Artificial Turf Background
What is Synthetic turf /Artificial Grass?
Artificial grass is a type of flooring material designed to be installed outside and made to look and feel just like real grass. It is resilient to the weather and is most commonly used in places where growing natural grass is not an option due to location or cost of maintenance. Artificial grass is now regularly replacing natural grass because of its realistic properties and low cost to maintain.
How is artificial grass made?
Artificial grass is made from long strands of synthetic fibres called yarns. These yarns are made from two different types of polymers: polyethylene and polypropylene. Yarns are created by forcing the melted plastic through moulds under high pressure and temperature to create long thin fibres, which will eventually become the blades of the grass. This process is called extrusion.
These yarns are then gathered together to form a tuft and then inserted, using a giant needle, into a backing sheet made from latex to hold the yarns in place. Once the yarns are in place in the backing material they are cut ,at the required height, and the grass blades or piles are complete.
The yarns are then glued into the backing material using a material called latex. The latex is applied so that the piles don’t move or come out of the backing material. Once the latex has dried and the carpet is firm to the touch holes are then created in the backing material which will allow water to drain through if it rains.
Once the grass carpet has been finished it is fully inspected and then rolled up ready for storage or transportation.
History of artificial grass in sports
The man responsible for inventing artificial turf is David Chaney. He and his researchers at North Carolina State University created the first notable product.
In 1966, Chemgrass was installed in the Astrodome to play baseball on. It was such a pioneering idea that the stadium was named after it. This is also is where the generic term for artificial grass came from.Two years later the Houston Oilers moved into the Astrodome and became the first professional football team to play their matches on synthetic turf.
In 1969, Franklin Field, the stadium of the University of Pennsylvania also replaced their natural grass with artificial grass. Franklin Field was also home to the Philadelphia Eagles so by default it became the first National Football League stadium to use synthetic grass.
In the spring of 1970, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle told a gathering of businessmen in Chicago that he expected every team in the NFL to be playing on artificial surfaces “within a few years.” The league seemed to be listening to him: Six teams went to synthetic surfaces in 1970 and Six more in 1971. By the beginning of the 1976 season, 16 of the 28 teams in the NFL were playing on 1st generation artificial turf of some variety. This number would peak at 18 in the 1984 season.
Throughout the 60, 70s and 80s artificial turf replaced many natural pitches in the US. These were mainly baseball, American Football and hockey pitches. The reasons for replacing the natural grass was that synthetic turf offered a considerable cost advantage on the maintenance. This was especially true where where freezing weather or desert heat made maintaining natural grass almost impossible.
The Astrodome, as well as other stadiums in in the 1960s and 70s, used an extremely basic 1st generation product that has new been replaced by second and third generation products. These modified turfs are huge improvements on the original AstroTurf.
In the 1980s European clubs began to follow the Americans. The first European football club was Queens Park Ringers in England, UK in 1981 but they then removed it in 1988.
During the 1990s synthetic turf gained a bad reputation and many clubs worldwide reverted back to natural pitches as players complained of regular joint injuries; many more than they would receive on a softer natural surface. It didn’t help that anyone who took a tumble on the grass usually received a nasty burn. Fans also mocked the so called ‘plastic pitches’. Artificial turf was then banned by FIFA, UEFA and by many football associations which was thought to mark the end of Artificial turf.
Huge steps were taken to research and develop a new generation of grass that dealt with all the issues that plagues the first generation products. Significant advances were indeed made and in 2001 FIFA announced as quality concept, which clubs had to adhere to. In 2006 FIFA then approved artificial surfaces for tournaments. This moment marked the most significant breakthrough for synthetic turf since the 60s.
The first international fixture played on artificial turf was as European Championship match in 2008 between England and Russia. Rhino-Turf have in fact contributed to the research and development that has gone into the recent advances in the sports surfaces. We have also installed many 3G pitches for national clubs worldwide including Chelsea Football Club in London.
Up until recently the synthetic yarns or fibres that were produced were acceptable for large sporting arenas as the were similar in size, colour and appearance to natural grass but they were still al long way from being realistic enough to use in a domestic or landscaping situation where appearance is everything.
