Making This Soccer Ball Required More Technology Than Building My House

by ziggy on January 1, 2010 -- 3 comments -- Follow

This post might seem a little random, but I stumbled across this video and was floored by how complicated the manufacturing process for this simple soccer ball (sorry, football for the rest of the world) is. The amount of technology, machinery, computers, and undoubtedly, energy going on here is HUGE.

Remember that this is a mere football. A ball. Filled with air.

Then imagine how complex the manufacturing process is for other seemingly everyday objects.

I watched this and had to think about my house, made mostly out of sand and clay, which was built almost entirely by hand. The level of technology in my whole house seems to pale in comparison! (Ok, so there are some materials in the house [windows, the EPDM] that are probably quite complex to manufacture, but still…)

Oh industry…

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  • tre

    Remember that your house is a one off (an awesome one at that!).

    Allow me to offer an engineer’s perspective…

    If you were to say, make 100,000 copies of your house – how long would that take? And how much energy/resources would be consumed (just running a human has measurable energy implications)? And if someone were to make 100,000 – how consistent would the results be? I would say each house would be a little different from the next.

    Now if we want to make 100,000 of something (lets say, a football) and each one be consistent to each other to meet some sort of “standard” – this is where the tech comes in. The machines, the dies, the autoclaves, the presses and punches, partial automation (for consistency) etc. etc. etc.

    If we compared the energy necessary to make each item by hand versus the mechanized method AND meet the same standards… The amount of additional energy necessary would be enormous on top of adding more material waste (not every part is going to meet specifications). The reasoning behind all of the mechanization is cost (and trust me, power consumption is part of the cost equation – it’s one of the largest overhead expenses for a factory).

    Now imagine the scale of football manufacturing – making tens of millions of balls per year (I’m sure FIFA World Cup drives a spike in demand) 😉

    The problem isn’t industry – industry sprang up to meet the demand of the customer/consumer :p We could demand 100% hand made footballs (not made in sweatshops) – but at the scale we’re talking about, that would result in more waste.

    I’m sure you’ll be amazed to discover just how much mechanization goes into even the seemingly trivial items – say, the humble shovel or knife :p We’ve come a long way since the coal furnace, sledge and hammer…

  • Roger Guerrero

    I was one of those engineers passing through Dancing rabbit during the summer of 2008. I helped about 5 minutes on building your house ( my 1 yr daughter kept getting into trouble) . For a living I design tennis racquets and the complexity is so far beyond soccer balls that our top engineers do not fully understand how graphite works so I was extremely interested in how one person could build a house. As this was the first time I had seen a house of mud I was extremely skeptical. However, since then I have attended a workshop with Ianto Evans in Oregon and have come away extremely impressed. It is possible, but we need more people with expertise. Sure there is plenty of stuff on the internet but when building something as complicated as a house it does help to have some expertise on hand. I was reading about colonial life in the 1600’s and once a season an architect would come to town and he could be hired to draw up plans for your house. I think this would be money well spent or bartered.

  • Thanks for this post. It’s nice to have perspective.

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