FAIRMAT’s Sustainable and High-performing Composite Hockey Sticks

Note: This article talks about hockey sticks in general and not about sticks designed for a specific sport like ice or field hockey. 

“Rink-ready (or field-ready) and eco-friendly” would make a good tagline, right? 

We think so, and through this post, we hope to bring you on board, too. 

In this article, we’ll look at how the hockey sticks have advanced to the point where they now lead to a whole new problem: “waste.”

We will also discuss a solution to this problem: using advanced “recycled” materials for manufacturing hockey sticks. (Click to skip to this part.) 

Advanced Materials, Advanced Problems

Did you know that hockey pucks were formerly made from cow dung? Hockey sticks have also evolved — from flat-blade wooden hockey sticks to more advanced curved composite sticks. 

At the advent of the game, hockey sticks were made of hardwoods for their durability. But wooden sticks were heavy and stiff (non-flexible) and warped with changing weather conditions. Also, no two hockey sticks were the same because their source (trees, in this case) were different. 

Consequently, hybrid designs (two materials or more) that used epoxy and multi-part sticks were introduced towards the end of the century. 

Over time, wood, a natural composite, was replaced by non-wood advanced composite material. Aluminum, carbon fiber, fiberglass, and aramid (or Kevlar) became predominant, some of which remain to this day. 

These materials transformed hockey sticks into lighter, stronger, and more adaptable equipment, but at a cost to the environment.

Fast-forward to today, now that hockey pucks make use of vulcanized rubber instead of cow dung, hockey sticks of composite materials, and players of this high-end equipment — we are likely facing a problem that is too “advanced” to solve. 

As we transitioned to the use of synthetic materials, a new issue of environmental sustainability has surfaced.

Sustainability on Thin Ice: The Environmental Cost of a Composite Hockey Stick

Unlike organic biodegradable materials, these advanced materials cannot degrade naturally. They are also derivatives of non-renewable resources. Their production is energy-intensive, and the equipment, at the end of its life, is usually landfilled

According to Rink2Reef, 3.2 million sticks are broken annually. Another statistic shows that 70% of the composite sticks produced (roughly 2.1 million) end up in landfills annually. 

But it’s not just about the waste. A hockey stick can impact the environment on multiple fronts, from climate change to land pollution during each stage of its life cycle. 

Anybody looking to avert environmental impact by manufacturing or buying a “sustainable” hockey stick is currently only buying something that might be superficially sustainable. 

Currently, sustainable hockey sticks can be either of them: be recyclable, have been reconditioned/refurbished, have eco-friendly packaging, or have a tree planted somewhere with every purchase to offset the actual impact. 

However, while these measures are beneficial, they don’t fully resolve the core issue of using high-performance materials that are inherently unsustainable.

But how can we not stop using high-performing composite hockey sticks? How do we advance while not compromising on sustainability? And not give up on the years of scientific and technological advancement? 

FAIRMAT has developed a solution to this very end — to have a real bottom-line positive environmental impact without compromising on the performance of the hockey equipment. (Skip to this part.)

A Comparative Analysis of Composite Material Properties

We’ve seen how the hockey stick materials evolved from wood, a natural but inconsistent composite, through today’s polymer composites such as carbon or fiberglass. 

But to be able to choose a material with the least possible carbon footprint and highest performance characteristics, we need to study them. 

Hockey Stick Composites and their Types:

Composites have a complex composition where the fibers (carbon, aramid, etc.) are arranged in weaves (or patterns) to form a fabric. These are then layered atop each other, coated with resin, and treated, resulting in a high-strength, lightweight laminate. 

Composites have obvious advantages over traditional materials in that they are lightweight, allow for quick maneuvering, and have high specific strength and modulus suitable for sports equipment. They are good shock absorbers and, therefore, offer excellent energy returns to the players. They also allow freedom of design and can also be cost-effective.

Depending on the type of fiber, these properties may vary. 

Fiberglass: 

  • Fiberglass composites are high-impact resistant; they can endure impact as much as aluminum or even more.
  • They have high durability, so the hockey sticks last longer.
  • With their moderate stiffness (deformation upon impact force), they are capable of power generation but have less power and speed than carbon fiber.
  • They also have a higher density and, therefore, weight comparatively. 

Aramid:

  • Aramid (or Kevlar) composites are not a primary hockey stick material but have high impact absorption and can be used where the hockey stick is most prone to wear and tear.
  • They show good vibration-damping properties and offer a good feel.
  • They have high tensile strength (resistance to stretching or pulling), but they are weak to compressive forces.
  • They are considered lightweight but are not considered high-performing because they absorb moisture and have difficulty bonding with polymers. 

Carbon fiber: 

  • Carbon fiber is the most widely used composite in hockey sticks because they are lightweight, strong, and stiff and provide excellent energy transfer for powerful shots.
  • Their high stiffness (low flex) and strength-to-weight ratio allow for quick handling and precision.
  • Carbon fiber is even lighter than fiberglass.
  • They can be modulated for varying bend and flex but are often less durable than fiberglass. 

Carbon fiber is considered the most suitable composite for high-performance hockey sticks because of its energy transfer capabilities and high strength-to-weight ratio. So, even if in the new future materials might replace carbon fiber, today’s hockey stick technological development relies on carbon fiber extensively.

Rink-ready & Eco-friendly: FAIRMAT’s Carbon Fiber Composite Hockey Sticks

Now that we know what material is the most performance-oriented and how their environmental impact is a bigger concern than we think — let’s connect these dots to explore FAIRMAT’s solution that works for all. 

Can you recall the tagline we began with, “Rink-ready (or field-ready) and eco-friendly”? Well, it will summarize what follows. 

FAIRMAT’s Sustainable and High-performing Composite Hockey Sticks

FAIRMAT has been on a mission to solve the increasing waste problem of the sporting goods industry.

FAIRMAT Design & Builds parts and components for rackets, shoe insoles, and hockey sticks, among other equipment, from recycled aerospace-grade carbon fiber composite. 

FAIRMAT not only manufactures parts for high-performing and sustainable sports equipment but also recycles carbon fiber waste, closing the loop! 

FAIRMAT’s intermediate product (recycled material), a CFRP chip, undergoes 1000+ R&D tests and is proven to meet performance standards while offering the lowest footprint compared to virgin carbon fiber composite. 

Using cutting-edge data-driven technologies for Recycling and Design & Build services, FAIRMAT is able to:

  • Lower the footprint of a hockey stick throughout its life cycle, from raw materials sourcing to consumer use and beyond. 
  • Help designers and manufacturers integrate the highest-quality carbon fiber in the most responsible way in their hockey equipment.
  • Promote a circular manufacturing ecosystem where no hockey equipment ends up in landfills or is unsustainably made. 

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