Duotone NOW Magazine No.03 2022

THE SCIENCE OF FABRICS Duotone was the first manufacturer to launch individual kite models in the new, lightweight SLS construction. Now the market leader is going one step further and pushing the limits of technical feasibility with D/LAB technology. “We are at a point today where new materials allow us to create new kite technologies and to take innovative steps like rarely before. Because innovative materials have a huge influence on the shape of the kite, it’s not simply a matter of building the same kite design in different cloth. It doesn’t work that simply. I like to compare it with clothing: a garment in three-layer functional membrane must be cut differently than the same garment in softly falling wool. It all started when we used new material to make the kites lighter. In the process, we found that the materials in the kite had different properties: they stretch differently, they are stiffer, they have a different recovery force, a different torsional behavior. It turned out that this change in materials, albeit lighter, did not automatically make the kites fly well. With the Neo SLS, for example, we were only able to find a good balance thanks to the Flex Struts, which make the tips more flexible and compensate for the stiff leading edge material. Due to the different materials used in the two kites and their varying technical properties, the patterns of the Neo and Neo SLS differ. The leading edges have different diameters and the struts have their own distinct flex characteristics. Stretch properties are also something important we have to take into account because whether a material stretches by 2 or 3 millimeters has a massive potential to impact the performance. So the tension, profiles, and profile depths of the Neo SLS and the Neo differ because the materials used in each kite stretch differently. There is a lot of kite design know-how that goes into tensioning the canopy correctly on the frame, which has a massive impact on achieving the intended profile shape. The weight of a kite with innovative materials is one thing. There is a lot of talk about this because it is striking - the customer sees it on the scale and it can be quantified. But the much more important, decisive topic of new materials is the riding experience. That the kite feels more direct, feels more reactive, and has more top-end because its structure is stiffer. A stiffer material allows less deformation and therefore creates a different performance characteristic. This can be positive for a very sporty kite, but also counterproductive because the kite is not as forgiving and does not turn as well when it gets too stiff. Whether Aluula in our D / LAB kites, Penta TX in the SLS kites or Dacron: all of these materials have different properties. We invested a year of development work in the Neo SLS, although the shape of the original Neo has been refined for years. Visually, both kites look similar, but the SLS became completely different through development and is specially tuned and optimized to the Penta TX material. It is exactly the same with the Neo D / LAB, which we are presenting for 2023. It took us another year to develop the Neo D / LAB from the Neo SLS. The first D / LAB Neos all flew worse than the SLS versions and honestly it’s a bitter pill to swallow when you build a kite with new material and have high expectations, but at the beginning the kite simply doesn’t fly at all as it should. Aluula, which we use in the D/LAB versions, is even lighter and stiffer than Penta TX of the SLS series and the challenge was to adapt the profiles to this stiff material. Initially, the kites no longer flexed in a desired manner and accepted the angular momentum because the material was so stiff and did not turn well. We reduced the leading edge diameter and thinned out the leading edge to make the tips more flexible. We then had to adjust the bridle configuration to match. This may sound simple, but the way to get there was through countless prototypes. Our claim and our promise is: A SLS kite must be sportier and have a performance advantage over the original version. A D / LAB kite must be significantly better than an SLS kite in some respects. That was the clear objective because the immense additional costs that the D / LAB concept entails must also be justified by the performance. D / LAB is a project to test the limits of what is possible in kite design. If you draw the analogy to the automobile market this means: D / LAB is for highest performance on the race track. SLS is a versatile performer like a rally car and Original is comfortable, all-round and robust like an SUV. D / LAB with Aluula has the greatest advantage in the lower wind range because that is where the weight advantages play the biggest role. A Juice D / LAB in 13 square meters flies from 4 knots, is seriously rideable from 7 knots, but is still fun with the twintip at almost 20 knots. It is impressive. But especially with very small kites the material can be too stiff. Back to the car analogy; Driving over a gravel track with a sport chassis doesn’t really feel good anymore. Similarly, when there is a lot of wind, the softer kite designs that have good damping are often the more comfortable ones. That’s why our Original kites are the benchmark for the versatile all-round range and in the top-end range. Finally, SLS is the best compromise between price and performance with insane performance. Kites in SLS construction are light, very direct, and perform very well in all wind ranges. SLS shines in large and medium sized kites. Our customers seem to be very open to innovation and many of them choose kites in SLS construction. With every kite we build with new material, we learn, and the arrival of Aluula has been a wake-up call for many cloth producers. They now understand how much influence different materials have on kite design and that they need to develop new materials if they want to continue to compete. At Duotone, we are currently testing more new materials than ever before, while researching and understanding them and developing more and more know-how in order to positively influence our kite designs with different fabrics. Flight characteristics, which in the past could only be influenced by changing the leading edge diameter, we now control with the choice of material. Different struts in different cloth are softer or stiffer. An identical kite in different materials suddenly has a fuller or flatter profile, which changes the flight characteristics enormously. But finding the perfect material is not that easy: Ideally, it should have the price of Dacron, but the stiffness of Aluula, but of course you have to weigh which properties are most useful for the particular application. In the most simplistic terms, this means that where you want stiffness in the kite, a stiff material is used and where you want flexibility, you use softer material, whichin turn also places enormous demands on the processing in production. The future lies in material mapping – the combination of different materials. A kite will no longer be made of just one cloth, as was the case in the past. Instead, the combination of different materials in different places will be crucial. For more than a decade there were almost constant materials in kite construction. Currently we see a very dynamic development in materiality. I would say the play of materials is open.” Copy  Bernd Zerelles Till Eberle, CEO of Boards&More, describes the challenges and opportunities of material technology innovations. S C I E N C E O F F A B R I C S 93 D R I V I N G F U T U R E I N N O V A T I O N S 92 D R I V I N G F U T U R E I N N O V A T I O N S