News

The synthetic turf industry is experiencing rapid growth – all numeric indicators point to a banner year in 2015 and beyond for the turf industry.  For competitive reasons, companies in the synthetic grass industry keep a tight lid on their sales, market share and potential growth figures. However, the Synthetic Turf Council (Atlanta, US) has said that the market for synthetic grass is already over $500 million a year and is growing very quickly.

 

This Council also suggests that the share of product sold for artificial lawns (compared with sport fields or other uses) is the fastest growing segment of the industry, increasing nearly 80% a year. (http://fivestarturfcommercial.com/synthetic-turf-a-growing-industry-worldwide/)

 

Ten Cate, a Dutch manufacturer of plastics used in artificial grasses, said in its annual report that “the volume of the global market (for artificial grass) will increase by an average of approximately 15% (annually) in the coming years.” The manufacturer further said there will be “an increasing demand in the market for fibers that bear a stronger optical resemblance to natural grass.”

 

History

In 1931 the first idea for playing a sport game on non-natural grass came up and was patented: GB348814   (1931) by Herbert Kortlang is claiming already:

 

Claim 1: Artificial turf formed by treating vegetable matter so as to cause it to expand, subjecting it to a hardening process by means of lime water and then to pressure.

 

US1968809  (1934) as well as US1949068  (1934) US1939846  (1933) and US1949063  (1934) are describing an artificial turf.

All with The B. F. Goodrich Company, New York, as applicant and also claiming an artificial turf but made out of rubber

 

However it was until the sixties of the last century that Monsanta came up with a first commercial interesting product. Basic invention: US3332828  (Monsanto, James Faria and Robert T. Wright)

 

Originally the product was called ChemGrass and developed for use in the AstroDome in Houston. In 1966 the Houston Astros’ baseball season begins on a Chemgrass surface now renamed Astroturf at the AstroDome.

 

Monsanto has been the market leader for a long time by selling AstroTurf as their main product. However after splitting. In 1987, Monsanto consolidated its AstroTurf management, marketing, and technical activities in Dalton, Georgia, as AstroTurf Industries, Inc. Textile Management Associates, Inc. (TMA) of Dalton, GA, acquired the AstroTurf brand and other assets. TMA began marketing the AstroTurf brand under the company AstroTurf, LLC.

 

Today 

Synthetic grass is most often used in arenas for sports that were originally or are normally played on grass. Mowing a small surface of grass in you private garden is an easy task, but mowing a soccer field is something different. A piece of 7000 square meter is very labour intensive and hard to keep in good condition.

 

The main reason for switching to artificial turf is maintenance—artificial turf stands up to heavy use, such as in sports, and requires no irrigation or trimming. Covered, or partially covered stadiums may require artificial turf because of the difficulty of getting grass enough sunlight to stay healthy. But artificial turf does have its downside: limited life, periodic cleaning requirements, petroleum use, toxic chemicals from infill, and heightened health and safety concerns. Nevertheless sports that are normally based on more contact between the player and grass are not very enthusiastic about playing on artificial turf.

 

Although soccer players are not enthusiastic about playing on artificial grass the Female World Cup 2015 was played on artificial green. Despite their protests, the best female soccer players in the world are being forced to play all the games of the 2015 Women’s World Cup on artificial turf.

 

“It’s kind of a nightmare,” said star U.S. forward Abby Wambach. She said that playing on turf “affects everything” from the way the ball bounces to the bloody “turf burns” the surface leaves on legs and arms. (http://www.nbcnews.com/news/sports/us-soccer-star-abby-wambach-playing-turf-nightmare-n371906)

 

However, artificial turf is increasingly common on soccer pitches. There were more injuries recorded on first and second generation synthetic turf compared to natural grass but currently there is insufficient evidence on third generation turf to draw the same conclusions.

 

The first generation turf systems (i.e., short-pile fibres without infill) of the 1960s have been largely replaced by the second generation and third generation turf systems. Second generation synthetic turf systems featured sand infills, and third generation 3G pitch systems, which are most widely used today, offer infills that are mixtures of sand and recycled rubber. (https://www.installitdirect.com/synthetic-turf-installation/history/ and http://www.tencate.com/emea/grass/about-us/Synthetic-turf-in-brief/default.aspx ). This makes the softer third generation more suitable for soccer.

 

Though it is more expensive to install than grass, it costs less to maintain over the long-term. (http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/world-cup-guides/world-cup-2015-guide/all-about-that-turf/turf-vs-grass/) That is why many institutions have chosen to use it, especially on fields that get heavy use. The turf boosters of the world, including the industry and FIFA, argue that it makes it possible to offer good playing surfaces to a maximum of players. (http://www.si.com/planet-futbol/2015/06/23/womens-world-cup-artificial-turf-canada#)

 

Conclusion (from Brian Wolfson) on use of artificial turf in soccer:\

It seems that there is no real benefit to using artificial turf for soccer fields. Economically, artificial turf is more expensive than natural grass. Next, the logistical reasons that FIFA claims for using artificial turf (difficulties with cold weather, covered arenas and use for multiple sports) can be easily remedied with modern technology. And if that weren’t enough, if the players had a say, I would bet my money that the majority would rather play on natural grass. (http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/world-cup-guides/world-cup-2015-guide/all-about-that-turf/turf-vs-grass/)

 

The future will tell us whether or not this conclusion is true!! It may be true for soccer fields, but the growing demand for private lawns is already a fact.

Aalt van de Kuilen

Senior Patent Information Specialist in the field of Life Sciences and Chemistry. Read more about the background and expertise of Aalt van de Kuilen.