We spoke with a few industry leaders about their 2009 products and technology. Below are the stories we uncovered.
The Next Evolution of the Grafalloy ProLaunch Family
Aldila’s New VooDoo Science
UST's AXIV Technology: Advancement in Carbon Fiber Materials
The Next Evolution
of the ProLaunch Familyby: Don Brown
Product Development Manager, Grafalloy
The ProLaunch series has been one of the most successful shaft lines over the last five years. The ProLaunch Blue and Red shafts have provided club fitters around with the world with options for fitting all types of golfers. For top-end club fitters, Blue and Red have become synonymous with the respective high and low launch conditions they provide. For 2009, Grafalloy has upgraded the ProLaunch family by incorporating Smart-Ply technology to create the ProLaunch Axis Red and Blue.
Smart-Ply technology was first introduced in Grafalloy’s ultra-high-performance Axis shaft. The technology utilizes ultra-thin layers of unidirectional graphite in cross-shaft orientations to stabilize the shaft, increasing the efficiency of energy transfer from the golfer to the ball and reducing off-plane bending to keep the head on line for increased accuracy.
Smart-Ply has been found to provide a marked improvement over other visual material technologies used for stabilization. For example, traditional box weaves are bulky and distort the fibers, reducing their effectiveness by up to 40%. Newer quadraxial weaves, while attractive and lighter in weight, have only a fraction of the stabilizing fiber volume of Smart-Ply and often utilize colored aramid or glass fibers, which are far softer than graphite fibers.
When asked about weaves, Neal Haas, Grafalloy’s Director of Composite Design, commented, “While weaves are aesthetically attractive and provide the appearance of being high-performance, they are actually quite ineffective when compared to Smart-Ply.” Haas adds, “The original Axis design was the longest shaft ever developed by Grafalloy. All early indications show that the addition of Axis technology to the ProLaunch family has provided the same performance boost.”
Available in late 2008, Grafalloy ProLaunch Axis Red and Blue will provide the launch conditions the golfing world has come to expect from the ProLaunch family, plus the increased performance of an Axis shaft. The sub-60-gram Blue series will be available in senior, regular, stiff and extra stiff flexes, while the 63-gram Red will be available in R-X flexes.
Aldila’s New VooDoo Scienceby: John Oldenburg
Vice President of Engineering, Aldila
Aldila has launched their new VooDoo graphite shaft featuring patent-pending S-core (stabilized core) Technology™. The real “magic” of the VooDoo is the high-modulus carbon stabilization rib running the length of the shaft. This design helps the shaft increase distance and provide outstanding accuracy with each swing.
The increased stability allows the VooDoo to better resist shaft ovaling and deformation during the swing, which maximizes energy transfer to the ball and yields unparalleled distance and accuracy. And because the shaft's symmetry is maintained throughout the swing, it loads and unloads more consistently, enabling you to more reliably deliver the clubhead to the ball with every stroke. Here's what John Oldenburg, Aldila's Vice President of Engineering, had to say:
“As a result, more energy is stored in pure bending and released to the ball at impact, which leads to greater ball speed…With the cross section deformation reduced, the shaft remains more circular and therefore symmetrical during the swing, eliminating dynamic stiffness variations around the shaft and delivering phenomenal consistency swing after swing.”
AXIV Technology: Advancement
in Carbon Fiber Materialsby: Robb Schikner
Vice President of Engineering, UST
Hickory? Steel? As with anything, golf shaft technologies progress and the next “big thing” always emerges. Hickory was the material choice for shafts in the beginning of golf, but with hickory, consistency was difficult to achieve. Steel shafts were developed to deliver the performance benefits of a more consistent product, but there were design limitations with steel, such as weight considerations.
Graphite shafts were introduced in the 1970s, but the material was in its infancy at the time and not quite understood in terms of how to design and produce quality, high-performance golf shafts. That was 30 years ago, and a lot of significant technological and manufacturing improvements have been made since then. Now many graphite shaft options confront consumers. What sets shafts apart from one another are the various technologies applied in graphite shaft designs, which produce more consistent product that consumers can relate to better scores.
Graphite Shaft History
Graphite fiber has been around since the late 1800s, when Thomas Edison used a graphite fiber filament in the first incandescent light bulb. Nearly 100 years later, graphite fiber found its first use in golf shafts, and since that time, shafts have continued to develop and improve. As the quality, availability and selection of graphite fiber has improved, so have the shafts produced from this material. With graphite materials, the flexibility of designing different shafts to fit different needs is almost limitless.
