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Get the best out of sports equipment with polymers
Issue date:01/12/2017
China Plastic & Rubber Journal (CPRJ) - Dec 2017 Issue
Source:China Plastic & Rubber Journal
By Victor Cheng
Olivier Giroud testing Puma’s evoPOWER Vigor 1 boots.
Olivier Giroud testing Puma’s evoPOWER Vigor 1 boots.

Plastics can end up as garbage in the ocean, or it can modernize nearly every aspect of life, including professional sports. In fact, to say that sports would not have existed in current form without plastics is not an exaggerated statement, as innovations in plastics have enabled more lightweight, durable, and responsive gears and equipment.

Polyurethane ensures better kicks in football

Football is the world’s most loved sport. From the ball itself to the boots that players wear, plastics is playing an increasingly important role in boosting the performances of the equipment.

In the past, leather is the undisputed material of choice for the ball and the boots. Nowadays, plastics and synthetic leathers are used. For example, the official Euro 2016 match ball made by adidas, featured Covestro’s Impranil line of polyurethane (PU), which helped to improve the flight characteristics and water resistance.

The official Euro 2016 match ball.The ball’s outer shell consists of a total of five layers based on polyurethane raw materials from our Impranil line,” said Thomas Michaelis, Project Manager for ball development at Covestro. “It starts with the outermost skin, a full underglass print that prevents abrasion of the printed layer.”

The underlying intermediate layer protects the ball against external influences and lends it unusually high elasticity. Beneath that is a PU foam with millions of microspheres that improves flight characteristics. A layer of PU adhesive bonds the top layers to a special polyester-cotton fabric that serves as a substrate.

Puma, with the use of Covestro’s PU-based coating, increase the precision and comfort of its latest product in football footwear, the evoPOWER Vigor 1.

The sportswear brand’s Accufoam technology consists of three-dimensional, diamond shaped dots called Topaz-DOTS, applied on both sides of a spandex upper material. Topaz-DOTS, the coating technology from Trans-Textil, is based on INSQIN waterborne polyurethane technology from Covestro.

The Accufoam upper enables exceptional comfort and outstanding precision when kicking the ball powerfully,” said Matthias Hartmann, Team Head Material Engineering Innovation Footwear at Puma. “It also contributes to the innovative styling of the boot.”

Olivier Giroud, the Arsenal and France striker, is among the Puma endorsed footballers that play with evoPOWER Vigor 1 boots.

The production technology also enables upper materials to be produced using 95% less water and 50% less energy compared with conventional types. An independently verified environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study showed a 44% lower carbon footprint.

Strength remains in extreme condition
The boot parts that are subject to the greatest pressure are manufactured from Evonik’s high performance polyamide.
Winter is coming in the northern hemisphere, an exciting time for anyone who loves cold weather sports, such as snowboarding, skiing, and hockey. Modern materials have enabled more lightweight, durable, and responsive equipment, including ski boots.

VESTAMID CW1401, an impact modified polyamide (PA) 12 from Evonik, is selected by Austrian professional brand UPZ for production of its new ski and snowboard boots.

The new PA 12 molding compound has superior low temperature impact strength which, at 101kJ/m², is twice as strong as other materials. Providing good elasticity and stability at temperatures as low as -40°C, it can be used in applications where under extreme pressure and low temperatures.

In downhill ski races and especially in snowboard races, the pressure applied to the boot is several times greater than is the case with the average amateur skier or boarder,” said Wolfgang Aigner, Managing Director of the molding company AITEC GmbH. “The material used in the boot must be capable of permanently withstanding extreme loads.”

VESTAMID CW1401 fulfills all these criteria. The boot parts that are subject to the greatest pressure are manufactured from Evonik’s high performance plastic using injection molding process. They ensure optimal power transfer during the race while allowing high flexibility and comfort.

Carbon fibers shed weights without compromise

Plastics has also transformed another winter sport – ice hockey. Traditional hockey sticks were made with wood, but today many are made with composite for lighter weight, better mechanical strength and longevity.

