Football Manufacturing Process – We Print Balls
We are often asked to produce footballs to be delivered in a few days..If only it was that easy! It takes considerable resources to custom make your footballs and we are making your balls to order from scratch – not printing onto already made balls. Here’s a little guide as to just how complex it is. After reading this you will be surprised to hear we can still deliver printed footballs direct from the factory in less than 10 days to your UK doorstep!
It takes time, various techniques, research, specialist tools and experienced craftsmen to make a high-quality football. In this section of our website, we will outline all the major steps involved when we custom make your footballs.
At We Print Balls we manufacture hand stitched rather than machine stitched balls. The production is essentially the same for both styles of ball, however, the machine sewn footballs are obviously made by machines whereas the hand sewn ones are yep you guessed it – Sewn by hand!
1 – Lamination Process
The first step in producing footballs involves the lamination of the rexine. Rexine is the outer cover of the ball – The part you see and fee. Rexine is basically a synthetic leather that can be made of various materials. Like anything in this word, you get what you pay for! Cheaper rexine is reserved for promotional balls and higher grades for training and match balls. Rexine is available in thousands of colours and can be PMS Pa note colour shade matched as required by the colour scheme of the client and the branding
Usually, rexine is bought in rolls with each roll being around 25 to 30 meters in length and around a metre wide.
The rexine roll is then cut into smaller square shapes. The reason being to make maximum use of the material when cutting hexagons and pentagons for size 5 soccer balls. Each piece of material sized 40 X 58 inches will produce enough hexagons and pentagons for around 7 footballs. Once the pieces are cut a layer of cloth is applied in the same shape as the cut rexine using latex glue. The rexine with cloth backing is then left to dry for few hours in natural sunlight for few hours. Luckily our balls are made in Pakistan where there is plenty of sunshine! The process is repeated a further three times by pasting glue on the fabric and applying another layer of polyester fabric. Match balls and training balls will have 4 layers but cheaper promotional balls will have 2 or 3 layers.
2 – Cutting Panels (Hexagons & Pentagons)
The hexagons and pentagons which you see on a traditional 32 panels soccer balls are cut by a specialist machine. Special dyes are installed in the machine to cut the panels in the correct shape. There are different dye sizes for size 4, 3, jumbo and mini soccer balls. The picture below shows how a dye looks like for cutting hexagons & pentagons. The small circle like spots on the dyes are used as marks for stitchers to sew the panels together. There are approximately 720 stitches made to complete one size 5 soccer ball.
3 – Printing Process
Once all the hexagons and pentagons are cut we move on to print them. Customer design specifications along with logos & printing instructions dictate the printing requirements. The complete design of the ball is designed in vector-based design software like Corel or photoshop. Traditional silk screen printing processes are then used to expose the screens to sunlight to get an impression of the pattern.
Once all the patterns are exposed then the screen is washed with water leaving the imprint of the pattern on the screen. These patterns will be later used to print the panels and design on the soccer balls using high-quality inks. Butyl proof ink is used in printing for its durability and clarity. The inks are produced to create an exact match of the PMS Pantone colours required in the design.
4 – Hand Stitching Soccer Balls
The last step in the process is to stitch the panels together and install the bladder. A complete visual of the ball is provided to the stitchers with all 32 panels. Like completing a jigsaw puzzle the stitchers will then assemble the balls by stitching the panels together. An official size 5 soccer ball has a total of 720 stitches using polyester threads. The bladder of the ball is glued to the air valve panel before stitching the balls together. This process alone takes a stitcher around 3 hours. Can you see why we can’t deliver 100 balls to you in 3-4 days! Finally, your footballs are complete. They are inflated and left for 48 hours. This allows the air retention to be measured and to ensure the shape of the ball is as expected.
After the balls are tested then they are deflated and packed for shipping to our UK base in Essex. We fly the balls on normal passenger planes as cargo or via designated courier planes with DHL on express orders. On arrival in the UK, a further sample QC check is completed and the balls are dispatched to our customers.