To us, there’s nothing quite as beautiful as a newly installed synthetic turf playing field. (Granted, we spend our days eating, drinking, and breathing turf, so we might be a little biased.)
The pop of the field markings against the plush green field. The bold logos. The perfectly level infill. The upright fibers with so little shine. We look at a new field with pride. It takes so much work by so many people for a project to cross the finish line.
The struggle is to keep fields looking as good and playing as well in the later years as on day one.
A number of factors contribute to long term field aesthetics and durability. Regular field maintenance is critical. But the products you choose and the technologies we incorporate into those products can help keep your field looking good long after installation.
Infill splash (also known as “spray” and “fly-out”) is a problem that many turf companies don’t like to talk about. Really, it’s one of the industry’s biggest challenges. Infill splash is what you see on TV when an athlete dives for the ball or performs a slide tackle — that wave of black that literally sprays up. Not only is it unappealing aesthetically, the real problem is the uneven surface it creates — uneven footing, uneven shock attenuation, uneven wear and tear, uneven UV exposure.
We want to keep the infill in place for uniform play, predictable traction, consistent shock reduction, and even wear patterns.
The Industry’s Solution:
If other turf companies are asked about this, they’ll either downplay the problem or tell you to use slit film tall fibers. Neither is a good response. One mouthful of rubber shows it is a real phenomenon, and while slit film can help a bit, these fibers just rest loosely on top of the infill and easily allow infill to fly.
Drum roll…. RootZone! A properly manufactured RootZone dramatically reduces infill splash. The RootZone’s properly texturized/crimped fibers reach through the infill and act like a net to encapsulate and stabilize the loose particles. Experience is key in creating the RootZone. We like to call it the Goldilocks effect: If the RootZone doesn’t have enough crimp, it won’t draw down enough to hold the rubber in. If the RootZone has too much crimp, it will pull too tightly, and it’s difficult to work the rubber in, so the infill rests on top and the RootZone creates a trampoline effect. With just the right amount of crimp, the RootZone can effectively reduce infill spray and provide a more consistent infill layer and playing surface.
Polyethylene (PE) fibers are non-abrasive, but they are also lazy. PE’s Glass Transition Temperature is low, meaning that PE’s molecules are fluid at ambient temperatures. The end result is that fibers lay over unless they have something else to help them stand up. As time goes on and PE fibers are damaged by sun and friction, the problem becomes worse.
We want to keep the fibers upright so that UV exposure and cleat interaction is concentrated on the tips of the fibers, so less surface area is susceptible to damage. The longer the tall pile fibers stand upright, the longer the life of the field. Not to mention that the field looks better with upright fibers!
The Industry’s Solution:
Fiber and turf manufacturers have used different shapes to help monofilament PE fibers stand up. Some shapes have worked better than others.
We’ve shifted our focus from shape alone to size, shape, and chemistry.
Our LEGEND monofilament polyethylene fibers feature a shape similar to a UFO. The Legend fibers refract light for a natural look and are 330 microns thick. Special features that go into fiber engineering and production really set our fibers head and shoulders above the industry.Masterbatch — Our polymer chemistry and in-house masterbatch formulation make the real difference. To our knowledge, no other turf manufacturer takes back the chain of control to this critical step. The masterbatch is like the DNA of the fibers. Masterbatch is the “special sauce” that contains the UV stabilizers, color, heat resistance and other critical factors that influence the performance of the fibers. SportGroup’s masterbatch formulations were developed in Germany by some of the world’s foremost polymer chemists, who are directly employed by the SportGroup. The masterbatch formulation is consistent across the globe for all SportGroup turf fibers. Entanglement Technology — Our dedicated chemists have leveraged Entanglement Technology to further reinforce the fiber. Every polyethylene molecular structure contains a main molecule chain, with side chains that branch out. As fibers are made, the resin and masterbatch pellets are melted down, extruded, and stretched. As the newly made fiber is stretched, those main molecular chains are lengthened along the direction they are stretched. This creates long molecular chains that run parallel to one other along the length of the fiber. In most fibers, with UV exposure and use, this lends itself to splitting lengthwise down the shaft of the fiber.
To prevent splitting of the fiber, we entangle the side chains to reinforce any weak spots that would form between the main molecular chains.TRIONIC Fiber Technology — From its earliest inception until the 1990s, nylon was used nearly across the board for its superior resilience and strength. But the downside of all nylon fibers was well known. It was abrasive. In the 1990s, PE came into vogue and became the industry standard for tall pile face fibers. These PE fibers were much less abrasive, but they came at a cost – they sacrificed the strength that previous generations of turf fields offered…Until now.
AstroTurf now offers the TRIONIC fiber. This patent-pending development is a feat of chemical engineering never before achieved in the history of our industry. TRIONIC combines player-friendly and non-abrasive PE with ultra-durable nylon using specialized molecular compatibilizers to unite the PE and nylon polymers, which ordinarily repel each other. The result is the ultimate fiber. It’s a durable, attractive monofilament, and it’s a game-changer.
PE Fiber Selection — We’ve shifted our focus from shape alone to size and shape. AstroTurf uses a heavy-duty, high micron (HM) monofilament in a hemispherical shape. While the hemispherical shape has fewer breaking points, it’s the thickness of the fiber that really makes the difference. It is twice as thick as most fibers on the market, and this thickness helps it not to bend or break.
RootZone — As we’ve mentioned, tall PE fibers need to be supported by other system components. We achieve that with infill and RootZone fibers. Not only do the RootZone fibers themselves help the taller fibers stand up, but they also keep the infill layer more even so that the infill itself continues to prop up the PE tall pile fibers. To make sure that the rubber stays in place, there’s no doubt that maintenance is critical. However, using a RootZone helps reduce the amount of maintenance needed and keeps the infill more uniform between groomings. The RootZone keeps fields looking better, longer.
Seams and inlays are the weakest points for synthetic turf. Whenever you connect two disparate pieces of turf, the bond can break, causing loose seams and field markings. That’s not just unattractive, it’s a tripping hazard.
Although seam and inlays are covered under warranty, you don’t want to have to call your turf company out to fix them.
The Industry’s Solution:
Some turf companies sew seams, some glue. Both of these technologies are fine, but they have both have their drawbacks and they’re both old technology.
Seaming — While AstroTurf sews our entry level turf seams, we have pioneered a revolutionary seaming method for our premium systems. Known as AstroFusion, this seaming method involves a hot-melt adhesive system using spun-bond polyester. The adhesive is contained on a pre-metered roll. By applying heat from a self-propelled cart, the heat transfers evenly into the adhesive and activates it, providing a more consistent, durable seam. The automation and uniformity of the AstroFusion process create seams that are virtually invisible.
PreFabricated Inlaying — AstroTurf is the only company that provides prefabricated inlaying for football lines. With PreFab, we have trained installers inlay your field upside down from the back of the turf (for more precision) using a jig system installed in the floor of our climate-controlled factory. Your field is delivered with about 90% of the hundreds of required inlays already assembled. This dramatically reduces callbacks, speeds up installation time, and allows our onsite installers to pay even closer attention to the finishing touches. We feel so strongly about PreFab that it is one of the requirements of our 3D Decade systems that come with ten year warranties!