Using mechanical testing techniques and materials 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 in-depth insight into product performance, allowing engineers to easily determine material suitability and manufacturing process integrity based on quality control initiatives.

In addition, component testing plays a vital role in product engineering with the continuous development of the role of sports equipment technology and manufacturing. Companies such as Oakley, Nitro snowboards and Alpinestars test 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 the curvature and stiffness of the lens for the specific application. The company has its testing lab in Foothills Ranch, California, where different properties have been evaluated to design new products.

Some of the properties explored in this lab according to Wayne Chumbley, director of vision performance testing at Oakley, include compressive strength and impact resistance.

In accordance with the specific sports application, Oakley is involved in the manufacture of goggles for motocross applications, which do not have any problems like collapse, ejection and lens penetration.

Motocross lenses are manufactured 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 must quantify impact resistance at high speed. The procedures involve firing a quarter-inch steel ball at the lens and frame at a speed of 250 feet / s from a distance of less than 10 inches.

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

Oakley also uses a compression testing procedure that quantifies the force required for the lens to strike 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.

In addition, the company performs a compression testing procedure to quantify the force of the lens at which it hits the rider’s face. Using Zwick’s testXpert II measurement and control software, the results of the Oakley Mayhem Pro goggle with a competitor’s product are compared.

Besides evaluating the compressive strength of the lens, the compression test also evaluates the performance of the lens and frame together. Chumbley, after reviewing the data obtained in the testXpert II software, confirmed that the strength of the Oakley Mayhem Pro goggle is twice that of the competitor’s 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 manufacturer of field tested snowboards all year round.

Snowboarding is a sport that continues to change 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 being introduced into the main element – wood to provide better handling and stability.

In addition, with the development of new riding methods such as high speed, powder and new forms of freestyle, the materials and shape of the boards have been 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.

The quality of the glide depends on the ability of the board to move and react in the direction of the rider. Test procedures can be used to assess control and response. Nitro products offer optimized torsional bending and flexural strength which are 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 point of failure in a special flex test kit. It can also be used to evaluate ongoing production lots.

In addition to snowboards, Nitro also performs tests on bindings, boots and boot laces. Other areas of interest include peel testing on composite materials and fabric tear testing. According to Florian Lang, lead 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 manufacturer of motorcycle racing footwear. Subsequently, the company expanded its services with the manufacture of protective gear and clothing for motorsport. Leather is a primary material used in most Alpinestars products.

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

Leather grades that are added with brightly colored pigments have reduced strength as the fibers tend to weaken over time. Alpinestars performs tensile and tear strength tests on all grades of leather and fabrics used in finished products.

Leather used by Alpinestars

Figure 3. Leather used by Alpinestars

Material testing is an essential part 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 offer customized solutions for almost any test task required in modern mechanical material testing.

This information was obtained, reviewed and adapted from documents provided by Zwick.

For more information on this source, please visit Zwick.

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