Why is the ITTF trying to remove wood from a blade?

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Attention all my fellow small blade smiths / blade makers... it's time to get angry.

At its upcoming AGM, the ITTF are going to vote on radically loosening the rules around blades... and I mean radically.

Under the new proposed rules, there will be no requirement to use timber in a blade at all.

Check out the agenda - see page 103 of this document: https://documents.ittf.sport/sites/default/files/public/2022-12/2022_AGM_documents_EN_0.pdf.

The current rule states:

2.4.2 At least 85% of the blade by thickness shall be of natural wood; an adhesive layer within the blade may be reinforced with fibrous material such as carbon fibre, glass fibre or compressed paper, but shall not be thicker than 7.5% of the total thickness or 0.35mm, whichever is the smaller.

The new rule will simply state:
The blade shall be made of one or more layers of natural wood or other solid materials, without cavities and not compressible.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I think this is a very poorly worded rule change, that will have massive consequences for our segment of the industry.

The ITTF's rationale is as follows:

1. It is believed that a recent technical study by the industry on different racket blade materials reported that there is no significant difference to performance with racket blades of different materials.
2. Racket blade is currently not a piece of authorized equipment.
3. There is no guideline or mechanism to detect or monitor the current rule at a competition.
4. The current rule on percentage of the blade being natural wood is arbitrary.
5. Allowing the blade to be made of materials other than wood encourages innovative ideas from developers and manufacturers to look for new materials that may be less costly or longer lasting.
6. The requirement of using predominantly wood as the material is not environmentally appropriate and allowing other materials would also be in line with the IOC’s sustainability requirement for sports equipment.
7. All other rules in connection with the blade (shape, size, weight, covering, and continuity) would remain unchanged with the current proposal.


To me, the above smells like rubbish.

What is equally disturbing, is the ITTF's comments on what constitutes "lab testing" around the development of equipment.

The ITTF Equipment Committee states on page 48:

"3) Blade Material Liberalization

A sample set of different materials in blades was defined and measured in a new test setup. A camera system recorded the movements including spin and speed of impact. Through this report, an opening of materials in blade production will be discussed. Before changing any rule, the questions of sustainability, patent situation, the structure of an approval system and definition of lab testing must be answered."




This only suggests to me some large manufacturer has demonstrated new equipment that currently lies outside the rules, and now wants the rules changed to permit it.

Personally I think removing the requirement for blades to be mostly wood is a slippery slope that would damage the game massively.

If point one of their rationale were correct, and there is no significant difference to the performance of a wooden blade to a composite one (which is false) then why bother change to rules away from wooden blades at all?

I have no issue with innovation in blade-making... I make my living from it..

What I have an issue with, is sudden wholesale changes that profit large, rich and powerful firms over smaller firms like yours and mine.

Granted I make wooden blades for a living, so I'm biased.

And yes - this move would make redundant numerous years of my own IP development in one fell swoop, so obviously I am trying to protect my own patch here.

But I'm trying to protect yours too.

Ours is the only remaining sport where ANYBODY can pick up some tools, make their own equipment, and potentially compete at not just national but international level with it.

Personally, I think that's worth protecting.

Personally, I don't want the ITTF making regulation of blades a formal requirement by stealth - without additional protections, it could cut the bottom end of the industry out of the market.

Personally, I don't want large firms monopolising the market any further - it will be impossible for smaller firms to keep up with their IP development budgets... not just mine, but potentially yours too.

And personally, I think this has nothing to do with serving the game, and everything to do with serving the profit motive of larger interests.

But hey - maybe I'm alone in all this.

Maybe it doesn't matter, and people won't stop buying a cheap all-wood blade, to use a synthetic, non-biodegradable, and highly expensive imported item, which gives them a massive advantage in spin and speed.

What are your thoughts?
 
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In reply to the ITTF's seven point rationale, I would say the following:

1: "It is believed?" Oh Really? By Whom?

2: Authorisation is not necessary. Existing rules over blade composition are more than sufficient to ensure consistency of product between manufacturers, and protect integrity of the game. Authorisation will only add to the expense of making a blade, and add to the red-tape of getting them approved. The ITTF has not documented any instances of widespread cheating through illegal blade modification - only the modification of rubbers.

3: Yes there is. Racquet control can visually inspect the wood panel before comps. Players must surrender their blades prior to play, and blade control can simply pull out a set callipers if they are worried. This is an issue of under-defined procedures, not an inability to monitor.

4: It is not arbitrary. 85% wood content guarantees that massive expense does not equal massive advantage, and it also allows the game to prosper at lower income levels in poorer countries. It also stops any one firm establishing a monopoly over any equipment tech, and thereby monopolise any one market segment.

