1.  Introduction

Tibhar Shang Kun series Fig.01
Fig.01 Tibhar ‘Shang Kun’ series

Tibhar ‘Shang Kun’ series is new top blade family from Tibhar in 2020 season. As its name expresses, ‘Shang Kun’ series is named after Chinese player – Shang Kun. Before ‘Shang Kun’ series, Tibhar had introduced two top blade families – ‘Fortino’ series introduced in 2019 and ‘Hybrid ZC’ series introduced in 2018. ‘Hybrid ZC’ series is composed of two outer-fiber models made in Japan. ‘Hybrid ZC’ means ZLC (= Zylon Carbon). ‘Fortino series’ is composed of three models – one outer-fiber model and two inner-fiber models – whose fiber is new Dyneema carbon. New ‘Shang Kun’ series can be considered as the successor of ‘Hybrid ZC’ series because it includes a model whose fiber is also ‘Hybrid ZC’. But, with Shang Kun series, Tibhar introduces a new fiber – Hybrid AC. As Hybrid ZC means ZLC (= PBO Carbon), Hybrid AC means ALC, i.e. Arylate Carbon.

 

Tibhar Shang Kun series Fig.02
Fig.02 Tibhar ‘Shang Kun’ series

‘Shang Kun’ series is composed of two models – ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ and ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’. You will be able to understand that those two are ‘Shang Kun ZLC’ and ‘Shang Kun ALC’. But, Tibhar doesn’t like to use the common words such as ‘ZLC’ and ‘ALC’. ‘Hybrid ZC (= ALC)’ seems to be the same material as the fiber for ‘Kinetic Speed’ and ‘Cedric Nuytinck’.

Tibhar Shang Kun series Fig.03
Fig.03 Tibhar ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’

‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ is the top model of new ‘Shang Kun’ series. And, it will be considered as the main model of ‘Shang Kun’ series because it is being use by Shang Kun. As its name expresses, its fiber is Hybrid ZC (= ZLC). The size of head is about 159.5 mm x 151mm. And, the length of handle is about 102mm. Average weight is about 91 gram. Nameplate on the forehand side of handle is made of Aluminum. At the end of handle there is the Aluminum plate with Tibhar logo.

Tibhar Shang Kun series Fig.04
Fig.04 Tibhar ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’

‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ is another model of ‘Shang Kun’ series. And, it is the first Tibhar blade which is equipped with Hybrid AC (= ALC). Graphic design of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ is almost same as that of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ except for color of handle block. Bright red is applied for the handle of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ while sky blue is applied for the handle of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’. The size of head is also about 159.5 mm x 151mm. And, the length of handle is about 102mm. Average weight is about 88 gram. Nameplate on the forehand side of handle is made of Aluminum. At the end of handle there is the Aluminum plate with Tibhar logo.

Tibhar Shang Kun series Fig.05
Fig.05 Backside Aluminum plate with the initial of Shang Kun

There is another small Aluminum plate on the backhand of handle. Backside Aluminum plate includes the logo of ‘Shang Kun’ series which expresses the initial of Shang Kun. It adds high quality look to ‘Shang Kun’ series whose overall quality is already excellent.

Tibhar Shang Kun series Fig.06
Fig.06 The constructions of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ (left) and ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ (right)

Both of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ and ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ are blades with ‘5+2 ply inner-fiber construction’. Fiber is inserted between middle layer and center layer. The appearance of the constructions of two blades look almost identical. The thickness of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ (left) is about 5.8mm, And, the thickness of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ is also about 5.8mm. For both of two blades, top layer is Limba and center layer is Ayous. It is interesting that middle layer seems to be different from the middle layers of most of the blades with inner-fiber construction for example ‘InnerForce Layer ZLC’. The middle layer of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ or ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ look like Limba while the middle layer of Butterfly ‘InnerForce Layer ZLC’ or ‘InnerForce Layer ALC’ is Ayous. It is expected that this difference will make the difference in mechanical characteristics.

