‘The sportsperson is key’
Turf Systems Development R&D is responsible for the global development of artificial grass systems for GreenFields and TigerTurf within TenCate Grass. GreenFields has six international offices for marketing and installing artificial grass systems, primarily for sport purposes. TigerTurf has three organisations for the marketing and production of artificial grass systems for sport and landscaping.
Bart Wijers is the head of Turf Systems Development R&D. His department has spent years building up a wealth of knowledge and experience regarding (the development and production of) components for artificial grass systems and is constantly working on further improvements. Components such as artificial grass fibres, turf design, shockpad, infill and their various combinations determine performance, characteristics, consistency and durability. In addition, the base, installation and maintenance of the field all play important roles when it comes to the performance of the field in both the short and long term. TenCate Grass has everything it takes to test and track the performance of new and innovative components in artificial grass systems.
Performance and experience
Player experience is the starting point for our research and development work, says Bart Wijers. ‘Technical performance and player experience add value to any sport. We are unique in this respect. Of course, we also keep a close eye on playability, comfort and consistency. In the international artificial grass industry we often work with advisers and architects in the drafting of tenders. The aim is to pursue a minimum level of quality, but the end effect is that every supplier provides the same product, at the lowest possible price. There is very little room left to integrate your own vision or values into the final product. We want to show our clients that we have the knowledge and capacity to achieve the desired results. Specifications can be included in the set of requirements accordingly, allowing us to provide much more in terms of added value.’
TenCate Grass also researches the reusability of materials such as shock pads, and attempts to reuse as much material as possible at the end of its life-cycle. ‘There are three key elements here: sport performance, the consistency of this performance and reusability.’
Movement and forces
There is no way around biomechanics for artificial grass manufacturers whose first concern is with the athlete. The movement of footballers and hockey players are created in and by the muscles, joints, joint capsules, ligaments, tendons and nerves. Biomechanics studies the effects of the forces exerted on the human body. These movements are mapped out together with feedback from the players. ‘By using a three dimensional movement tracking camera system, we can track athletes and calculate the forces behind their movements,’ continues Bart Wijers. In order to achieve this, TenCate Grass works together with human movement technologists from the Maastricht and Amsterdam universities. ‘It is up to us to find the materials and artificial grass construction that maximises support for the athlete. “TenCate – materials that make a difference” is absolutely spot on.
Components and variables
The results of all the research conducted up to this point has been applied to the development of artificial grass hockey fields. This also involves the KNHB (The Royal Dutch Field Hockey Association). ‘Hockey uses a relatively simple system for artificial grass. For example, there is no infill. It consists of two components, limiting the number of variables involved. Artificial grass for football consists of four components, resulting in a much higher number of combinations.’
The GreenFields® TX artificial grass system for the 2014 Hockey World Championships received high praise from coaches and players alike. This ruled out the necessity for further development, but ‘we nevertheless began examining the sub layer. An E-layer is generally used, which provides shock-absorption. We have conducted research into an alternative shock-absorbing layer construction with different cushioning characteristics. Instead of only focusing on suspension, we have now developed an optimised suspension-cushioning system. As a result, player experience is enhanced due to a more stable system and significantly reduced ball bounce.’