1.  Introduction

The representative of 2019 Tibhar blade is ‘Fortino Pro’ which is the top model of new ‘Fortino’ series and which is currently being used by Vladimir Samsonov. With the introduction of new ‘Fortino’ series in 2019, Tibhar also introduced new fiber called ‘Dyneema’. (Strictly speaking, it isn’t just ‘Dyneema’ but ‘Dyneema Carbon’ which is the composite weave of Dyneema fiber and Carbon fiber.)

‘Fortino’ series is composed of three models – ‘Fortino Pro’, ‘Fortino Force’ and ‘Fortino Performance’. The fastest one in the series is ‘Fortino Pro’. And, the slowest one in the series is ‘Fortino Performance’. Dyneema Carbon is inserted directly under the top layer of ‘Fortino Pro’. But, in the constructions of ‘Fortino Force’ and ‘Fortino Performance’, Dyneema Carbon is placed under second layers. Among three models, ‘Fortino Pro’ was selected as the first one to be analyzed in this blog. The other two models will be also analyzed in near future.

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Fig.01 Tibhar ‘Fortino Pro’

‘Fortino Pro’ is a blade made in Germany. In appearance it is similar to the other two brothers – ‘Fortino Force’ and ‘Fortino Performance’ those are made in Slovenia. All three models of ‘Fortino’ series share same graphic design except for some texts. But, we can distinguish ‘Fortino Pro’ at a glance from the other two models in the series by the light gray painting on the surface, because painting is not applied for ‘Fortino Force’ and ‘Fortino Performance’. Also, the finishing of ‘Fortino Pro’ is a bit different from that of the other two models.

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Fig.02 Plywood construction of ‘Fortino Pro’

Fig.02 shows the plywood construction of ‘Fortino Pro. Top layer is Limba. Middle layer is Ayous. And, center layer Kiri. Dyneema Carbon is inserted between top layer and middle layer. That kind of construction is called as ‘outer fiber’ construction. Overall thickness is about 6.3mm. As the thickness of an ‘outer fiber’ blade, 6.3mm is quite big value. In general the thickness of ‘outer fiber’ blade is 5.5~6.0mm. (For example, the thickness of ‘Timo Boll ALC’ is 5.7mm. And, the thickness of ‘Zhang Jike Super ZLC’ is also 5.7mm. The thickness of Stiga ‘Carbonado’ series is about 6.0mm.) From this exceptionally thick construction, we can expect that ‘Fortino Pro’ will provide somewhat different character from ordinary ‘outer fiber’ blades.

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Fig.03 FL handle (left) and ST handle (right) of ‘Fortino Pro’

Three types of shakehand handles – FL (flared), ST (straight) and AN (anatomic) – are available for ‘Fortino Pro’. (Only FL and ST are used for this posting.) The shapes of handles of ‘Fortino Pro’ are a bit different from those of ‘Fortino Force’ or ‘Fortino Performance’. Probably that is because of the difference of origin (Germany vs. Slovenia).

FL (flared) handle isn’t a wide handle. Length is about 102.5mm. Width is about 25mm at the middle of handle, and about 34mm at the end of handle. Height (= thickness) is 23.6mm at the end of handle. From the values you may feel that it is a slim handle. However, in fact the FL of ‘Fortino Pro’ fits quite tightly in hand because of the shape of cross section. Most of players will feel that the FL handle of ‘Fortino Pro’ is bulkier than the FL handle of ‘Timo Boll ALC’.

ST (straight) handle fits even tighter in hand. Its width is 28mm, and its height (= thickness) is 23.6mm. Although it is a bit narrower than some ‘wide’ ST handles whose width is 29~30mm, its thickness makes it bulkier than those wide handles whose thickness is in general under 23mm. Apparently this is the handle for the players with big hands. The players with small hands will feel difficulty with this ST handle. (FL handle is recommended for those players.)

The average weight of ‘Fortino Pro’ is about 91 gram. It isn’t a lightweight blade. (On the contrary, both of two other models in the series are relatively lighter in weight. The average weights of ‘Fortino Force’ and ‘Fortino Performance’ are about 85 gram and 87 gram respectively.)

