Synthetic turf is a grass-like surface manufactured from synthetic materials. It is most often used in arenas for sports that were originally played on natural grass. It is being used for leisure and landscaping as well.
Production of synthetic turf
The basic material consists of polypropylene or polyethylene granules. These pellets are melted and pressed through a die. Depending on the extrusion method used, this creates long yarns or a film that will be cut into individual yarns. There are several ways of extruding yarns, resulting in different yarn structures.
Tufting and finishing the carpet
The yarns are then tufted into a polypropylene fabric. The technology of tufting domestic carpet is also used for synthetic turf: hundreds of needles are positioned on a beam, each needle pulls a yarn through the fabric and forms a loop as the needle returns. The loop is cut, so that the fibres will stand upright as a tuft. Lines are tufted or glued (during installation) into the turf in a different colour, depending on the usage of the turf.
To attach the fibres onto the fabric, a layer of binding agent is applied onto the backing and then hardened.
The synthetic turf is then transported in rolls to the customer.
Installing the pitch
The turf is installed on a suitable base, depending on its application and the seams of the rolls will be attached with glue and tape or are sewn together. The attachment of the turf to the ground depends on the kind of carpet and application.
Depending on its further use, the turf can be filled with various combinations of sand and/or rubber, TPE, EPDM, etc. to add stability and ensure specific playing characteristics.
The first large scale sports synthetic turf pitch was installed in 1965 in the Astrodome, Houston, Texas. The use of synthetic turf became widespread both outdoor and indoor in the 1970s in the USA, mainly for baseball and American Football. The first synthetic turf systems were hard and didn’t have the aesthetics of natural grass.
Synthetic turf got a second impulse in 1976. During the Olympic games of Montréal (Canada), hockey matches were played on a nylon synthetic turf. Over the past decades, new developments in synthetic turf for hockey have been introduced, resulting in various types of water based, sand dressed and sand filled systems. Most hockey competitions are now played on synthetic turf. The introduction of synthetic turf has significantly changed the sport of hockey, making the game faster and enabling new playing techniques.
In the 1980’s the industry started to design synthetic turf specifically for football. The systems were designed with a short pile and sand infill.
In the 1990’s the first synthetic turf systems with sand and rubber infill were introduced. The player’s comfort became more and more important in the design of new football systems.
The newest generation of synthetic turf combines the playing characteristics and look & feel of natural turf, with the advantages of synthetic turf.
The use of synthetic turf for football is now supported by UEFA, FIFA and many national federations.