How are Volleyballs Made? (Explained with Examples)

how are volleyballs made

It is very important to know how volleyballs are made and from what they are made from! This will give you a feel of what makes a quality ball from an average one …

This also, will help you choose balls you may want to use for practice or for recreational playing.

This articles explains it all!

First … How many layers are there in a volleyball?

Volleyballs consist of three distinct layers:

  • The bladder, or rubber core, which is lightweight and allows the ball to fly
  • The outer-shell, typically made of either genuine of synthetic leather that offers protection and also secures and smooths the surface of the ball.
  • The exterior panels – sixteen of them in all made of the same material as the outer shell, which are there to provide streamlining.

Helpful Tip: There are some volleyballs in the market (even today) that don’t really have those 3 layers and are hence of lower quality. That’s why before buying a volleyball even for recreational purpose it is important to check and ask about their composition. For example, this Quality volleyball ball includes all those layers and each one is made of good quality materials.

Getting to this final configuration was not easy …

Indeed, various experiments were conducted, first with basketball bladders … they were found to be too light, and, when weight was added, they were too heavy. Eventually the answer was found when “Spalding and Brothers” were given the balls to customise …

They created a tri-layer ball which continued to be used until 2008. At that time few changes were made to the outer panelling to facilitate grip and accuracy.

The balls used for indoor and beach volleyball are different because of the conditions they are used in, in particular the sand, the wind, and the sun that may affect the latter.

The main differences are related to the size and weight.

In fact, indoor volleyballs has different requirements when it comes to youth and adult versions of the sport.

For youth games, the ball should weigh between 9.2 and 9.9 ounces, and should be between 25 -26 centimetres in diameter. The adult version of the ball will be roughly the same weight, but will be half a centimetre wider in diameter.

This extra diameter is important when it comes to PSI (Pressure Per Square Inch). Youth balls have a PSI of 4.3, whereas the adult versions are usually 4.6. The lower pressure makes it easier for younger players to pass and throw the ball.

The PSI of a beach volleyball is much lower – between 2.5 to 3.2 – making allowance for the conditions.

What materials are used in volleyball balls for each layer?

Keep in mind that ball material and its quality is the main criteria you should use to pick the right volleyball ball

Indeed, most volleyballs consist of a rubber bladder which is made from the same material as a bicycle inner tube. Around it is then attached an outer layer made from cheese cloth type material and then this is sealed with a rubber-type glue, designed to be both adhesive and resilient.

The outer layer is then either made of real or synthetic rubber, and this, in turn, is glued to the cloth layer. Genuine leather is more expensive than synthetics, and is usually found in balls used at the elite level of the sport.

Indoor volleyballs are heavier than those used outdoors, for beach and backyard games. They tend to be made of leather, because the indoor game is one of power, and the heavier the ball, the faster it can move, and the harder it can be hit.

By contrast, beach volleyballs are softer, lighter and a bit larger. The lighter weight allows them to float more in the air, and that allows good players to use the weather and the external conditions to their advantage.

That means that, although the two inner layers will typically be constructed in a similar way to indoor balls, lighter materials like synthetic rubber or polyurethane will be used in their construction.

How volleyball balls were made at the beginnings? (Little History)

The game was created by William G. Morgan in 1895.

Originally he tried a variety of balls but none had the specific characteristics that he had in mind.

Morris wanted a ball that could be kept airborne during a play, which was light, but no to the extent that its flight could be diverted by the wind, and that its passage through the air would be impeded by resistance.

Originally volleyballs were created with the same bladders used by basketballs, but due to their lack of weight, they proved too slow through the air.

Eventually Morgan approached the sports equipment manufacturer A.G Spalding and asked them to produce a customised ball. Better known at the time for their associations with baseball, they produce a ball that was to stay in use for more than a century.

Their configuration consisted of a latex bladder constructed out of similar material to that used in a bicycle tyre. A cheese-cloth type material was then put over that as a second layer, and then a third layer made or rubber was sewn around the ball.

Lastly, I would love to recommend you to have a look at these important differences between men’s & women’s volleyball ball. You will find it really interesting …

Major Volleyball producing Brands …

The five leading volleyball brands in the world currently are:

  • Mikasa
  • Tachikara
  • Molten
  • Wilson
  • Spalding

Mikasa is a Japanese company that makes the balls used by elite players for tournaments like the Olympic Games and the World Championships.

Their products are renowned for their quality, because they use the best quality materials on the market, and they also come with grip technology that aids control on the court.

