The first use of carbon fiber reinforcement for the frames of swimming goggles has made it possible to cut the weight, reduce the drag, and improve the comfort of this critical component of the gear used by athletes in professional, triathlon, and other high-performance competitions.
The new goggles, called Carbon Race, were introduced this month by blueseventy, which supplies swimming products for competitive athletes. Blue Fuzion Group developed the goggles, whose two eyecup frames are molded from a Beetle carbon fiber-reinforced polyamide 66 compound formulated for the application by Teknor Apex UK Ltd.
Until now, the industry used polycarbonate for the eyecup frames of its goggles, but the carbon fiber-reinforced Beetle compound proved to be lighter, according to Neil McConnochie, Managing Director of the Blue Fuzion Group, Hong Kong, "Polycarbonate not only weighs more but is nowhere near as strong as the carbon fiber reinforced polyamide," said Mr. McConnochie. "The added strength enabled us to reduce the thickness of the frame, especially in the torsion points where other components of the goggle come together, such as the nose bridge and the strap. Compared with a similar style of goggle, our new Carbon Race product is 12 to 15% lighter than a conventional construction."
The eyecup frames are streamlined to reduce drag, have a textured surface, and are joined at the nose bridge by specially designed locking pins. Polycarbonate lenses provide wrap-around vision. Thermoplastic elastomer flanges on the eyecups ensure a secure, cushioned fit against the face.
The goggles are the product of a two-year development program during which Blue Fuzion Group assessed several materials, including the Beetle compound. "Throughout the prototyping, swim testing, and production trials, the Teknor Apex polyamide consistently ranked as the leading choice," said Mr. McConnochie. "Teknor Apex engineers worked closely with us in every step of the design and development process, helping us to meet the demanding challenge of achieving exceptional aquadynamics while saving weight."
Although the polyamide compound used for the new goggles, Beetle 66CF4, is a custom formulation, Teknor Apex manufactures a wide range of other carbon fiber-reinforced products, with base resins including polyamide 6, 6/10, and 66, as well as engineering-grade PET. "All composites containing carbon fibers provide much higher levels of stiffness and strength than the base resin on its own," said Mr. Simon Hubbard, Teknor Apex Managing Director for Europe. "The substantial increase in toughness comes at comparatively low additional weight compared with traditional reinforcing agents like glass fibers."