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Barclays ATP Tennis Ball Machine - November 2015

When we were asked to look at a Tennis Ball dispensing machine capable of holding 5,000 balls, our first reaction was why not.

The piece was required at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, held at the O2, and was intended to help engage the visiting tennis fans with the Barclays brand. Visitors were invited to present their contactless payment card to receive a free tennis ball which could be exchanged for ‘rewards’ in the hospitality area, depending on the colour of tennis ball received.

The machine is 2.5M tall and features a pseudo card reader, that is, it does not actually read the embedded chip but it detects the presence of a reflective surface, this was tuned to respond to credit cards.

The machine contains a microprocessor which controls the LED lighting, 2 ball sorting mechanisms, and an interface for the card reader. A 2m high x 1M diameter clear acrylic ball hopper holds the 5,000 balls.

Total control is possible with this setup, LED lighting pulses up and down, waiting for someone to trigger the system, once this happens, the card reader is locked out and one of the ball mechanisms churns at the bottom of the ball hopper until a ball is ejected, triggering a sensor on the way out. LED lighting then illuminates the ball exit hole and the cycle can start again.

Throughout the project, we carried out the relevant R&D needed to ensure everything worked correctly and would be reliable. The use of 2 ball dispensing mechanisms was our decision and we used motor control modules which were integrated into the microprocessor control, this meant that we could detect ball jams and drive a motor back to clear it, or swop over to the other motor.

The tennis ball machine was delivered and installed on time and behaved impeccably over the required period of the tournament.

Tech Spec

Lightweight aluminium frame clad with laser cut aluminium panels, one piece acrylic tube. All electronics universal input. COB LED Lighting.

Ball Machine

Barclays Ball