Their balls are on the expensive side, but many consider them to be a worthwhile investment.

Tachikara is another Japanese company, who have been around for more than a century, having first started operations in 1915.

Although it gets less press coverage than more high profile brands like Mikasa and Molten, it has a loyal customer base who keeps buying their balls because of their quality.

One aspect that makes them stand out from the competition is the  fact that they produce a range of balls tailored to players’ ages and skill levels. In addition, their balls are known for being both aerodynamic and soft to the touch.

Molten sponsor the American Volleyball teams and produces  wide range of balls, suited to different ages and playing styles. They are popular with younger players in particular.

Wilson is an instantly recognised brand name, producing a wide range of equipment for a wide range of sports such as tennis, badminton, and squash. Their balls are mainly used by beginners to the sport and for recreational purposes.

They are closely associated with beach volleyball as well.

Wilson balls are cheaper than some of the other options on the market.

Spalding is another American company who produce a wide range of sports equipment. Like Wilson, their volleyballs are particularly suited to those who have just started out in the game, and, whilst it does produce balls for players of all ages, they have a particular appeal, like Molten, for younger players.

This is because their balls are compared softer to the touch than other versions currently available.

Are there volleyballs made of rubber?

Rubber volleyballs are specifically designed for beginners and younger players, because they are lightweight, very soft and generally cheaper than those used by elite players.

A number of models come with a textured surface to enable players to get a better grip.

One example of such a ball is this model from Champion Sports (Check it Here at Amazon). It is of regulation size and weight, and is ideal for practising in a gym, or on a beach or in the park with friends.

It is made with a durable rubber cover to that it can withstand the demands of playgrounds or sports’ fields.

In case your ball is harder than what you need, I recommend to check this article on how to soften a hard volleyball! I think you will find it helpful …

How are volleyballs produced?

Most sports balls are made in a similar fashion, beginning with a sheet of natural rubber. This is then folded in a specific configuration, and then a die is placed on top, which helps force it through the layers and cuts out the shape of the ball. This creates the bladder of the ball.

The next step is to brush an adhesive around the hole in the bladder and inserts a plug.

Then the rubber bladder is inserted in a spherical chamber which heats and cures the rubber. Whilst it is being heated it spins on a revolving cylinder, which causes it to take up nylon threads. These twist around the bladder and form the layer that not only keeps it round but also strengthens it.

For the outer layer materials like rubber or synthetic rubber which has been cured, will be sliced to a specific width, and folded several times.  The folded rubber will be passed through a series of rollers, which flatten it, making it both lightweight and malleable.

An automated blade slices the rubber into shorter pieces, and a metal pattern cutter cuts it into strips. These fit together to form the outside of the ball. Strips are then created, which are aligned using a bonding shaper. The bladder is then inserted and re-inflated, before the bonding chamber is closed and activated.

Heat and pressure then cause the strips to stick to the bladder. The ball is then removed from the bonding shaper and allowed to cool.

Volleyball care tips for more durability … 

There are a number of tips that should be followed in order to get the maximum life out of a volleyball.

They begin with storage. Balls should not be left outside or in the boot of a car. Instead, they should be kept in spot where it is dry and clean and not subject to extremes of temperature, hot or cold.

Balls should be cleaned regularly and any dirt on them removed.

This can be done by damping a soft cloth with warm water, with a drop of laundry detergent added. He ball should be thoroughly cleaned, paying particular attention to the panels – an old toothbrush can be used to hard to reach areas.

Once cleaned the ball should be rinsed off and left to dry in the air afterwards. Owner o balls made of leather might consider applying a thin layer of conditioner for added protection.

Quick Recommendation: I’ve carefully put together a complete volleyball care guide! I highly recommend checking it for more helpful details.

Volleyballs should be inflated to the pressure recommended by the FiVB (The Fédération Internationale de Volleyball). Balls should not be deflated for storage purpose, because this might causes wrinkles to appear in them which will not subsequently disappear on reinflation.

However, over inflating a ball is not a good idea either, as this will also shorten its life span. You can learn more on how to check volleyball air pressure!

Final Thoughts …

I didn’t want to make this article too complicated or boring! But I really wanted to include all the information you need to fully understand the composition of a volleyball ball with maximum details …

It doesn’t make sense to play with a ball and you don’t even know how it was made and from which elements it was made from.

Hope that was helpful.

Carissa Harmer

Carissa Harmer has over 6 years of volleyball experience between playing the sport at a semi-professional level, following the biggest volleyball teams & leagues out there as well as helping beginners to get started on the right path.

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