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Laminate construction, the evil twin?

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
Vertical sidewall, laminate ski construction has been used for more than 35 years, cap construction is much more recent.

Race skis tend to continue to use vertical sidewall, laminate construction, with the exception of Atomic Beta race models, while recreational skis often feature cap construction.

Why : ?

My son and and I were comparing our skis. He has the 175cm Fischer RX 8 and I have the 175cm Fischer Worldcup RC.

The skis are very similar except construction. Both skis provide awsome edgegrip. The RX is well liked by skilled recreational skiers while racers and former racers like the RC.

Why, in this age of modern manufacturing, is laminate still considered best for performance? Is it cost-of-production or hype? What makes the laminate ski the "evil twin" in the product family?

Barrettscv
post #2 of 25
Laminate is not necessarily better for performance. It is used on race skis because companies are constantly building and testing new prototypes with various flexes and shapes. To do this with a cap, you would have to build a new mold for each prototype. Not really cost effective. I guess they could finalize a design, then build a cap mold to duplicate the characteristics of that ski, but there is no reason to. Caps are primarily for looks, and racers could care less about that.

I think the short answer is what you said.... cost of production.
post #3 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by barrettscv
...
My son and and I were comparing our skis. He has the 175cm Fischer RX 8 and I have the 175cm Fischer Worldcup RC.

The skis are very similar except construction. Both skis provide awsome edgegrip. The RX is well liked by skilled recreational skiers while racers and former racers like the RC.
...
Barrettscv
Where did you get the idea that the constructions of your Fischers are so different? With the exception of the sidewalls and some channels routed out of the bottom half of the RX8 core, the constructions are essentially similar.

The RX8 is a metal laminate woodcore ski.

Salomon builds true "cap" race skis that are quite effective. The Atomic race skis (not the production crap) are largely metal laminate woodcore stuff, with some notable exceptions.
post #4 of 25
All I know is I loved the Fischer Worldcup SC, Elan Ripstick, and Head XRC 1200 when I demoed them and they are all sandwich/laminate skis.

But I also love and own Atomics which I think have very similar edgegrip to the above skis.
post #5 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by skiingman
Where did you get the idea that the constructions of your Fischers are so different? With the exception of the sidewalls and some channels routed out of the bottom half of the RX8 core, the constructions are essentially similar.

The RX8 is a metal laminate woodcore ski.

Salomon builds true "cap" race skis that are quite effective. The Atomic race skis (not the production crap) are largely metal laminate woodcore stuff, with some notable exceptions.
Your answer is essentially "semantics". Please provide a clarification. I'm sure Atomic & Fischer would point out numerous differences between the construction meathods of these models.

Cheers,

Barrettscv
post #6 of 25
"builds true "cap" race skis that are quite effective" ever cut one in half, they look like every other laminate ski out there(and i'm talking real national team WC skis)
all design innovation went out of race skis when FIS started mandating how the manufacturers skis must meet certain criteria
post #7 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by waxman
"builds true "cap" race skis that are quite effective" ever cut one in half, they look like every other laminate ski out there(and i'm talking real national team WC skis)
all design innovation went out of race skis when FIS started mandating how the manufacturers skis must meet certain criteria
I haven't cut a national team WC one in half, but the stuff they've been peddling to juniors has a titanal cap instead of a sheet, and in the shorter lengths a foam core. I have cut one of those in half. With a bench grinder. Oh so much fun!

They are quite effective. My rossignol dualtec foam core race room skis from 2002 are still among my fave GS skis, very forgiving yet quite capable.
post #8 of 25
There have been a lot of comments made in this forum about different designs and materials, but even in the great Marker debate I dont recall anyone calling a piece of equipment "evil" before.

Your argument that since there are newer methods than laminates we should not still be using them, seems to rely on the assumption that any old technology is inferior to new technology. What makes you think caps must be better than laminates? Foam cores for skis are much newer than wood cores but do you think they are better too?

Most caps are just cosmetic, under the skin pretty much all skis are built the same. Caps are better if you want to mass produce a particular shape, particularly if you want to use simple construction and cheap materials. Sidewall has less setup costs if you want to tweak and change the design of a ski with a limited number produced.
post #9 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by barrettscv
Your answer is essentially "semantics". Please provide a clarification. I'm sure Atomic & Fischer would point out numerous differences between the construction meathods of these models.
No, the idea that there are large differences between the construction of an RX8 and the construction of a WC RC is based in marketing bafflespeak. The actual core is incredibly similar.

Ski design can basically be broken into three categories:
-Designs that derive a great portion of their strength from a thin monocoque.
-Designs that derive a great portion of their strength from a substantial core of some materials that have relatively beefy mechanical properties when compared to monocoque core designs.
-Mixtures of both.

