Steve Ehlers is the vice president of golf club innovation and development at Callaway Golf in Carlsbad, Calif. Ehlers has over 30 years working with composites, 20 of them in the aerospace industry working with large structures such as spacecrafts and helicopters. In 1997, he moved into consumer products and was interested in the new technology development at Callaway Golf. Callaway recently developed a new driver using Forged Composite technology, a manufacturing technique using discontinuous fibers in a compression-type mold, to produce a competitive new driver.
What are current trends in the sports market for composite materials?
I’m starting to see more composite products showing up, for example, in crank sets for bicycles, derailer components, and various other sporting goods. Previously, you could not use laminated composites to make the same parts that can be fabricated through modern manufacturing methods. I believe faster and more efficient manufacturing approaches will become a standard in composites manufacturing in the sporting goods industry.
How do composites relate to golf technology?
Graphite shafts have been used in golf clubs for a long time. At Callaway, we started doing multi-material research to best take advantage of different material properties. We’ve previously made a composite head and have relied heavily on composite bodies in the driver. For a golf club manufacturer, Callaway uses composites in its designs more than most (if not all) of its other competitors.
What are some similarities in designing for aircraft and sporting goods?
Many of the technologies are the same in designing for a golf club as they were in aerospace. Foremost, you must design with dynamics and strength of the structure in mind. Also, they share a common technology base since they are typically constructed using the same types of materials.
What can the composites industry do to expand within your market?
I think the composite industry is doing all the right things in terms of developing material forms to be used in more ways. If more composite processes are adopted, the scale of production will go up, the price of graphite will go down and more materials will become affordable for both the customer and the manufacturer. We’re starting to see the fruits of composite manufacturer’s efforts that indicate the market is moving in the right direction.
Where are you seeing the fruits of these efforts?