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Fig.04 Nameplate at front side of handle

The nameplate at handle is not made by plastic but by Aluminum.  Its size is small, and therefore it doesn’t disturb player’s finger. It is very interesting that the name of blade – ‘Fortino Pro’ – isn’t directly written in that nameplate. In the nameplate there are the logo of ‘Fortino’ series and the text that is written as ‘PRO series’. ‘PRO series’ means top Tibhar blades such as ‘VS Unlimited’ or ‘Kinetic Speed’. (In the nameplates of ‘Fortino Force’ it is written as ‘series F’. And, in the nameplate of ‘Fortino Performance’ it is written as ‘series P’. We can’t find any text from three models of ‘Fortino’ series that directly describes the name of blade.)

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Fig.05 ‘Dyneema’ logo at the end of handle

At the end of handle, there is another Aluminum plate that includes the logo of ‘With Dyneema’ instead of Tibhar logo or the name of blade. (Same for ‘Fortino Force’ and ‘Fortino Performance’.) From this end plate, we can understand that the new fiber – Dyneema Carbon – is the key feature of ‘Fortino’ series.

 

Then let’s examine the characteristics of ‘Fortino Pro’ by ‘Performance Indices’ and compare it with some other models in the market.

 


2. Blades to be compared

Following blades will be compared with ‘Fortino Pro’.

  • Stiga Allround Classic – Reference for Performance Indices
  • Tibhar VS Unlimited
  • Butterfly Timo Boll ALC
  • Butterfly Zhang Jike Super ZLC
  • Stiga Carbonado 290
  • Butterfly Kreanga Carbon
  • Butterfly Amultart

 

‘Allround Classic’ is the representative of traditional all-round blades. And, it is the reference blade of Performance Indices in TTGear Lab. All indices for ‘Allround Classic’ is 1.0.

‘VS Unlimited’, ‘Timo Boll ALC’, ‘Zhang Jike Super ZLC’ and ‘Carbonado 290’ are the blades with 5+2 ply ‘outer fiber’ construction in which fiber is placed directly under top layer. The fibers are KLC (Kevlar Carbon), ALC, Super ZLC and high-density TeXtreme respectively.

‘Kreanga Carbon’ and ‘Amultart’ are fiber blades with 3+2 ply construction. Both of those two had already been discontinued. The fibers are ULC (uniaxial carbon) and ZLC respectively.

Comparison will be done by performance indices. Concerning the detail of four performance indices, please refer to following articles in ‘Background’ section :

 


3. Comparison by Performance Indices

Graph A
Fig.06 Comparison by Elasticity Indices

Fig.06 shows the comparison graph of Elasticity Indices.

Ep (Primary Elasticity Index) is directly concerned with the rebound speed of blade. Ec (Central Elasticity Index) is concerned with additional ‘kick’ when player hits ball very hard.

Ep and Ec of ‘Fortino Pro’ are 1.97 and 2.70 respectively. Its Ep (= 1.97) is a bit lower than those of ‘VS Unlimited’ (= 2.08) and ‘Timo Boll ALC’ (= 2.14). But, it can be considered as similar level (= around 2.0) of Ep as ‘VS Unlimited’ or ‘Timo Boll ALC’. We will not be able to distinguish the small difference of Ep. Further, because of its extremely high Ec (= 2.70), most of players will feel that the overall elasticity of ‘Fortino Pro’ is higher than that of ‘VS Unlimited’ or ‘Timo Boll ALC’. ‘Extremely high Ec’ can be considered as a very important characteristic of ‘Fortino Pro’.

‘Zhang Jike Super ZLC’ and ‘Carbonado 290’ show the same relationship between Ep and Ec as ‘Timo Boll ALC’. (Ec is noticeably lower than Ep.) That is general characteristic of the fiber blades with 5+2 ply outer fiber construction. However, although ‘Fortino Pro’ is also a blade with 5+2 ply outer fiber construction, it greatly deviates from this rule. Its characteristic is fundamentally different from that of general outer fiber blades.

We can find similar characteristic with ‘Fortino Pro’ from some fiber blades with 3+2 ply construction. The examples are ‘Kreanga Carbon’ and ‘Amultart’. (Both of those two had already been discontinued.) We can observe that the Ec of ‘Kreanga Carbon’ (= 2.78) is much higher than the Ep of ‘Kreanga Carbon’ (=1.74). That is same for ‘Amultart’ (Ep = 2.48, Ec = 3.18). Although ‘Kreanga Carbon’ is noticeably less elastic and ‘Amultart’ is noticeably more elastic than ‘Fortino Pro’, we can consider that those two blades has similar characteristic as ‘Fortino Pro’.

