‘Fiber’ blades can be divided into two categories. One is ‘Outer Fiber’ blades, and the other is ‘Inner Fiber’ blades. ‘Outer Fiber’ blades are the ones with artificial fibers placed directly under top layers, which is the most external placement allowed by table tennis rule. ‘Inner Fiber’ blades are the ones with artificial fibers placed under second layers or deeper.
In fact, ‘Inner Fiber’ construction is not a good way from the viewpoint of ‘efficiency’ because it can’t fully utilize of the ability of fiber due to the reduced gap between fiber and fiber. Classic ‘Outer Fiber’ construction is much better way to improve the performance of blade. Nevertheless, ‘Inner Fiber’ construction has been frequently used for various blades from various makers. That is because ‘Inner Fiber’ construction dilutes the artificial feeling thanks to additional wood layer between top layer and fiber. We can consider it as a trade-off between performance and feeling.
Then how different is the performance of ‘Inner Fiber’ construction from that of ‘Outer Fiber’ construction? For exact comparison we need two blades whose wood layers are 100% identical but only the placement of fiber layers are different. But, I couldn’t find those blades in the market because for optimum performance ‘Inner Fiber’ blades are tuned in different way from ‘Outer Fiber’ blades due to the difference of construction. So I gave up exact comparison between ‘Inner Fiber’ and ‘Outer Fiber’. Instead, I decided to examine the performance of some known ‘Inner Fiber’ blades and some reference blades, and then to perform comparison among those blades.
2. Blades to be compared
Four ‘Inner Fiber’ blades are selected for comparison.
- Tibhar Stratus Samsonov CB (Carbon)
- Yasaka Ma Lin Carbon
- Stiga Allround Classic Carbon
- Butterfly InnerForce ZLC
Tibhar Stratus Samsonov Carbon is a representative ‘Inner Fiber’ blade from Tibhar. Although it is written as ‘CB (= Carbon)’ in its name, its fiber is not pure carbon fiber but ‘Kevlar Carbon’ which consists of carbon fiber in vertical direction and Kevlar fiber in lateral direction.
The thickness of Tibhar Stratus Samsonov CB is about 5.4mm. Top layer is Limba, and second layer is Ayous. Kevlar Carbon is placed under second layers. What is interesting is its center layer. Usually the center layer of Inner Fiber blades is Ayous. However, the center layer of Stratus Samsonov CB is Kiri which is commonly used as center layer of ‘Outer Fiber’ blades such as Butterfly Timo Boll ALC. Kiri is softer and lighter than Ayous.
Yasaka Ma Lin Carbon is carbon version of Yasaka Ma Lin series. And, it has been used by some top players. The fiber of Yasaka Ma Lin Carbon is ‘Carbon Fleece’ which is not a woven fiber but a fiber material of tissue shape. Carbon Fleece is much softer and lighter than normal ‘woven’ carbon fiber.
The thickness of Yasaka Ma Lin Carbon is about 5.5mm. Top layer is Limba, and second layer is Akazie. Carbon Fleece is placed under second layer. Center layers is Ayous which is common for Inner Fiber blades.
Stiga Offensive Classic Carbon is one of recent blades of Stiga. It was announced after the introduction of poly ball as carbon version of legendary Offensive Classic. As is the case of Ma Lin Carbon, its fiber material is also Carbon Fleece.
The thickness of Stiga Offensive Classic Carbon is about 5.4mm. Top layer is dyed Limba, and second layer is Tanne. Carbon Fleece is placed under second layer. Center layer is Ayous which is common for Inner Fiber blades.
Butterfly InnerForce ZLC is the top model of early InnerForce series. It is now discontinued, and instead new InnerForce Layer ZLC is being sold. The difference between old InnerForce ZLC and new InnerForce Layer ZLC is that the head size of new one is a bit reduced. Its fiber is ZL-Carbon that is also used for Mizutani Jun ZLC or Zhang Jike ZLC.
The thickness of Butterfly InnerForce ZLC is about 5.6mm. Top layer is Limba, and second layer is Ayous. ZL-Carbon is placed under second layer. Center layer is Ayous which is common for Inner Fiber blades.