5: Sustainable plantation wood is the cheapest component of a blade hands-down. Glue, sealant, composite fibers and all other manufacturing inputs are significantly more expensive on every measure, regardless of their nature or composition. Secondly it is perfectly possible to innovate with wood, and manufacturers ARE innovating with wood all the time. It's just harder to design and sell blades with chemically modified and heat compacted woods and natural composite materials, than it is to sell blades impregnated with non-biodegradeable synthetics.

6. Point six is utter rubbish. Wood is the ONLY component of a competition blade that is both biodegradable and sustainably produced. All common composite fibers: Carbon fiber, Zylon, Kevlar, Aralyte, Fiberglass, ALC, ZLC, Basalt fiber, Innegra etc, etc - NONE of them are biodegradable, ALL of them require high energy inputs to create, using ANY of them in a blade creates secondary and tertiary waste that is ALSO non-biodegradable, and the epoxy resin binding all of them together can leech toxic chemicals into landfill over time depending on its chemical makeup... which something I note that NO species of natural raw wood on this planet EVER does.

(siigh)

...Seriously folks - am I wrong to be worried about this?
 
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The ITTF's rationale is as follows:
FYI This is NOT a propositon by ITTF or one of its committees such as equipment committee
Rather this is a proposition made by one of ITTF's national affiliates , Hong Kong
There is a huge difference

A "rule" change rquires 75% of votes of 226 or so member nations of ITTF.
When a national affilaites proposes a rule change it is tall order indeed especially about a "rule" change about equipment
Usually such "rule" changes as opposed to "regulation" changes (which only need 51% vote) about equipment suchas the last two "rule" changes (38 to 40- ball and adding 40+ plastic ball comes from president or executive council or equipment committee or rules committee.
BTW the 3 lethal changes to limit pips , the Durban 1998 Aspect Ratio Reduction Regulation Massacre, 2004 Pip Density Reduction Regulation & 2008 Frictionless Pips Ban were all regulation changes by the ITTF Equipment Committee requiring only 51% vote of the Exceutive council. From what I understand, ITTF tried to pass the Durban 1998 Aspect Ratio Reduction Regulation Massacre as a rule change at the 1995 Tianjin BGM but failed miserably but passed it as a regulation by the closest of margins like 19 to 17 at Durban 1998 EGM. That is how ITTF learned to backdoor the 2004 & 2008 changes as regulations to further limit (long) pips.

So I will be shocked if 75% countries vote for such a drastic change without proper research from various ITTF committees * getting their input , if done properly. But then again of of rule / regulation changes since 1983 have been purely political. So you never know
7. All other rules in connection with the blade (shape, size, weight, covering, and continuity) would remain unchanged with the current proposal.
I am reasonably sure that there are no restrictions on size. shape or weight of the blade itself under current rule.
I know this because I get harassed almost everyday for my large racket but I am actually asking manufacturers to produce even larger blades for choppers to somewhat level the playing field

So if the rule passes. a player could theoretically walk in with a racket like Satoh did in 1952 but with a racket 10 inch thick steel or composite blade ?
Currently a player can still use a racket with 10 inch thick composite blade that is also 2 feet in diameter but that is an entirely different issue.


In conclusion ,I would tend to think that such a drastic rule change would require extensive prior theoretical analysis & practical field testing before being approved by 75% nations of ITTF

--------------------------
Release all political prisoners in TT. End the defender torture. Ban all pips & anti

,
 
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I disagree. I never understood why wood was required. This decision is a good idea. Anything that limits the use of wood is. I don’t think it’s gonna change the game much. Imagine bats with built in permanent rubbers. It’s gonna change the manufacturing process for sure and rubber prices may drop. I like this…

Cheers
L-zr
 
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I disagree. I never understood why wood was required. This decision is a good idea. Anything that limits the use of wood is. I don’t think it’s gonna change the game much. Imagine bats with built in permanent rubbers. It’s gonna change the manufacturing process for sure and rubber prices may drop. I like this…

Cheers
L-zr

You make a good point about rubber prices dropping - the top end ones are so expensive. Also having rubbers being integrated into the blade is an interesting idea as well, but sadly they're not talking about that at this point.

Maybe I'm just reacting to an unforeseen change here. I just love the democratic idea that people can still make their own equipment and still excel at this sport. On hearing this news, I had notions of table tennis blades going the way of tennis racquets - where carbon fiber becomes the pervasive technology, smaller firms are left behind, and the cost of equipment skyrockets. We're still a fair way away from finding enough completely biodegradable synthetic composite options to replace carbon fiber in most applications - at least with a table tennis blade, the natural alternatives actually work.

The blades don't need to be made out of timber... they chose it because it was cheap, light and ubiquitous - and it still is. It set the barrier for entry to the game (and the standard of equipment required to be competitive) very, very low, and that is part of the reason why the game has grown.

