Not sure how many of you are tennis fans, but we have been watching the US Open recently and we got a little curious about how tennis rackets are made these days. Hence, whether you are a tennis fan or curious about manufacturing, we hope you enjoy this post. We found the technology and process to be quite interesting.
Well I am sure you can all tell, that the tennis rackets that you see on TV at the US Open this week are nothing like the clunky, wooden rackets used years ago. That’s because today’s game is faster, with average serve speeds of 124 to 140 mph, and engineers are tasked with creating rackets that can not only accommodate these speeds, but can withstand forces as great as 50 kilos while being lighter and more aerodynamic than ever before utilizing the lightest and strongest materials. So what technologies do companies use to create these modern marvels of engineering?
While different brands use their own distinct materials and techniques for creating tennis rackets, the manufacturing process is for the most part very similar. Here’s the step-by-step process of creating a tennis racket:
Engineers Design The CAD for the Racket:
Using the latest CAD and FEA software, R&D designers and engineers at top tennis manufacturing companies create cutting edge designs for the latest rackets for each pro. Manufacturers use state of the art rapid prototype machines to create the initial prototype rackets. When creating their designs, engineers look to make a product that maximizes performance and durability to reduce uncontrollable vibrations and increase calculated stroke abilities. The goal is to make a top performing racket with zero flaws and precise composition.
Carbon Fiber Forming:
Various materials are used to create the base of the racket, including carbon fiber, kevlar or fiberglass/resin layup. Carbon fiber is primarily used since it allows for a strong weight to strength ratio and increases the speed in which the racket can travel through the air. If you haven’t picked up a racket recently, they are light as a feather now. (side note- this is the same material used to produce the best bikes in the world used in the Tour de France.)
Filling the Mold:
Pieces of the material are then cut and placed precisely in a steel mold. If the material is not placed precisely, the orientation of the carbon fibers could significantly change the playing characteristics of the racket.
Curing the Racket:
Once the carbon fiber material is properly placed, it passes through a heating process to cure and harden the carbon fiber. Depending on the process, it can take up to 30 minutes to do so. During this time, certain manufacturers use different processes to cure the racket. Most processes include pressurized air blown into the center of the frame to retain a hollow core that will later be filled with foam.
Final Touches Are Made:
Once the heating process is finished, the racket is polished and string holes are created within the racket to have the rackets ready for market.
Once the working prototype is finalized, machines test out the durability of the racket and ensure that the racket is strong enough to return a high speed ball on impact. This process is essential to the creation of rackets to confirm that professionals and amateurs alike are able to play their very best.
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