Competition on the playing field is dictated by rules of the game, in business the rules are less clear, at least for some.
Recently, we had a competitor post results of a self-claimed "rigorous" test, where they compared our industry preferred Ultra Cross braided, knotless Dyneema® netting to the traditional #18 twisted and knotted product offered by many in the industry. Their intent was to “…shed some light on the mystery of Ultra Cross netting…”.
The test consisted of a 30 inch x 30 inch (yes, inches) section of both nets strung tightly on a fixed metal framework, which was then fired upon by a 90 mph fastball from a pitching machine 18 feet away. While potentially interesting and certainly attention grabbing, the test is mostly irrelevant to our industry.
First and foremost, the test was set up to draw attention to one feature of the net, its break strength. And while the #18 net is proportionally stronger than the lighter and lower profile (1.2 mm) 4 ply Ultra Cross Braided Dyneema® netting, this test doesn’t portray a scenario relevant to its use in baseball applications.
This begs the question, why would anyone test a 30 inch x 30 inch section, bound as tight as a drum to a metal frame when, in reality, the net in application is mounted on tensioned cables and can be 60 feet high and hundreds of feet in length (yes, feet)? We’ll let our competitors answer that question.
In reality, tension netting systems (pole systems as well), consist of multiple components all working together to ensure the system can efficiently absorb the energy of a projectile. While the net is the most obvious, the vertical and horizontal cables also play an important role by allowing the entire netting system to properly react to impact loads. For most industry professionals, this would suggest that in order to obtain valid results, testing should be performed on the system, not just on a single component. This is exactly what Sportsfield Specialties did (see video below).
To ensure a fair comparison to our competitor’s test, we replicated the distance between the pitching machine and the net, as well as the speed of the pitched ball. The only noted change was the size of the net and the manner of hanging. Instead of an unrepresentative 30 inch x 30 inch drum-tight section, we used a 10 foot x 9.5 foot section held in place by steel cables tensioned tighter than industry standards.
The results to date: 356 ball strikes in the same area with no failures, which mirrors earlier testing, 2+ years of baseball experience and clearance from the NHL for use in NHL arenas …Mystery solved.