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PostPosted: 18 May 2017, 22:11 
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A lot of people know these things, but I thought this summary might be useful for people new to the game or coming back after a long layoff. I should mention that I have played with a Butterfly Viscaria since 2007. I have played since I was a kid (with a couple of decades off after I started university) and have maintained a pretty reasonable standard of play. I am a pretty generic offensive-style table tennis player. But I am not a pro or anything like that.

When blades with carbon layers first came out, they were all quite fast by design and generally had a hard and glassy feel
. The carbon weaves used were thicker and denser. The classic example of this would be a Butterfly Sardius. Nowadays, though, the presence of a composite layer does not necessarily mean that the blade is super fast, although they I don't know of any that are super slow.

The trend now is that a pure carbon mesh is crosswoven with some other polymer material
. There are several of these, the most popular of which are Vectran (which Butterfly calls Arylate), Kevlar (and other similar aramids), and Zylon (which are often colored, blue or yellow). Some blades will actually have ONLY the polymer material (for example Butterfly markets various ZL blades which only have Zylon, and used to make several blades that only had Arylate, such as the Keyshot and the Moonbeam). Those blades are generally slower and often feel "softer" (I find them quite strange usually, for example the Butterfly Photino, the first example of a Zylon blade). There are also different ways of making the weave, for example Stiga uses pure carbon weave that is called Textreme that definitely feels different from other pure carbon blades. Butterfly uses different kinds of carbon weaves also. More on that below.

The blade companies don't actually make the composite layers, they buy these materials from other companies that use complex computer-controlled weaving machines to make them and are constantly developing new materials of this sort. They can vary the thickness and geometry of the weaving patterns (for example the uniaxial carbon weaves that were popular for awhile). They can use thick or thin fibers to make the weaves. The possible variations now are endless, just like anything else that is woven. You can see more here. http://www.carbon.ee/en/n/carbon-fiber- ... -explained Table tennis blades are probably only a miniscule portion of the market that these composite companies sell too. They are used to make sails, ropes, bicycles, etc. etc. There are also competing companies selling different weaves from the same material. So, two companies that make an arylate-carbon blade may actually be buying the weave from different companies, and this could impact in some subtle way how the blade plays. This could also cause a change over time if a company changes the source of their composite, perhaps to reduce costs.

Because of the number of composites now, it is hard to generalize too much, but one big thing is that blades that contain Arylate or Zylon or Kevlar do not vibrate as much at high frequencies. A table tennis blade is like a musical instrument in that it vibrates simultaneously at many frequencies when the ball strikes it. (You could say that every blade has a timbre as well as a pitch to put it in musical terms, which is why a violin and a flute sound different even when the play the same note). So a big effect of those fibers is that it tends to "buzz" less and has a more "muted" feel. There is some technical information about why that is. I can dig up if someone wants to read the more engineering aspect of it. It has to do with the compressiblity of the fibers if I remember correctly (and I may not). Here is information on this for Vectran. http://www.vectranfiber.com/properties/ ... n-damping/

A second effect is that nearly all composites tend to reduce the number of dimensions in which the blade vibrates at lower frequencies
(flexes) and so this gives it the sensation of having a larger "sweet spot" when you hit the ball off-center. The presence of the composite layer can make the blade stiffer (meaning less low frequency vibration in all dimensions, or, as we might call it, less flex). That can give the sensation of a faster and perhaps less spinny blade. However, this can be compensated for by changing the shape of the neck region, making it a bit narrower, or even the overall size of the head of the blade (larger flexes more). Of course, one can also make the blade thinner. overall. Also, this effect of the composite is often less marked in a lot of newer blades because the carbon layers being used are spun from thinner fibers, and also, it depends a great deal on the weaving pattern that was used to make the composite layer. Some people think you get information from the very high frequency buzz that all wood blades can give, other people don't like that feel and find it distracting. I think it is a question of taste. I don't like a buzzy blade personally.

How close to the surface the composite layer is located matters a lot.
Closer to the surface magnifies the effect. Carbon layers that are deeper in the blade play more like all wood. Deep composite layers are found in, for example, Butterfly Innerforce blades, and some of the very expensive DHS blades used by players like Ma Long. My blade, the Viscaria, has an ALC layer quite close to the surface.

In the year 2017 we are playing with heavier ball than at any time in the history of the sport. Back when carbon blades were first introduced, we still used 38 mm balls. Nowadays, probably >90% of top-level shakehand offensive players will use some sort of composite blade. Defenders tend to still use all-wood, but (but the Matsushita Pro Special blade was a carbon-arylate). I would suggest that this means that composite blades are probably useful to more players than before.

