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Table Tennis Ball Speed: Robot vs Manual

Imagine the surprise when you read about something this powerful: Hole in one: Fired at close range, the ping pong ball blasts a hole through a traditional paddle at speeds of around 919 mph (1,479kph)” Yes! Ping Pong Ball can be this deadly when thrown with a regulated speed.

As reported by Daily Mail  Mark French, a Mechanical engineer with the collaboration of his two graduate students customized a ping pong gun for this event in order to test the deadly speed of the table tennis ball via robot, so they made a robot gun.

 This gun was made with a structure to fire the balls at more than 1300 feet per second. Therefore ping pong ball blew right through the ping pong paddle at a speed of 919 miles per hour. And we can say that this speed is quite  comparable to F19 jet plane, which is also faster than the speed of sound.

A Quick Review on : Manual vs. Robot (Ball Speed)


Training Robots

  • Force required to produce the ball spin and stroke a ball is much higher to generate the desired ball speed
  • Manual calculated ball velocity and angles (for perfect positioning –landing) has to be defined with precision
  • Consistency of ball speed is not guaranteed as it is dependent on the skill level and speed of the player
  • Manual ball speed requires the best health of the player in order for an ideal ball throw and Player must have quick reflexes
  • Less automatic Force required for producing the ball spin and stroke a ball is much higher. Mostly the speed is predefined and programmed already
  • Velocity is predefined for the and table tennis robots have also tendency to land on predefined table positions and angles
  • Consistency of ball speed is guaranteed because of functional accuracy
  • A training robot ball speed is independent of health issues and reflexes

Lets discuss everything in a bit detail!

Now, guys when We talk about mechanical (Robot) vs human (Manual speed) for Table Tennis Ball, one thing we need to be sure of is factual evidence based on real time experience. You will be happy to know that you have landed on the right page. As according to an in depth research we have the answer that why both the ball speeds manual vs robot varry influences players as per their skill level and the ball speed variates also.

However, an experimental research  on Speed and spin characteristics of table tennis balls : a comparison of the old celluloid balls and new plastic balls” suggests the following results by outlining the win of speed produced manually by table tennis balls.

“A Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test was performed on each kinematic variable collected during human trials. For the mechanical testing, spin and speed of the plastic ball was lower, and also achieved a lower peak height after rebound with the table. For the human testing, the impact height of the plastic ball from the table was found to be lower (0.02m) than the celluloid ball (p = .043). No significant differences were found between the other kinematic variables. All participants indicated that using more strength for the plastic ball is required, and one participant felt that contact with the plastic ball had to be closer to the table edge.” According to study.

One thing that we all would agree is the speed required to play table tennis! It’s just not a piece of cake for everyone no matter how simple it may sound “Hey let’s have a Table Tennis Match” have you ever noticed how fast that ball comes from one player to another? Or asked yourself questions like:

Well the answer to all these questions is just one which is a basic understanding of the Ball speed of table tennis. No matter you are practicing alone with a ping pong robot, shadow practicing or having a partner for playing. All you need is to have a clear stance on the speed of ball thrown towards you!

 You will be surprised to know that according to a recent sports publication “Test of ball speed in table tennis based on monocular camera” Ball speed and Spin are considered the two most vital components of table tennis Sport.

In other energetic sports like badminton or football, all you need is to run on the big ground for taking your shots, which definitely defines these sports fastest, but if we talk particularly about table tennis, the ball comes to you with a very high-speed, as the table length is short.

So, here’s the thing that matters most, how swiftly and readily you counter these shots, other than this won’t mean a lot in football, as you have ample amount of time to have a ball from the other player, and a very large playing area to move around and distribute your body energy. Here’s a quick video on fastest not quickest games that you may find quite interesting!

As said above, in table tennis, the length and width of the table both being short, makes the playing area quite limited to take the best shot, therefore you need quite a flexible body movement and quick reflexes. However the quick reflexes can no be gained easily and requires a lot of practicing, exercises, tips & tricks! You can learn more about preparing you reflexes for table tennis in a lot of YouTube videos and content available over the internet for improving the reflexes in table tennis.

