Story of Manufacturing

Shaft development tale
Providing armor and wings for all golfers

Prologue

写真1

In the fall of 2005, Japan was gripped by the impending participation of a certain female professional tour player.

Her innocent smile appealed to golf fans in Japan and overseas and one got the sense that the incredibly long drives emanating from her thin arms marked the beginning of a new era in golf history.

At the very last minute before the tour starts, this lady golfer decided to change the shaft to the "ARMRQ shaft" made by Honma Golf.
This was a conscious decision made to address wobbling and promote longer carry distances.

The first day of the tour finally started.
On the teeing ground, the gallery silently watched this lady golfer as she set her sights on her target.

Whack --.
Her red shaft sliced the air through.

“WOW---“

Everyone in the gallery strained to follow the ball as it flew a great distance far down the fairway.

A supporter of professional golfers at Honma Golf, Wakabayashi witnessed this scene up close.
Wakabayashi recalled his own statement, which he persisted in expressing at development meetings for the ARMRQ shaft.

“The color of the shaft should be red… a tint of red that would be recognizable anywhere and everywhere!”

This lady golfer holding a red shaft was immediately splashed around on TV, in newspapers, and on the Internet. Our office was in an uproar at bright news after a long absence.

Pagetop

It began with the development of oversized heads.

The genesis of the ARMRQ shaft can be traced to the development of the oversized heads.

9 years before, the founder of Honma Golf came in contact with a prototype oversized heads during an overseas trip.

This prototype measured 300 cubic centimeters in volume. This was in sharp contrast to mainstream heads of the time, which ranged between 220 and 230 cubic centimeters in volume. Test swings produced flight distances twenty yards greater than usual.
The founder was convinced that it was only a matter of time before the arrival of the age of oversized heads.
Honma Golf commenced the development of oversized heads prior to anyone else in Japan.

Development work began at Sakata Plant in Sakata City, Yamagata Prefecture.
We came to understand that a bigger club head enables greater carry distance by harnessing the overall flexure of the golf club.

写真2

Nevertheless, clubs with an oversized head appeared unwieldy.
By shrinking the size of the head (projected area) as seen at the address, the unwieldy appearance perceived at this time was eliminated.
Unless the volume is maintained, however, the rationale for using an oversized heads will not be realized.
The rendering of depth to compensate for the shrinking of the projected area was what we sought to achieve through the development of a large head.

Research and development efforts finally led to the release of the Twin Marks 300cc by Honma Golf in 1999.
Very soon thereafter, a rival company released a 400 cc head to clearly signal the onset of a huge boom in the industry.

The Sakata factory is proud of having developed an oversized heads before anyone else in Japan.
The development team decided to take a different tact for developmental purposes.

Large-sized head clubs were plagued by an unresolved problem.

The head and the shaft together can be likened to a bobblehead doll.
A club will wobble more as a function of the size of the head.

In other words, the larger the head, the greater the frequency of missed shots as the head becomes more unstable.
To deal with this problem, it was necessary that we strengthen the ability of the shaft to restore itself in response to torque forces.

The "Carbon" used in a carbon shaft is a cloth of carbon fibers arranged in unidirectional lines.
While force applied perpendicularly to the direction of carbon fibers is effectively repelled, the gap between fibers is fragile.

Therefore, if you wind only vertical carbon fibers around a shaft, it may be resistant to bending but it will be susceptible to getting crushed.
On the other hand, if you wind only horizontal carbon fibers around a shaft, it may be resistant to getting crushed but it will be susceptible to bending.
Thus, you will need to wind carbon fibers vertically, horizontally, and diagonally several times around the shaft in order to accommodate strength and torque variables.

To eliminate the instability associated with an oversized heads, a substantial amount of carbon must be wrapped around the shaft.
However, the more carbon is wrapped around a shaft, the harder the shaft becomes, which makes it difficult to realize the advantage of using an oversized heads - namely greater carry performance through flexure.
The weight of the shaft will also increase as you add carbon to the shaft, making it unsuitable for average golfers.

Utilization of technology for creating thick, thin-walled shafts as cultivated for the "Doris", a conventional product manufactured by Honma Golf, will render both the head and the shaft large and unwieldy.

The Sakata factory challenge to new shaft development began.

