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What are lottery balls made of?

Lottery balls, also known as lottery numbers, are the numbered balls that are drawn during a lottery drawing to determine the winning numbers. Lottery balls are made out of a variety of materials, but the most common are plastic and rubber. The exact materials used can vary by lottery and manufacturer, but plastic and rubber tend to be the most common because they are lightweight, bounce well, and are cost effective.

Plastic Lottery Balls

Plastic is one of the most popular materials used to make lottery balls. Plastic balls were first introduced in the 1980s and replaced earlier lottery balls that were made of wood or metal. Plastic lottery balls are hollow and lightweight. They are typically made of an ABS plastic blend, which stands for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. ABS plastic is a common thermoplastic polymer that is lightweight, impact resistant, and easy to mold into spherical shapes. It is the same material that many everyday plastic items are made out of, such as toys, pipes, golf club heads, and lego bricks.

Here are some key advantages of plastic lottery balls:

  • Lightweight – Plastic balls are very lightweight, which allows them to bounce and roll smoothly during lottery drawings.
  • Durability – Plastic is extremely durable and holds up well under repeated use in lottery machines.
  • Consistency – The consistent density and weight of plastic balls leads to random, uniform drawings.
  • Cost effective – Plastic is an inexpensive material making plastic lottery balls cost efficient to produce.
  • High quality printing – Plastic balls allow for crisp, high resolution numbers to be printed on them.
  • Security – Features can be added to plastic balls for security purposes, such as microchips or barcode markings.

Some lotteries use plastic balls with internal foam padding to provide extra bounce. Various additives may also be mixed into the ABS plastic to produce balls with bright, vivid colors. White balls are typically left uncolored. The printed numbers are applied using an ink jet printing process for a durable and scratch resistant finish.

Rubber Lottery Balls

Rubber is another leading material used to manufacture lottery balls. Rubber balls have been used since some of the earliest lottery drawings. They remain popular today due to their natural bounce and soft feel. The rubber used is typically a form of vulcanized natural rubber or a synthetic rubber polymer.

Here are some key advantages of rubber lottery balls:

  • Bounce – Rubber balls have an excellent bounce thanks to their flexible, elastic properties.
  • Soft feel – Rubber has a soft, smooth feel which adds an element of old-fashioned charm.
  • Grip – Rubber naturally has more grip than slick plastic, leading to easier handling.
  • Environmentally resistant – Rubber holds up well to elements like ozone, sunlight, and weathering.
  • Color vibrancy – Pigments bind well to rubber, allowing for bright, vivid ball colors.
  • Cost effective – Simple rubber blends are inexpensive to produce.

Compared to plastic, rubber lottery balls tend to be more porous. Foam fillings may be added to give rubber balls extra bounce. Balls are dyed throughout rather than surface painted. This provides solid coloration that can’t scratch or peel off. The numbers are engraved or imprinted onto the surface of rubber lottery balls.

Hybrid Lottery Balls

Some lottery balls feature a hybrid plastic-rubber construction. These balls have an inner plastic core with an outer rubber coating. The plastic interior provides rigidity and shape, while the rubber exterior provides grip, bounce, and a soft feel. Other materials like clay and titanium dioxide may also be blended into the rubber coating to enhance properties like weight, hardness, and conductivity.

Hybrid lottery balls aim to deliver the benefits of both plastic and rubber:

  • Hard inner core for durability
  • Soft, bouncy rubber exterior
  • Vibrant colored coatings
  • High quality printed numbers
  • Excellent grip and handling
  • Precisely weighted

By pairing plastic and rubber, the balls have improved performance in lottery machines. The outer rubber layer also provides insulation to minimize static cling when the balls tumble together.

Other Lottery Ball Materials

While plastic, rubber, and hybrids are most common, other materials are sometimes used to manufacture specialty lottery balls, including:

  • Wood – Dense woods like beech or maple were used for some early lottery balls. Wood provides a classic, elegant look but is less durable over repeated use.
  • Metal – Aluminum or steel balls were also used in early incarnations of lottery drawings. Metal is very durable but makes balls that are excessively heavy.
  • Ceramic – Technical ceramics like aluminum oxide can produce smooth, hard balls. But ceramic balls risk chipping and are expensive to manufacture.
  • Glass – Molten glass shaped into spheres was used for some early French and Dutch lotteries. Glass balls are elegant but fragile.
  • Ping Pong Balls – Basic ping pong balls are occasionally used as cheap, lightweight lottery balls.

While these specialty materials each have some unique properties, their drawbacks tend to make them impractical for modern lottery use.

Lottery Ball Manufacturing Process

Lottery balls go through a multi-step manufacturing process before arriving sparkling and ready for lottery drawings. Here is an overview of the production process:

  1. Mixing – For plastic balls, the ABS plastic blend is mixed and melted. Rubber balls require vulcanized rubber to be prepared.
  2. Shaping – Melted plastic or rubber is injected or compressed into spherical molds to form the core balls.
  3. Cooling – Plastic balls must cool completely before being removed from molds to harden their shape.
  4. Foaming – Balls may have foam fillings injected for extra bounce.
  5. Coloring – Balls are dyed or painted with their signature colors. Rubber balls are dyed throughout.
  6. Numbering – Numbers are imprinted or engraved onto each ball surface.
  7. Coating – Hybrid balls have an outer rubber coating applied over the inner plastic core.
  8. Testing – Balls undergo testing for proper bounce, weight, and durability.
  9. Packaging – Finished balls are organized into sets and packaged in cases.

