Is there still a place for FRP in sporting goods?
Definitely, it is just a per design issue. Some things require more or less durability, stiffness or lighter parts, which will determine if it uses a high-performance or fiberglass composite. Fishing rods, for example, are better off with fiberglass because carbon is too stiff. On the other side, tennis rackets are consistently better when made of carbon composites.
How is the sporting goods market different from others?
It seems most markets that use composites choose it for cost-benefit reasons, whereas for us, people buy it for personal preference regardless of cost. High-end sporting goods equipment is driven by performance. We can tell someone that a bat hits 5 mph faster than another, but they buy the other because they like the look and feel of it better. They’re not going to say, “I want the weaker one” but other personal factors come into play. I’ve had a customer stick with a bat that statistically was inferior because he didn’t like that the ball sounded differently coming off bat.
What’s driving the industry right now and why?
In other industries cost may be driving the industry, but in sporting goods, people pay for performance. If I was a consumer looking to buy a high-end bat, the majority are composites. But more than material, it has to feel good. It has to have the “sweet spot.” If it hits a home run but breaks after one use, that’s not good. In order of what people care about, and what we should focus on: performance, feel, then durability. Overall, consumer likes are what drive our industry. You have to deliver, or they won’t buy your product again.