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View Full Version : Why are new materials "gimmicks?"


backhand
07-30-2008, 09:57 PM
Was reading the thread about Fischer's new Progressor, think it's interesting how racquets and skis exchange aerospace technologies that some here inevitably consider ad hype or gimmicks.

Fischer has been marketing a successful ski called the Progressor for a year now; all of its better carving skis have been using the vacuum air carbon, frequency control longer than its racquets. And of course, all of Fischer's tech comes from their production of structural components for exotic cars and aircraft. Howard Head was an aircraft guy who started an American ski company in the 50's that made (gasp) skis with aluminum sheets top and bottom. Fischer was making highly competitive aluminum skis by the middle 60's, Rossignol (which used to make racquets) introduced fiberglass torsion box skis back then too.

OTOH, some technologies (like everybody's graphite and titanium, Head's i and LM) get to racquets first, then skis, but stick longer with latter. Head still makes very popular high performance/race skis with i and LM, and last year introduced something that seems derived from Microgel for its backcountry skis. Blizzard (Austrian again) is trying magnesium in place of titanium, which I expect to see in someone's racquets if the patents are doable and people don't mind spending north of two benjamins.

So unclear why this stuff is "hype" when it appears to be platform materials almost always borrowed from established aerospace or F1 racing designs, then applied to whatever sports equipment these companies make, from boats to badminton, see if and where it helps. Yeah, there are old ski race coaches who grouse about how hard it is to find a "basic" wood core sandwich wrapped in fiberglass, but World Cup races are being won on skis with exotic metals, "caps," vibration absorbing systems, graphite inserts and so on. And over on this side, don't hear a lot of nostalgia for wood racquets from the pros; even on TW, apparently pure graphite is the new "old school" material. So seriously, are we supposed to believe that these materials do improve the performance of airplanes, race cars, boats, and skis, but are just sales gimmicks for tennis racquets?

anirut
07-30-2008, 11:06 PM
OK, I don't know about others rackets, but I've cut open a Head i-series racket. I think it was the iS6 or somthing.

The location where the "intelligent" stuff should be, at the racket shoulder, there were some very fine copper wires that led to nowhere. I mean, I didn't see it leading anywhere.

On the racket handle there was a circuitry sticker, just a PICTURE. There were warnings about high voltage, blah, blah, blah.

High voltage from a sticker? From a sheet of paper? A very intelligent way of making money on the company's part.

I don't know if I'd done something wrong that I couldn't find anything "intelligent" about it. If anybody can prove it otherwise, please do. I would welcome that.

(Too bad that I didn't take any pictures and the racket was thrown away during our home renovation a year ago.)

spkyEngrish
07-31-2008, 01:22 AM
IMO, if the specific properties of the technology actually affect an actual, measurable trait of the equipment in question, then it's not "hype" per say.

Rather, the actual significance and sexinessof said technology is often "hyped".

Ultimately, the consumer has to use some sense when subjected to marketing. I mean, how many racquets would companies sell if they printed, "Shoot, it's really only extremely pure graphite folks, but ***** just sounded so much hotter!".

pow
07-31-2008, 01:43 AM
Gimmicks are popular, nCode was marketed with 22%more power, 2 time more this, 2 times more that...
If those numbers were true (they're not) wouldn't it make you feel that other racquets without this miracle nCode must be a thing of the past?
In a world where we are accustomed to buying technological products like computers which do indeed get faster and better with newer models, we tend to translate that mentality of buying into tennis racquets. The problem with tennis is that racquets do not become obsolete the way a computer does when compared to the newer models so the racquet companies have to get creative and make it seem like so...

Bottle Rocket
07-31-2008, 07:49 AM
So seriously, are we supposed to believe that these materials do improve the performance of airplanes, race cars, boats, and skis, but are just sales gimmicks for tennis racquets?

Its not the technology or the material that is necessarily the gimmick, but more the integration of these materials into the tennis racket. This is where the marketing comes in.

If you look at all of the major manufacturers, most all of them claim a special material, such as LiquidMetal, Aerogel, Intellifiber, Metallix, etc... It isn't that these materials aren't real as much as it's about the fact that INCREDIBLY small amounts of them are used in tennis rackets.

Other than the majority of them having a very high cost (aerogel is less than I would have thought, for relatively small quantities of aerogel the cost is about $1.00 per cubic centimeter), the majority of these materials won't provide any effects that are actually desirable in a tennis racket. Are manufacturers really having trouble making frames stiff enough that they need technologies developed for Mars landers? Extremely light and strong materials, most of which are brittle as hell, aren't going to improve the playing characteristics of a frame. All these things do wonders for marketing, just ask HEAD.

The more mechanical technologies, such as Fischer's Magnetic Speed, are pretty interesting, but do they really make a difference? I suspect the majority of them, if not all of them, would not stand up to any sort of unbiased lab testing. I thought it was funny that the TW reviewers had put the Fischer frame up next to their refrigerator to see if there was any evidence of the magnets.

As far as technologies that I personally think are legitimate, I think the Prince rackets with the huge string holes really do make a difference. Unfortunately, the trade-offs might not make it worth it. Many of the weighting technologies are also legitimate, such as Wilson's PWS, but are rarely actually incorporated into the frame.

I'm just sort of rambling on and doing a fine job of killing time at work, but the bottom line is, I believe in the technologies. I just don't believe in their usefulness or actual integration into our tennis rackets.

