How to hit that $500,000 basketball shot with SOLIDWORKS Motion

Article by Rod Mackay updated October 19, 2017


It’s finally happened. After years of attending basketball games you’ve finally been chosen. Called from your seat in the second quarter, it’s your turn to take the half-court shot to win $500,000.

With only one shot at this life-changing amount of money, you know this is an opportunity that you simply can’t waste. Thankfully you managed to sneak your computer through arena security, and quickly boot up SOLIDWORKS Motion.

After quickly setting up your SOLIDWORKS models, you’re ready to begin working on your motion study. Adding gravity, appropriate solid body contact between the ball and the rim is a great start, now you’re ready to simulate. You set up initial velocity and launch angle conditions (launch angle controlled by a Global Variable!), and plot the distance between the ball’s centre of mass and the centre of the hoop (a few inches below the rim of course, you want to only count shots that hit the bottom of the basket).

Linear displacement plot

Linear displacement plot


You notice that at its closest, the centre of the ball only comes to within 9 inches of the centre of the hoop that you specified earlier. From your years of basketball knowledge, you know this value has to be 4 inches or less for the ball to go into the basket. You know you don’t have time to manually test different velocities and launch angles, so this is a perfect time to run a Design Study.

Basketball motion design study

Basketball motion design study

Setting your min and max shot speed, and your min and max shot angle, 45 distinct scenarios are going to be run. You also set your maximum 4 inch minimum displacement as a constraint to define a successful study. Now it’s time to relax, clean off your sneakers, and start practicing your follow-through.

Winning scenarios

Winning scenarios

Once the Design Study is complete, you get a clear visual indicator of which options are going to win you the cash. Any of the white options are your winners, but in case your follow-through isn’t perfectly calibrated, you decide scenario 14 is your best bet, resulting in a launch angle of 42.5 degrees at a speed of approximately 27.3 mph.

Thanks to Design Studies in SOLIDWORKS Motion, you can walk off into the sunset with a high degree of confidence, and your novelty-sized cheque for $500,000.

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Rod Mackay

Rod has been using 3D CAD software for over 25 years and has trained thousands of designers to use their CAD systems more effectively. Rod is the Javelin Webmaster and is based in Ottawa, ON., Canada.