Pretty much everyone has heard of Artificial Grass (or Artificial Turf), it’s used in a number of different products around the world. It is most commonly associated with traditional sports such as Tennis and Baseball, but has now become a popular product to be used as a hassle free replacement to gardens, and is even used in airports around the world to reduce maintenance costs and deter wildlife. Many people often use the name “Astroturf”, although this is only the brand of turf that became the most popular back in the 60’s, which initiated the market for Artificial Turf itself. Officially, Artificial Grass is defined as a surface which is made synthetically to both look and perform like natural grass. The history behind the creation and evolution of artificial grass is actually a more interesting story than you’d initially suspect…
The first recorded use of an artificial turf was over 70 years ago, this initial product was made in the 1940’s by a company known as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. They had developed this rubbery material for athletes to train on, minimising risk and optimising their performance. The company went on to create the Famous Artificial turf brand “3M” which is still around today. Another 20 or so years later, David Chaney and his research team in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park produced the first noticed form of Artificial Grass and saw a rise in attention for the product, with Chaney known as the man responsible for millions of welcome mats and indoor Major League Baseball.
The first big player in the Artificial Turf market did not appear until 1967 with Chemgrass. Chemgrass was used in the Astrodome in Houston, Texas for Baseball, replacing the whole grass field with Artificial Turf after it was destroyed from a year of indoor use. Chemgrass employee John A. Wortman then changed its name to Astroturf in order to receive greater recognition and popularity by being rightfully related to the Astrodome name, a tactic which has seen the Astroturf brand through to this day. The next large commercial use of Artificial Grass was in 1976 with the American Hockey Federation for the Olympics in Montreal, and the product also got the Prince of Wales’ stamp after installing it in his Garage for protection of his 4×4’s bio-diesel system.
Artificial Grass products have been on the rise indefinitely since their big introduction in the Astrodome with an annual growth rate of around 20 percent and an estimated market worth of 1.3 billion pounds globally. The product has not always been the same however, and has had intensive R+D in the past to be fully developed over time. The different stages of the evolution of Artificial Grass are known as Generations, the most current official product being 3G.
- First Generation Turf used short-pile fibres, and did not have an infill of any kind
- Second Generation Turf improved on this by using a sand infill
- Third Generation Turf uses both a mixture of sand and recycled rubber, and is indistinguishable from real grass at a distance.
There have also been claims of 4th, 5th and 6th Generation sports pitches, although none of these have been officially approved by any associations such as FIFA, FIH, RFL, RFU, FA or IRB (all of which who have approved 3G pitches). The 4th Gen is designed to perform like a 3G pitch without the infill, and 5th Gen using only rubber infill in the Carpet’s surfacing. 6th Gen’s advantages remain to be seen and seem to just be a marketing term for new pitches at this point in time.