While wood and aluminum bats have been used for years in softball, a relatively new form of bat has made significant strides in replacing these old standards. Composite softball bats have recently proven to perform better and to be just as durable as aluminum or wood bats. Made of high-tech materials, these bats are on the cutting edge of sports technology.
Composite bats are relative newcomers to softball. Though bats made of composite materials have been around since the 1980s, at that time they did not perform as well as aluminum or wood bats. After 2000, composite bats began to improve. In 2001, the Louisville Slugger introduced the Genesis all-composite, slow-pitch softball bat. This bat proved to be on par with aluminum bats. Manufacturing processes and materials used have improved to the point that now composite bats outperform both aluminum and wood bats.
Composite bats use synthetic materials. Kevlar, glass fiber, metal alloys, graphite fiber, epoxy resins, and most recently, carbon nano tubes are being integrated into composite softball bats. These materials are assembled in various combinations and configurations for variances in strength, weight and endurance.
The materials used to construct a composite bat are wrapped around a form and built up in layers. The material is often made in a woven form, so strips of the material are laid down in opposite directions to improve the strength and durability of the bat, then glued together with epoxy resin. The inner form is then removed, and the bat is compressed and the resin is allowed to set completely. The bat is finished with an end cap, lettering and final coats of resin.
Composite softball bats have advantages over wood or aluminum bats. The center of balance of a composite bat can be more carefully adjusted and the "trampoline effect" of the bat-ball collision can be more finely tuned. This is also the case with the bending stiffness and the dampening of vibration.
Composite softball bats allow batters to swing faster and more accurately with more weight behind the bat. Because the center of balance is more carefully adjusted, the greater swing weight can be more easily controlled and the follow-through transfers energy to the ball more efficiently.
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