USBC presents update on Bowling Ball Motion Research


    USBC Equipment Specifications and Certification

    USBCLogoRed_small.jpg The United States Bowling Congress today disclosed developments of the ongoing technical study of modern bowling balls involving the USBC research team and major bowling ball manufacturers.

    USBC Technical Director Neil Stremmel, along with three USBC research engineers and technicians, presented the report to a sizeable group of bowling ball manufacturers, USBC coaches, pro shop operators and other bowling industry officials at Mandalay Bay Resort.

    In the report, Stremmel and his team discussed the research activities of the USBC Ball Motion Study that began in October 2005 when USBC and major bowling ball companies teamed up to analyze what impact modern, high-tech bowling balls have on the credibility of the sport of bowling. USBC has been working closely with the major bowling ball manufacturers in the high-level testing that is being performed on the lanes at the USBC research facility in Greendale, Wis.

    2006USBCNeilStremmel.jpg "The goal of this research is to better understand the motion of bowling balls using science and data," Stremmel (left) said. "We want to learn more about ball motion as it relates to lane conditions. There may be some new specifications developed at a later time from the data we get from this ongoing study."

    The testing process officially started in summer 2006 after the formation of the USBC Bowling Ball Specifications Task Force, comprising USBC representatives and technical volunteers from several bowling ball manufacturers. That group has framed the research project, deciding which bowling ball layouts and lane oil patterns are to be used.

    A total of 32 high-tech particle and reactive bowling balls were used for the study. Those balls were measured to gather eight static variables: radius of gyration, coefficient of friction, total differential, intermediate differential, differential ratio, oil absorption rate, spin time and cover stock type. The test balls were grouped according to how they measured in different categories such as the cover material and inner balance qualities. Head-to-head testing pitted the highest and lowest in one respective category against each other. The testing consisted of four shots for each ball in an order where each ball was given relatively the same average amount of oil on the lane, what is statistically called an ABBABAAB sequence. Later a method called multiple linear regression was used to evaluate trends.

    The data was measured using the "Super C.A.T.S." tracking system to record the exact location and speed of the bowling balls as they were rolled down the lane. The Super C.A.T.S. (which stands for Computer Aided Tracking System) system is made up of 23 small electronic sensors installed from 11 to 59 feet down the lane. USBC research engineers and technicians recorded and analyzed this data to calculate one of 19 different response variables relating to ball motion on the lane.

    One trend in the research has revealed that three variables - coefficient of restitution, oil absorption and radius of gyration - have shown so far in the testing process to have a major impact on bowling ball motion.

    In all, USBC engineers and technicians have performed about 125 tests and have spent more than 750 worker hours so far on the project.

    "I think they (USBC) have made good strides with a very complex problem," said Ebonite ball development chemist Bert Shemwell, who was in attendance at the presentation. "They've developed some good methodologies. I think (the study) is going in the right direction to learn about ball motion. The emphasis on more knowledge development and less on concrete specifications right now I think is what needs to be emphasized."

    2006TradeShowMoPinel_small.jpg "I thought the presentation was good and handled properly," said MoRich Enterprises, Inc. President and CEO Mo Pinel (left), who also was in attendance. "I think the most important thing about it is that the world gets to know exactly how much manpower and financial commitment USBC has made to the game of bowling in order to more accurately realize their role as a governing body."

    The cooperative working relationship between USBC and the ball manufacturers shows USBC's commitment to the sport of bowling, Pinel said.

    "The fact that the USBC is working with the ball manufacturers after the 2005 meeting (a bowling industry forum) says that they're committed to improving the sport as well as the governing of the sport of bowling," Pinel said. "I think if you polled all the ball manufacturers (it would show that) it's an extremely positive relationship. I know that what they (USBC) are doing helps manufacturers clarify some things. As a manufacturer, I'm glad they're doing it (the study)."

    "There's some real cooperation," Shemwell said. "Everybody is in this for the same thing, to keep bowling healthy and a thriving industry. We both are working toward a common goal. It makes sense to work as team members for that. We do have some different agendas. But the ultimate agenda is to have a healthy industry."

    "The collaboration and teamwork between USBC and the bowling ball manufacturers has been critical to the ongoing research," Stremmel said. "We have worked well together to set the testing parameters and methodology. The continuing support from the ball manufacturers has been essential to the process."

    USBC, working with the manufacturers, now will begin a new Round of testing to distinguish the major factors inherent in bowling ball motion. Future steps planned include adding static weights, on-lane friction measurements, coefficient of restitution and room variables to the predictors, testing balls with the same cover stock and different cores, testing balls with the same core but different cover stocks and testing a wider range of bowling balls. The continued testing will include multiple linear regression analysis, an American Society of Quality recommended method and a Six Sigma methodology used to evaluate trends within complex tests.