VGP
07-31-2008, 08:01 AM
It's a gimmick if it doesn't give a vast, if not measurable, improvement in the game.

Not gimmicks (since wood and natural gut):

Graphite and other lightweight and strong materials
Increased head size
Thicker profile cross sections
Polyester strings
Synthetic grips
Lead tape
Open/closed stringing patterns

Gimmicks can be minor variations of these themes that come down to preference, or be something "novel" that may have an actual impact in another use (i.e. aerospace, skiing, etc.) but may not have any real impact when used in tennis equipment.

Cavaleer
07-31-2008, 05:58 PM
I don't know about the other gimmicks but the new Head and Dunlop "Gel" is FOR REAL. Clearly, some supplier has created this "gel" and Head and Dunlop have gained the rights to use it in their frames.

Whether or not this "gel" actually holds 4000 times its own weight I don't know. But the solidity and strength of these frames is like nothing I've ever experienced.

The Head Presitge Microgel Mid is supposedly reinforced with graphite and it feels like it. Stiff but very solid, not brittle.

The Dunlop 100 is a little lighter and less stiff and they claim to have added some graphite and aluminum, I think. It has that same solid-at-impact feel as the Prestige with a little more flex.

Both of them are superb and don't feel gimmicky at all, like the recent Wilsons.


Cavaleer

pow
07-31-2008, 06:27 PM
I don't know about the other gimmicks but the new Head and Dunlop "Gel" is FOR REAL. Clearly, some supplier has created this "gel" and Head and Dunlop have gained the rights to use it in their frames.

Whether or not this "gel" actually holds 4000 times its own weight I don't know. But the solidity and strength of these frames is like nothing I've ever experienced.

The Head Presitge Microgel Mid is supposedly reinforced with graphite and it feels like it. Stiff but very solid, not brittle.

The Dunlop 100 is a little lighter and less stiff and they claim to have added some graphite and aluminum, I think. It has that same solid-at-impact feel as the Prestige with a little more flex.

Both of them are superb and don't feel gimmicky at all, like the recent Wilsons.


Cavaleer

Really? Where is the Aerogel located? Did you crack on open or something? I was under the impression the stuff is expensive and pretty impractical to be putting in a racquet.

anirut
07-31-2008, 07:02 PM
I heard somewhere that the titanium rackets actually had real titanium in them -- a very tiny, very thin bit of titanium placed somewhere on the racket -- just to avoid being sued for lying.

Zielmann
07-31-2008, 08:09 PM
Really? Where is the Aerogel located? Did you crack on open or something? I was under the impression the stuff is expensive and pretty impractical to be putting in a racquet.

Here's the story on Aerogel (yes, I do know this from personal experience with the material):

When you rapid-freeze mud to dry it out (not ordinary backyard mud, but very pure mud), it expands a lot. It actually creates this really lightweight, white, substance. By itself, it's nothing too impressive: add some water and it dissolves very fast. But it can be mixed with various polymers and other chemicals to create very lightweight and strong materials. And yes, it can hold 4000 times it's weight with the right mixture of other chemicals.

I would guess that they either inject (or somehow use) a gel made of the stuff that hardens into a very strong and lightweight material. Could also be used in binding agents for the graphite or something.

For the OP:

These technologies you mention (graphite, fiberglass, kevlar, titanium) are just different materials with different properties that are used in some racquets.

When you start getting into other stuff that's more spacey (nCode, [K]arophite black for examples, not trying to pick on wilson alone...), those are more likely to just be gimmicks. Sure, with the nCode and [K]factors, wilson has probably changed something up slightly, but it doesn't have the vast impact that they make it out to have.

Same goes with Prince's O-ports. It does make sense that they would be more aerodynamic, and I do think they feel particularly easy to swing. But the difference won't be to the degree that they claim.

You have to look at technologies that have been around a while. Like Prince's Triple Threat and Wilson's PWS. They are well-founded in physics, and have been around a while. Wilson wouldn't bother still using PWS if it didn't do anything.

And yes, I have made a similar post in another thread before, and I don't want this turning into a thread arguing over the legitimacy of [k]factors. That's what happened last time...

backhand
07-31-2008, 10:09 PM
Interesting replies. All I can add is that Anirut, those tiny copper wires and the "sticker" (a printed circuit) actually DO produce a progressive stiffening with mechanical load; called the piezoelectric effect, ancient news in electronics design, and how our bones model themselves to best resist torque and gravity.

The titanium in skis and racquets isn't just a sliver to avoid being sued; you just don't need a big thick plate of it to achieve the dampening. (Yes, for the record, titanium isn't used as a stiffening agent; it's actually quite flexy as metals go. Its flex and density absorb vibrations sent along by graphite or fiberglass, which are used to stiffen things, and titanium has more of a rebound, so it can store and release energy quickly, like during a ball strike.

Just because something doesn't look the way you expect it to, or you can't see how it works doesn't mean it's a fake.

OTOH, agree that the measurable effect of most tech can be subtle, and probably only makes a real difference at the extremes. At 20 mph, a i ski feels pretty much like any other. At 40 mph, you begin to notice it's a bit damper and thus grippier. I only noticed the difference with an i radical in big fast swings that I seldom make. Yet the marketing is aimed at users who will seldom hit those extremes where you notice the advantage.

anirut
07-31-2008, 10:17 PM
Thanks, backhand.

I really like this part: "Yet the marketing is aimed at users who will seldom hit those extremes where you notice the advantage."