In canoes, golf and hockey clubs, racing bikes, yacht hulls and even swimsuits, composites offer benefits including low weight, high resilience, bending stiffness, elasticity, resistance to corrosion as well as the ability to absorb and pass on high amounts of energy.
Composites Europe exhibitors will include Tissa Glasweberei, which specialises in industrial textiles for winter sports, Karl Mayer, a provider of high-tech solutions for sports textiles, swimwear and shoes, as well as Chem-Trend, a company that supports the production of clubs, golf balls, cycles and training equipment with its products. CMS Deutschland, HP Tec, HUFSCHMIED Zerspanungssysteme, INEOS Styrolution Group, Innotect, MAKA Systems, Oxford Advanced Surfaces and further exhibitors will also present their products and innovations in this area.
A stable market
According to the Composites Market Report 2017 some 15%, or 167,700 tons, of Europe’s annual glass fibre reinforced polymer (GRP) production of 1.118 million tons were consumed by the sports and leisure sector last year. This percentage has remained at the same level for several years, an indication that the growth of this sector corresponds to that of the market as a whole. As a result of its strong user focus, however, it holds very great growth potential, say experts, provided producers succeed in creating innovations.
For carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) the report 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 to rise to 21,000 tons, so only moderate but stable growth can be expected here. In terms of turnover the sports and leisure industry accounts for 7%, or US$1.36 billion, while total sales generated with carbon composites amounted to $19.31 billion.
Competition sports drive development
CFRP, in particular, has been used in sport for decades now. Competition and professional sports have mostly driven developments because these are all about getting those key milliseconds or millimetres required for a win. 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 professional developments are now also transferred to leisure athletes for widespread adoption.
An important method for processing composites in the sports and leisure field is resin transfer moulding (RTM), especially when large quantities are involved. Automation capability, the use of various fibre and matrix materials as well as the adjustment of cycle times are some of the benefits of RTM. Compared to other processes, however, the cycle times can only be minimised to a limited extent.
From watersports to cycling
Yachting is among the pioneers in CFRP use. Hulls made of carbon fibre composites have been used for canoes, kayaks, rowing boats and sailing yachts for many years. This makes them lighter, more agile and easier to manoeuvre. Rudders and paddles are also made of composites as well as surf and kite boards. Composites have even made inroads into swimming, with the latest generations of swimsuits for top athletes – so-called Powerskins or Powersuits – containing a CFRP admixture that flexibly and elastically stabilises the swimmer’s posture in the water whilst still offering full freedom of movement.
Successes are also celebrated thanks to CFRP in professional golf and track and field athletics. At golf tour level or in the low handicap spheres nearly all the clubs now feature composites. High jump poles, javelins and discus but also prosthetic limbs for sprinters and long jump athletes score points with CFRP’s 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, snowboards, ice skates, luges and bob sleds are made of high-tech, fibre-reinforced materials.
Cycling shows the enormous impact that CFRP can have on the development of a whole sports discipline. Lighter and stiffer frames are used for both mountain bikes, road and in-door racing bikes but also for e-bikes and trekking bikes in mainstream sports. Now even more components are made of CFRP, such as handlebars, seat stays, forks, rims, cranks and pedals, bringing down the weight of competition cycles to a mere 7 kg. Pierre Bischoff, the Lightweight Technologies Forum Ambassador, will demonstrate how to score successes with such ‘lightweights.’ He won the Race Across America, said to be the hardest bicycle race in the world, with a CFRP bike.
Industries: Sports, Leisure & Recreation