The anatomy of a racket
Do you know your racket’s damping co-efficient from its composite matrix? No, us neither! So we asked Tom Whitehouse, of sports equipment designers & developers Marque Makers, to explain this (and more).
The key areas of any padel racket are the core, face and frame. The material composition of each of these is what influences how a racket plays, feels and suits each individual player.
This is the main energy storage component for a racket. Properties developers look for in the core material include energy return through compression (softness), and rebound (power). ‘Feel’ and ‘feedback’ are extremely important to players, which links to dynamic stiffness and damping co-efficient (how long the ball stays on the face of the racket during a shot.) This has a huge impact on control and touch.
There are different foams that can be used for the core such as PU or PE that would achieve the above-mentioned engineering requirements. However, a preferred core material is EVA as it hits the engineering requirements and is also:
- Low density so rackets remain lightweight
- Has a long flex life so you don’t need to change your racket as frequently
- Is stable in different weather conditions so it maintains the same power and control characteristics
Face & frame
The face and frame are made from composite materials and it’s important to understand that it’s not a single material that is key to racket performance but the combination of materials and how they are fused together within the ‘composite matrix’. This matrix works with the geometry of the racket and its core to influence playing characteristics.
Carbon fibre is a composite fibre commonly used in the face and frame of the racket. Generally speaking it has a very high strength to weight ratio making it stiff when used in a padel racket. There are numerous different variations with different properties. A downside of carbon fibre is that it can be brittle meaning it needs to be combined with different materials within the composite matrix to offer the required playing characteristics. Beginners that need help generating power should use a lower stiffness composite matrix (look for fibreglass rather than carbon) to help provide more elastic energy return. Advanced players generating their own power may choose a stiffer composite matrix (a carbon face and frame could be a good choice) to assist control.
Glass fibres have a lower tensile strength than carbon, which makes a racket feel softer. It is an ideal material to use alongside carbon within the composite matrix. Like carbon there are lots of different versions that can be used depending on the characteristics you are looking to achieve. In padel, due to the deformation on the face, developers may choose to use one or more layers of glass fibre as it allows for more elastic energy return compared to carbon alone.
These are famous for being bulletproof and are often included in the composite matrix (on the racket surface) to protect from abrasion and impact damage. The material properties also offer vibration dampening so are often used in the mid layers to give a softer feel to the racket.
These most commonly used materials in rackets all have strengths and weaknesses so are selected to complement each other and maximise performance. More carbon in a racket doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better, it’s all about the individual and the combination of materials.