Composite Bats: What Are They and Are They Better Than Aluminum?
Composite is made up of Carbon Fiber. Carbon Fiber is the common name used to refer to plastic (epoxy) reinforced by a graphite textile, otherwise named carbon fiber composite.
Composite is used in high-quality cars, boats, bicycles, and planes, including formula one race cars. Composite bat manufacturers have had massive success in the softball industry with composite bats. Due to it’s successes in slow pitch softball, composite is becoming a big part of baseball as well. A carbon fiber composite bat is very expensive, but has an unbelievable weight-to-strength ratio.
Today there is a wide variety of composite choices from several manufacturers, including Easton, Miken, Worth, and Demarini. A player can choose a bat that is made of 100% composite, bats with composite handles and aluminum barrels, bats with composite outer shells over aluminum barrels, and even some all-composite double-wall bats. The majority of composite bats are slow-pitch bat models and in the slow-pitch game composites definitely reign supreme.
There are several reasons why the carbon fiber composite is one of the best slow-pitch softball bats. First, they are lighter than traditional aluminum bats. Second, composite bats have less “sting” in the hands after the ball is hit. Third, a composite softball bat can compete with and even outperform an aluminum bat.
The lightest bats currently available are composites. The graphite and glass fiber materials used to manufacture composite bats are much lighter than aluminum. In fact, most composite bats have metal rods inserted in the handles in order to bring the weight up to normal values.
Good players who are strong generally prefer bats with a heavy swing weight because they have the strength to swing the bat fast enough to cause the extra inertia of the bat to maker a more effective collision with the ball. Players who are not as strong, or who cannot swing a heavy bat quickly, generally like bats with a lighter swing weight so that they can increase their bat-swing speed and obtain faster batted balls that way.
The closer the bat’s balance point is to the handle, the easier it is to swing. The lighter weight of a composite bat allows mass to be shifted along the length of the bat to control the location of the balance point. The barrel can have the same strength as an aluminum bat, but the lighter weight of the composite material allows the balance point to be up to three inches closer to the handle than on an aluminum bat. This creates a light weight bat that swings heavy, and offers a great compromise for the varying strength of players.
A second reason for the growing popularity of composite slow-pitch softball bats is that they produce less “sting” in the players’ hands after the ball is hit. This is known as the damping rate. The damping rate dictates how quickly the amplitude of a vibrating object decays. The higher the damping, the more quickly the vibration will go away and the
player holding the bat will not feel it as strongly. A lower damping rate means the vibration will continue for a longer time and the player will feel the vibration more.
Composite bats have as nearly 10 times more damping than aluminum bats. This is partly why composite bats are advertised as having a “more forgiving sweet spot.” Bat hits away from the sweet spot don’t hurt as badly, because the painful vibration is more heavily damped in a composite bat.
Finally, composite bats can compete with and even out perform aluminum bats. Using a high speed impact test where the speed of the ball is measured after it is hit, single-walled aluminum slow-pitch softball bats produce batted-ball speeds between 90-96mph. The best double-walled aluminum slow-pitch softball bats on the market have batted-ball speeds between 96-100mph.
Composite bats cover the entire range of performance having batted-ball speeds between 96-100mph. There is also a select group of super high performance composite slow-pitch softball bats, including the famous Miken Ultra, which are capable of producing batted ball speeds in excess of 105mph!
Even though the batted-ball speed of a composite bat is equal to or higher than that of an aluminum bat, the sound that is made when the ball hits the bat is completely different than that of the traditional aluminum bat. Composite bats need to be broken in to achieve the maximum “pop” sound. The break in period takes about 150-300 pitches. The reason the composite bats have a “break in period” is because composite is made of carbon fiber that has been woven together in sheets with epoxy added. The two products will eventually bond together once placed into a vacuum pump and heated up. Even though composite is known as the strongest/lightest material man has ever created, it still has room to be compressed. That is exactly what the break in period is for these composite bats. The sheets of carbon fiber and epoxy need to be “smashed” together to create a completely solid material. That is why the composite bats seem like they are dead when you first start hitting them.
Composite bats will never feel or sound exactly the same as alloy bats but once your bat is broken in and you see how fast the ball comes off the bat, you’ll not only be amazed, but agree that composite slow-pitch softball bats are for real. For a great website that features the top brands in composite slow-pitch softball bats, visit www.softballslowpitchbats.com.