What section of sports and rec are you most involved in?
If it has to do with sports equipment, we’ve probably touched it in some form or another. We’ve had a lot of presence in the biking world because we owned a bike company called Titus Cycles. It’d been around for 10 years when we bought it and we used it as a platform to test the commercial viability of our technologies. We were able to increase Titus sales seven-fold in the even years—that’s quite an accomplishment in my book. We sold it in 2008 to help finance our new golf company, DnA Golf. Baseball and bikes are our largest revenue base, but we have a strong emerging presence in golf as well.
What is a recent accomplishment you’re proud of?
Vyatek currently has four licensees in the bike world and two licensees in the world of baseball bats. Louisville Slugger’s Exo bat was the number one college baseball bat four years running, and it’s based on our technology, and PGA Professionals, like Padraig Harrington, have won major championships with our Hybrex golf shafts. I mark those as great accomplishments.
How long have composites been a viable option for the industry? What made that possible?
Composites really got their start in the sports and rec industry in the late ’80s. The first large-scale adoptions were in tennis rackets and golf shafts because the stiffness it provided over metal. The lighter composite rackets and clubs allowed players a faster swing and thus more power. In both cases, composites allowed retention of stiffness but a lower weight, giving them a higher specific stiffness. Now, composites have moved into bikes, hockey sticks, archery equipment etc. with the same performance premise.
How often is FRP used over carbon composites?
FRP is less applicable for us because of the way we’ve positioned our company. When we do use glass, it’s for the benefit of damage tolerance or cost savings. For example, FRP is used in hockey or lacrosse sticks because of the required impact resistance. FRP tends to allow more flexibility, whereas early versions were too stiff. FRP integrated products allow the parts to soften and it is certainly more cost effective and provides a less catastrophic failure mode.
Where do composite parts tend to fail?
That’s a very product specific answer. Bikes fail differently than lacrosse sticks, which fail differently than baseball bats, which fail differently than golf shafts. In theory products are not suppose to fail, but in reality it occurs most often when a company is pushing the lightweight envelope. For example, bikes seem to have gotten to a point of diminishing return. The carbon fiber road bikes have chased weight savings so much and are now so thin that they have high failure rates from simple use. These bike frames don’t fail when someone is riding it, but when they’re dropped against a hard object or during a crash. In perfect conditions you can keep an egg shell fine, but when those conditions are less than perfect, not so much. We’ve actually picked up bike customers because they don’t want just ultra thin pure carbon bikes with a short shelf life.