In the mid 90’s research and development moved towards the residential, landscaping and leisure market and since then there have been dramatic improvements in the appearance of the grass. So much so that it is difficult to tell many artificial products from the real thing these days.
Modern artificial turf
As of October 2016, artificial pitches are not permitted in the Premier League or Football League but are permitted in the National League and lower divisions. The two most prominent English football clubs to currently use third-generation artificial pitches are Sutton United, whose FIFA 2-Star quality pitch was installed at Gander Green Lane in August 2015, and Maidstone United, whose 2-Star pitch was built along with the new Gallagher Stadium in July 2012.
The 2015 Women’s World Cup took place entirely on artificial surfaces, as the event was played in Canada, where almost all of the country’s stadiums use artificial turf due to climate issues. This plan garnered criticism from players and fans, some believing the artificial surfaces make players more susceptible to injuries.
Rugby also uses artificial surfaces at a professional level. Infill fields are used by English Aviva Premiership teams Saracens F.C., Newcastle Falcons and Worcester Warriors, as well as Pro14 teams Cardiff Blues and Glasgow Warriors. Some fields, including Twickenham Stadium, have incorporated a hybrid field, with grass and synthetic fibers used on the surface. This allows for the field to be much more hard wearing, making it less susceptible to weather conditions and frequent use. Rhino-Turf installed the pitch for the London Saracens – View the Case Study
Artificial Grass Terminology
Adhesive: A water-based product used to bond synthetic turf seams together as well as the artificial grass to the base it sits on.
Backing: The material that makes up the back of the turf. The yarns are secure to this backing layer. The primary backing is the material that the yarn is attached to. The secondary backing is glue like layer that hardens and coats the primary layer in order to hold the yarns in place and stop them coming loose. The secondary backing is usually made from latex or polyurethane.
Carpet: The general name given to sheets of manufactured artificial grass. Artificial or synthetic carpets are manufactured from a polymer yarn. Artificial grass carpets can vary hugely in appearance and function depending on their purpose. Nowadays the yarn that created the grass fibres is most commonly made from made from either polyethylene (PE or from polypropylene (PP).
Compaction: Compaction is the process of increasing the density of the material that the artificial grass is fitted on. In the case of Easigrass this is an aggregate road base. It is compacted using a plate compactor.
Crumb Rubber: These are new or recycled rubber granules used in sports installations to improve the performance of the playing surface. They can be used as an infill or a top dressing.
Crush recovery: This term refers to the speed and ability of the artificial grass fibres to rebound back upright after being walked on, or after having dead weight from furniture (such as moveable goal posts) or other elements. To encourage good recovery, all synthetic grass surfaces made for lawn and landscaping will benefit from some amount of infill materials that provide horizontal and vertical stability as well as UV protection for blades and backing.
Decitex: The weight in grams of 10,000 linear meters of yarn.
Denier: A unit of linear mass density of fibres.
Density: The density of the pile is the number of piles in a given area of the grass carpet.
Drainage: Drainage refers to the ability for water to pass through the artificial grass.
Durability: The ability of the turf to endure heavy footfall and use. Different durability will be expected from landscaping products to sports products.
Extrusion: This is a process that forces liquid plastic through a small hole in the shape of a blade of grass. The end result is a yarn. Please see how grass is made above.
Face Weight: The face weight represents the weight of the fibres per square metre that are above the backing material. i.e does not include the backing material.
Face yarns: the primary yarns that are that are more visible and represent the grass blades.
Fibre/Filament: A fibre refers to the individual blades of grass.
Fibre material : Fibres make up the yarn and are most commonly manufactured from polypropylene and polyethylene.
Fibrillated yarn: A fibrillated yarn is a single tape or ribbon that is cut or split and then twisted to create a grass like appearance. These yarns are used mainly in a sporting installation as they do not look as natural as a monofilament yarn.
Gauge: The gauge is the distance between the stitch rows of the grass.
Geotextile: This is a thin sheet of paper like material that is used to separate the aggregate base from the soil or earth below. The main purpose it to stop weeds growing up through the artificial turf.
