Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Butterfly Fiber Blade Development History

Butterfly Fiber blade development

From single ply wood to multi-layer wood, then carbon

It has been 36 years when Butterfly developed their first special material blades “TAMCA 5000”. 36 years ago, before the development of TAMCA 5000, Japan and the world is using single ply wood blade. Very soon, multi-layer ply wood racket with better performance has been recognized by most of the players. At that time, Butterfly‘s ultimate pursuing goal for racket performance has been set and never been changed until now, that is to increase racket’s performance power.

From single layer ply wood to multi-layer ply wood, racket performance progress has been achieved, in order to further improve racket’s performance power; the development team has tried various type of carbon material from different field.

“Lighter and Strong Flexibility” is Butterfly’s development team ultimate choice for “Carbon” fiber material. In April 1978, the first Carbon contained racket “TAMCA 5000” launched, however the subsequent problem to be solved is the high production cost, therefore the price for this blade is higher than normal racket’s production cost 3~4 times, and not many players are using. But the good news is this type of racket started to recognize and welcome, in this period, the concept of “Carbon Racket has better power” started to spread by peoples.

14 years of experiment, Arylate and Table Tennis Racket.
More and more carbon racket has been developed, and loved by top class player and ordinary table tennis fans. In the meantime, the development team started to testing new material. Besides Carbon material, high performance material was not common during that period of time, development team has tried many materials it was resultless.

During this time, one type of material which is quite different with carbon material has gained focus by development group, that is Arylate Fiber material, compared to Carbon material, Arylate material has shown completely different playing feeling, the  special characteristic of Arylate material is rapid absorption and vibration reduction, together with higher resilience force. The development team discovered that the racket produced with this type of material, can guarantee playing power, as well as softer feeling, and hence increased its capability in control.

After 14 years of TAMCA 5000 launched, 1991 November, the first Arylate Fiber racket KEYSHOT blade appeared in the market, thereafter, Arylate fiber material has becoming one of the most important material in racket manufacturing.

Legend was born, the Viscaria!
Viscaria is one of the most enduring products in Butterfly lines up, after the Arylate Fiber gained recognize and success, Butterfly development group planned to combine both materials which they think can compensate in the playing feeling, at the same time increase racket performance capability.

1993, “Viscaria” became the first blade contained Arylate-Carbon material was successfully developed, Butterfly consulted its contract player for testing and received positive feedback, from that on, Butterfly starting to emphasis on professional player testing opinion, because research team member believed players personal feeling is important, and this subjective feel helps a lot in future racket making.

Butterfly’s Timo Boll series is one of the most successful example, blades tested by Timo Boll not only satisfied high level player’s requirement, but the popularity of Timo Boll has caused this blades gained more attention. The value of top player increased the value of blade; once again Butterfly evolved their racket concept.

Bigger ball, Non VOC, giving birth of Super Zylon
In year 2000, ITTF introduced bigger dimension ball and banned VOC glue (Speed glue) has caused dramatically change, development team facing big challenge, this is because with the banned of Speed Glue, racket’s resilient capability reduced obviously, hitting power weaker than before.

A series of changes caused table tennis manufacturer confusion, at that time, Butterfly Mr. Kanai has proposed, “due to the banned of speed glue, larger ball dimension, there will be many player give up ply wood racket and swift to hybrid racket. Therefore Butterfly should focus on how to increase the resilient capability of racket, and this has becoming new direction for Butterfly’s development team.

Under expectation, “TAMCA.ULC” material was finally developed, the biggest changes of this material is its material’s weaving method, it has reduced the weight for about 18%, and brings benefit for shorter sizes table tennis player.

TAMCA.ULC has clearer the direction for Butterfly R&D group in Fiber racket development, lightness and higher resilient, also showing the direction for the birth of Zylon fiber.

Produce suitable racket for players
With this clearer target, Butterfly development team has step out a giant leap. ZL Fiber and Zylon Fiber combined with Carbon Fiber very soon becoming new choice for hybrid blade. During the development process, R&D group received assist from many top ranking players, one of them was Zhang Yining who’s provided her valuable opinion.

During that time, Butterfly classified its product into two group, pure wood blade and special material blade. Special material blade always be Butterfly main focus, however compared to pure wood blade, special material blade consist weakness in hand’s feeling and controlling. Due to that, Zhang Yining still preferring to play with pure wood blade instead of special material racket.

In 2007 Zagreb WTTC, favorite Zhang Yining lost in women’s single event, she began to consider changing her blade. At that time, to make a powerful and good control racket becoming the main task for Butterfly development team.

Zhang Yining requirement for new racket is: “the blade should have pure wood’s blade thickness and hitting feel, it can increase the return power during 3rd and 4th ball rallies in a game, and score a point.” Because of this requirement, development team proposed “Innerforce”, using new Zylon Fiber and restructure layer position for special material.  The new developed “Innerforce ZLC” racket is similar to pure wood feeling with high resilient characteristic, at the end, it has obtained recognize from Zhang Yining.

Zhang Yining using this racket and won  the 2008 Beijing Olympic game, 2009 Yokohama WTTC women singles champion, with this success, it has firmed Butterfly development group concept of “produce suitable equipment for player”.

From searching to upgrade, victory of Super ZL
In the memory of Mr. Iwase, from ZL material to Super ZL material, development group experienced many experiments and selection, during this progress, according to past experiment, selected quite number of material which is similar to ZL material to do experiment, but the actual outcome does not bring significant result, this has bother the development team.

Butterfly development team does not persist in upgrading current material, however they have changed the traditional, by select those used material for new development, this has bring significant result.

During Super ZL fiber development progress, to weave a fiber which is different from the past is not an easy task, Super ZL fiber needs huge volume of fiber, but ZL material itself is very strong, it is a challenge in the weaving technology, when Fiber finished goods produced and is going to compile into blade, they are facing another challenge due to the high compact of weaving, cutting becoming difficult, and needs to use high precision cutting tools, even so, high precision tools still having risk in wear and tear, which resulting in damage the blade. All these problems, was solved by development team.

Reconstructed new ZL material, have higher resilient characteristic than ZL material, and have obvious changes in playing feel, to distinguish from ZL material, Butterfly has named it Super ZL Fiber.

Mizutani always use Butterlfy blades, suffered defect in 2012 All Japan tournament, after changing to new fiber blade, his results has improved dramatically, this can seen as the victory of Super ZL fiber.

Mr. Iwase said “from subjective perspective, Mizutani’s win in major tournament is because of its hardworking, but from objective perspective, the blade using by Mizutani has play a role in wining. During a match, player has fight for a point to win, but when we making racket, we are fight for a gram difference, we are like player, always put ourselves into tournament feeling when developing our product.”

Translated from Ping Pong Magazine, 46th edition (2014.10)


1 comment:

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