The demand for composites has grown in the sporting goods industry specifically in products such as skis, hockey sticks, fishing rods, and bicycles.
Over the past few years the demand for composites has grown in many different industries, especially the sporting goods industry. Specifically, some of the largest volumes of products containing composites include skis, hockey sticks, fishing rods, and bicycles. The majority of those composite sporting goods are carbon fiber composites – the sporting goods industry alone consumed about 14.8 million pounds (or 24% of total global production) of carbon fiber in 2006. In fact, sporting goods make up on average around 20% of the global carbon fiber market.
However, the increase in demand for high-end composites like carbon fiber have quickly outpaced the expanding supply, causing prices to put sporting goods manufacturers in a tight spot. The reduction of the supply to demand ratio of carbon fiber composites coupled with the decline in participation in outdoor sports have led to a decrease in the production of carbon fiber sporting goods in recent years.
When looking for points of innovation, sporting goods designers typically strive for weight reduction to reduce the chance of injury and enhance an athlete’s performance. Carbon fiber is superior to many lightweight metal alloys like aluminum and titanium because it is both lighter and offers better lateral stability. Additionally, composites allow for more complex shapes to be used in the design of some sports equipment. In particular, skis and bicycles have undergone major changes in design in recent years.
Golf shafts in particular are expected to drive future increases in demand for composite sporting goods. Composites offer more complex design options that traditional steel cannot, as well as a more high-tech image to cater to a wealthier market. Additionally, composite shafts are more lightweight, allowing designers to increase the weight of the head of the club while keeping the total mass of the club low. That design choice has the effect of allowing the club to be swung faster and more easily, increasing the carry distance of a ball hit with the club and allowing even relative beginners to golf with ease.
In the future, the demand for higher end composite sporting goods is expected to increase due to the “baby boomer effect.” As more people reach retirement age, they are expected to buy more sporting goods like golf clubs, tennis rackets, and bicycles. This increase in demand will likely drive further expansion of carbon fiber production and innovation in the design of future composite-based sporting equipment.