The RX8 is probably a third category ski (as are most modern production skis) while the WC RC may just barely edge into the second category, though it certainly exhibits elements of the third. It does have sidewalls, but the design is somewhat reminiscent of dualtec.

The Salomon race skis are usually the mixture. Most other race skis today are in the second category....the topsheet is largely irrelevant.

Really cheap adult and junior skis tend to be the best examples of the first category. These skis have core materials that are primarily fillers.
post #10 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kiwiski
There have been a lot of comments made in this forum about different designs and materials, but even in the great Marker debate I dont recall anyone calling a piece of equipment "evil" before.
I mean "evil" as in the more powerful, not "good or "bad". These are inanimate objects, after all. My point focuses on the preference for laminate construction for race (or race-like) skis, while production skis tend to use cap construction.

Also, many "big-mountain" skis also tend to use laminate construction.

U.P. Racer has a reasonable answer, laminate construction is the more flexible production method, but is more costly per unit.

Cheers,

Barrettscv
post #11 of 25
I think since the cap makes a ski look sleeker, they are found on consumer skis, where looks often play a role. Racers are presumably NOT looking for slick looks, they are looking for performance, so the cap covering (which may or may not be of structural value depending on the ski) is left off.
post #12 of 25
Thread Starter 
One of the reasons I am inquiring is that I also own a 03/04 Head iXRC "full metal jacket" ski. This is clearly a cap construction method. Should I expect a certain performance difference (or flavor) between the cap Head ski and the laminate Fischer model?

Sincerely

Barrettscv
post #13 of 25
I think the cap construction allows them to build a lighter ski by putting material only where it is most effective at resisting the bending stress, like putting the rebar away from the centre of the concrete beam or using steel I beams in buildings instead of solid square beams. The "heavy" sandwich construction skis however work quite well at racing speeds, and there is little to be gained on a cost benefit basis.
post #14 of 25
UP Racer provided you with a good answer. Actually if you do a search, this topic has been debated MANY times throughout Epic history.

Vertical sidewall, laminate skis are not cheap to build. They are able to offer unique flex patterns, designers can change the flex patterns, and the shape can be changed. They are the most tried and true design and ski manufacturers know how to build them to their specifications, as well as tweak them after the "base" design has been completed. They also offer great torsional stiffness (design based) and excellent transmission to the snow - so why not use a tried a true, more expensive construction, fr your high end, lower quantity skis... especially when you will have to change them frequently.

Newer constructions have gone the route of trying to mimic the performance of the laminate skis, but make it so they are more reliable in production, and cheaper to build (if you have to scrap a high percentage of the skis you build things become expensive). So, cap skis have been designed to offer high performance and still be able to be built so that every ski that comes off the product line is the same. If you think about Volkl Superspeeds, there is little variation in the skis. A 168 in Europe will perform and feel just like a 168 in the US (assuming they are sold in Europe and the US). With race skis you do not get this similarity. the race stock skis that I get every year from Vermont or NH may be far different from the batch that was shipped to distributors out west, or that was set aside for sponsored athletes. Different flex patterns, stiffnesses (word?), and different lengths will exist. Certain designs have been adopted to let consumers think there is more going on under their topsheets, but the majority of skis are still built on a laminate construction base... although Atomic and Volkl especially have slightly departed from this in an attempt to isolate each side of the ski, to avoid torsional stiffness problems. Technically the skis aren't torsionally stiff at all, but because the design of them keeps each side independant of the other they don't really have to be torsionally stiff.

So is one better than the other? It depends what you're looking for. If you want to skis that you bought this fall to be the same skis you demoed last spring - then I would say that race stock type skis are not for you. If all manufacturers went with laminate-only construction we would pay a fortune for ski equipement... and I doubt that we would see an tremendous improvement in performance in most models. I prefer to ski on laminate skis, but that is a personal preference that comes from racing. I feel that race constructed skis offer better performance (usually) than skis built by other means, but usually the ones I ski on were built to be better than normal skis from the get go, so it really isn't a fair comparison. Basically, the goal of manufacturers is to minimize costs, minimize waste (failed batches), and still maximize performance.

Later

GREG
post #15 of 25
Thread Starter 
Thanks Greg,

I was having a hard time explaining the benefits and deficits of a laminate ski; especially when compared to some of the better quality "production" skis that are available now.

Cheers,

Barrettscv
post #16 of 25
A real reason for Cap is the weight. Nearly all light touring skis and snowboards (not split boards) are build using a cap to hold the inside crap together. However those damn caps come off frequently, as they are not build for heavy duty.
post #17 of 25
for whatever reason, delaminated caps seem to bee more of an issue with boards than w/ skis.
post #18 of 25
Just a comment:

The Fischer rep I spoke to, made the comment that their cap skis offer less performance and more forgiveness than their laminates. He implied that this is so for ALL cap skis regardless of manufacture -- as a rule, they are not as powerful and demanding as the laminates.
post #19 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by extremecarver
A real reason for Cap is the weight. Nearly all light touring skis and snowboards (not split boards) are build using a cap to hold the inside crap together. However those damn caps come off frequently, as they are not build for heavy duty.
I broke some US ski team Fischer Skate cap xc skis. No cap, straight laminate.

