What will be the latest innovation in artificial sports pitches?
That is the million dollar question and many are looking to design the latest synthetic turf, all weather pitches specification, with many changing the pile heights, pile density, infill rates and some looking at the construction or shockpad element of the works.
Third Generation artificial grass is a sand/rubber infilled sports synthetic surface ideal for football and rugby. The 3G football pitch is rented every night to thousands of players for training, 5-a-side leagues, 7-a-side leagues and even played on for their main games at amateur level with full size pitch facilities.
With regards to 4G (fourth generation), 5G (fifth generation) and 6G (sixth generation) surfaces, the designs are varied, at present, with some pushing a non-infill carpet for the 4G sports pitches, and yet the 5G artificial grass is said to be fully rubber crumb infill, but these are all speculations at present and no accredited governing body has approved these designs from IRB, FIH, FA, RFU or FIFA.
At present there is no such thing as a 4G sports surface
Even though the internet is flooded with '4G synthetic turf', this is actually from old designs offering non-infill products from back in the 1980s, so some could argue it is actually a 1G system. It is a marketing way of saying one company's product is more advanced than another, yet with no proof of difference in performance or concept.
The confusion comes in that there was never a 1st generation or 2nd generation, and these terms have been applied retrospectively. So, 1G refers to the original non-infilled surfaces, such as astroturf (which was the generic name). and now encompasses the non-infilled football surfaces popular in Switzerland. 2G refers to surfaces with sand in; mainly sand filled and sand dressed. 3G refers to any surface which is long pile with sand and rubber infill.
There are also surfaces known as hybrids, which are used for football and hockey but, in reality, are also 3G artificial grass systems.
There is also a move by manufacturers to go back to woven products, claiming these are the next advancement in technology. In reality, this manufacturing method was used in the early 1980s, is very slow and very expensive. There is no proven performance advantage as of yet.
That's not to say that 4G isn't going to come in the future, but people are trying to claim that it is already in place with "their company" when actually, from a FA document released in May 2012, it states; "... at the moment, there is no such thing as 4G or 5G, terms sometimes used by sales people. Some manufacturers may promote non-infilled products, but these are actually earlier generation surfaces, as predominantly used for hockey."
James Z Dooley is the director of Sports and Safety Surfaces, which is the sports division of Soft Surfaces Ltd. www.sportsandsafetysurfaces.co.uk