Now in 2017, the top rubbers of Stiga are Airoc series, Airoc Astro series and newly launched Mantra series. Those three are classified as ‘new generation tension rubbers’. Differently speaking, ‘Tenergy type’. But, although similar to Tenergy, every rubber has its own characteristics. We need to understand the characteristics of each rubber for right selection. For it, I will first overview Airoc series and Airoc Astro series by this post, and will introduce new Mantra series afterwards.

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© Stiga Table Tennis [stigatabletennis.com]

The first Stiga rubber family of ‘new generation’ is Airoc series which was announced in 2014, i.e. at the beginning of poly-ball age. Stiga announced two versions – M (medium) and S (soft). The launching of Airoc series was the sign that Stiga finally succeeded to caught up with the mainstream rubber technology which can be called as ‘new generation’ tension rubber or ‘spin-oriented’ tension rubber. During five years from 2009 to 2013, most of table tennis companies had followed Butterfly and had launched many rubbers those are similar to Tenergy series in both of appearance and characteristics. However, until 2013 what Stiga had launched were Calibra series and Calibra LT series those are no more than the advanced version of tension rubber before 2009, i.e. old generation. Although old generation doesn’t mean worse technology or worse performance, it is far from what has been needed from market. But, finally in 2014, Stiga successfully became one of the table tennis company those have top class rubber of ‘new generation’. Astonishingly Stiga Airoc is made in Japan. Except for Tenergy, most of ‘new generation’ tension rubbers are made in Germany.

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© Stiga Table Tennis [stigatabletennis.com]

One year after the launching of Airoc series, Stiga announced Airoc Astro series which is different variation of Airoc series. Also in two versions – M (medium) and S (soft). At that time, poly ball had settled in table tennis during one year. The key characteristics of Airoc Astro is improved speed. Airoc Astro provides higher speed than original Airoc, while keeping the spin capability of original Airoc. On the contrary, original Airoc provides better control, while providing the same level of spin as Airoc Astro. It can be interpreted that Airoc Astro is ‘Power’ version while original Airoc is ‘Control’ version.

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Above picture shows Airoc Astro M with red top sheet and Airoc with black top sheet. The top sheets of Airoc and Airoc Astro are similar to each other. In fact the red color of Airoc Astro is a bit different from that of Airoc, although I didn’t taken the picture of red Airoc. Maybe it is because of the difference of rubber formulas. But, the chemical formulas of two rubbers haven’t been announced at all. You will not notice the difference of color if we don’t examine two rubbers very carefully. And, also the color can vary with the production lot of each time.

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The color of the sponge of Airoc and Airoc Astro is ‘blue’, and it makes the appearance of Airoc / Airoc Astro very unique. The sponge of Airoc Astro is the same as that of Airoc. There isn’t any difference in appearance, and also in chemical formula. Even there isn’t the difference of the size of pore. This blue sponge with visible pore is the reason why we can classify Airoc and Airoc  Astro as ‘new generation’ – i.e. Tenergy type – tension rubbers. The formula of this sponge is not different from that of the famous ‘spring sponge’ of Butterfly Tenergy series, although there is the difference of color between Airoc sponge and Tenergy sponge. But, it is noticed that there is difference in the fine tuning of tension effect. The sponge of Airoc is rolled up to sponge side, while the sponge of Tenergy isn’t rolled up to any side. This difference makes the difference between the feeling of Airoc and Tenergy 05 in spite of the similarity between Airoc M and Tenergy 05.

The density of M (medium) version is 48.0 degree (average), and the density of S (soft) version is 43.0 degree (average). It can be estimated that M is about 36.0 degree and S is about 32.0 degree in Butterfly standard. (Butterfly is using different scale of sponge density.) Please note that there is always the variation or deviation of sponge density due to the production process of table tennis rubber. So usually 48.0 degree means 46.0 ~ 50.0 degree, and 43.0 degree means 41.0~45.0 degree.

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As is shown in above picture, there isn’t any difference between the pimple geometry of Airoc and that of Airoc Astro. The height of pimple is about 0.8mm, and the diameter of pimple is about 1.6~1.7mm. Also the distance between pimple and pimple is about 2.2~2.3mm. The shape of pimple is not a truncated cone but cylinder. This pimple geometry is very similar to that of Butterfly Tenergy 05 or Tibhar Evolution series.  (And of course, for that reason it is apparently different from the pimple geometry of Tenergy 64 or Tibhar Quantum whose pimple distance is about 2.6~2.7mm.)

In spite of identical geometry, Airoc and Airoc Astro are apparently different from each other. None of those two is 100% similar to Tenergy 05 in characteristics. But, between Airoc M and Airoc Astro M, what is closer to  Tenergy 05 is Airoc M, although still there is noticeable difference in feeling. Both of Tenergy 05 and Airoc M provides reduced rebound for the high ability of control. But, Airoc M is a bit slower than Tenergy 05. On the contrary, Airoc Astro M is much faster than Tenergy 05. Airoc Astro M can be compared with Tenergy 64, although Tenergy 64 is much softer than Airoc Astro M due to longer distance between pimple and pimple. In fact, it is difficult find the rubber that is faster than Airoc Astro M. (Airoc Astro S is slower than Airoc Astro S because of the relative softness.)

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‘The same kind of technology’ doesn’t mean ‘the same product’. Even in Stiga range Airoc and Airoc Astro are different from each other although those two share the same technology. Each model has its uniqueness, and distinguished from other models. Airoc or Airoc Astro doesn’t need to be same as Tenergy or Evolution.

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What is important is the fact that Stiga can now compete face to face with other table tennis makers those have had ‘new generation tension rubbers’. And, it is expected that more various models or more advanced models will be launched. Already launched Mantra is good example. Another important fact is that the new generation tension rubbers of Stiga are not produced in Germany but in Japan, although those are not produced in the same factory as Butterfly Tenergy. It will be interesting to observe the competition between Japanese technology and German technology.

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Summary

  • Stiga Airoc & Airoc Astro are classified as ‘new generation’ (= Tenergy type) tension rubber.
  • Physical dimension of Airoc & Airoc Astro is similar to that of Tenergy 05.
  • Airoc and Airoc Astro share the same sponge with two density variations – M (avg. 48º) and S (avg. 43º).
  • Sponge of Airoc & Airoc Astro is similar to that of Tenergy. But, differently from the sponge of Tenergy, it rolls up to sponge side.
  • The difference between Airoc & Airoc Astro seems to be the chemical formula of top sheet.
  • Airoc Astro is a very fast rubber which is faster than most of ‘new generation’ tension rubbers.
  • Airoc is not fast. But, it provides very good control and high level of spin capability.

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