I never weighed them but I'm sure they were lighter than stock skis.
post #20 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by BigE
Just a comment:

The Fischer rep I spoke to, made the comment that their cap skis offer less performance and more forgiveness than their laminates. He implied that this is so for ALL cap skis regardless of manufacture -- as a rule, they are not as powerful and demanding as the laminates.
While this is technically true, I feel it's actually due not to the difference in construction, but just because of what Greg touched on - the skis you see with laminate construction are always high end, and cap skis encompass a broad range of levels. A laminate construction race stock ski is of course going to be more powerful and demanding than a medium to medium-high end cap ski, since the cap ski isn't designed for experts and racers.

As an aside, I really love my laminate construction Head skis. While it varies depending on manufacturer, I think in Head's case, the laminate skis are their best offerings - my iXRC 1100 SW is a perfect example, and I'm salivating thinking of trying out my new race dept. slaloms (sadly not going to be on snow until a couple weeks into December )
post #21 of 25
CanuckInstructor,

I take it them that cap construction would be cheaper than laminate for large volumes? ie. sell a high volume of quick to produce skis?
post #22 of 25
BigE: Yes. The original molds for things like Atomic's beta and Volkl's energy (still energy or is it double grip?) are more expensive, but because they can be produced quickly with little variation between batches, they end up being cheaper... high fixed costs but much lower variable costs. It does exactly what you said; produces high volumes of quick to produce skis, that still maintain high performance.
Later
GREG
post #23 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by CanuckInstructor
While this is technically true, I feel it's actually due not to the difference in construction, but just because of what Greg touched on - the skis you see with laminate construction are always high end, and cap skis encompass a broad range of levels...
I tend to agree. In the end it comes down to ABS sidewall vs. cap since many cap skis have laminate construction under the cap. For most, at least, I don't think that there is any inherent notable difference in quality or performance other than the ease of tweaking non-cap race designs and personal preference.

If you blow out the side of your ski you have a better chance of making a successful repair with a sidewall ski than a cap. This and the largely unfounded notion of inherent sidewall superiority is probably why you see big mountain type skis often made with sidewalls.

Salomon does very well on the World Cup with women racers. Regardless, of what's inside their skis as far as I know they are cap construction. I think the Atomic SL skis are too. I will defer to anyone with more knowledge about Salomon and Atomic though.
post #24 of 25
Caps coming of are not that bad on skis cause the forces are much lower. A ski is normally 65mm wide in the middle whereas a snowboards has 250mm in the middle, Plus on skis you have 2 skis = 2sidewalls under pressure vs 1 sidewall. So putting a racebinding with metal plate on a freestyle snowboard will almost instantly pull the cap of. Some people even ripped the inserts out of their snowboards. Therefore more and more snowboards are built using a Duocap or a Sandwich construction. Cap Raceboards have an ennourmos full metal(or titanal) cap which gives the possibility of using them without ripping that thing off.

Basically said the glue used for ski caps isn't strong enough for boards and looses power after some years, 2. Many good snowboarders use their board for 200+days compared to very few good skiers. It did no good to the reputation of the elan (biggest snowboard producer worldwide) that their caps came off.

Many of those Cap boards (the high end ones from Boards+More for example) are actually sandwich construction inside with ABS sidewalls below the cap (dunno if cap skis with sidewall exist too?), but that move was especially prone to loose the topsheet cap. (it was mainly for cosmetic reasons to put the sidewalls under the topsheet). However once the topsheet came of, the glue that held the sidewall and the edge together wasn't really waterproff, so one instantly had to glue those boards back together, otherwise water came inside the core.
post #25 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by BigE
Just a comment:

The Fischer rep I spoke to, made the comment that their cap skis offer less performance and more forgiveness than their laminates. He implied that this is so for ALL cap skis regardless of manufacture -- as a rule, they are not as powerful and demanding as the laminates.
That is simply untrue...but it came out of a rep's mouth so thats not terribly surprising.

Its very possible (and indeed examples exist) to build a cap ski that is more demanding/better than a sandwich ski. Its very possible to build a sandwich ski that is better and more demanding than a cap ski. Also, "powerful and demanding" doesn't directly imply "better", though a Fischer rep would be likely to make that claim. Conversely, I doubt you'd ever hear a Salomon rep make that claim.

Much of the decision lies in the feel the designers are looking for, and as others have noted, the quantity they plan to produce and the cost they plan to sell them for.
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