The composite material is only one of many things that matter. Actually people need to remember that the blades are still mostly wood. The thickness, shape, type of wood, and the luck of the day have a huge impact on how a blade plays -- still bigger than the composite layer. There are sticky threads here at OOAK to explain how the different kinds of woods impact the playing properties. The weight matters a lot (I personally like blades that are 90-92 grams). The handle shape matters A LOT, and people underestimate the importance of that. All-wood blades can be really fast and stiff (for example, the Butterfly Masunov) and composite blades can be slow (Butterfly Timo Boll Spark). No two things made of wood are ever identical, so two blades of the same model can be a bit different. I own several Viscarias, and one is just a lot better than the others (although none are bad). Carbon has made it possible to reduce the weight of very fast blades.

Should you use one? It is possible to get the impression at OOAK forum that you should never ever use a composite blade unless you are some sort of pro player -- certainly better than anyone who posts here -- and that to do so is the height of folly or the work of Satan. (That is a slight parody of an extreme view). I think that it is definitely not the case if you are trying to play a fairly standard offensive style of modern table tennis. A less extreme view is that you cannot learn proper technique unless you learn with a slow blade. Yes, there is a lot of truth there, but the question is at what level might a switch to a composite be a reasonable thing? And I am not sure there is one hard and fast answer for all people. Kids can definitely switch to composite at a lower level than adults and still progress.

As always, if money is an issue, you should probably not buy a blade you have not had a chance to hit with
, perhaps a clubmate has one you could try for a few moinutes.

Here are some acronyms: ALC means carbon-arylate weave (remember arylate is another name for Vectran). ZLC means zylon-carbon weave. AL means only arlyate. ZL means only zylon. TBS is the Timo Boll Special (edit added, should be Spirit), one of the most popular ALC blades of all time, others being the Viscaria, the Iolite). Later Butterfly came out with the Timo Boll-ALC, similar to the TBS but with a slightly different handle shape. Later Butterfly came out with a Zhang Jike ALC blade (with a blue dragon on it) and jst a year or two later discontinued it to introduce a whole series of Zhang Jike composite blades (with black handles), including ZLC, ALC, super ZLC verions, etc. Zhang Jike does not use any of them, and prefers to use the Viscaria. The Timo Boll blades can also be bought with about every possible different composite.

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Last edited by Baal on 21 May 2017, 01:00, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: 18 May 2017, 23:01 
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Awesome post! :clap: :clap: :clap:

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PostPosted: 19 May 2017, 00:34 
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Great job, Baal. Small correction on TBS - Timo Boll Spirit not Timo Boll Special. Your auto text correction at work I supposed.

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PostPosted: 19 May 2017, 08:45 
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:(
Cant blame the spell checer. Typing too fast and not thinking.

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PostPosted: 19 May 2017, 12:54 
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I've stickied the thread, worth a read for any new people looking for blades. Hail to Baal! :lol: :up: :up: :up:

I'm not sure if the general opinion of OOAK members is any different to other forums. Perhaps because we have a higher proportion of defensive players here, and there are a lot more all-wood defensive blades, wood is indeed more common here.
Personally I don't have an issue with composite blades (in fact I'm using a TSP Trinity carbon myself at the moment), but since I tend to favour hard-sponged rubbers on forehand, I've usually found softer wooden blades to work better.
I find that many tensioned-type rubbers do tend to work better with a composite blade though, giving it a crisper feel.

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PostPosted: 19 May 2017, 13:19 
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Actually, I've come to the conclusion that what Butterfly calls "arylate" is actually aramid, i.e. Kevlar (which is a trade name - it's also sold under other names - Twaron, Nomex, etc.). Do a web search, you'll find the only instances of "arylate" have to do with Butterfly. You'll find that "aryl groups":

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aryl

Image

is what makes up aramids.

Image

Vectran (another trade name) is something altogether different:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vectran

It's also pretty hard to get, compared to aramid cloth and aramid/carbon cloth.

These days you can get aramids in many colors, not just yellow. Butterfly's is blue, so a lot of people who makes "arylate" blades uses blue also.. :lol:

Image

Some do use yellow, though, which is the natural color of aramid fibers.

