The carbon/flax fibre tennis racket – Game, Set and Match!
Will Djokovic, Nadal or Federer’s equipment supplier one day put a carbon natural fiber tennis racket in their champions’ hands? Such a composite material exists. After a failed market entry ten years ago, it has just been reinvented by Eco-Technilin (NatUp group) using FlaxTape technology, a unidirectional flax patented by its affiliated start-up, Lineo, which exhibits the best available composite mechanical performance.
Producer of materials based on natural fibers for the composite industry, in particular the automotive industry, Eco-Technilin has launched the production of this innovative tennis racket combining the rigidity of carbon with the exceptional vibratory absorption power of flax, which provides a real comfort to the player and solves the problems of tennis-elbow. This performance in reducing vibrations has been scientifically proven by the work of Mustapha Assarar from LISM (URCA). *
The small series of a hundred units manufactured and distributed under the NatUp logo serves as a demonstrator. “We have industrialized the process and invested heavily in the technical production as a means to showcase the product,” said Karim Behlouli, NatUp Fibers Director and Chairman of the Bio-based Materials Theme at IAR. Our ambition is to push the major contractors in the tennis world, still hesitant, to seize this opportunity.”
The technology developed by Eco-Technilin can be used wherever there is a carbon composite with a vibratory problem: e.g. skis, snowboards, surfboards, bicycles, bows, fishing rods and musical instruments (guitar, violin, ukulele). The company has also received enquiries for hockey sticks, golf clubs, basketball backboard; indeed there is no limit to the applications of the product other than the cost of design necessitating a minimum volume order requirement.
Already in use in the construction, packaging and transport sectors, natural fibers are seen to have a future in the sports & leisure industry provided they are positioned correctly. “We want to promote the use of natural fibers not only because they are natural but because they provide a differentiating property. ”
How does Karim Behlouli see the market evolving in the coming years? “Demand is growing and will continue to grow, but there are some prerequisites for the boom that is expected over time. Consumers are becoming aware of environmental issues and will want to participate in the collective effort provided the environmental benefits are proven and the solutions are competitive. Production-scale investment will be the key to success. ”
* Engineering and Materials Science Laboratory headed by Rezak Ayad
IAR, Innovation Catalyst
Bio-based materials are one of the strategic areas of activity of IAR, a bioeconomy hub that supports its members to maximize the chances of their projects being successful. The SINFONI project is a good example of its approach. How to remove the obstacles hindering access to the natural fiber-based composites markets? Governed through an ad hoc committee, the players in the sector have set up a framework project around competitive clusters (PSPC) focusing on this issue. Through the IAR network, the fiber producers, processors and potential customers in the construction, automotive and rail sectors have been mobilized. The hub helped to structure the project, directed the financing (PPI) and takes care of all the communication. This work, still in progress, has already enabled the value chain players to speak the same language and bring innovative solutions closer to market needs, particularly in the rail sector.