I don't mind what the bigger firms use in their blades... I just want their products to be biodegradable. To my knowledge, not one of the large TT blade makers are willing to guarantee a timeline for all their products being biodegradable (let alone comment on the subject much) and I hate the idea of our sport becoming even less ecologically accountable in future than it already is.

 
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Well I played guitar for almost 50 years and the manufacturers have tried to change what a guitar is so many times I lost count. But it’s still exactly like what Leo Fender invented in the 50’s. What I am trying to say here is that people are a traditional bunch that don’ t like change. And you know what I tried a lot of blades with carbon layers but I still prefer an all wood one. But the fact is that we are loosing trees on an alarming rate and soon we’re not gonna have any left. I use to work on wooden boats and since the 70’s it’s almost impossible to get Honduras mahogany anymore. Guitar manufacturers have all but stopped using Indian rosewood in the grip boards. Also teak is in a serious shortage. I can go on and on but this is a fact of life…

But on the on the other hand I do believe that plastic products also use a product which is in a short supply, oil. Also table tennis blades does not use a whole lot of wood so we’ll see what happens.

rant over…

Cheers
L-zr
 
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You make a good point about rubber prices dropping - the top end ones are so expensive. Also having rubbers being integrated into the blade is an interesting idea as well, but sadly they're not talking about that at this point.

Maybe I'm just reacting to an unforeseen change here. I just love the democratic idea that people can still make their own equipment and still excel at this sport. On hearing this news, I had notions of table tennis blades going the way of tennis racquets - where carbon fiber becomes the pervasive technology, smaller firms are left behind, and the cost of equipment skyrockets. We're still a fair way away from finding enough completely biodegradable synthetic composite options to replace carbon fiber in most applications - at least with a table tennis blade, the natural alternatives actually work.

The blades don't need to be made out of timber... they chose it because it was cheap, light and ubiquitous - and it still is. It set the barrier for entry to the game (and the standard of equipment required to be competitive) very, very low, and that is part of the reason why the game has grown.

I don't mind what the bigger firms use in their blades... I just want their products to be biodegradable. To my knowledge, not one of the large TT blade makers are willing to guarantee a timeline for all their products being biodegradable (let alone comment on the subject much) and I hate the idea of our sport becoming even less ecologically accountable in future than it already is.

I’m with you on all points but this one with the ecological impacts I think is especially important.
 
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Ok what will happen is quite simple, it's the exact same decision as that P ball move for rubbers: to please the brands lobby. Prices will raise higher up again, as if it wasn't enough pricey...

No one noticed the no cavity rule though, is it about the cavity found in the handle's in the BTY blades for instance ? or the Donic Senso system ?

The thing with BTY is that there are actually cavities in both blade at handle's location and FH and BH glued parts. I know that cos' my Omar Assar blade once fel down on concrete from the the stands and you could see how cheap-ish glued it was cos' both sides of the handle went down without any splinters ! It was easily re-glued back though, on the positive note...
 
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In reply to the ITTF's seven point rationale, I would say the following:

1: "It is believed?" Oh Really? By Whom?

2: Authorisation is not necessary. Existing rules over blade composition are more than sufficient to ensure consistency of product between manufacturers, and protect integrity of the game. Authorisation will only add to the expense of making a blade, and add to the red-tape of getting them approved. The ITTF has not documented any instances of widespread cheating through illegal blade modification - only the modification of rubbers.

3: Yes there is. Racquet control can visually inspect the wood panel before comps. Players must surrender their blades prior to play, and blade control can simply pull out a set callipers if they are worried. This is an issue of under-defined procedures, not an inability to monitor.

4: It is not arbitrary. 85% wood content guarantees that massive expense does not equal massive advantage, and it also allows the game to prosper at lower income levels in poorer countries. It also stops any one firm establishing a monopoly over any equipment tech, and thereby monopolise any one market segment.

5: Sustainable plantation wood is the cheapest component of a blade hands-down. Glue, sealant, composite fibers and all other manufacturing inputs are significantly more expensive on every measure, regardless of their nature or composition. Secondly it is perfectly possible to innovate with wood, and manufacturers ARE innovating with wood all the time. It's just harder to design and sell blades with chemically modified and heat compacted woods and natural composite materials, than it is to sell blades impregnated with non-biodegradeable synthetics.

6. Point six is utter rubbish. Wood is the ONLY component of a competition blade that is both biodegradable and sustainably produced. All common composite fibers: Carbon fiber, Zylon, Kevlar, Aralyte, Fiberglass, ALC, ZLC, Basalt fiber, Innegra etc, etc - NONE of them are biodegradable, ALL of them require high energy inputs to create, using ANY of them in a blade creates secondary and tertiary waste that is ALSO non-biodegradable, and the epoxy resin binding all of them together can leech toxic chemicals into landfill over time depending on its chemical makeup... which something I note that NO species of natural raw wood on this planet EVER does.