The ball speed of table tennis has a wide array of discussion based on the fact Table Tennis ball is just not the only thing responsible for the speed of the ball but also there are other considerations that need to be studied along with that.

So after doing some serious comprehensive reading and checking real time experiences online I have compiled this piece of information! Let’s start exploring in and out’s about Table Tennis Ball speed.

How Can Changes In Basic Rules For Speed In Table Tennis Ball Can Impact Players!

The medial appeal of table tennis seems to be decreasing via TV because the speed of the game is very high and it is almost nearly impossible for spectators to keep an eye on the ball during the game. If they want to slow down the game then they have to make some changes that may include to increase the ball size and high the net.

Therefore, the fundamental intentions to change the rules of the game are to reduce the speed of ball or to reduce the impact of spin on the game.

However, changes in these rules may have a great impact on the techniques and strategies of players. They actually have to transform their gaming strategies according to the new rules. They also might have to become accustomed to the new training sessions in order to improve their game with respect to the changes in the rules of the game.

Ball Size And Speed

To add further in the relation of ball size and speed, I would like to mention here that the larger 40mm ball results in the velocity and spin reduction with 5% to 10%. The large size of ball practically has nearly zero impact on the performance of player in table tennis. But with implementation of the change in size of the ball, an individual health and fitness become more significant.

The large size requires more force of a stroke not only from arms or muscles but also from the whole body thus an athletic body then would need more use of legs for producing larger force to generate the required ball speed for the stroke.

The 40mm table tennis balls used currently is 2mm larger and 0.2g heavier then the table tennis balls used in earlier eras. You can read more on Table Tennis history here about how the changes and game really evolved. As the size of ball changes with the change in its weight it has large air drag and its larger cross-sectional area reduces the maximum velocities.

This ball creates the larger inertial moment and reduces the spin. One of the obvious techniques to reduce the maximum velocity in table tennis is to make the table nets high. But this change may have some good amount of impact on the performance of the player and the gaming tricks . Also you don’t need to worry about statistical evidence for this information as it’s already very well explained in Statistical Analysis of Table-Tennis Ball Trajectories.

You can get more in-depth analysis of the ball size and its influences on the ball speed if are much of a reading and analytical person.

Experimental evidence of Table Tennis Ball Speed Manual Vs Ping Pong Robot

One of the famous New Zealander Lark Brandt is having a record of fastest smash of 69.9 miles per hour. He made this record at the World’s fastest smash competition in 2003. Due to this speed of ball players stand far away from the table and hit it with a force to stay in the game. One of them was Jay Turberville. 

He has written an extensive analysis on this subject on maximum speed of table tennis ball. He used different methods to check the speed. Some are still photo, video study and even sound analysis. He came up with a pretty definite verdict as mentioned of this question and told us how that little white sphere moved within the court.

Does Paddle Has Any Relation With The Table Tennis Ball Speed?

The answer to this question Yes it surely does but with other factors too. Well this can be proved by a very relevant video explained with a  definable comment added by a user “Both players are preferring 2.2 mm for topspin drives and 2mm for pushes/blocks (because it had more “control” meaning that the rubbers is significantly slower than the 2.2mm cause you had to add an extra motion to give the ball “pace” and place it where you want it. “

Therefore we can also assume that as per the recent obligation of ITTF regulation states the prohibition of the Table Tennis Booster on rubbers directly in order to enhance the speed of the ball. As the surface of the pedal would create an extra beneficial surface for the ball to rebound and thus would smash with more speed. Here is more on the Table Tennis Boosters!

Now coming back to the experimental evidence provided by Jay as mentioned above!

As modern era is all about technology, therefore utilization of Robotic table tennis mechanism was done  in the case of backspin has the same measurement method and the ball models of the aerodynamics. This is the method that is used to improve the precise prediction of the ball trajectory during ball flight during the back spin.

