players and goalies can enjoy. It takes updated technology to make it happen and Nike

thinks they have achieved the goal with the new Nike Flight ball, claiming the ball has 30% truer flight thanks to its AerowSculpt design that took eight years, 1,700 lab hours and 68 unique iterations to complete.

The goal through it all, says Kieran Ronan, Nike’s senior director for global football equipment, was to create consistency. Whether it was athlete comments from 20 years ago or comments today, athletes have all said the same thing. “They are looking for consistency in feel, touch and flight,” explains Ronan. When Ronan and the team at the Nike Innovation Equipment Lab started this project eight years ago, they knew achieving consistency in flight accomplished all three.

Getting this consistency started with engineering. The resulting flight ball features AerowSculpt designed grooves, a fused four panel exterior, and the use of Nike All Conditions Control 3D ink to print “micro flaps” on the exterior of the ball to help the trainee. Lab tests – and anecdotal responses from the 800 athletes used in the process – with a robotic leg mimicking terrain-specific strikes developed 30% truer flight, improving flight consistency.

It all starts with the AerowSculpt molding into the surface of the ball. The first iteration offered square shaped grooves. From there, the engineers tested. They played with the shape of the furrow, its depth and width. “You change and it gets better or worse and if it gets better, you start over,” Ronan says. “Thanks to the tests, the numbers started to line up. Everything that is done in the lab is rooted in science. Here we are able to detect small differences in performance that may not be noticeable by most athletes, but when those small differences are repeated 68 times the result is a noticeable jump in performance.

A ball typically wobbles as it flies, with air gripping the smooth surface creating a wake and causing changes in direction. This can lead to missed shots and disconnected passes. Patented AerowSculpt technology moves force around the ball, rather than letting it grab the surface. During the design process, engineers added sculpted rafters and explored several features to create a geometric pattern to promote stable flight. The grooves promote the movement of air around the ball rather than having air grip on the surface, similar to dimples on a golf ball.

To further improve aerodynamic flight, Nike shrinks its 12-panel ball to four, a 40% reduction in stiff seams to create a bigger sweet spot for feel and control, Ronan says.

Nike reused its Nike All Conditions Control 3D ink, originally introduced in 2014, to let the ink lift off the smooth surface of the ball, helping to create “micro flaps,” an industry idea. aerospace, to further enhance the aerodynamic nature of flight. in conjunction with the AerowSculpt design.

“I’ve always been a player who can hit a ball from a distance with proper technique, so having a ball, like the Nike Flight ball, that has less drag gives me the confidence that my technique for hitting it will be predictable. and consistent with how it should get out of my foot, “says Carli Lloyd of the United States Women’s National Team.” There’s no better feeling than kicking a ball and knowing it’s is true every time you hit it. “

Launched in a stark black ink on a white exterior with many aesthetic appeals to the technology and science behind the design, expect the next few weeks to feature the ball in a series of new league-specific designs, including included for the NWSL, English Premier League and Serie A. Regardless of the graphics application, every design has been measured and tested by Nike’s engineering team so that “everything that ends up on the ball,” says Ronan, “gives the same consistency, here in the United States or the United States. Premier League, in Russia or elsewhere.

Ronan says that during the process of creating the Nike Flight ball, the team used a mixture of science and athletic experience to help guide the end result. “Numbers don’t lie, and numbers help remove the emotion from making certain decisions,” he says. “Sometimes it’s pure joy and seeing people light up (during the ball test) where we know what the numbers are telling us. We can talk about how the science of the lab intertwines with the joy and art of the game and the passion that people put into it, whether in the field or in the team behind the product.