For comparison, three blades with different types are selected. Three ‘reference blades’ are as follows:
- Stiga Allround Classic : 5-ply wood. Basic reference blade
- Butterfly Timo Boll ALC : Outer fiber blade. Fiber is Arylate Carbon
- Stiga Clipper CR : Thick & fast 7-ply wood blade.
Seven blades will be compared by performance indices. Concerning the detail of four performance indices, please refer to following articles in ‘Background’ section :
- Performance indices : the way to evaluate blade by measurement
- The example of comparison by performance indices
3. Comparison by Performance Indices
Fig.12 shows the comparison graph of Elasticity Indices
Ep is directly concerned with the rebound speed of blade. Ep of four ‘Inner Fiber’ blades are between 1.32 and 1.91. The fastest one is Butterfly InnerForce ZLC whose Ep is 1.91. And, the Ep’s of the other three are under 1.50 which is Ep of standard offensive 5-ply wood blade such as Butterfly Korbel. So we notice that the three blades except InnerForce ZLC are faster than Stiga Allround Classic but slower than standard offensive 5-ply blades. When we examine reference blades, Timo Boll ALC which is an ‘Outer Fiber’ blade is even faster than InnerForce ZLC even though its fiber material is similar to that of Tibhar Stratus Samsonov CB. (Kevlar Carbon and Arylate Carbon are not same. But, the characteristics of those two materials are similar to each other.) Also, Stiga Clipper CR which is very common and famous 7-ply wood blade is also much faster than four Inner Fiber blades.
Examining Ec/Ep is also a easier way to understand the tendency of elasticity of blades. Fig.13 shows the relationship between Ec/Ep and Ep.
Ec/Ep expresses the ‘tendency’ of the elasticity of blade. By examining Ec/Ep and Ep at the same time, we can easily understand the behavior of blades.
As we see from Fig.12, the fastest one among four Inner Fiber blades is Butterfly InnerForce ZLC. But, it is slower than Butterfly Timo Boll ALC which is an Outer Fiber blade and Stiga Clipper CR which is a 7-ply wood blade, even though InnerForce ZLC is the blade with faster fiber – ZL-Carbon.
All Inner Fiber blades we are examining tends to hold ball when we impact ball very hard. Especially Stiga Offensive Classic Carbon shows Ec/Ep under 0.9 which can be classified as ‘Deep Hold’. It is similar tendency with Butterfly Timo Boll ALC which can also be classified as ‘Deep Hold’. The Ec/Ep’s of the other three Inner Fiber blades and Stiga Clipper CR are between 0.9 and 1.0. Those are classified as ‘Mild Hold’.
Even though Stiga Offensive Classic Carbon is much slower than Butterfly Timo Boll ALC, those two will give player similar feeling. So players can easily replace their Timo Boll ALC with Stiga Offensive Classic Carbon when they want the blade with reduced rebound and similar feeling. But, they will not be able to easily change to the other three Inner Fiber blades. Also, if players who are using Stiga Clipper CR want to replace their blade with another one with reduced rebound and similar feeling, Butterfly InnerForce ZLC can be the first consideration. And, if they want a blade with even more reduced rebound, they will be able to consider Tibhar Stratus Samsonov CB or Yasaka Ma Lin Carbon. If a player is searching for a Inner Fiber blade which is similar to Stiga Allround Classic but wants a bit increased rebound, Tibhar Stratus Samsonov CB will be the first solution, and Yasaka Ma Lin Carbon will be the second one that is considerable.
Then successively, let’s compare Vibration Indices. Fig. 14 shows the comparison graph of Vibration Indices.
Vibration Indices are concerned with feeling. Vp indicates primary feeling which is transferred to player’s palm. And, Vl is the feeling at the wing of a blade. It is felt by player’s inderx finger or middle finger.
The Vp’s of four Inner Fiber blades are widely spreaded between 1.00 (= Vp of Stiga Allround Classic) and 1.26 (= Vp of Timo Boll ALC). The hardest one is Butterfly InnerForce ZLC whose Vp is 1.24. Vp of InnerForce ZLC is very close to that of Timo Boll ZLC. The softest one is Stiga Offensive Classic Carbon whose Vp is 1.05. Vp of Offensive Classic Carbon is very close to that of Allround Classic.