Secondly, the experiment under discussion also determines the paddle motion and the movement of the paddle when it hits the ball!

Following highlights from the experiment that can help in making distinctions between the manual and robotic ball speed are:

1. Strength

Manual ball speed recorded in the experiment was to some extent is lower than the robot ball speed. If a human is playing table tennis than the strength he/she puts in  is according to his own strength and force therefore if he wants to hit the ball with a greater speed he will have to hit it hard and vice versa.

On the other hand with the robot utilization, the table tennis ball speed was already been programmed by the scientists and professionals conducting the experiment. And also the strength level was designed according to requirement of player, thus it provided much consistent ball throw and speed.

2. Health Relation Concluded In Experiment

Another factor highlighted in the experiment was the perfect health of the player. As The wrist and forearm has to continuously used to hit the ball. The need for larger exertion of force requires much strength and health.

Therefore on actual grounds, the player really needs to be 100% fit for a constant fast speed strokes, however this isn’t the case with robots. The practicing robots only needs the technical analysis.

3. Precision Calls

As discussed earlier in this article the importance of reflexes, therefore a person playing manually must have a quick reflexes in order to hit the ball with the needed speed quickly with high accuracy with perfect aiming. But as a law of nature, Human makes mistakes! We all do!

On the other hand, the robot gun was a winner for the accuracy and precision in shots it took with the consistency. So, if we compare this phenomenon, a robot is completely a winner, you just have to push a button and the robot will start doing that task for many hours even without taking a break in between because its function is to perform the assigned task without a gap, unlike a human.

However manual ball speed, in this case, can have an edge on the point where the player has to utilize the playing area for maximum coverage on the table whereas robots are designed to be programmed particularly for certain speeds and trajectories that are predefined strictly with certain limitations.

They are designed in such a way that they have to perform that specific task and they should be accurate in that only (no added instructions can be given manually to adjust the ball speed) as the speed range is preset and they hit the ball by sticking with that  specific allocated range.

Experimental Methods That Can Be Used In Measuring The Performance of The Speed

As discussed by the author of the article, three different methods were employed to measure the ball speed. He actually used a few digital photos from the game he lost earlier and used them to analyze the ball speed.

Method 1: Still photo (Streak Analysis)

It was quite  noticeable tough competition among two famous players Gia Leu playing against an Indian player Chetaan Baboor. By taking under consideration  the height of ball from the first strike of Gia it was quite evident that Chetaan was standing away from the table that demonstrates the force with which the other player was hitting the ball which was quite high. His ball was travelling with a speed of 56mph, this is only about 14mph slower than the¬¬ “World’s fastest smash” recorded in New Zealand.

Method 2: Analyze Video Footage

Video from digital camera provided the experiment with much accurate insights. These are some few images from that video and in these images it is very obvious that the ball was travelling in much greater accuracy and it was been hidden very hard.

One player is very close to the table while the other one is far from it. This shows that the one close to table was giving tough time to the other, and he was in much uncomfortable position.

Method 3: Analyze Sound From Video Footage And “reconstructing” The Event

By measuring the interval between the sound of the ball and the table can help you to note the accurate ball hit timings in order to reconstruct the event according to your own specifications.

This is possible because sound recordings may take thousands of samples every second and they are more precise and accurate than any other mode.These three experimental methods that can be helpful for recording the accurate speed of ball, but they may have their own pros and cons.

You can Also Calculate the Ball speed with this handy quick Table Tennis Ball speed Calculator developed by the same writer!

Wrapping It Up!

With all this extensive experimental research evidence it’s quite evident discussion that the speed of manual table tennis ball is not as much as compared to the robot experience (automatically).

As mentioned already that this is the era of advanced technology and we are moving towards adapting and adopting pretty new versions of everything that helps us in eradicating the manual works, therefore, we should try to incorporate technology in our table tennis practice sessions too or at least find someone who can practice with the same or near to that accuracy offered by training robots to perk up the level of playing.

I hope this article would be of some use to You! If you want to add up something feel free to contribute in the comment box below!