 


2. Blades to be compared

Because the two models of ‘Shang Kun’ series are inner-fiber blades, we will be able to compare ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ and ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ with some existing inner-fiber blades. Five blades with ‘5+2 ply inner fiber construction’ will be compared with two models of ‘Shang Kun’ series :

  • Tibhar ‘Fortino Force’ : iner Dyneema Carbon, thick construction
  • Tibhar ‘Fortino Performance’ : inner Dyneema Carbon
  • Butterfly ‘InnerForce Layer ZLC’ : inner ZLC
  • Butterfly ‘InnerForce Layer ALC’ : inner ALC
  • Butterfly ‘Harimoto Tomokazu InnerForce ALC’ : inner ALC, thick construction

For further understanding, two blades with ‘5+2 ply outer fiber construction’ will be compared at the same time :

  • Butterfly ‘Timo Boll ALC’ : the representative of outer-fiber blade
  • Tibhar ‘Cedric Nuytinck’ : outer Hybrid ZC (= ZLC)
Tibhar Shang Kun series Fig.07
Fig.07 Tibhar ‘Shang Kun’ series

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

Tibhar Shang Kun series Fig.08 Graph A
Fig.08 Comparison by Elasticity Indices

Fig.08 shows the comparison graph of Elasticity Indices of two new blades and nine existing blades.

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. The Ep and the Ec of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ are 2.19 and 1.86 respectively. And, the Ep and the Ec of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ are 1.87 and 1.60 respectively. ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ is noticeably faster than ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’. And, for both of two blades, Central Elasticity Indices (Ec’s) are noticeably lower than Primary Elasticity Indices (Ep’s).

The comparison shows that two new blades are faster than existing inner-fiber blades. With Ep = 2.19, ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ is the fastest one among all blades in the comparison. It is also noticeably faster than ‘InnerForce Layer ZLC’ (Ep = 1.90) which can be its direct competitor. ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ whose Ep is 1.87 is as fast as ‘InnerForce Layer ZLC’, and is noticeably faster than ‘InnerForce Layer ALC’ which can be its direct competitor. Also, ‘Fortino Force’ is slower than ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’, and ‘Fortino Performance’ is slower than ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’. All blades in the comparison shows the tendency that Ec is smaller than Ep.

‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ is faster than existing inner ZLC blades, and ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ is faster than existing inner ALC blades. The exception is ‘Harimoto Tomokazu InnerForce ALC’. (It will be called as just ‘Harimoto ALC’ because its name is too long.) But, ‘Harimoto ALC’ is thicker than original ‘InnerForce Layer ALC’. Although Butterfly is announcing that the thickness of ‘Harimoto ALC’ is same 6.0mm as ‘InnerForce Layer ALC’, the actual thickness of ‘InnerForce Layer ALC’ is about 5.7~5.8mm, and the actual thickness of ‘Harimoto ALC’ is 5.9~6.0mm. I.e. ‘Harimoto ALC’ is noticeably thicker than ‘InnerForce Layer ALC’, and it is also thicker than ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’.

‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ is even faster than ‘Cedric Nuytinck’ which is a ‘Hybrid ZC’ blade with outer-fiber construction. And, interestingly the Elasticity Indices of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ is similar to those of ‘Timo Boll ALC’. Although there is the problem of the difference of top layer, the players who have used ‘Timo Boll ALC’ may be able to easily move to ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’.

 

Examining Ec/Ep is also a easier way to understand the characteristics of blade concerned with elasticity. Fig.09 shows the relationship between Ec/Ep and Ep.

Tibhar Shang Kun series Fig.09 Graph B
Fig.09 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, all blades except for reference blade are in ‘Hold’ range (Ec/Ep < 1.0). And, both of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ and ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ are placed in ‘Deep Hold’ rage (Ec/Ep < 0.9). It means that both of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ and ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ hold ball very deep when player hit the ball very strongly. That makes continuous topspin at close-to-table area very easy and stable.

Four – two models of ‘InnerForce Layer’ series and two models of ‘Fortino’ series – among five existing inner-fiber blades are placed in ‘Mild Hold’ range or close to the border between ‘Mild Hold’ range and ‘Deep Hold’ range. That expresses the difference between new ‘Shang Kun’ series and existing inner-fiber blades. Only ‘Harimoto ALC’ is placed in ‘Deep Hold’ range, and is close to ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’. Although there is the difference of fiber material, we can notice the similarity of concept between ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ and ‘Harimoto ALC’.

