Propelling the Future of High Performance Sports

Athletes continue to push the limits of their performance and, as a result, they require durable equipment that helps them go faster, play harder and set new records. Hexcel’s advanced composites have been part of advancing innovation in the recreation market for years.

For example in the 1970s, Hexcel demonstrated the application of its composite technology by manufacturing snow skis, bringing together a honeycomb core with a number of Hexcel’s other materials and technologies to create a single product. These fast, lightweight, durable skis quickly became a status symbol on the slopes the world over.

Today, Hexcel provides high-performance composite materials to some of the world’s leading names in winter sports such as Blizzard, Atomic, Fisher and Goode. Hexcel’s innovations in epoxy resins, carbon fiber fabrics, prepregs, laminates, pultruded profiles and polyurethane systems enable the manufacture of lighter, stronger and more durable skis and snowboards to answer the needs of world-class competitors, as well as the demanding sporting enthusiast.

The world of sports and recreation has gone through an evolution in equipment materials from wood, to metal and now to carbon fiber and composites. Equipment such as skis, bikes, racquets, vaulting poles, arrows, hockey sticks, and more started decades ago to move from heavier materials to composites, which allow lighter and stronger construction.

Hexcel provides prepreg materials such as HexPly® M78.1 and M77HF, which are revolutionizing the world of sporting goods. HexPly® M78.1 features a fast-curing epoxy resin matrix and is available with carbon, glass or aramid fiber reinforcements. It cures in just seven  minutes at 120°C, yet it has a long storage out life of two weeks at room temperature, meaning there is often no need for freezer storage, which saves time and energy. HexPly® M78.1 is a low tack system making it easy to handle. It also provides excellent adhesion to auxiliary and core materials including aluminum, wood, thermoplastics and elastomers. Customers are finding that this new system provides greater flexibility in ski manufacture, enhancing the process and the quality of the final product.

HexPly® M77HF epoxy prepreg is an answer to the industry’s ongoing need to drive down the cost of manufacturing advanced composite industrial parts. This high-flow resin system was developed for a quick three-minute cure cycle using low pressure processing techniques such as cello-wrapping, simple presses, bladder molding and even vacuum-only pressure. Compared to standard epoxy prepregs, cure cycles can be reduced by up to 90%. Manufacturers such as Goode (which has been using Hexcel carbon fiber composites for 25 years) have noted that this new prepreg is a game-changer when it comes to manufacturing snow and water skis at higher rates, and it performs like a dream. This innovative prepreg is also being used in HED bicycle wheels to help save weight while providing faster processing speed with a beautiful surface finish.

Hexcel also makes HiMax™ multiaxial fabrics, which offer significant weight advantages for manufacturers of skis and other sporting equipment, where every extra gram of weight is critical in improving performance. Hexcel’s fiber-spreading capability allows the development of ultra-lightweight carbon multiaxials, and the fibers can be placed in different axes to optimize the performance of the finished laminate. A recent project involved the creation of a custom range of carbon triaxial reinforcements for a custom free ride ski brand, helping the customer deliver a product with a lightweight, soft flex and reactive ride while retaining strength and durability.

The strength and quality of Hexcel’s HexTow® carbon fiber is setting new standards in golf equipment. HexTow® AS4 carbon fiber has been used in Callaway Fusion driver heads for several years. These carbon fiber driver heads are powerful, low-spinning drivers that are also incredibly forgiving. Their high speed / low-spin characteristics make them particularly appealing to tour pros, yet they are exceptionally forgiving and easy to launch -- appealling to a wide range of players of all skill levels. Most recently, HexTow® high modulus fibers have become an important structural component in True Temper’s latest line of carbon fiber golf shafts for improved performance and feel. Hexcel’s high modulus carbon fibers are ideal for high stiffness and high strength applications such as golf shafts, bikes, and fishing rods.

Archery is yet another sport where composites are setting new performance standards. Hexcel’s HexPly® prepreg is used to make Easton’s X10 shafts which have been used to win more Olympic and World medals since their introduction than all other arrows combined.

It’s clear that athletes around the world are benefitting from equipment made with advanced composites. They are getting faster and stronger with the help of strong, lightweight and performance-optimized composite equipment.