Sports equipment: Composites push the limits of technical feasibility
Low weight, high load-bearing capacity, flexural rigidity, elasticity, almost free formability, resistance to rust and other weather influences as well as the ability to absorb and pass on large amounts of energy - the advantages of carbon fibre reinforced plastics (CFRP) are manifold and in the meantime the material has found its way into the equipment of a variety of sports - both in summer and in winter. "Carbon seems to be just the right material to help athletes get the most out of themselves and their equipment," says Carbon Composites e.V.'s report "Fiber Composites in Sport".
Various applications of fibre composites in summer and winter sports
In summer it is mainly water sports (boat hulls, oars and paddles, surf or kiteboards, powerskins or powersuits), golfing (shafts of clubs for almost all types of wood, now also putters and irons), athletics (high jump poles, spears and discus discs, but also prostheses for sprinters and long jumpers), Ball sports (rackets for hockey, tennis, badminton, squash, table tennis, cricket or lacrosse), shooting (stabilizers, visors, grip shells and centre pieces for arches, cheek rests, tripods and cleaning sticks for rifles) and cycling (frames, handlebars, saddle braces, forks, rims, cranks or pedals), in which fibre composites are used.
Composites are also indispensable in winter sports. Whether helmets, ice hockey sticks, skis including boots and poles, snowboards, skates, helmets, racing sledges or bobsleds. In addition, there are accessories such as bodies, shells, neck, shin, knee and arm protectors of all kinds as well as shoes and numerous other accessories - the market is huge and almost all renowned sports equipment suppliers rely on composite materials.
Carbon composites with high market penetration in the sports and leisure sector
At CFRP, experts expect a worldwide demand of 154,700 tonnes and a turnover of around 23.15 billion US dollars for 2018. The sports and leisure sector accounts for 20,110 metric tons, which corresponds to around 13 percent. On the sales side, the user industry accounts for 2.55 billion US dollars and thus about eleven percent of the total market. According to the findings of the market report, however, the sports and leisure sector achieves the second-highest prices per kilogram in terms of the comparison between demand and sales.
"Carbon composites already have a high market penetration in this segment and are established as standard in numerous applications. This includes large-volume applications such as commercial sports equipment (golf, bicycles, hockey, tennis, winter sports) as well as particularly high-priced individual solutions such as boatbuilding or competitive sports," the experts note. Background: In these areas, technical requirements and marketing aspects are far more important than price restrictions.
CFRP has been used in sport for decades. In most cases, new developments are based on high-performance or professional sports, because the aim is to work out decisive milliseconds or millimetres ahead. With the help of the better material, the limits can be pushed further and further. In addition, the necessary money is available thanks to potent sponsors. In the recent past, however, professional sports equipment has become available in ever shorter intervals to recreational athletes in mass sports in larger numbers.
Sports and leisure sector is third largest customer of GRP in Europe
Sports equipment also plays an important role as a sales market in the segment of glass fibre reinforced plastics (GRP): according to the "Composites Market Report 2018", 159,740 tonnes of the annual GRP production of 1.141 million tonnes in Europe went into the sports and leisure sector last year. That is around 14 percent of the total volume. This makes it the third largest application area after construction, design and transport.
COMPOSITES EUROPE presents the latest developments for the sports and leisure sector
Exhibitors at COMPOSITES EUROPE 2019, e.g. Gaugler & Lutz oHG, will also be focusing on the latest developments for the sports and leisure sector. "Fibre composites have been used in the sports and leisure industry for quite some time. Composites offer enormous advantages because they are light, resilient and elastic. They are easy to shape and rot-resistant, which means that the materials can be used in a wide variety of applications," says Svenja Schnell from the Marketing/ Corporate Communications department.
At this year's COMPOSITES EUROPE, the company is focusing on its core competence in lightweight and sandwich construction. "For over 30 years we have been the competent and reliable partner when it comes to the selection and processing of core materials. At our trade fair stand, we will therefore be presenting a wide selection of machined and processed core materials from a wide variety of materials," she explains. Gaugler & Lutz rates the development of the composites market as very positive. "It has grown enormously in recent years and demand is rising continuously. Demand is growing not only in well-tried sectors such as aviation and the automotive industry, but also in segments such as construction and mechanical engineering," explains Schnell.
For the company, COMPOSITES EUROPE is one of the most important trade fairs in the composites sector every year. "It is the trade fair and industry forum for all occupational groups associated with composite materials as well as new technologies and applications. We serve customers from the wind power, aerospace, automotive and shipbuilding sectors. That's why the trade fair is so important for us, because we can find representatives from a wide variety of industries there," she explains. "We use the trade show both for acquiring new customers and for intensive discussions with existing partners. The CE is the ideal platform for us to exchange ideas and information".
"Faster, higher and farther is no longer limited to top-class sport."
Another company exhibiting in Stuttgart is Hexcel Holding GmbH. "Faster, higher and further is no longer limited to top-class sport. This can also be seen in the field of application of high performance composite materials, which are increasingly finding their way into popular sports. Whether in the field of bicycle rims, where composites are used in more and more models, or in winter sports, where carbon fibers are used specifically to optimize stiffness, explains Sabine Eberstaller, Assistant S&M Industrial. Especially in the high-performance segment, Hexcel sees a positive development, similar to recent years..