The SUPREME 1S stick reinforced by TeXtreme.Bauer Hockey has introduced its latest stick, the SUPREME 1S which is reinforced by TeXtreme carbon fiber from Oxeon AB.

It is among the market leaders in ice hockey, with more than 400 NHL professional players using Bauer's sticks reinforced by TeXtreme Spread Tow reinforcements.

The SUPREME 1S features a new design in order to offer a powerful shot. The stick features a higher kick point in order to allow more energy to transfer.

Bauer Hockey uses TeXtreme in all of the three of its product families, SUPREME, VAPOR and NEXUS, to reduce weight, improve the mechanical performance and for the superior surface smoothness, which reduces the need for finishing drastically compared with other carbon fiber materials.

TeXtreme helps us maximize playability and integrate innovative designs and features we develop,” said Craig Desjardins, GM Hockey for Bauer Hockey.

In addition to TeXtreme, another feature of the stick is eLASTech Technology which reinforces the TeXtreme carbon fibers with micro nanotubes, helping to prevent cracks from slashes growing as well as extending the pop life of the stick.

Better protection for helmet
Aerohead Ultimate MIPS becomes lighter and faster with TeXtreme technology.
Alongside the use in ice hockey, TeXtreme carbon fiber fabrics also featured in Giro Sport Design’s new cycling helmet – the Aerohead Ultimate MIPS – for a lighter, stronger and more rigid outer shell.

By utilizing TeXtreme in the carbon fiber shell of the Aerohead Ultimate MIPS, we were able to further reduce frontal area exposure, making our fastest shape ever even faster,” says Rob Wesson, Giro Director of Helmet R&D. “We collaborated with the engineers at TeXtreme and worked as partners in composites to analyze, test and find the optimal solution for the shell.”

Oxeon’s TeXtreme differs from conventional carbon fiber materials due to its innovative production methods using Spread Tows instead of yarns to produce a fabric with an optimized fiber structure.

The Aerohead Ultimate MIPS has already been raced to victory on both the road and track by the world’s top professionals. It made its official debut at the Amgen Tour of California time trial stage last year, with BMC Racing Team, Team Katusha, and Team WIGGINS.

Top professional triathletes including Linsey Corbin, and Andreas and Michael Raelert, are also using the Aerohead MIPS.

Safe running tracks in demand in China

Toxic” running tracks in schools were widely reported last year in China. Students suffering from nosebleeds, coughing and dizziness as strong, foul-smelling odor were released by the running tracks.
First running track with BASF’s Infinergy SP installed in China.
The Chinese government cramped down hard on the issue, vowing to replace all tracks that had failed the safety test. According to reports, these tracks were made of substandard waste, including discarded tires, as a bid to reduce production costs.

To ensure the safety of Chinese students, BASF and DuBaiCheng Environmental Protection Engineering Co. Ltd. (DBC) have jointly developed a running track based on Infinergy SP, a special grade of expanded thermoplastic polyurethane (E-TPU) from BASF.

The Students of Shanghai American School (SAS) was the first school in China to adopt this running track.

Performance certified by International Association

With the outstanding cushioning effect of E-TPU particles, the track will provide a safer sporting experience for our students and help reduce the risk of sports injuries,” said Steve Doleman, Director of Activities at SAS.

During the past two years, BASF and DBC have partnered on sports and playground flooring projects in dozens of schools across China using BASF’s polyurethane solutions.

We will continue to work together with our partners from DBC, Shanghai Chemical Building Material Trade Association and Shanghai Research Institute of Building Sciences Group, on our full value chain quality control program and bring safer sports tracks to school campuses across China,” stated Andy Postlethwaite, Senior Vice President, Performance Materials Asia Pacific, BASF.

BASF’s Infinergy SP combines the benefits of thermoplastic polyurethane with typical properties of foams. It consists of a closed-cell particle foam which absorbs little water, making it particularly suitable for sports flooring applications.

Certified by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the running track structure possesses superior tensile strength and elongation and consists of a layer of polyurethane in which Infinergy SP is embedded for effective force reduction.

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