A History of Artificial Grass

Posted on: November 21st, 2014 by Rob

About Artificial Grass

EasigrassTo properly appreciate the history of artificial grass, it is a good idea to get a good understanding of what fake grass is and how it is made. Obviously, on the most basic level artificial grass is any material designed to mimic natural grass but which is in fact artificial. More specifically, fake grass is a substance made from durable synthetic materials bonded to a fabric backing with a powerful adhesive such as polyurethane. This is in fact a very similar process as that used to make carpets.

 Modern synthetic grass usually does not stop at impersonating the appearance of grass. A lot of it now aims to mimic the actual feel of grass underfoot. This is often as much about pleasing tactility as it is about performance when used for sport. In fact, as artificial grass originated as a sports surface, this is a key aspect of how the surface evolved in the first place.

The 1950s

Although there would be no significant production of artificial turf until the following decade, the origins of the product lie in the 1950s. It was then that carpet manufacturers invented the process known as ‘tufting’, through which large numbers of fibres are bonded to a fabric backing to create a flooring surface. It is this process that is now used to create carpets, and it is also this process that allowed for the mass production of artificial grass.

The 1960s

It was in the 1960s that artificial grass was first developed for mass production. The request for an artificial substitute for turf first came from the Ford Foundation, who hoped this would provide a durable and low-maintenance playing surface for sport. Researchers quickly reached a breakthrough, and this led to the following notable events over the course of the 1960s.

   1964: The first notable installation of an artificial grass playing surface in Providence, Rhode Island. A new product dubbed “Chemgrass” was used to resurface the playing field of Moses Brown School.

   1965: The Astrodome multi-purpose sports stadium in Houston, Texas finds that natural grass degenerates and is barely usable by the end of the season, inspiring them to look into alternatives.

   1966: The high-profile installation of artificial turf at the Astrodome suddenly brings the concept of fake-grass playing fields to the attention of the world.

The 1970s

In the 1970s, artificial grass continued to grow in popularity. With the industry buoyed by increasing uptake, research into fake-grass playing surfaces continued and a second generation of fake grass was born.

As the 1970s began, the material of choice was polyamide (PA). However, this was quite harsh and abrasive, leading to a danger of scrapes and burns. Athletes who fell while playing on an artificial grass surface often suffered this kind of minor injury. Shortly after the start of the decade, a new form of artificial grass was developed using polypropylene instead of polyamide, solving the problem at the cost of slightly reduced durability.

EasigrassThe 1980s

In the 1980s, the lure of low-maintenance durable pitches that would thrive in the shade led continued popularity for artificial grass. This was particularly true in the sporting world, where league football clubs and major events such as the Olympic Games hockey tournament started to use synthetic turf pitches.

However, there were no major innovations across the decade, and artificial grass was arguably not ready for this level of success. Players started to become dissatisfied with some aspects of fake grass. For example, balls bounced more unpredictably on artificial surfaces, and this eventually led to fake grass falling out of favour again.

The 1990s

The 1990s was a relatively uneventful time for artificial grass from the public point of view. There was a slow, steady increase in uptake in domestic residential applications.

However, within the industry the 1990s was a frenzy of activity. The success and subsequent loss of favour in the 1980s had taught manufacturers a valuable lesson: people were willing to use fake grass on a large scale, but the material itself needed improvements first. The decade was spent producing new innovations, which today are now paying off.

The 2000s and beyond

EasigrassSince the millennium, artificial grass surfaces as we know them today have started to appear. The twenty first century has been characterised by huge advances in the manufacturing process, meaning modern artificial grasses started behaving more like natural grass than ever before. Whilst striving to maintain the product’s core appeal of long life, durability and minimal maintenance, manufacturers spent the last decade and a half mastering the look and feel.

Nowadays the realism of artificial grass to a real lawn is uncanny and you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two at any distance. This realism has not only seen the popularity of the product soar year on year, but helped revive their popularity of the product for use as sports fields and training facilities.

About the Author: Anthony Gallagher is the Managing Director of artificial grass company, Easigrass, a network of award winning synthetic grass franchisees and international licensed partners. Under his stewardship, Easigrass became the first artificial grass company in the world to exhibit a show garden at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2010. You can connect with them on Twitter, Facebook or find out more by visiting the YouTube channel.

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