(siigh)

...Seriously folks - am I wrong to be worried about this?

Ok as a musician and recycling plastic specialist, I'm again laughing hard at this nonsense:
- wood is sustainable as long as you use sustainable wood, shall we talk about the Gibson's scandal when they used Madagascar ebony to make their guitars in the late 2000's by using illegal logging? shall we talk about the Ebola nightmare cos' african woodcutters have to go deeper and deeper in the primary forests to cut down ebony and rosewood you can find on many blades now ? and when you go deeper in Africa's primary forests, you get to meet the Ebola's silent carriers animals.

- and all that because... China gives a ridiculous amount of cash to african woodcutters for illegal logging, so ... no, please don't tell us wood is always sustainable. something sustainable is something that you can recycle, yes for sure, and wood is easy to recycle I agree with that point, but it's not THAT sustainable, specially when the TT industry uses more and more "exotic" woods from the primary forests that are not sustainable: it takes centuries to grow ebony or rosewood to a mature state ! Limba is in the same case, it takes ages to re-grow the terminalia superba specie for instance cos' its germination is quite dificult, and with climate change it does not get better. Ayous unfortunately is following the same path, not in the I and II appendix but now IUCN listed.

The only truely sustainable wood for blades is paulownia, kiri so, cos' it grows to a mature state in only 5 years, and trees can also regenerate from their roots after being cut down.

https://www.fairplanet.org/story/illegal-chinese-timber-business-that-is-devastating-african-forest/

 
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Now, about carbon, CFRP for instance, and polymers like kevlar, it is actually easy to recycle and to "value" their waste product. Kevlar is actually recycled in the EV industry to "dope" batteries, instead of using too much Rare-Earth Elements (REE) or rare metals such as lithium (yes, you read right: lithium is not an REE !).

Please read page 4, the Wittmann MAS 1 machine:
https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1757-899X/1034/1/012087/pdf

https://www-rtbf-be.translate.goog/article/du-soufre-et-du-kevlar-recycle-pour-doper-les-batteries-de-nos-futures-voitures-electriques-10920816?_x_tr_sl=auto&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=fr&_x_tr_pto=wapp

https://spencersynthetics.com/

https://www.europages.co.uk/CES-TEXTILES/00000005398954-727014001.html
 
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https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsomega.2c03059
ao2c03059_0012.gif
 
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Ok as a musician and recycling plastic specialist, I'm again laughing hard at this nonsense:
- wood is sustainable as long as you use sustainable wood, shall we talk about the Gibson's scandal when they used Madagascar ebony to make their guitars in the late 2000's by using illegal logging? shall we talk about the Ebola nightmare cos' african woodcutters have to go deeper and deeper in the primary forests to cut down ebony and rosewood you can find on many blades now ? and when you go deeper in Africa's primary forests, you get to meet the Ebola's silent carriers animals.

- and all that because... China gives a ridiculous amount of cash to african woodcutters for illegal logging, so ... no, please don't tell us wood is always sustainable. something sustainable is something that you can recycle, yes for sure, and wood is easy to recycle I agree with that point, but it's not THAT sustainable, specially when the TT industry uses more and more "exotic" woods from the primary forests that are not sustainable: it takes centuries to grow ebony or rosewood to a mature state ! Limba is in the same case, it takes ages to re-grow the terminalia superba specie for instance cos' its germination is quite dificult, and with climate change it does not get better. Ayous unfortunately is following the same path, not in the I and II appendix but now IUCN listed.

The only truely sustainable wood for blades is paulownia, kiri so, cos' it grows to a mature state in only 5 years, and trees can also regenerate from their roots after being cut down.

https://www.fairplanet.org/story/illegal-chinese-timber-business-that-is-devastating-african-forest/

Oh I couldn't agree with you more - wood IS only sustainable if it is used sustainably - that's why I referenced the use of plantation timbers.

I actually wasn't aware Gibson using Madagascar ebony in their guitars illegally in the late 2000 - thanks for the heads up, and I agree that is appalling behaviour. (I'm a guitarist myself - been playing classical & fingerstyle since I was 14 :) ] I'm based in Western Australia, that story about Gibson slipped past the news cycle entirely down here, otherwise I would have made some noise about it locally myself.

On reading your post it's seems I haven't made some of my comments very clear - for which I apologise. Let me add some extra context which my earlier post lacked in the interests of brevity.

My comments about the sustainability of timber was referring largely towards the state and federal protections that exist here in my home territory of Australia (amongst others), as well as to my nation's widespread use of plantation timbers, and finally to the environmental compliance measures I need to take in my business as a user of native Australian timber. (You are quite right however to point out that not all countries, cultures or businesses manage eco-resources the same way - it's a point I failed to acknowledge earlier, so thank you for raising it.)