Also, ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ is very close to ‘Timo Boll ALC’ on the graph. We may be able to categorize ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’, ‘Timo Boll ALC’ and ‘Harimoto ALC’ into one group : fast blades that hold ball very deep when player makes very strong impact. That is for aggressive players who play with topspin at close-to-table area.

And, if a player wants the same ‘Deep Hold’ character of that group but thinks that the blades in that group are somewhat too fast, ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ can be a good candidate. And, if a player wants a blade that is as fast as ‘Fortino Force’ or ‘InnerForce Layer ZLC’ but requires more hold, ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ may be an ideal choice.

 

Then successively, let’s compare Vibration Indices. Fig. 10 shows the comparison graph of Vibration Indices.

Tibhar Shang Kun series Fig.10 Graph C
Fig.10 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 the Vl of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ are 1.26 and 1.38. And, the Vp and the Vl of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ are 1.20 and 1.34. The values of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ are a bit higher than the values of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’. But, the difference is not significant.

The Vibration Indices of ‘Fortino Force’ and ‘Timo Boll ALC’ are very similar to those of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’. Especially the high level of the Vl’s of those three blades is noticeable. ‘InnerForce Layer ZLC’ shows similar Vp to ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’. However, Vl of ‘InnerForce Layer ZLC’ is much lower than that of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’. Therefore, nobody will feel that ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ is similar to ‘InnerForce Layer ZLC’.

The Vp of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ (= 1.20) is close to that of ‘Fortino Performance’ (= 1.19). However, the Vl of ‘Fortino Performance’ is noticeably lower than that of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’. Some players may feel that ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ is similar to ‘Fortino Performance’. But, there will be also many players who will not agree. And, the Vibration Indices of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ALC’ are noticeably higher than those of ‘InnerForce Layer ALC’.

‘Harimoto ALC’ is noticeably different in Vibration Indices. Instead, it is close to ‘InnerForce Layer ZLC’. And, ‘Cedric Nuythnck’ is also much different from ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ in Vibration Indices, and looks like harder version of ‘InnerForce Layer ZLC’ or ‘Harimoto ALC’.

 

Examining Vl/Vp is easier way for the comparison of the tendency of feeling. Fig.11 shows the relationship between Vl/Vp and Vp for easier comparison.

Tibhar Shang Kun series Fig.11 Graph D
Fig.11 Vl/Vp vs. Vp

On the graph of Vl/Vp, seven blades are in ‘relatively sharper at finger’ range (Vl/Vp > 1.0), and the other three blades are in ‘relatively more comfortable at finger’ range (Vl/Vp < 1.0). The three blades in ‘relatively more comfortable at finger’ range are close to ‘uniform’ line (Vl/Vp = 1.0).

Both of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ and ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ are in ‘relatively sharper at finger’ range (Vl/Vp > 1.0), and the values are close to 1.1. Both of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ and ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’  give relatively sharp feeling at finger. But, the sharpness isn’t extreme. On the graph, ‘Fortino Force’ and ‘Timo Boll ALC’ are very close to ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’. Those three blades are similar in both of primary hardness and relative sharpness. ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ is also close to those three blades.

‘InnerForce Layer ZLC’ and ‘Harimoto ALC’ are in ‘relatively more comfortable at finger’ range (Vl/Vp < 1.0). Therefore, we can easily understand that ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ is completely different from ‘InnerForce Layer ZLC’ in feeling. It is interesting that the feeling of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ is close to that of ‘Timo Boll ALC’ which has different fiber and different construction from ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’. Also, ‘Cedric Nuytinck’ which is an outer-fiber blade is close to ‘InnerForce Layer ZLC’ and ‘Harimoto ALC’. Those examples in this comparison gives us a good lesson : “Don’t hastily expect the feeling of blade just from the type of construction (= inner or outer).”

‘InnerForce Layer ALC’ and ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ are in the same ‘relatively sharper at finger’ range (Vl/Vp > 1.0). But, ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ shows noticeably higher value of Vl/Vp than ‘InnerForce Layer ALC’. ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ is also close to ‘Timo Boll ALC’ on the graph, while ‘Fortino Performance’ is close to ‘InnerForce Layer ALC’. If a player wants a harder, sharper and faster blade than ‘InnerForce Layer ALC’ but doesn’t want different fiber or outer-fiber construction, ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ will be seriously considerable. ‘Fortino Force’ is another solution. It gives higher Vp and lower Vl/Vp than ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’.

