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As Brazilians mourn the shocking lopsided loss of their beloved home team and face the prospect of a hated rival winning the FIFA World Cup, soccer fans around the world are looking ahead to the Sunday final between Germany and Argentina.

At the center of that stage is the soccer ball, the design of which has continually evolved over the past century.

In the 1930’s, players played with a hand-sewn ball made of leather with heavy laces.  In order to inflate the ball, the laces would have to be untied to reach the rubber interior bladder. Needless to say, the heavy laces discouraged the practice of heading.  Plus, when the leather ball got wet, it became even heavier.  Ouch!

Fortunately, a later innovation in valve design eliminated the laces and the new balls were less painful to head.  Plus, they held their shape better.

Since 1970, Adidas has been the official ball maker of the World Cup.  It was Adidas that designed the black and white ball most commonly associated with soccer, known as the Telstar.  They also created the unique 32-panel design, which stitched together 20 hexagons with 12 pentagons.   First used in the World Cup in Mexico, the pattern was said to improve visibility on black and white TV sets.

In the years since, further advancements were made to enhance the performance of the ball.  Leather gave way to synthetics, and the 32-panel design was replaced by a heat-sealed ball with fewer panels and a more aerodynamic seam pattern.

To keep up with changing times, this year’s ball, the Brazuca, boasts its own Twitter page with over 3 million followers. It faced a rigorous review process in advance of the tournament. Tested by both NASA scientists and 500 soccer players on three different continents, the Brazuca represents the latest innovation in ball design.

Barnhart would agree that innovation is key in any industry to improving performance. Whether it’s creating a new tool, or finding a unique use for a new one, innovative thinking drives us. We will be proactive in creating better methods and tools to meet the needs of our customers.

Four years from now, a new, superior ball will make its debut at the World Cup in Russia.  After all, innovation means never being static, but constantly seeking improvement.