Every single native tree in every single Australian state is a protected species under federal law - legally you're not allowed to harm or disturb any of them, let alone cut them down without sanction.

In my home state of WA, native timber logging has been abolished completely and permanently - the entire local timber industry is currently transitioning to processing softwoods grown on managed plantations owned by the state in conjunction with private enterprise.

In my own blade making business, I need two separate state permits/licenses in order to harvest, process and sell native timber from my own land... and even then, annual harvest quotas are in place, I have to declare one year in advance exactly how much timber I'm going to take and sell (and what species), and I have to lodge quarterly reports and updates on the native timber I use and/or sell.

In order to have a native tree processed into lumber, I need to use one of several registered and regulated timber mills, and need written permission from the landowner (the only really simple part of the process). If I don't submit my license paperwork along with the log, the mill is not allowed to cut it, and heavy financial penalties are in place if they do.

Through choice and circumstance, I do not need to harvest living trees, but instead sustain my business solely on wind-fall trees (thankfully table tennis blades don't require much timber ;). Even if I did harvest living trees however, I cannot do so on a whim, as federal law prevents it. I can only take individual trees that were sanctioned/earmarked for removal (such as when clearing a building envelope for a new home, or it the tree threatens vital infrastructure), and even then, there are state-wide quotas in place.

I was not aware China is wrongfully procuring lumber from Africa outside of any official trade agreements - thank you for pointing this out.

In hindsight though, it does not surprise me to hear it. Koto, Limba, Ayous, Anigre and Okoume, are all African species, so if true, it certainly explain why Chinese blades are so cheap.

Sadly, given most of the world's blade manufacturers also happen use all those exact same woods in their blades all the time (despite their being a wealth of viable alternatives out there), it makes me think China may not be the only country ravaging Africa's native timber supply. Hopefully a lot more TT players out there will ALSO become aware of the problem, and start pressuring blade manufacturers to switch to the numerous sustainably-produced alternatives out there.

I also agree with you in closing about the carbon capture potential of Kiri/Paulownia - in Australia it's a notoriously fussy tree (as plantation species go), but sustainable cultivation is only difficult, not impossible.

I must disagree strenuously however about paulownia being the only sustainably produced TT wood. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Balsa, Western Red Cedar, Basswood, Bunya pine, Tasmanian blue gum, Australian red cedar, Cottonwood/poplar, radiata pine, maritime pine, hoop pine, slash pine, Eucalyptus pilularis, Douglas Fir, Norway spruce, macrocarpa cypress... just to name a few off the top of my head. All of these are plantation woods, all can be (and are) grown and harvested sustainably, and all of them go wonderfully well frankly when in a TT blade.

PS: Granted, the eucalypts in this list are all way too heavy for anything except an outer ply, but if you choose the right species, they can make for an absolutely magnificent outer ply 😁
 
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Now, about carbon, CFRP for instance, and polymers like kevlar, it is actually easy to recycle and to "value" their waste product. Kevlar is actually recycled in the EV industry to "dope" batteries, instead of using too much Rare-Earth Elements (REE) or rare metals such as lithium (yes, you read right: lithium is not an REE !).

Please read page 4, the Wittmann MAS 1 machine:
https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1757-899X/1034/1/012087/pdf

https://www-rtbf-be.translate.goog/article/du-soufre-et-du-kevlar-recycle-pour-doper-les-batteries-de-nos-futures-voitures-electriques-10920816?_x_tr_sl=auto&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=fr&_x_tr_pto=wapp

https://spencersynthetics.com/

https://www.europages.co.uk/CES-TEXTILES/00000005398954-727014001.html

Thank you SO MUCH for those research papers on emerging recycling processes for synthetic composites!... That is extraordinarily useful. 😀

(I'm aware lithium isn't a rare mineral BTW - my home state contains something like 15% of the world's entire reserves of spodumene ore... we're drowning in the stuff down here 🤣)

I'm still reading through your links for CFRP recycling info applicable to our situation down here, but seeing as you are in the industry, perhaps you can same me some reading.

To my mind, Pyrolysis and thermo-chemical seems to be the most promising methods out of the ones the paper lists long term, as they aren't just physical re-purposing in disguise, and the actually break down the matrix into their sub components... Are these techniques the ways the industry is currently going?

Personally I'm wary of / cynical towards any sort of purely physical / mechanical recycling approach to recycling (or repurposing) CFRP. Turning long fibers into chopped matting is fine for repurposing the material for other uses, but repurposing isn't the same as recycling, and physical transformative recycling methods are too often an exercise in diminishing returns.

Typically with re-purposing devoid of chemical transformation, every time you recycle such materials, fiber length and condition shortens and degrades respectively, to the point where the fibers are too short to be meaningfully re-used... you then typically have to incinerate it. If you use the stuff as filler somewhere it really only traps the particles physically in their final re-use cycle, only to have resin matrix decomposition set in again later (typically at a faster pace than before, thanks to physically breaking all the cross-linked polymer chains present in the cured resin), and we're back to toxic substances leeching into the surrounding environment again.