 


4. Summary

Tibhar ‘Shang Kun’ series is a new blade family named under Chinese player – Shang Kun. It includes two blades with inner-fiber constructions. Two kinds of fiber are used for ‘Shang Kun’ series. ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ is equipped with ‘Hybrid ZC’ (= ZLC) which had already announced with ‘Kinetic Speed’ and ‘Cedric Nuytinck’. And, the fiber for ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ is ‘Hybrid AC’ (= ALC) that is firstly shown with this series. The characteristics of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ and ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ can be summarized as follows :

Tibhar Shang Kun series Fig.12

  • ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ is the faster one between two models of ‘Shang Kun’ series. It is noticeably faster than ‘InnerForce Layer ZLC’ which will be mostly compared with it by many players. ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ is even a bit faster than ‘Timo Boll ALC’  which is the representative of fiber blades with outer-fiber construction.
  • ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ holds ball very deep when player hits ball very strongly. On the graph of Elasticity characteristics, ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ is very close to ‘Timo Boll ALC’. Also, ‘Harimoto Tomokazu Innerforce ALC’ is somewhat close to ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’.
  • The feeling of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ is also close to that of ‘Timo Boll ALC’ even though everything – top layer, fiber and type of construction – of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ is different from that of ‘Timo Boll ALC’. (But, it is expected that the feeling of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ will be more natural than that of ‘Timo Boll ALC’, thanks to inner-fiber construction. The value that indicates how natural the feeling is isn’t included in four Performance Indices.)
  • ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ gives a bit hard primary feeling, and is relatively sharper at finger. It is apparently different from the feeling of ‘InnerForce Layer ZLC’ which gives a bit more comfortable at finger.
  • It is expected that ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ can be good recommendation for the players who like the speed and the hold characteristics of ‘Timo Boll ALC’ but is looking for more natural feeling. Also it will be good recommendation for the players who want to the replacement of ‘Korbel’ for the enhancement of power.

Tibhar Shang Kun series Fig.13

  • ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ is relatively slower one between two models of ‘Shang Kun’ series. However, it is faster than ‘InnerForce Layer ALC’ which will be mostly compared with it by many players. And, it is even as fast as ‘InnerForce Layer ZLC’. When compared with ‘Fortino’ series, it is as fast as ‘Fortino Force’. I.e. it is faster than ‘Fortino Performance’.
  • ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ also holds ball very deep when player hits ball very strongly. On the graph of Elasticity characteristics, ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ is placed between ‘Harimoto Tomokazu Innerforce ALC’ and ‘Korbel’. It holds ball deeper than ‘InnerForce Layer ALC’, ‘InnerForce Layer ZLC’, ‘Fortino Performance’ and ‘Fortino Force’.
  • The feeling of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ is not much different from that of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ although it is a bit softer and provides a bit sharper relative feeling at finger.
  • ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ is harder and sharper than ‘InnerForce Layer ALC’. Player will feel noticeable difference between ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ and ‘InnerForce Layer ALC’. ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ is closer to ‘Timo Boll ALC’ although it is a somewhat softer. And, it provides sharper relative feeling at finger when compared with ‘Fortino Performance’.
  • ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ can be recommended for players who want the blade which is faster and harder than ‘InnerForce Layer ALC’ but provides deeper hold. ‘Deeper hold’ is the advantage of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ when it is compared with many existing inner-fiber blades. But, for the players who doesn’t like deep hold, it will be the disadvantage of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’. ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ can also be recommended for players who are searching for the faster replacement of ‘Korbel’ but doesn’t want the blade as fast as ‘Timo Boll ALC’.

 

Both of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ and ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ are faster than most of existing inner-fiber blades with similar thicknesses. ‘Enhanced rebound’ will be the best expression that explains ‘Shang Kun’ series. Especially the players who have been eager for power will be satisfied by ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’. And, ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ can be considered as the variation of ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ that provides a bit reduced speed. Players will be able to select between two models of ‘Shang Kun’ series just by speed because ‘Shang Kun Hybrid ZC’ and ‘Shang Kun Hybrid AC’ are very similar to each other in all features except for speed.

Tibhar Shang Kun series Fig.14

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