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Coats stories

Better, stronger, faster…

Composites in sports looks set to give science fiction a run for its money…

The 1970s show The Six Million Dollar Man imagined a ‘bionic’ man rebuilt with nuclear powered limbs and implants to be ‘better than he was before'. Forty years on and the latest application of composite fibres in sports looks set to give science fiction a run for its money…

We have been enjoying and taking part in sport as far back as 760BC – the first recorded date of the Olympic Games – and it brings us together in a way that few other pursuits can. Watching sportsmen and women compete against each other (and the clock) to achieve the highest jump, the fastest run or the perfect score gives us a shared experience that transcends language, creed and ethnicity.


Supporting the sporting elite is an industry that seeks to match the skill and dedication of the highest performers, with cutting-edge sportswear and goods offering a critical competitive edge. Latterly, this has come in the form of composite materials that offer lighter weight, increased tensile strength, durability, impact absorption, resistance and stiffness to improve performance, whatever the sport.

Composites are made from blending two or more base materials together, to give a range of benefits that supersede the properties of the original materials. This new era in technology is helping professional athletes to improve performance year on year, coupled with a corresponding trickle-down effect for amateur athletes as that same technology works its way into mass production.

Market data: A recent report estimates that the size of the sports composites market will reach $3.75bn by 2021 

From the sports arena to the high street, composite fibres are finding their way into every facet of sporting life, appearing in around 70% of the equipment/sportswear for the most popular sports and recreational activities.

  • The surfing industry was one of the earliest adopter of composites, using new technology from the second world war to produce the first fibreglass surfboard in 1946.
  • Similarly, bike frames have utilised technology originally used in the aircraft and boating industries to come up with frames that offer the requisite lightness, rigidity, durability and shock absorption demanded by the sport.
  • Tennis racquets have ditched wooden frames in favour of composites, improving the strength-to-weight ratio of frames and giving professionals – and amateurs – better control and greater accuracy of ‘swing’.
  • In golf, composite shafts provide the same stability and consistency of steel, but are lighter, so reduce fatigue and the chance of injury for players.
  • Composite skis typically use composite material above and below a wooden core, to give extra strength and flexibility, and reduced weight.
  • Composites used in running shoes are helping to improve performance while protecting against injury, providing rear foot stability and arch support, and cushioning the foot against impact while improving propulsion.

It is an important market for Coats – around 300m pairs of sports and athletic shoes are made every year using Coats thread and zips – and we have longstanding relationships with sports footwear manufacturers and some of the world’s foremost sports footwear brands, who know they can call upon our technical knowledge to help them improve their latest designs and their manufacturers’ quality and productivity.

A custom range of composite fibres combines light weight and strength for high performance sporting equipment.  

Our Performance Materials team is able to draw on advanced engineering facilities such as our state-of-the-art carbon room. This has been built to develop high performance, lightweight, heavy duty and fully customisable composite constructions, including carbon processing units, aramid converting lines and fibreglass processing equipment. By commingling carbon and various thermoplastic fibres, we can produce advanced thermoplastic parts for sporting goods (and for clients in other markets such as wind, automotive and aerospace).



Estimated size of sports composites market by 2021. 


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