Pagetop

Encounter with the quadraxial carbon shaft.

写真3

“It’s only a proto-type but would you mind wrapping it around a shaft and test it?”

In 2003, a representative of a textile manufacturer with whom we had been engaged in business for three decades since we began developing carbon shafts, appeared at the Sakata factory with a proto-type in hand.
Fiberglass technology used for reinforcing yachts and other applications was harnessed to produce a quadraxial carbon fabric made by combining bundles of carbon fibers in vertical, horizontal, and both diagonal directions.

Not surprising for a proto-type, these bundles of fiber undulated like a snake here and there while fibers formed a fuzzy texture.

“I figure this isn’t feasible since it’s already been patented,”

Remarked Hiroshi Honma, who was in charge of the development of shafts at the Sakata factory.
A shaft around which carbon made by interweaving fibers in multiple directions was wound had already been patented by other rival company.
This groundbreaking shaft matched the same performance achieved by winding multiple layers of carbon in vertical, horizontal, and diagonal directions around the shaft with only a single layer of fabric and represented an essential technology for reducing the weight of the shaft.

“This is not made by interweaving fibers together. Instead, since we are only layering fiber bundles on top of each other, no patent will be infringed upon.”

It was true. A close look at the material revealed that it consisted of a cloth made simply by layering fiber bundles on top of each other.
Nevertheless, it was still a rather fluffy proto-type.
While a sample was retained, Honma believed at first glance that it was not viable for commercial purposes.

“I figure we won’t be able to use it in this same state. On the other hand, perhaps it might give us some ideas so it might be worth giving it a try at least.”

A member of the development team attempted to wind this fabric around a shaft that was lying about nearby.
Despite consisting of a very thin sheet, the repulsive force of the carbon fibers layered on top of each other in four directions proved to be greater than had been imagined.
Just like vinegared rice rolled into laver, once you start to roll up this sheet, both ends will curl up tightly and collapse on themselves.
It was then that 3 people lined up - at the right end, middle and left end - and proceeded to wind the fabric around the shaft in unison.
In this way, carbon layers were wound around the shaft after this process was repeated several times. A proto-type of sorts was finally finished.

Once this proto-type was attached to a large Twin Marks 460RF head, the development team headed off to the driving range.

An average-level development team member attempted to hit the ball with a commercially available shaft.
As always for this individual, the ball sliced significantly and hit the net at the side.

“Now try hitting a ball with this.”

He then tried hitting a ball with the proto-type.

Amazingly, the ball flew straight and true.

“What is going on?"

He switched back to the commercially available shaft only to see the next ball launched, as expected, into a wide arc to the side.
The development team was stunned at obtaining such an open-and-shut result.

“Hit it here.” “Now here.” No matter how many times they got their colleague to hit the ball, the result remained unchanged.

Only balls which was hit by the proto-type were swallowed up by the middle of the net.

Pagetop

The latest technology and a human touch

写真4

In April 2004, the Sakata factory was abuzz with talk of this rather preposterous shaft.

Hiroshi Honma, the chief Shaft Development Department immediately contacted the textile manufacturer.

“I want you to up-grade the fabric you showed me earlier.”

The carbon sheet with snake-like undulations and a fuzzy texture underwent a number of improvement cycles to become transformed into an orderly collection of triangles evocative of a Middle Eastern mosaic pattern.
The textile manufacturer referred to this carbon sheet with its layers of quadraxial fibers as Quattro (which means “four” in Italian).

Sakata wasted no time commencing verification experiments on shafts wrapped in Quattro.
Using a high-speed camera, variables in effect at the moment of impact for both conventional shafts and shafts wrapped in Quattro were measured and compared.
It was found that, if the point of impact is shifted ten millimeters away from the center of the head, a conventional head will wobble to a significant degree while wobbling for a shaft wrapped in Quattro is half the result. Balls hit with the latter were launched more or less in a straight line.
Testing revealed that the strength associated with quadraxial carbon ends up minimizing the phenomenon of shaft crushing.

“We can make a shaft whose head does not wobble even if it’s longer than the shafts of rival companies by an inch.”

This is what the development team believed.