Thermal chemical is another possibility with promise - It looks like you you lose fiber strength during the repurposing process at an attrition rate of about 15% is that right? Personally I can live with a 15% loss in tensile strength as the shear forces internally in a table tennis bat are low enough to not matter too much (plus TT is not exactly a critical implementation of carbon fiber anyway... its a TT blade, not the roll-cage of an FI racing car 😁

I'm still a little concerned that the recycling processes described in this paper are every bit as energy hungry (if not more so) as the process of spinning the fibers out of their precursor at high temperature in the first place. I also sadly note the recycling facilities for these processes appear to be located only in Europe and the US - shipping our CFRP waste to either destination isn't really a viable option for us.

I also note there's no mention of secondary or tertiary wastes in the paper - only recycling/re-purposing the actual pre-used CFRP/GRP materials themselves.

Sadly these technologies (on the face of it) really don't seem at the point of commercial viability yet for us in our business or in our territory, nor do they have the elegance and simplicity of straightforward decomposition via natural actors... that said, I still find the progress that has been made thus far very heartening.

Please feel free to PM me any more resources you may have on environmentally sustainable composites - this particular sub-field of materials science is both central to my ongoing business concerns, and extremely close to my heart personally as well.

Thanks again for posting 🙂.

 
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Why get angry? This is a step forward, it will open new horizons in blade making. Wood is wood, it gives a different feel than any (current) composite layer can offer. Classics never die, and whoever prefers the all wood feeling will still do in the future, so that niche is protected. Of course some major brands will benefit from this, I've even seen a patent from Butterfly for a blade with a foam like material inside, not sure if it was related to this. But for me this is also great, I have a bunch of ideas for experimenting with different materials, I haven't done it because they were illegal in the scope of the current rule. Within the current composite materials that are available today, the structure of the blades won't change much, simply because they weigh a lot! People don't realize this but a thin ALC layer weighs more than a wood layer (for example koto) with twice the thickness. So it's not easy to use more than two composite layers and still have an acceptable weight, in order to do that you must use a really light core such as balsa, and that gives a feeling which doesn't please the majority of players.

However, the rule is very poorly written. The "no cavities" part has nothing to do with the handle, it just means that the layers can't have holes, that takes honeycomb structures out of the equation. But what cavities does really mean? Wood has natural pores, those are cavities... Cork also has cavities and it's widely used today, does that mean it's also out?

The "not compressible" part is also not clear. That is meant to rule out sponges or rubbers inside the blade, but how compressible is compressible? Wood is also compressible to some extent...
 
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just out of curiousity how much do synthetic fibers cost the big manufactures like Honeycomb,etc instead of Wood?

I honestly couldn't tell you I'm sorry.

The large blade producers buy their fibers from DuPont (and others manufacturers like them) in very large quantities, so I imagine they get great economies of scale as well.

My business is very small - I only buy synthetic fabric I need sparingly, by the meter, and from local suppliers. I also only ever buy enough of a fabric to cover my projected demand for that fabric over the coming year. Prices vary by the type of cloth involved, but they typically cost me anywhere from $40 to $80 Australian per meter retail.

Quite frankly I don't like to use synthetic composites in a blade if I can possibly avoid it.

Synthetic composites are stronger on the whole than most natural fibers, so sometimes only a composite fiber will do (essentially that's whenever I need to build an extremely thin and hard competition blade... or else whenever a custom build client absolutely insists on it).

If my client's brief requires the use of a composite layer, I typically ask them to at least consider using a natural alternative fiber instead, such as jute, flax, silk, hemp, sisal etc... I then give them a test blade to try, and four times out of ten they are happy enough with its performance to switch to a natural fiber blade.

I freely admit most existing natural fiber composite blades out there (eg the Andro Flaxonite) don't (or didn't) perform as well as carbon, Arylite or ALC etc, but you can at least partially offset any speed loss via adjusting your other construction materials / methods. The Flaxonite was a great blade IMO... such a shame Andro canned it.

Hope this helps. 🙂

 
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Why get angry? This is a step forward, it will open new horizons in blade making. Wood is wood, it gives a different feel than any (current) composite layer can offer. Classics never die, and whoever prefers the all wood feeling will still do in the future, so that niche is protected. Of course some major brands will benefit from this, I've even seen a patent from Butterfly for a blade with a foam like material inside, not sure if it was related to this. But for me this is also great, I have a bunch of ideas for experimenting with different materials, I haven't done it because they were illegal in the scope of the current rule. Within the current composite materials that are available today, the structure of the blades won't change much, simply because they weigh a lot! People don't realize this but a thin ALC layer weighs more than a wood layer (for example koto) with twice the thickness. So it's not easy to use more than two composite layers and still have an acceptable weight, in order to do that you must use a really light core such as balsa, and that gives a feeling which doesn't please the majority of players.

