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18th July 2018, Stuttgart

Achieving top sports performance with composites

Fibre composites made inroads into the sports industry a long time ago and have revolutionised it in some areas, now being increasingly found in canoes, golf and hockey clubs, in racing bikes, yacht hulls and even swimsuits.

The 2018 Composites Europe trade show that will take place in Stuttgart, from 6-8 November, will demonstrate why summer and winter sportspeople can firmly rely on composites, also when it comes to delivering top sports performances in future.

Composites Europe will demonstrate why summer and winter sportspeople can firmly rely on composites. © Composites Europe

The benefits that composites bring for the sports and leisure sector are wide and varied. These materials score points with low weight, high resilience, bending stiffness, elasticity, almost free formability, resistance to corrosion and other weather conditions as well as the ability to absorb and pass on high amounts of energy.

At Composites Europe, various exhibitors will be showcasing applications for composites, as well as all the associated technologies and applications in the sports and leisure industries. Represented on site will be Tissa Glasweberei, which specialises in industrial textiles for winter sports, Karl Mayer with high-tech solutions for sports textiles, swimwear or shoes, as well as Chem-Trend, a company that supports the production of clubs, golf balls, cycles and training equipment with its products. Furthermore, CMS Deutschland, HP Tec, HUFSCHMIED Zerspanungssysteme, INEOS Styrolution Group, Innotect, MAKA Systems, Oxford Advanced Surfaces and others will provide advice about their products and innovations in this area.

Stable market for FRP

Sports and leisure are a stable market for fibre composites. According to the Composites Market Report 2017, some 15% or 167,700 tons of the annual GRP production of 1.118 m tons in Europe were consumed by this application industry last year. This percentage has remained at this same stable level for years now – an indication that the growth of this area corresponds to that of the market as a whole. Due to its strong user focus, however, it holds very great growth potential, say experts, provided producers succeed in creating innovations.

For CFP the Report for 2017 sees a global demand of just under 15,000 tons in the sports and leisure area – corresponding to some 12% of the total volume. By 2022 this value is expected by experts to rise to 21,000 tons. So only moderate but stable growth can be expected here. In terms of turnover the industry accounts for “only” 7% or US$ 1.36 billion while total sales generated with carbon composites amounted to US$ 19.31 billion.

Competition sports as a driver for development

CFP, in particular, has been used in sports for decades now, the show organisers explain. Most of the time competition and/or professional sports have driven developments because these are all about getting those key milliseconds or millimetres for a head start. With the help of better materials, the envelope is pushed further and further. And the necessary funds are also available thanks to powerful sponsors. At ever shorter intervals the initially unique ‘working tools’ of professionals are now also available to leisure athletes for mass sports in larger numbers.

One of the most important methods for processing composites in the sports and leisure field is Resin Transfer Moulding (RTM) – especially when large quantities are involved. Automation capacity, the use of various fibre and matrix materials as well as the adjustment of cycle times are just some of the benefits of RTM. Compared to other processes, however, the cycle times can only be minimised to a limited extent.

From water to cycling sports

Yachting is among the pioneers in CFP use. Hulls made of carbon-fibre reinforced composites have been used for both canoes and kayaks but also rowing boats and sailing yachts for many years now. This makes them lighter, more agile and easier to manoeuvre. Furthermore, rudders and paddles are made of fibre composites as well as surf and kite boards. And composites have even made inroads into swimming: the latest generations of swimsuits for top athletes – so-called Powerskins or Powersuits – contain a CFP admixture that flexibly and elastically stabilises the swimmer’s posture in the water while offering full freedom of movement nonetheless.

Successes are also celebrated thanks to CFP in professional golf or track and field athletics. At golf tour level or in the low Handicap spheres nearly all the clubs from drivers to the smallest of fairway woods now consist of composites. Like high jump rods, javelin throw spears and discus disks but also prosthetic limbs for sprinters and long jump athletes score points with low weight, high stiffness and, hence, outstanding competition properties.

The same applies to ball sports such as table tennis, hockey, cricket or lacrosse, where clubs without a composite admixture would be inconceivable today. For winter sports helmets, ice hockey sticks, skis complete with shoes and sticks, snowboards, ice skates, luges and bob sleds are made of high-tech, fibre-reinforced materials. The market is “ginormous” and nearly all renowned sports equipment manufacturers depend on composite materials, the show organisers conclude.

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