Use of mechanical and materials testing techniques to create high performance sports equipment


Performance is the key parameter that determines the standard of a product in the sports and leisure industry. Testing provides deep insight into product performance, allowing engineers to easily determine material suitability and manufacturing process integrity based on quality control initiatives.

Additionally, component testing plays a vital role in product engineering with the continued development of the role of technology and sports equipment manufacturing. Companies such as Oakley, Nitro Snowboards and Alpinestars testing the mechanical properties of their sports equipment using Zwick testing machines.


Oakley is a world-renowned eyewear and sportswear manufacturer that combines high performance with great design. Using a distinct design approach, the company converts the functional requirements of each sport into high quality products that provide excellent safety as well as visual appeal.

Oakley uses new molding techniques to optimize lens curvature and stiffness for the specific application. The company has its testing laboratory in Foothills Ranch, California, where different properties were evaluated to design new products.

Some of the properties explored in this lab according to Oakley Vision Performance Testing Manager Wayne Chumbley include compressive strength and impact strength.

In line with the specific sports application, Oakley is involved in manufacturing goggles for motocross applications, which are free from problems such as lens collapse, lens ejection, and lens penetration.

Motocross lenses are made with a specific thickness and molded arc that provides both safety and visual acuity in accordance with ANSI and US military standards.

Figure 1. Goggles for motocross applications

According to ANSI Z87 standards, test procedures should quantify high-velocity impact resistance. Procedures involve firing a quarter-inch steel ball at the objective and frame at a velocity of 250 ft/s from a distance of less than 10 inches.

US military standard MIL-PRF 31013, however, mandates the use of an irregularly shaped projectile to closely simulate operational conditions. The projectile is fired at a velocity of 650 ft/s at the target, which is significantly higher than the velocity prescribed by the ANSI standard.

Oakley also uses a compression test procedure that quantifies the force required for the lens to impact the rider’s face. Zwick’s testXpert II measurement and control software offers a comparison of the results of the Oakley Mayhem Pro goggle with a competitor’s product.

Additionally, the company performs a compression test procedure to quantify the force of the lens at which it impacts the rider’s face. Using Zwick’s testXpert II measurement and control software, the results of the Oakley Mayhem Pro mask with a competing product are compared.

In addition to evaluating the compressive strength of the lens, the compression test also evaluates the performance of the lens and frame together. Chumbley, after reviewing the resulting data in testXpert II software, confirmed that the strength of the Oakley Mayhem Pro eyewear is twice that of the competing product.

Nitro Snowboards

Established in various locations from Chile in the Southern Hemisphere to some of the toughest mountains in Europe, Nitro Snowboards is the maker of snowboards that are field tested all year round.

Snowboarding is a sport that continues to evolve as riders explore new horizons. To meet the demands of these new explorations, the boards are designed by introducing new materials using high-tech engineering methodologies.

New combinations of composite materials, including glass and carbon fiber, are introduced in the main element – wood in order to provide better handling and greater stability.

Also, with the development of new riding methods such as high speed, powder and new freestyle shapes, the materials and shape of the boards have changed. The availability of new manufacturing processes is another critical factor that contributes to the level of engineering involved in bringing new snowboards to market.

Ride quality is a function of the board’s ability to move and react in the direction of the rider. Test procedures can be used to assess control and response. Nitro’s products offer optimized flex and flexural strength which is tested using a Zwick Allround-Line testing machine.

The flex and shape properties of snowboards are tested using a 3-point flex test. The test involves loading the board to a breaking point in a special bend test kit. It can also be used to evaluate current production batches.

Besides snowboards, Nitro also tests bindings, boots and shoelaces. Other areas of interest include peel testing on composite materials and tear testing of fabrics. According to Florian Lang, Head Developer at Nitro, testXpert II software is used to evaluate the design cycle and quality control programs.


Figure 2. Nitro2


The MotoGP championship, a road racing world championship, requires riders to take turns at the highest speeds without losing control of the motorcycle during the race. This practice in turn requires proper equipment and clothing that can perform at the highest level without any errors.

Alpinestars started out as a shoe manufacturer for motorcycle racing. Following this, the company expanded its services with the manufacture of motorsport equipment and protective clothing. Leather is a primary material used in most Alpinestars products.

The suitability of different types of leather must be assessed due to the fact that the tanning treatment can have a major impact on the properties of the materials. Compression and tear resistance tests, tensile tests, abrasion tests and UV exposure tests are the evaluations carried out in the company’s development laboratory in northern Italy. A Zwick testing machine is used to perform compression tests on boots according to EN13634 standards.

Leather qualities with added bright color pigments show reduced strength as the fibers tend to weaken over time. Alpinestars performs tensile and tear resistance tests on all grades of leather and fabrics used in finished products.

Leather used by Alpinestars

Picture 3. Leather used by Alpinestars

Materials testing is an essential element in the development of sportswear, equipment and protective clothing by offering various information depending on specific applications.

About Zwick GmbH & Co. KG

Zwick is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of static and dynamic materials testing systems. With our extensive portfolio of testing machines, systems and software, we provide customized solutions for almost all testing tasks required in the field of modern mechanical materials testing.

This information has been extracted, revised and adapted from material provided by Zwick.

For more information on this source, please visit Zwick.


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