Examining Ec/Ep is also a easier way to understand the tendency of elasticity of blades. Fig.07 shows the relationship between Ec/Ep and Ep.

Graph B
Fig.07 Ec/Ep vs. 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.

On the graph, we can categorize the blades except for reference blade into two groups. The first group is the four blades in ‘Kick’ (Ec/Ep > 1.0) range. And, the second group is the three blades in ‘Hold’ (Ec/Ep < 1.0) range. Three blades among the four in the first group is even in ‘Strong Kick’ (Ec/Ep > 1.1) range. And, ‘Fortino Pro’ is one among those three blades in ‘Strong Kick’ range. The three blades in ‘Hold’ range can even be categorized into ‘Deep Hold’ because Ec/Ep of those three are lower than 0.9.

It means that ‘Fortino Pro’ can easily make very fast ball when we hit ball stronger. On the contrary, with the three blades in ‘Deep Hold’ range tends to hold ball deeply even when we hit ball hard. For that reason, even though the Ep of ‘Fortino Pro’ (=1.97) is lower than that of ‘Zhang Jike Super ZLC’ (=2.55) or ‘Carbonado 290’ (=2.71), players will not feel that the ball from ‘Fortino Pro’ is slower than the ball from those two. That is very important character of blade in ‘Strong Kick’ range. With blades in that range, a player can easily ‘select’ the speed of ball by adjusting the angle and the speed of impact between ball and racket. On the other hand, the result (= speed, spin, trajectory and so on) sensitively varies by the strength and the angle of impact. Highly skilled player can perform all-round play with fast blade in ‘Strong Kick’ range. However, that kind of blade may be uncomfortable for some players who have been accustomed to the blades in ‘Hold’ range – for example, ‘Timo Boll ALC’. The blades in ‘Hold’ (especially ‘Deep Hold’) range are suitable for very aggressive topspin because those are less sensitive to the angle of impact than the blades in ‘Kick’ range.

If Ep of a blade in ‘Strong Kick’ range is not high, the players of all levels can easily perform all-round play with that blade. Everybody will be able to easily perform various table tennis technics. However, if the Ep of blade in that range is high, it will not be easy for the players of low level to freely use various technics. Especially the beginners who are using that kind of blades tend to smash because of the high rebound of those blades. On the contrary, for highly skilled all-round players , the high Ep will not make any problem. ‘Fortino Pro’ is a blade with quite high Ep (= 1.97). But it was selected by Vladimir Samsonov, and is currently playing a role as a high-speed all-round blade.

Because of the difference of character, it will be very difficult for the player to replace  the blade in ‘Deep Hold’ range to the blade in ‘Strong Kick’ range, and vice versa. Therefore ‘Fortino Pro’ can’t be a replacement of ‘Timo Boll ALC’ or ‘Zhang Jike Super ZLC’, and vice versa. The purpose of those blades is noticeably different from that of ‘Fortino Pro’, as far as we judge from elasticity indices.

 

Then successively, let’s compare Vibration Indices. Fig. 08 shows the comparison graph of Vibration Indices.

Graph C
Fig.08 Comparison by 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 index finger or middle finger.

The Vp and Vl of ‘Fortino Pro’ are 1.55 and 1.15 respectively. It is quite unique character that Vp (= 1.55) is much bigger than Vl (= 1.15). It means that the feeling that is transferred to player’s index finger is much softer than the primary feeling. The difference between Vp and Vl of ‘Fortino Pro’ is much bigger than that of ‘VS Unlimited’ (Vp = 1.47, Vl = 1.33) although the tendency itself of ‘VS Unlimited’ is similar to that of ‘Fortino Pro’.

In general, Vp of an ordinary fiber blade for top players is smaller than Vl of that blade. ‘Timo Boll ALC’, ‘Zhang Jike Super ZLC’ and ‘Carbonado 290’ are the examples of that kind of blades. ‘Fortino Pro’ is noticeably different from those blades.

The graphs of ‘Kreanga Carbon’ and ‘Amultart’ show similar shapes as that of ‘Fortino Pro’. The Vp and Vl of ‘Kreanga Carbon’ are 1.58 and 1.18 respectively. And, the Vp and Vl of ‘Amultart’ are 1.67 and 1.29 respectively. We will be able to categorize ‘Fortino Pro’, ‘Kreanga Carbon’ and ‘Amultart’ into same group.

Examining Vl/Vp is easier way for the comparison of the tendency of feeling. Fig.09 shows the relationship between Vl/Vp and Vp for easier comparison.