Why graphite fiber? It is one of the lightest, strongest materials ever developed. Graphite fiber is one-fourth the density of steel and up to 10 times stronger than most steels. Graphite fiber comes in a multitude of modulus (stiffness) values, which allow designers to combine different types of fiber into one shaft design. Combining these materials gives shaft designers the ability to control torque (from < 2 degrees to 6 degrees or greater), flex (Ladies’ to X-stiff), and weight (40 grams to 120 grams).
One main advantage of graphite is the wide range of stiffnesses from which graphite fiber is made. Steel materials have one stiffness, so designs are reliant on changing wall thickness, or step patterns, in order to achieve different flex/torque profiles. Also, steel is an isotropic material, which means it has the same mechanical properties in all directions. Therefore, steel shaft designs have limitations. Graphite fiber shafts are anisotropic, which means that the mechanical properties are specific to the direction in which the fibers are aligned.
Using graphite (prepreg), we can orient the fiber in the specific direction in which the mechanical properties of the shaft need to be optimized. For example, in order to control torque, the graphite fibers run at ±45° down the length of the shaft. Using a graphite fiber with a low modulus results in a higher-torque shaft. Using a high-modulus graphite fiber to control torque results in a much lower-torque shaft, which can lead to improvements in the control of off-center hits and therefore improved accuracy.
UST designers are able to use very high-modulus graphite fibers. This allows them to produce shafts with a combination of low torque, light weight and specific flex profiles, such as those found in our Proforce-branded models: Proforce V2 and the all-new Proforce AXIVCore.
What is AXIV, and How Does it Work?
AXIV Technology is a proprietary four-axis material that UST is using in the design of its latest, most technologically advanced shafts to date. Through our partnership with our parent company, Japan’s Mamiya OP, we have developed this unique woven graphite fabric. It combines graphite fiber in four distinct directions, which maximizes torque, flex and hoop stiffness in a single layer of material, in contrast to standard two- or three-directional woven materials.
By strategically placing AXIV material within the shaft, our designers can influence torque, flex, trajectory and feel. For example, the new Proforce AXIVCore shaft has AXIV material in the butt section to help reduce ovalization of the shaft throughout the swing, which improves consistency and control and improves the overall feel of the shaft.
Why four directions? In order to achieve the most optimal performance, there are three variables that need to be controlled in a shaft design: torque (±45°), flex (0°) and hoop deflection (90°). Typical graphite shafts use individual layers for each direction; there are separate layers for torque (±45°), flex (0°) and hoop (90°).
With AXIV material, fibers are precisely woven into these four directions (0°, 90°, +45°, -45°), all within one layer of material. This allows our designers to strategically place AXIV material where it is needed the most. For the Proforce AXIVCore, we designed these shafts with AXIV material on the inner walls of the butt end of the shaft. In order to create more stability under the hands and to improve hoop stiffness, we determined the exact amount of AXIV material needed there.
The AXIV material used in UST’s new Proforce AXIVCore shaft is an all-graphite-fiber, four-axis woven material. Since fibers run in four distinct directions, we have the ability to tailor the AXIV material by using different types of fiber in each direction. The fiber combinations that can be used are almost limitless. If needed, we could design an AXIV material with high-modulus graphite fiber running in the ±45°direction to achieve very low torque while using a very low-modulus fiber such as fiberglass in the 0° direction to allow for greater shaft flexibility. Almost any fiber can be used in the AXIV material, such as Kevlar (as seen on the tour-proven ACCRA AXIV shaft models manufactured by UST), fiberglass, ceramic or graphite.
Leading the Way
UST designers are not strangers to pioneering various technologies in graphite-fiber-based golf shafts. They were on the forefront of the tip stiff movement that began in 1999 with the introduction of UST Proforce GOLD shafts (those highly visible, purple and gold shafts you may remember). UST did it again with the introduction of IROD shafts, paving the way for the hybrid category of graphite shafts, designed specifically for hybrid/utility clubs.
The IROD launch was UST’s first product family to incorporate a visible “weave” in the butt section of the shaft. The technology was a 3k weave that UST called Interlinked Carbon, which helped prevent shaft deformation in the butt section, where the shaft walls are the thinnest. A solid feel in the hands and solid performer on the course, the product line quickly became the number one played hybrid shaft on the PGA Tour.