However, the rule is very poorly written. The "no cavities" part has nothing to do with the handle, it just means that the layers can't have holes, that takes honeycomb structures out of the equation. But what cavities does really mean? Wood has natural pores, those are cavities... Cork also has cavities and it's widely used today, does that mean it's also out?

The "not compressible" part is also not clear. That is meant to rule out sponges or rubbers inside the blade, but how compressible is compressible? Wood is also compressible to some extent...

I'm not that angry really, just very disappointed I guess (Cripes... I sounded a bit like my father there 😁)

I'll admit though, on re-reading my own earlier posts, they do come across as hugely angry.

My apologies for that everyone... blame it on an extended lack of both sleep and coffee. 😆

I guess I just see this as a lost opportunity to improve the game, and level the playing field,

If you're going to change the rules, don't do it on a flawed premise - in my experience that is usually always problematic.

Myself, I saw the justification for the changes the ITTF listed as being full of flawed logic, and fallacious assumptions. That's a real bug-bear with me.

In a previous career I used to work with lobbyists, politicians and PR spin masters a lot.

In hindsight, I hated that life.

I left that career because I grew tired of people hiding their own selfish motives and hidden agendas behind fallacious claims, out and out fabrication, and PR-led distortion of the surrounding context. I got tired of all the BS.

There's a type of logical argument you see a lot nowadays, whereby the writer starts out not with an argument, or a collection of facts, but rather with a particular mindset they want you to adopt.

They then construct a web of deceit, half-truth, misstatement and distortion, in order to hide the fact they are trying to manipulate you... ie: they spin BS

Put simply, the ITTF's rationale for these rule changes smelled like a very familiar brand of BS to me - one I used to live my life neck deep in, whilst holding my nose and just going along with it.

The cynical political strategist in in me woke up at that - I admit, my main impression from their release was they were trying to hide something.

I still think that is the case by the way. ...but hey - if I'm wrong, then I'm wrong - I can live with that

Like I said, I don't mind innovation in blade making, I make my living through it, and its a beautiful thing to do with your life ( Your own blades by the way are things of absolute beauty! Long time admirer of your work over here - huge respect!)

Really, it's just as you said - its the wording of the rule change that's the biggest problem for me, for many of the same reasons you yourself have cited.

 
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Oh I couldn't agree with you more - wood IS only sustainable if it is used sustainably - that's why I referenced the use of plantation timbers.

I actually wasn't aware Gibson using Madagascar ebony in their guitars illegally in the late 2000 - thanks for the heads up, and I agree that is appalling behaviour. (I'm a guitarist myself - been playing classical & fingerstyle since I was 14 :) ] I'm based in Western Australia, that story about Gibson slipped past the news cycle entirely down here, otherwise I would have made some noise about it locally myself.

On reading your post it's seems I haven't made some of my comments very clear - for which I apologise. Let me add some extra context which my earlier post lacked in the interests of brevity.

My comments about the sustainability of timber was referring largely towards the state and federal protections that exist here in my home territory of Australia (amongst others), as well as to my nation's widespread use of plantation timbers, and finally to the environmental compliance measures I need to take in my business as a user of native Australian timber. (You are quite right however to point out that not all countries, cultures or businesses manage eco-resources the same way - it's a point I failed to acknowledge earlier, so thank you for raising it.)

Every single native tree in every single Australian state is a protected species under federal law - legally you're not allowed to harm or disturb any of them, let alone cut them down without sanction.

In my home state of WA, native timber logging has been abolished completely and permanently - the entire local timber industry is currently transitioning to processing softwoods grown on managed plantations owned by the state in conjunction with private enterprise.

In my own blade making business, I need two separate state permits/licenses in order to harvest, process and sell native timber from my own land... and even then, annual harvest quotas are in place, I have to declare one year in advance exactly how much timber I'm going to take and sell (and what species), and I have to lodge quarterly reports and updates on the native timber I use and/or sell.

In order to have a native tree processed into lumber, I need to use one of several registered and regulated timber mills, and need written permission from the landowner (the only really simple part of the process). If I don't submit my license paperwork along with the log, the mill is not allowed to cut it, and heavy financial penalties are in place if they do.

Through choice and circumstance, I do not need to harvest living trees, but instead sustain my business solely on wind-fall trees (thankfully table tennis blades don't require much timber ;). Even if I did harvest living trees however, I cannot do so on a whim, as federal law prevents it. I can only take individual trees that were sanctioned/earmarked for removal (such as when clearing a building envelope for a new home, or it the tree threatens vital infrastructure), and even then, there are state-wide quotas in place.