Strict quality control and precision manufacturing ensures each set of lottery balls is identical. Lotteries may have custom specifications for sizing, weight, coloring, and numbering on their balls tailored to their lottery machines and drawing procedures.

Lottery Ball Specifications

While lottery balls may look simple, they are engineered to exacting specifications optimized for random drawings. Here are some key technical specifications for lottery balls:

  • Diameter – Ball diameters are typically between 18-22 millimeters.
  • Weight – Lottery balls often weigh 3-4 grams. Weights must be consistent across a set.
  • Density – Plastic balls have a density around 1 g/cm3. Rubber is higher around 1.15 g/cm3.
  • Hardness – The shore hardness for the plastic or rubber blend is precisely controlled.
  • Surface finish – Glossy, blemish free surface for optimized sensory properties.
  • Sphericity – Balls achieve nearly perfect uniform roundness, within 0.01 millimeters.

These specifications influence important ball properties for drawings like bounce, roll, friction, and fluid dynamics when mixed in the lottery machine. Even minute variations could make drawings less random.

Lottery Ball Testing

Lottery organizations thoroughly test balls from manufacturers to ensure they meet all technical specifications and performance standards.

Some examples of lottery ball physical tests include:

  • Drop tests – Balls are repeatedly dropped from set heights onto different surfaces to test bounce consistency.
  • Crush tests – Pressure is applied to evaluate deformity and material integrity.
  • Thermal cycling – Balls undergo temperature extremes to test for issues with thermal expansion.
  • Leak tests – Internal pressure evaluates shell integrity on fluid filled balls.
  • Penetration tests – Pins and blades test indentation limit of the ball surface.
  • Solvent tests – Ball coatings are exposed to solvents to evaluate chemical compatibility.
  • UV tests – Accelerated UV light exposure checks for fading issues.

Balls may also go through electrical conductivity and RFID testing if they contain electronics. Strict testing ensures the balls meet lottery requirements for random, unbiased drawings.

Specialized Lottery Balls

While traditional ping pong ball-sized numbered balls are most common, some lotteries employ specialized or novelty balls, such as:

  • Color balls – Special balls with unique colors but no numbers for games like Powerball.
  • Indicator balls – Balls with symbols like stars or diamonds instead of numbers.
  • Jumbo balls – Enlarged balls up to 10x bigger than normal for big jackpot ceremonies.
  • Weighted balls – Balls with interior weights for faster settling during drawings.
  • Glow balls – Balls with phosphorescent coatings to glow under black lighting.

These types of specialty balls add extra flair and audience excitement to lottery drawings. Ball designs and materials continue advancing to provide an even better lottery experience.

Smart Balls

With technology improving, there is an increasing trend toward “smart” lottery balls. These technologically enhanced balls contain electronics to augment lottery security and drawing procedures.

Some features of smart lottery balls include:

  • Embedded sensors – To monitor things like temperature, motion, orientation.
  • QR codes – Scannable identifying codes on each ball exterior.
  • RFID tags – Radio tags uniquely identify each ball.
  • Encrypted modules – Tamper proof encrypted electronics for security.
  • Conductive coatings – Sensing coatings to detect ball contact and jumbling.
  • Transmitters – Allow balls to wirelessly transmit live drawing data.

Smart balls provide lotteries enhanced security, transparency, and auditability. The technology allows new ways to interact with and display lottery drawings to engage audiences.

Lottery Ball Care

Lottery balls represent a sizable investment, so lottery organizations take special steps to prolong ball lifetime through careful maintenance.

Some lottery ball care tips include:

  • Handle gently to avoid scratches or dents
  • Clean with microfiber cloths instead of abrasive wipes
  • Use clean water instead of cleaners to avoid residue buildup
  • Store in climate controlled rooms to prevent humidity and temperature damage
  • Keep balls covered in opaque containers to limit light exposure
  • Rotate ball sets to evenly distribute wear over multiple sets
  • Inspect regularly for damage and test bounce consistency

With proper care, most lottery ball sets can last for years before needing replacement. But randomness and integrity is paramount, so balls are constantly monitored and swapped out at the first sign of degradation.

The Future of Lottery Balls

Lottery balls have a fascinating past, transforming over decades from wood and metal origins to sophisticated plastic, rubber, and hybrid materials engineered for perfect randomness. Ball designs continue advancing with new materials, smart technology, and custom features tailored to each lottery’s process.

Some future lottery ball innovations may include:

  • Connected balls that interface and share data during drawings
  • Personalized custom balls with holograms and dynamic displays
  • Balls engineered with new composite and nano materials
  • Kinetic balls that actively transmit energy to remain in motion
  • Cryptographic balls with encrypted algorithms to generate random numbers
  • Morphing balls able to dynamically change their size, weight, and markings

But even as lottery balls evolve in tandem with technology, their timeless ping pong ball shape and satisfying tumble during drawings is sure to persist. Lottery balls are a classic symbol of chance that will long continue to capture our imagination.


Lottery balls have a simple yet specialized design perfectly suited for their role in random drawings. The spherical balls are engineered to precise specifications and meticulously manufactured. While early balls were made of materials like wood, metal, and glass, most modern lottery balls are constructed out of plastic, rubber, or combinations of the two. The lightweight nature, bouncing ability, durability, and consistent sizing of these materials make them ideal for use in lottery machines. Lottery balls go through stringent testing by lottery organizations to verify their integrity and randomness before being put into service. With proper handling and maintenance, the balls can have long lifetimes spanning years and countless drawings. As lotteries evolve, specialized balls and smart technology continue to enhance drawings and engage audiences. But at their core, those bouncing ping pong ball-sized spheres still capture the hope and excitement that lotteries have embodied for centuries.