Infill: Infill is the the sand or rubber crumb that is introduced on top of grass and worked in to the carpet using a power broom. The infill gives the turf stability and weight and helps the grass blades stand up straight. In a sports installation the infill will also contribute to the playing characteristics of the pitch. Filled pitches Sports pitches that have had a top player of sand or rubber granules introduced
Latex: Latex is a natural product like rubber that is used as a secondary backing material to glue the stitches or loops of yarn into the primary backing material.
Monofilament Yarn: Multiple individual yarns that are wrapped together to form a yarn strand. Monofilament yarns are generally used in residential and leisure installations as they have the most natural appearance..
Nylon: Nylon is a polymer used to create yarns by some manufacturers because it is more resilient and stiff. We do not use Nylon at Easigrass because we find it to abrasive.
Perforations: Perforations are holes in backing material that allow the grass to drain.
Permeable: Allowing water to drain through.
Pile : The tufts or loops of yarn which make up the surface of the artificial grass.
Pile Height: The pile height is the pile length.
Polymer: Polymers are the chemical molecules that combine to form various plastics including Polypropylene and polyethylene which make up the raw material used for creating artificial grass fibres.
Polyethylene (PE): A soft polymer or plastic used to create artificial grass yarns. Polyethylene is less abrasive than polypropylene. Polyethylene is also commonly used to make plastic bags.
Polypropylene (PP): A slightly harder polymer commonly used to create the root zone yarn in the synthetic grass.
Polyurethane: Sometimes applied as a glue on the backing material to hold the artificial grass yarns in place. It is sprayed onto the primary backing and then left to set. Polyurethane is also used in Shock pads as a binding material.
Root zone: The root zone refers to the secondary yarns that sit below the main blades of grass, also referred to as the thatch.
Rubber granule infill : Used in a sports installation as a shock-absorption layer and to help the grass fibres remain upright. Rubber granules will contribute to playing characteristics of the sports pitch, for example the bounce of a ball and the feel of the ground under foot or when falling.
Seam: the line where two panels of grass carpet meet. These are glued together to make the joint invisible.
Second Generation Turf: This grass was introduced in the 1980s and was a dramatic improvement on the first generation products. These products were also sand filled.
Shedding : New artificial grass appears to shed some fibres after installation. Many of the individual blades that you seer are left over from the installation where the fibres were cut but held down in the root zone.. They slowly work there way to the surface and then appear as loose fibres. These will eventually disperse in the wind and with the use of a blower.
Shockpad: If required, a shock-absorbing layer is introduced over the aggregate base before the artificial grass goes down. When used on a sports pitch it will provide the players with added comfort and help prevent injuries. In a leisure installation a shock pad can be used to give a critical fall height should a child fall from a climbing frame. It is also used in gardens to create a softer and more natural feeling as you walk on the grass.
Silica Sand: Silica sand is broken down rock and mineral granules used as an infill material on landscaping installations.
Stitch Rate: The number of stitches per row.
Tape Count: The tape count is the number of tapes that make up the yarn. A fibrillated yarn will have a tape count of 1 whereas a monofilament yarn is made up of individual tapes and will have a count greater than 1.
Thatch: The thatch refers to the secondary, texturized yarns that sit below the main blades of grass. The thatch is also referred to as the root zone.
Third Generation (3G) Turf: This turf was introduced in the late 1990s and was again a huge improvement on the second-generation products. The 3G products comprise of a longer pile and re in-filled with sand and rubber granules. 3G turf pitches are technically very advanced and can now be are approved by FIFA for international competitions.
Total Weight: The measurement of the entire product in grams per square meter, which includes the face weight and the backing material conbined.
Tufting: This term describes the process of looping the yarns through the backing material. The face side is then cut to form the blades. The yarns are cut to the required length depending on the particular design of the grass, usually between 25 mm and 70mm.
Tuft Bind: The force that is required to pull a tufted blade out of the backing material.
Water-based pitches An unfilled pitch mostly commonly used for hockey. The pitch is played on ‘wet’ to help stick the ball to the surface of the grass and stop it bouncing.
Yarn A continuous strand of twisted fibres.
In reality synthetic turf is not right for every club and should only be considered when:
High quality natural turf cannot be sustained.
Extra revenue can be earned from hiring out a stadium.
Commitment to the community demands more use of a facility.
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