I was not aware China is wrongfully procuring lumber from Africa outside of any official trade agreements - thank you for pointing this out.

In hindsight though, it does not surprise me to hear it. Koto, Limba, Ayous, Anigre and Okoume, are all African species, so if true, it certainly explain why Chinese blades are so cheap.

Sadly, given most of the world's blade manufacturers also happen use all those exact same woods in their blades all the time (despite their being a wealth of viable alternatives out there), it makes me think China may not be the only country ravaging Africa's native timber supply. Hopefully a lot more TT players out there will ALSO become aware of the problem, and start pressuring blade manufacturers to switch to the numerous sustainably-produced alternatives out there.

I also agree with you in closing about the carbon capture potential of Kiri/Paulownia - in Australia it's a notoriously fussy tree (as plantation species go), but sustainable cultivation is only difficult, not impossible.

I must disagree strenuously however about paulownia being the only sustainably produced TT wood. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Balsa, Western Red Cedar, Basswood, Bunya pine, Tasmanian blue gum, Australian red cedar, Cottonwood/poplar, radiata pine, maritime pine, hoop pine, slash pine, Eucalyptus pilularis, Douglas Fir, Norway spruce, macrocarpa cypress... just to name a few off the top of my head. All of these are plantation woods, all can be (and are) grown and harvested sustainably, and all of them go wonderfully well frankly when in a TT blade.

PS: Granted, the eucalypts in this list are all way too heavy for anything except an outer ply, but if you choose the right species, they can make for an absolutely magnificent outer ply 😁
Again, you’re wrong and didn’t read my post correctly: planting is not a valid option, specially for limba and its seed’s germination problem. Planting rosewood and ebony is not valid too cos’ you’ll have to wait for centuries before cutting, no one in that capitalist world would wait that much without making money. And all of the woods you have listed are not interesting the brands cos’ it’s either difficult to work with, or not enough interesting to the consumers. Pine and spruce is ok, but Donic as stopped using spruce since a while, sadly… since the end of the Waldner era.

Exotic woods are not sustainable, period. We should stop using them if we really want the things to change. Didn’t you heard about massive deforestation in those primary forests leading to climate change ´

So it’s a good thing to have more different materials involved than wood, as long as long as it can be recycled to avoid mass production, of course.

 
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Green Deal: EU agrees law to fight global deforestation and forest degradation driven by EU production and consumption, 6. December 2022
"When the new rules enter into force, all relevant companies will have to conduct strict due diligence if they place on the EU market, or export from it: palm oil, cattle, soy, coffee, cocoa, timber and rubber as well as derived products (such as beef, furniture, or chocolate). These commodities have been chosen on the basis of a thorough impact assessment identifying them as the main driver of deforestation due to agricultural expansion...

The new regulation sets strong mandatory due diligence rules for companies that want to place relevant products on the EU market or export them. Operators and traders will have to prove that the products are both deforestation-free (produced on land that was not subject to deforestation after 31 December 2020) and legal (compliant with all relevant applicable laws in force in the country of production).

Companies will also be required to collect precise geographical information on the farmland where the commodities that they source have been grown, so that these commodities can be checked for compliance."
https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_22_7444

Paulownia/kiri can be sourced from plantations in Europe as can be e.g. larch, birch, walnut, spruce.

 
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https://www.ittf.com/2022/12/05/watch-2022-ittf-annual-general-meeting/

Proposal 05 by Hong Kong to allow any material for blades was soundly defeated by ITTF

On a side note the proposal 06 by Iran, which was actually two proposals in one (net serve lets & timeouts) was also defeated by ITTF. This was a kakameni proposal combining two items into one. The idea of doing away with lets for net serves was a great idea & may have passed if they had submitted it separately.

Iran could always resubmit in 2023 AGM at Durban as two separate proposals.

But I doubt the idea to do away with timeouts would pass. I have mixed feelings about it for non-veteran events but I think they probably need two or three time outs for veterans events, just as they need to repeal the frictionless pips ban for only veterans events (though i personally do not use frictionless type rubbers i do not see anything wrong with other veterans using it. i could see some logic about not allowing frictionless rubbers in spectator oriented non-veteran events such as junior and pro events but I think they should allow them for veterans who support the growth of table tennis probably lot more than other sports in a matter of speaking) . If ITTF claims speed-gluing & boosting is unhealthy & therefore illegal under common laws (not ITTF rules) but looks away when there is so much speed-glue /booster cheating as if it is normal, allowing frictionless rubbers would be lot lot less unethical in the vertrans events. But then again ITTF makes rules & regulations only for pro events & assumes they are also good amateurs but sadly most amateurs accept this kind of force feeding as examplified by the passing of proposal 04 which now renders all cellulid balls illegal


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Release all political prisoners in TT. End the defender torture. Ban all pips & anti
 
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