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From tennis rackets to footballs, fromsports shoes to yachts, plastics are becoming a game changer in almost everysport imaginable. Besides delivering outstanding performance characteristics,plastics also provide marvelous benefits that contribute to diverse functional,safety and aesthetic designs.

Designed for tennis players in mind like Kevin Anderson, BASF’s Infinergy is used in the new CX series by Dunlop. (Photo: Dunlop)
Designed for tennis players in mind like Kevin Anderson, BASF’s Infinergy is used in the new CX series by Dunlop. (Photo: Dunlop)

The latest applications of plastics in the sports games show that the material is increasingly changing the composition and designs of the sport gears and equipment, helping the sportsman and the rest of us who seek high quality performance and experience. In particular, polyurethane (PU, PUR) and thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) play an important role in this emerging trend.

Unleash the performance within tennis rackets

The Dunlop research team has employed a new innovation for tennis racket, the Sonic Core that is located at the two and ten o’clock areas of the racket.

Sonic Core made with BASF’s Infinergy, the expanded thermoplastic polyurethane (E-TPU) that boasts strong cushioning, high rebound, speed, and lightweight performance, creates a high performing yet comfortable material.

Dunlop’s material testing shows that the revolutionary material’s 46% increase in rebound height vs. Dunlop’s original Sonic Core material resulting in 2% faster ball speed off the racket. The Infinergy material also has impressive damping properties and reduces vibrations up to 37% vs. a standard carbon fiber racket.

The Sonic Core technology can be found in Dunlop’s next generation CX racket series, the brand’s flagship racket launch for 2019. The material is also used in Power Flex technology for Dunlop’s padel bats.

Thanks to the technical innovations and material advantages of Infinergy, the new range has options for players of all ages and abilities, providing them with increased power, control, spin and a larger sweet spot, according to Kiyoshi Ikawa, owner of the Dunlop brand.

The CX Series is endorsed by Dunlop’s Tour Team players, including multiple Grand Slam finalist Kevin Anderson, who will use the rackets during the 2019 season.

Technologies that greatly improve footwear performance

Surprised by the aforementioned awesome technology? Here is more to come. BASF recently introduced an advanced grade of TPU which can greatly improve production of shoe shanks and decorative shoe parts in high-performance shoes while providing excellent mechanical properties, such as UV resistance.

The shank is a part of the supportive structure between the insole and outsole of the shoe. It is typically made with rigid materials to support the foot and stiffen the outsoles for a more stable fit.

According to BASF, the new Elastollan TPU grade is compatible with automation, allowing parts to be easily removed from the mold, and enabling greater design freedom for decorative shoe parts.

As introduced, this new grade requires a lower injection temperature, enabling a shorter cycle time, stronger cold flexibility and easy demolding in shoe shank production. This reduces processing time by up to 30%, depending on the size and thickness of individual parts.

Owing to its rigidity, the new grade is also an ideal material solution for sports products such as ski binders, which connect ski boots to the skis.
DALTOPED AquaPUR technology produces high-quality surface finish for shoe soles.
Meanwhile, the DALTOPED AquaPUR technology from Huntsman Polyurethanes, an innovative, fully water-blown polyether soling solution, provides excellent flow and surface definition for better looking, better feeling shoe soles.

Unveiled at the 2018 DESMA House Fair held in Achim, Germany, DALTOPED AquaPUR technology is capable of producing high-quality surface finish that footwear producers would typically associate with physical blown systems.

Designed to deliver better looking and feeling soles across a range of footwear applications, the technology is available in a range of densities, and suitable for the direct-on processing and casting of unit soles and midsoles.

In addition, the technology is compatible with standard polyurethane processing machines and has excellent flow characteristics, which enable complex designs with multiple color options. Combined with superior blend stability in the machine tank, it can be processed at room temperature, helping to reduce energy consumption and shorten the production cycle.

This technology is mirroring the smooth finishing effects that can be achieved with physical blown systems, making it an excellent solution for customers wanting to make the switch to water-blown systems, without compromising on quality.

Advanced materials for world-class match balls

Covestro has developed and supplied advanced materials for adidas soccer balls for more than 30 years. The adidas Telstar 18 used in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia is said as the most advanced World Cup match ball.

Telstar 18 proudly continues the series of Official World Cup Balls adidas has produced since 1970, when the original “Telstar” with its iconic 32 black and white panels changed football design forever.
 2018 FIFA World Cup Official Game Ball: adidas presents Telstar 18. (Photo: adidas)
According to Thomas Michelis, Head of Covestro Textile Coatings EMLA, Telstar 18 employs the latest developments in polyurethane coated textiles, which provides it optimal handling, great flight characteristics and superb water resistance.

Its outer shell with its Impranil layers and Dispercoll adhesives make Telstar 18 a high-tech sports equipment, and lightyears ahead of the stitched leather balls I used to play with as a kid,” Thomas Michelis explained. “Modern synthetic materials ensure players get predictable ball performance under all weather conditions, something anyone experienced wet soccer balls will appreciate.”

The innermost layer of the ball skin is an adhesion coating that connects the textile substrate to the layers above. On top of this is a polyurethane foam layer, roughly one millimeter thick, made up of millions of gas-filled microspheres. This foam is highly elastic so that the ball, after being deformed from being kicked, immediately returns to its spherical shape to ensure an optimal flight path.

The outer skin comprises two compact layers of polyurethane with different thicknesses. These layers are responsible for the outstanding resistance to external influences and abrasion, and for the ball’s high elasticity.

More durable and repairable coating for yachts

AkzoNobel’s duel focus on safety and performance at the professional level is good news to Yacht owners. Yacht owners can now benefit from advanced AkzoNobel coatings technology which passed the ultimate test during the latest edition of the grueling Volvo Ocean Race.
Team AkzoNobel's VO65 coated with Awlgrip.
Put through its paces during the punishing offshore sailing event, a new Awlgrip HDT polyurethane clearcoat has been launched. Not only is it more durable and abrasion resistant than current market offerings, but it's also repairable and lower in VOCs.

"We spent more than three years developing Awlgrip HDT and worked closely with the Volvo Ocean Race Boatyard team to fine-tune its formulation. Yacht owners can now enjoy a longer lasting, easier to maintain finish - safe in the knowledge that the product has passed the toughest of tests." said Hans Slegtenhorst, Global Segment Manager Yacht for AkzoNobel.

Already available in North America and Europe, Awlgrip HDT can be used over the full range of Awlcraft SE basecoats, which currently features 18,000 colors.

According to Hans Slegtenhorst, they are also working on a single-stage version of Awlgrip HDT, which will combine a color basecoat with the topcoat in one easy-to-use product and is expected to be launched in mid-2019.

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