Although Vp of Tibhar Stratus Samsonov CB and that of Stiga Offensive Classic Carbon are smaller than Vp of Butterfly InnerForce ZLC, those two blades show higher values of Vl than Butterfly InnerForce ZLC. It means that Stratus Samsonov Carbon and Offensive Classic Carbon feel relatively sharper at index finger. Those two blades show similar tendency as Butterfly Timo Boll Spirit. On the contrary Butterfly InnerForce ZLC shows similar tendency as Stiga Clipper CR.
Examining Vl/Vp is easier way for the comparison of the tendency of feeling. Fig.15 shows the relationship between Vl/Vp and Vp for easier comparison.
At first, as we examined above, from Fig.15 we notice that Stiga Offensive Classic Carbon and Tibhar Stratus Samsonov CB are in the same range of Vl/Vp as Butterfly Timo Boll Spirit. Those three blades can be classified as ‘relatively sharper at finger’ blades. Stiga Offensive Classic Carbon showed similar result when we examine Ec/Ep vs. Ep. Stiga Offensive Classic Carbon can be slower and softer replacement of Butterfly Timo Boll ALC because it always shows similar ‘tendency’ as Timo Boll ALC. In case of Tibhar Stratus Samsonov CB, although its tendency concerning elasticity is different from that of Timo Boll Spirit, it can be the soft replacement of Timo Boll Spirit if player doesn’t concern elasticity but lays emphasis only on tendency of feeling.
Butterfly InnerForce ZLC, Yasaka Ma Lin Carbon can be classfied as ‘Near Uniform’ blades. (Vl/Vp is near 1.0.) But, Yasaka Ma Lin Carbon is a bit sharper at finger (or a bit softer at palm), and Butterfly InnerForce ZLC is a bit more comfortable at finger (or a bit harder at palm). As it was when we examine Elasticity Indices, Butterfly InnerForce ZLC is also classified into same category as Stiga Clipper CR when we examine Vibration Indices. And, as far as we examine Vibration Indices, Yasaka Ma Lin Carbon is very close to Stiga Allround Classic. For that reason, if player lays emphasis on the tendency of feeling, Butterfly InnerForce ZLC can be softer replacement of Stiga Clipper CR, and Yasaka Ma Lin Carbon can be harder replacement of Stiga Allround Classic. Of course if the player who is using InnerForce ZLC want faster replacement, Stiga Clipper CR will be good solution.
- In general, ‘Inner Fiber’ blades are slower than ‘Outer Fiber’ blades or thick 7-ply blades. But, the tendency of elasticity is not identical for all ‘Inner Fiber’ blades.
- In general, ‘Inner Fiber’ blades are softer than ‘Outer Fiber’ blades or thick 7-ply blades. But, the tendency of feeling is not identical for all ‘Inner Fiber’ blades.
- Tibhar Stratus Samsonov CB is different from Butterfly Timo Boll Spirit in the characteristics of elasticity. However, if player just concerns feeling, it can be softer replacement of Timo Boll Spirit.
- Stiga Offensive Classic Carbon is much slower and softer than Butterfly Timo Boll Spirit. But, it shows same tendency as Timo Boll Spirit both in elasticity characteristics and vibration characteristics. For that reason it will be easy for players to move from Timo Boll Spirit to Offensive Classic Carbon and vice versa even though there is difference of speed and feeling.
- Among four Inner Fiber blades compared, Butterfly InnerForce ZLC is the one that is very close to thich 7-ply wood blades such as Clipper CR. The other three are similar to 5-ply wood blades. Butterfly InnerForce ZLC will be good replacement of thick 7-ply blades, and vice versa, if players doesn’t concern the significant difference of thicknesses. (5.5mm vs. 7.0mm.)
- Tibhar Stratus Samsonov CB and Yasaka Ma Lin Carbon can be faster replacement of Stiga Allround Classic.
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