Kitesurfing – riding the crest of the wave
Lightfast, scratch-proof decorative films for kiteboards made of aliphatic TPU
Friday - December 8, 2006 - Leverkusen – He’s the master of two elements: air and water. Balanced on his small kiteboard and pulled at breathtaking speed across the crests of the waves by his power kite as he prepares to jump, Swedish kitesurfing champion Christian Dittrich knows he’s got an audience. He recently won the ‘Most Technical Kiteloop’ category at this year’s kite event at the Baltic Sea resort of Laboe. His spectacular jumps are up to 10 meters high and 40 meters long, and embellished with plenty of acrobatics. Kitesurfing is a sport that draws the crowds, and the boards need to look the part too. Dittrich, who turned his hobby into his profession and manufactures kiteboards through his company Tablas, certainly agrees: “I want the adventure, fun and freedom of our sport to be expressed in the look of the boards.” The engineer favors decorative films made of an aliphatic variant of the thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) Desmopan® from Bayer MaterialScience: “These films are perfect for printing on, and unlike aromatic TPU films, for example, they don’t turn yellow even after long exposure to the sun. So the fresh colors of our modern designs retain their brilliance for a long time.”
The films are manufactured for Tablas Boards by Finnish sports equipment makers Exel. “Because aliphatic TPU is lightfast, you don’t need to add a UV protective coating to the surface of the film as is often necessary with other technologies,” says Adalbert Loidl, technical manager at the Exel subsidiary in Rohrdorf, Upper Bavaria. “For board manufacturers, this means an expensive production step can be dispensed with. They don’t need any coating equipment, they save production space and time, there are fewer logistics involved and less safety equipment is required.”
As a sport, kitesurfing may be just ten years old but it already has thousands of followers around the world and even its own pro tour. Needless to say, kitesurfers don’t just choose their boards because of how they look; they also have high demands in terms of robustness. The aliphatic variant of Desmopan® has the same familiar characteristics as aromatic TPU, but it also has a key advantage over materials like polyether block amides. These films are highly scratch-proof, and very resistant to impact and abrasion, allowing them to withstand violent impact on pebbles or rocks. What’s more, Desmopan® offers excellent mold surface reproduction, allowing designers to create finely detailed surface textures. And because there is no need to apply a UV-stable coating, there is no risk of the grain being smoothed out during this stage.
Films based on the aliphatic variants of Desmopan® are an excellent choice for all decorative surfaces on sports equipment that is frequently exposed to the sun. This is why they are used to make snowboards and skis, for example, but they are also suitable for surfboards and wakeboards. “Generally speaking they are also suitable for in-mold decoration (IMD), a process where parts are manufactured with high-quality decorated and lightfast surfaces. The potential applications for this process include the production of everyday consumer objects and components for vehicle interiors, such as panels,” explains Jens Ufermann, head of a TPU segment at Bayer MaterialScience.
More information on kitesurfing and kiteboards can be found on the website of Dittrich’s company Tablas at www.tablas.se.
With sales of EUR 10.7 billion in 2005, Bayer MaterialScience AG is one of the world’s largest polymer manufacturers. Its main fields of activity are the production of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of everyday life. The main consumer sectors are the automotive, electrical/electronics, construction, sports and leisure industries. Bayer MaterialScience has production facilities at 40 sites around the world and a workforce of approx. 18,800. Bayer MaterialScience is part of the Bayer Group.
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