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Enduringly superior play properties thanks to polyurethane raw materials from Bayer MaterialScience

Bayer MaterialScience AG : 15 March, 2006  (Company News)
The surface of the adidas +Teamgeist consists of different layers, which together are responsible for the outstanding properties of the soccer ball, ranging from a precise kicking behavior to a very small water uptake. For the manufacture of these layers the polyurethane raw material Impranil from Bayer MaterialScience is used.
The days in which soccer balls were made of leather are long gone. Since the introduction of synthetic materials, which represented a significant advance in ball technology, the properties of athletic balls have been continuously improved. The ball developers have come up with a pioneering breakthrough for the World Cup 2006: The outer skin of the adidas +Teamgeist, the Official Ball of the World Cup 2006, is no longer made up of 32 pentagons and hexagons but rather 14 large panels with shapes resembling propellers and turbines. Special measures have been taken to protect the novel surface, which is partly responsible for the superior play properties of the +Teamgeist: An aliphatic polyurethane topcoat formulated with raw materials from Bayer MaterialScience AG essentially places it and the printed design “under glass,” making the cover extremely resistant to abrasion. Polyurethane products from Bayer MaterialScience are also responsible for several other outstanding properties of the +Teamgeist.

“Our mission was to find a coating that can be applied evenly to the new, disparately shaped panels. The coating could not be sticky, and it had to ensure that the ball would retain its unique appearance for a long time,” said Thomas Michaelis, an expert for textile coatings at the Coatings, Adhesives, Sealants Business Unit of Bayer MaterialScience. The coating technology developed by his team and used here satisfies all of these requirements. Whereas the topcoat of Impranil ELH-A is primarily responsible for the abrasion resistance, the aliphatic intermediate coat with Impranil HS 85 LN makes the ball very durable and extraordinarily elastic.

Thomas Michaelis, expert for textile coatings at Bayer MaterialScience, and football player Rudi Völler talk in front of a test plant for the processing of thermoactivated adhesives. Such a system based on a waterborne polyurethane dispersion from the Dispercoll U product line from Bayer MaterialScience is used for the seamless bonding of the +Teamgeist.

The total length of the panel lines of the +Teamgeist is more than 15 percent shorter than with the previous model. This revolutionary construction is one of the reasons why the outer skin of the World Cup ball is very smooth and perfectly round. Measurements of the diameter at 16 different locations per ball show that the deviation between the largest and smallest diameters is not more than one percent. Another important factor for the exact curvature is that the thickness of the layer with the syntactic polyurethane foam of Impranil has been increased from 0.9 to 1.1 millimeters compared to the Roteiro, the ball used at the 2004 European Championships. This foam is comprised of evenly-sized, gas-filled and resilient microcells and makes the +Teamgeist especially dimensionally stable. It is also responsible for the ball’s high restoring forces, which guarantee a precise trajectory.

“The rounder the ball, the more balanced it is in flight and thus the more accurately it can be kicked. The +Teamgeist is extremely consistent regardless of where it is struck,” said André Pechtold, Project Leader of Technical Development at adidas. This was demonstrated in part by tests in the adidas testing lab, in which the ball was “kicked” repeatedly at a target by a high-tech robotic leg with precisely adjustable force and at a precisely adjustable angle. “With the new ball, the range in variation of the trajectory is one-third smaller than with the previous model,” said Pechtold.

Soccer is played in just about any weather, and only a few of the stadiums for World Cup 2006 have roofs that can be closed at the push of a button. The +Teamgeist therefore has to retain its excellent properties even if it rains or the grass is wet. It is, in fact, practically impermeable to water. When placed in a tank filled with water and rotated 250 times, its weight increases by a maximum of 0.1 percent. This easily exceeds the strict standards for the “FIFA Approved” quality seal, which allows for a weight gain of up to 10 percent in this test.

The materials experts at Bayer, who have been supporting adidas in the development of World Cup soccer balls since 1984, played a major role in the weather-resistance of the +Teamgeist. “One factor for the low water absorption are the properties of the Impranil raw materials in the coating. Furthermore, the “Thermo-Bonding Technology” used makes the +Teamgeist essentially seamless,” said Michaelis. This bonding technology was developed and patented by adidas. A raw material from Bayer MaterialScience is used here as well: The thermoactivated adhesive is based on a waterborne polyurethane dispersion from the Dispercoll U product line.
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