Image

Aside from cloths, there's also "veil" (or tissue, or non-woven cloth) versions of glass, aramid and carbon:

Image

In comparison to woven cloths, it's very light, and if you're building blades, it can be used to get a subtle effect. It does make for a hard layer in the blade but this layer will be a lot thinner and lighter than woven cloth layers would be. It's been around for donkeys' years (in composite layups it's used to get a hard surface, or to mask woven textures, and doesn't add much strength) and I've used it in the past. Sanwei calls it "soft carbon", and uses multiple layers of it in, for instance, their 10 layer blades:

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/High-En ... 89000.html

Image

My contention is that table tennis blade makers will use any and every composite material (and wood!) that comes their way, whether or not it actually contributes anything new to the playing qualities of blades. Sometimes this creates fads (anyone remember the basalt blades from a couple years ago, and how everyone was swooning over them?), sometimes it sticks. Kevlar blades existed way before Butterfly started selling "arylate" blades, but hardly anyone sells "Kevlar" or "Kevlar-Carbon" blades any more, while Arylate and especially Arylate-carbon has taken the world by storm. A great illustration of what "Branding" can do. I'll bet Zylon behaves very much like Kevlar in blades, and while it's gotten attention for its supposedly quick deterioration in bullet proof vests, I'll bet it lasts plenty long in blades (you're not trying to stop bullets with your racket, after all, and the composite layer isn't in there to make the blade stronger..).

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PostPosted: 20 May 2017, 01:10 
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Many thanks for this, Baal. I definitely fall into the category of those in the dark about this. I took up the game again late last year and prior to my current Palio (all wood) bat the last bat I owned was a cheap premade Stiga thing, vintage 1979 :lol:

As a matter of interest, do you or anyone else have any comments about how glass fiber behaves compared to the various types of carbon?

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PostPosted: 20 May 2017, 02:00 
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Based on my impression from a single blade (Yasaka Synergy), I'd say that glass fiber contributes to stiffness, but doesn't make the blade much harder. My blades with carbon fiber seem much harder. The T-11+ is perhaps the most similar construction, with a balsa core, and wood plies of similar thickness (fairly thin) on top of the fiber, and it feels a lot harder than the Synergy.


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PostPosted: 20 May 2017, 02:25 
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Baal wrote:
A less extreme view is that you cannot learn proper technique unless you learn with a slow blade. Yes, there is a lot of truth there, but the question is at what level might a switch to a composite be a reasonable thing? And I am not sure there is one hard and fast answer for all people.


Aaaaaaaaaaargh! Why not?!? :@

Only kidding, but if anyone here successfully answered this question OOAK would probably have to wind up business :lol:

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PostPosted: 20 May 2017, 03:40 
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Actually, it might be in another video :lol: but he makes this point. Your equipment is too fast if, with a full effort loop, you don't hit the table more than (what was it..) 80% or so of the time? I'f you're hitting the table more than that when hitting your hardest loop, you can try a faster blade. Or at least, this is when a Chinese coach would allow you to try a carbon blade. (Apparently, in China, students don't get to choose what they use, the coach TELLS them what to use. :lol: )

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PostPosted: 20 May 2017, 23:55 
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Butterfly themselves have stated that arylate = Vectran in large letters on the sides of boxes of arylate blades that they sell. It is not the same thing as aramid fibers like Kevlar.

Vectran and Vectran/carbon fabrics are not in the least bit hard to get. Companies (many of them) buy the raw fibers from Kuraray and then weave them into fabrics of all sorts. Here, Iskander, you can buy a bunch right here: https://message.alibaba.com/msgsend/con ... a4bc6f7c85

Read here about Vectran.
http://polymerdatabase.com/Fibers/Arylate.html
http://imattec.com/linked/vectran%20-%2 ... 20data.pdf
The key thing that makes this material unique is not just the polymer, it is how it is spun into fibers.

Read here about Kevlar (one of many aramid fibers sold today).
http://polymerdatabase.com/Fibers/Aramid.html

Read here about Zylon.
http://www.toyobo-global.com/seihin/kc/ ... tures.html

Regarding kevlar in blades, it is a widely used material. It is in, for example, the Nittaku Flyat, The Juic Alpha Bengtsson, Samsonov Stratus Carbon and quite a few others. One of the first examples of this was the Stiga Carbokev, now discontinued. I does confer playing properties that are in a lot of ways similar to arylate. For example, comparing a Xiom Stradivarius with a Timo Boll Spirit, one sees the same property of vibration absorption (owing to the polymers) and similar speeds (similar wood and carbon fibres interwoven with the polymer). That property of vibration absorption is a feature of all of those polymers (kevlar, vectran, zylon).