Graph D
Fig.09 Vl/Vp vs. Vp

On the graph of Vl/Vp, the blades can be divided into two groups – (1) Vl/Vp > 1.0 and (2) Vl/Vp < 1.0. ‘Fortino Pro’ belongs to latter group. Being placed at the range that Vl/Vp <1.0 means that the feeling of blade is relatively more comfortable at fingertip of index finger and is relatively harder at palm. However, most of current mainstream ‘outer fiber’ blades except for ‘VS Unlimited’ belong to former group. ‘Timo Boll ZLC’, ‘Carbonado 290’ and ‘Zhang Jike Super ZLC’ are placed in the range that Vl/Vp > 1.0. Being placed at the range that Vl/Vp > 1.0 means that the feeling of blade is relatively sharper at fingertip of index finger and relatively softer at palm. From the graph, we can understand that ‘Fortino Pro’ gives completely different feeling from most of famous ‘outer fiber’ blades.

The blades those belong to the same group as ‘Fortino Pro’ are ‘Kreanga Carbon’ and ‘Amultart’. Those two blades are also in the same group as ‘Fortino Pro’ in already examined Elasticity indices (Ep and Ec). Especially ‘Kreanga Carbon’ is placed very close to ‘Fortino Pro’. It means that the overall character of ‘Fortino Pro’ is very close to that of ‘Kreanga Carbon’. ‘Fortino Pro’ may be very good solution for the players who miss already discontinued ‘Kreanga Carbon’, if they can ignore the difference of top layer (Limba vs. Hinoki). It is also interesting that both of ‘Fortino Pro’ and ‘Kreanga Carbon’ are painted in gray.

If a player want to change blade while keeping the character of ‘Timo Boll ALC’ or ‘Zhang Jike Super ZLC’, ‘Fortino Pro’ will not be a good solution. You’d better think that ‘Fortino Pro’ is a blade in another world. For that kind of player, Stiga ‘Carbonado’ series such as ‘Carbonado 290’ will be very good solution.

The former blade of Vladimir Samsonov was ‘VS Unlimited’. It is also a very good blade. However, for high-speed fiber blade it is very well balance. (Ec/Ep and Vl/Vp are close to 1.0.) That level of well balance is worth appreciation. However, some players will think that it lack definite character. On the contrary ‘Fortino Pro’ provides more definite character – very strong additional kick and very comfortable feeling at fingertip. That may be the reason why Vladimir Samsonov replaced ‘VS Unlimited’ with ‘Fortino Pro’.

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4. Summary & Conclusion

  • ‘Fortino Pro’ is new top model of Tibhar equipped with new ‘Dyneema Carbon’. Its construction is 5+2 ply ‘outer fiber’ construction. However,  it is much thicker than ordinary ‘outer fiber’ blades, and as a result it shows very unique characteristics as an ‘outer fiber’ blade.
  • ‘Fortino Pro’ is a fast, but not extremely fast blade when player hit ball softly. However, ‘Fortino Pro’ gives very strong kick if player hit ball strongly. Therefore it is easy to control at soft impact, and is very fast at strong impact. That kind of characteristic gives highly skilled all-round player very wide range of ‘adjustment’. However, the player who have accustomed to blades that holds ball deep at strong impact will feel that ‘Fortino Pro’ is very strange. The elasticity characteristic of ‘Fortino Pro’ is similar to that of some thick 3+2 ply fiber blades with Hinoki top layer such as ‘Kreanga Carbon’ and ‘Amultart’.
  • ‘Fortino Pro’ is basically very hard blade. However, the feeling that is transferred to fingertip of index finger is very soft. (Vl is much lower than Vp.) On the contrary, ordinary ‘outer fiber’ blades such as ‘Timo Boll ALC’, ‘Zhang Jike Super ZLC’ and ‘Carbonado 290’ those are basically softer than ‘Fortino Pro’ but give sharper feeling to index finger. The vibration characteristic of ‘Fortino Pro’ is also similar to that of thick 3+2 ply fiber blades with Hinoki top layer (‘Kreanga Carbon’ and ‘Amultart’).
  • ‘Fortino Pro’ is specialized to modern all-round play. In that case ‘all-round’ doesn’t mean that the blade is slow. ‘Fortino Pro’ is the blade for the players who want make speedy ball by compact swing. Thanks to its unique characteristics, ‘Fortino Pro’ is also very good for fast attack at close-to-table area.

 

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