The Quattro also differed from conventional products in non-functional ways.
While conventional fabrics cannot help but swell thickly at places where fiber bundles overlap, the Quattro was designed to layer flat carbon bundles in a staggered manner to ensure that bundles of two or more layers do not overlap.

In other words, the surface of conventional fabrics may be uneven but the Quattro was thin and flat in contrast.
Thanks to its flatness, the Quattro could be wrapped around the surface of a shaft in a manner that most effectively utilizes its qualities as a multiaxial carbon fabric.
With conventional carbon fabrics, a different material would have to be applied on top of the carbon to eliminate the resulting unevenness. In contrast, the Quattro allows surface processing to be minimized even if it were to be wrapped around a shaft as the outermost layer.

Certain drawbacks also existed.

How should resilient carbon be wrapped around a shaft?
This carbon material is so tough that it took 3 men to finally wrap it around a shaft.
This kind of time and effort cannot be expended when it comes to mass production system .
At the Sakata factory, made full use of leading domestic carbon processing technology consisting of accumulations more than 30 years to develop winding machinery.
And then there is the human touch.

To firmly fix carbon that has been wrapped around a shaft by a machine and push out trapped air, the temperature of a person’s hand and the delicate adjustments that he or she could make in his or her strength were essential.

Failure to do this allows air bubbles to rise up during the process of thermal treatment.
If air gets trapped under a layer of carbon, the strength of the shaft will be compromised.
In July 2004, a mass production system was established, and the life of a shaft is entrusted to the skills of an artisan.

Pagetop

Genesis of the ARMRQ shaft

写真5

“Armor, Quattro, Armor, Quattro…”

In May 2004, the development team and other staff members assembled in the meeting room at the Sakata factory.
Ever since Honma Golf first occupied a small studio in Tsurumi, it had been engaged in a custom of naming new products at the location where they are manufactured.
On this occasion, also followed a tradition and the names were raised by every workers at the factory.
A selection committee was then formed to narrowed it down the most suitable names which were submitted.

“Let’s go with armor since the surface of the shaft will be clad in carbon like one might clad something in armor.”

The selection committee focused on a single questionnaire form among the many that were collected from employees.
The name Armor, which evokes a tough image while suggesting that the shaft is wearing an outermost coat of carbon that decisively sets this product apart from conventional products, was truly apt.
At the same time, however, the name Quattro as given by the textile manufacturer was also something that the company was loath to discard.
The paper was scattered on top of a meeting room desk with various names were scribbled on.

“Armor, Quattro, Armor, Quattro…”

“Would it be strange if we took the first parts of both Armor and Quattro and mashed them together to come up with ArmorQ?”

“Well then, what if we went with ARMRQ?”

“….!”

The name "ARMRQ" of the new product was decided unanimously.

The next was the selection of the design.
Comprising an array of triangular mosaics, Quattro could be likened to chain mail worn under the armor.
A clear coating to showcase this chain mail came to be applied to new products.

For the accent color, Wakabayashi, who was in charge of products geared towards professional golfers, endorsed a shade of red that could be recognized anywhere.
While some at the Sakata factory argued that this was too flamboyant, Wakabayashi was convinced that his viewpoint was correct.

“We’re going to show that this shaft can help pros to win.”

Professional golfer Jondoc Kim, who was under contract with Honma Golf, won a tournament for the first time in five years at the Niigata Open in July 2004 at a time when a system of high volume production for this shaft had just been put in place.
At a press conference held after he won, Jondoc Kim hoisted a shaft that had not yet been released for sale to the public and exclaimed,

“This victory is thanks to ARMRQ!”

His remarks threw the venue into an uproar.

“What is ARMRQ?”

Honma Golf rushed to hold a product release announcement at the Sakata factory for a product that had just been completed.
It goes without saying that the company subsequently promoted the product with relentless vigor.

In August 2004, Yukari Baba, who was under a professional contract with Honma Golf, walked off with a win at the Yonex Ladies Golf Tournament.
This shaft is now used by many professional tour players.

ARMRQ has effectively bestowed armor and wings to all golfers.
At the Sakata factory, however, a process of trial and error has already been commenced by the development team in hopes of producing a shaft that surpasses the ARMRQ line.

(Shaft development tale/Fin)

*characters's name, title, position and other circumstances have been discribed as used to be at the time

Story of Manufacturing