Here is a nice picture showing the process of making an actual fabric out of these kinds of materials.
https://www.usna.edu/Users/mecheng/pjoy ... Fibers.pdf

The Butterfly arylate blades (such as the Keyshot and the Moonbeam) were introduced in 1991, and their first carbon-arylate blades (Iolite and Viscaria) were brought to the market in 1993, and I am quite sure they were the first examples of the use of these kinds of materials (certainly predating Stiga, Juic, or Nittaku, who were early users of aramid).

Basalt blades continue to be made, mostly by Soulspin in Germany (who make blades for some other companies as well). I don't recall anybody ever actually "swooning" over them. I owned one, it was certainly slower than any of the Butterfly ALC blades, but that may have been a property of the woods more than the composite. Soulspin, by the way, makes blades of the highest possible quality, and they take handle customization to an amazing level.

Here is more information on the Butterfly use of these materials from their own marketing (not an independent source), but the pictures of the materials are interesting.

http://en.butterflymag.com/2015/04/butt ... materials/

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PostPosted: 21 May 2017, 01:01 
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Baal wrote:
Butterfly themselves have stated that arylate = Vectran in large letters on the sides of boxes of arylate blades that they sell. And Vectran is not in the least bit hard to get. Buy from Kuraray.

Read here about Vectran.
http://polymerdatabase.com/Fibers/Arylate.html
http://imattec.com/linked/vectran%20-%2 ... 20data.pdf
The key thing that makes this material unique is not the polymer, it is how it is spun into fibers.

Read here about Kevlar (one of many aramid fibers sold today).
http://polymerdatabase.com/Fibers/Aramid.html

Read here about Zylon.
http://www.toyobo-global.com/seihin/kc/ ... tures.html



Have they made some errors in those linked pages; i.e. the polymerdatabase on Arylate, which refers to Kuraray as the major manufacturer of (Vectran) Aramid?

Quote:
COMMERCIAL ARAMID FIBERS
The major manufacturer of aramid fibers is Kuraray which is sold under the tradename Vectran.


...despite giving a list of other manufacturers of Aramid on the other polymerdatabase page, which does not include Vectran.
Quote:
COMMERCIAL ARAMID FIBERS
Major manufacturers and suppliers of aramid fibers are DuPont, Toyobo, Aramid HPM and Teijin.
I admit to being confused about the practical difference between the two.

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PostPosted: 21 May 2017, 01:05 
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Here is one other thing to illustrate some of the points, which is the difference between ZLC and super ZLC (two versions of zylon-carbon bladers sold by Butterfly for very high prices).

The difference is simply the density of the weave (kind of like the thread-count on a sheet for your bed).
http://www.butterfly.tt/info/products/t ... ial-fibers

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PostPosted: 21 May 2017, 03:49 
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Well, if Butterfly writes it on the sides of the boxes then I stand corrected. I've never seen it anywhere else, though. I've never seen Vectran cloth for sale at any of the places I look, while you can buy carbon and aramid all over the place, in all sorts of weaves and weights, and believe me, I was looking for it, especially back around 1999, when I was making blades. I finally tracked down one weaver in the US who made the cloth, but it wasn't available in small quantities.

Aramid (i.e. Kevlar) bats have been around longer than 1991... I remember people selling Kevlar blades in the early 1980s. Can't recall the models and brands but they were definitely available, at least in the US. Maybe I should try to dig up those old Paddle Palace and DJ Lee ads from back then. Kevlar was first available commercially as cloth in the 1970s and I'd be surprised if there weren't Kevlar blades available along with the earliest carbon fiber blades.

It doesn't surprise me that Butterfly uses different weights of cloth for different blades. They're available commercially, after all, and Butterfly is a big enough customer they can probably get cloth custom-woven if necessary.

You've seen these guys, right? Practically any composite cloth in any weight or weave you'd want or desire - except Vectran... :lol:

https://compositeenvisions.com/composit ... fabrics-2/

I'm wondering why Stiga hasn't started using the Zylon version of Textreme yet... I suppose "Zylonado" doesn't sound as cool as "Carbonado"... :lol:

Image

https://compositeenvisions.com/textreme ... -1848.html

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PostPosted: 21 May 2017, 04:47 
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composite is no needed to increase speed. there are fast blades with any composite. eg. stiga clipper.
so u can see u can get enough power/speed from all wood blade.
im a chopper but if i was playing 2 inverted korbel would be just fine.

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