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From skates to helmets, reinforced plastics have found their way into virtually every player’s hockey bag. Although composite materials touch every equipment category, the stick category is by far the most developed in terms of composite application to the sport of hockey.
(Published on December 2005 – JEC Magazine #21)
BY ADAM GANS, TEAM LEADER, SENIOR PRODUCT DEVELOPER, BAUER NIKE HOCKEY INC.
Carbon fibre, fibreglass, aramid fibres and epoxy matrices are currently the principal materials used in hockey stick design and manufacturing.These materials, combined with the use of complex geometries, significantly distinguish the modern hockey stick from its wood and aluminium predecessors. Its intricate design manifests in the artful balancing of weight and performance innovation with manufacturing and impact durability limitations.
Bauer Nike Hockey Inc. (BNH), fully active in the design and development of composite applications, is taking sporting equipment and the game of hockey to the next level. Advances in both stick design and manufacturing technology are expanding the company’s product offering and performance expectations.
Its composite sticks offer features such as different cross-sectional shapes, varying flexes across the length of the stick, stiffness, durability, weight and price that deliver a more “personalized” stick to complement a player’s style, strengths and budget.
Current manufacturing methods allow the designer to fabricate a more ergonomic shape in the handle area and create “kick points” through modifying the MOI in the loading areas of the stick. Furthermore, flex points, impact durability and balance points can be achieved by different combinations of materials, ply angle orientation, matrix technology and manufacturing processes.
From VARTM to compression moulding
BNH utilizes a wide array of manufacturing processes of which VARTM, compression and bladder moulding are principal. The majority of blades were once made by VARTM using braided socks, however most manufacturers have transferred to compression moulding with unidirectional tape materials (for blades as well as shafts) in order to reduce weight and improve consistency of performance.
From what was considered initially to be a niche market, composite sticks now comprise 70% of the USD 170 million global stick market (including wood).
At the onset of the composite stick revolution, composite sticks were 4-5 times more expensive than the top wood models at that time, but nevertheless have since overtaken the professional market (NHL) and consequently, the retail market. The added performance has justified the additional cost to the hockey consumer.
In addition to moulding variations, there are also differences in part assembly. Whereas the majority of composite hockey sticks are a separate blade and shaft assembly, BNH has recently introduced a “true” one-piece stick.
The Bauer Vapor Stick features single mould technology with continuous reinforcement resulting in lighter weight, continuous design, and greater freedom of geometry.