GE Additive and Callaway’s 3D Printed Putter Heralds Sea Change in Sporting Goods

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As golf giants Cobra and PING explore new ways to incorporate additive manufacturing (AM) into their production lines, it’s worth acknowledging that Callaway has been exploring the technology since at least 2018, when the company signed a consultancy agreement with General Electric (GE) Additive’s AddWorks team. Since then, the company began using the technology to redesign the acoustic profile of its Odyssey R-Ball Prototype putter. This project was able to help Callaway dive into the deep end of AM and could lead to the technology prominently featured on Callaway’s golf clubs in the future. 

Callaway using 3D printing to design the new R-Ball Putter. (Source: GE)

Callaway prides itself on being the “Number One Putter on Tour” and wants to continue innovating its clubs with the latest technology. Past innovations have featured multi-material designs and special polymer inserts, but, in 2018, the company began looking to AM to stay ahead of its competition.

This included the conversion of the Odyssey R-Ball Prototype putter into a more globally appealing product. The putter, which was extremely popular in Japan, struggled to sell in other markets. The higher pitched “ping” turned off many golfers, and although they liked the design, the acoustics kept them from buying it. The team at Callaway exhausted all traditional manufacturing methods to alter the acoustic profile of the R-Ball Prototype, but eventually turned to AM to solve this problem.  

They partnered with GE Additive’s AddWorks team, and with their help, began designing new geometries to change the acoustic profile. 3D printing allowed the group greater design freedoms and the ability to tailor its product to appeal to the varied preferences around the globe. The company now understands the overhang constraints, can optimize the topology for different acoustic characteristics, and can select from various materials to ensure the putters have the desired material properties.  This is a paradigm shift away from what Callaway knows and into a brave new AM world. 

GE Additive team member removing 3D printed R-Ball Putter heads. (Source: GE)
Callaway’s 3D printed R-Ball Putter Head. (Source: GE)

“We chose to work with GE Additive, to partner with experts, that represent best-in-class within the industry. GE Additive brings the total package to the table, offering end to end solutions; from printing machinery, raw materials, consultancy and build software,” said Brad Rice, director of R&D for Advanced Engineering at Callaway.

“We’re also taking away many new learnings from our first project together, especially around aesthetics. We have also used additive technology to create an acoustic map, which is certainly a first for us. We’re looking forward to driving more successful projects with Callaway, as they continue their additive journey,” said Chris Schuppe, general manager of AddWorks at GE Additive.  

With pushes like these, it wasn’t surprising to see other companies jump into AM, as well. We’ve even seen prominent tour players, like Rickie Folwer, adding AM putters to their bags. Heck, if it can help us save a few strokes on our weekend warrior round, we will put it in there too. 

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