Brilliant Ideas | Braided hockey sticks in Quebec

Hockey sticks are currently made in China using a molding technique, much of which must be done by hand. The Bauer company in Blainville, like the rest of Quebec, wants to move towards greater autonomy – and what would Quebec be without a hockey stick?

Posted at 7:00 am

Martine Letarte

Martine Letarte
special cooperation

However, it is impossible to repatriate manufacture while maintaining this production method, given local labor costs. Louis Laberge Lebel, a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Polytechnique Montréal, and his team are working to develop an automated technique for manufacturing hockey stick covers from woven composite materials.

“I started working on this braiding and pultrusion technique during my postdoctoral studies in Japan in 2010 when the project I was involved in was funded by Toyota,” says Mr. Laberge Lebel. The company was looking for a way to use carbon fiber in its car production to make them lighter. A manual production was of course not conceivable due to the costs of large-scale production. »

How does this braiding and pultrusion technique work?

“We take about thirty threads made of reinforcing threads and polymer threads,” explains the researcher, who is also an engineer. A machine then creates the braid and feeds it through a series of heated spinnerets, causing the polymer to melt and impregnate the reinforcing filaments. Then the braid is cooled and the polymer solidifies. The fiber is thus the backbone of the material and the polymer protects the fiber and gives it its shape. »


PHOTO MARCO CAMPANOZZI, THE PRESS

Corn Salon El-Jaki

This shape will be a hockey stick handle. And the “Chief Manufacturer” is Maissaloun El-Jaki, a graduate student supervised by Louis Laberge Lebel. “She is the one who designs and implements the manufacturing process,” explains the professor. So she will take the braids, she will pass them through the row of spinnerets, then she will see if the grip of the stick is good, and she will adjust the process accordingly. »

Once the process is perfected, manufacturing can be continuous and the sticks are sawn from the dies. “It can work 24 hours a day,” says the professor.

threads and braids

This fall, the team must prototype hockey stick grips at an industrial lab in Anjou. To get there, several steps had to be taken.

First we had to create the thread. This was made possible by the FilSpec company from Sherbrooke, which develops high-performance technical textile yarns, especially for firefighters’ clothing.

“The yarn combines glass fibers and a polymer. And while it’s still under development, it’s starting to be quite mature,” specifies Louis Laberge Lebel.


PHOTO MARCO CAMPANOZZI, THE PRESS

Pultrusionstechnik in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville is another partner that shares its know-how.

The research team also ran several tests on the wire to see what temperature and pressure it takes to make plates, a first step in making handles. There are also models made with 3D braids to see how they deform during pultrusion and to predict the mechanical properties of the braid to know how the stick will behave.

“Our task is to show that the manufacturing technology works,” says the researcher. We’ve already addressed the biggest risks in testing and our preliminary results show it’s working, so we’re confident. We will then hand over all of this work to Bauer. »

This approximately $1 million project is 80% funded by the Canadian and Quebec governments through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and PRIMA Quebec. The other 20% will be provided by the three industrial partners.

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