As we already know, artificial grass has become very popular in recent years and is being used widely instead of real grass. Artificial grass is generally used in areas where you cannot grow a real lawn or the maintenance of a real grass lawn is difficult. Mostly used in the past in sports arenas and stadiums, today, artificial grass is being used increasingly in homes, playgrounds and for other smaller applications.
The manufacturing of artificial grass can be traced back to the early 60s when it was manufactured by Chemstrand Company (known as Monsanto Textiles Company later). The artificial grass produced then was known as ChemGrass, which was renamed as AstroTurf later on. It was manufactured by using the same processes used to produce carpets. However, over the years, the manufacturing technology has undergone several innovations and advancements and today, artificial grass is produced using better materials and designs, which imparts an “almost close to real” kind of a look and feel.
Materials Used to Make Artificial Grass
The most important aspect of artificial grass is the quality of the raw materials used, as this is key to the performance of the grass. Technological advancements and superior manufacturing processes have now resulted in the production of artificial grass that is very close to the “real” thing. The grass is highly durable and tolerant to wear and abrasion, they are UV resistant, which protects the color of the grass from fading due to harsh weather conditions and today, artificial grass is longer, lusher and softer.
Artificial grass is mainly manufactured using three materials:
The blades of the artificial grass are made using polyethylene or nylon. Polyethylene is essentially the plastic that is popularly used to make bottles, plastic bags, etc. Polyethylene is usually available in a solid form and is melted and mixed with colors and other chemicals to make it durable, UV resistant, etc. Alternatively, the grass blades are made of thin nylon sheets that are extruded via molds to produce fine fibers with an oval or round cross-section. The extruded nylon blades of the grass are very high-quality blades that look and feel almost like real, natural grass.
The thatch layer is usually made of polypropylene and this thatch layer essentially gives added support and cushioning to the artificial lawn.
Today, high-quality artificial lawns make use of polyester tie cord as the backing and the blades of grass are fixed onto the turf backing by using a tufting machine, which ensures that the blades of grass and thatch are securely fixed.
Most commonly, the cushioning systems are made using polyester foam or rubber compounds. Sometimes rubber tires are used in the manufacturing of the rubber base or the base is also made of recycled plastic or rubber. The top fabric panels and the thread used to sew the parts are usually made of high-quality materials that meet the same quality parameters of durability, strength and color retention.
Artificial Grass Manufacturing Process
The grass portion of the artificial lawn is made using the tufting techniques similar to that which is used in the production of carpets.
This may be a bit too many details for our regular readers, but for those interested, here are some of the steps of the manufacturing process:
- First, all the ingredients that go into the making of the grass blades are fed into a hopper.
- To this, the dyes which impart the “green grass” coloring and chemicals that make the grass UV resistant and protect it from the sun’s rays are added.
- The batch is then thoroughly mixed and then fed into a steel mixer, where the mixture is blended and turned into a thick liquid that has a taffy-like consistency.
- This thick liquid is then passed through an extruder and long, thin strands are produced.
- The thin strands are then placed on a carding machine and spun producing loose rope. The ropes are then pulled and straightened. Then they are woven into yarn, which is then coiled on large spools.
- Next, the yarn is heated to form the twisted shape.
- The yarn is then taken to the tufting machine and placed on a bar with a reel located behind the tufting machine.
- The yarn is fed via a tube to the tufting needle, which pierces the turf backing and pushes the yarn into the backing in a loop. A flat hook or a looper holds and releases the nylon loop while the needle moves back and the backing is shifted forward. The process is repeated until the entire backing is covered with the rows of stitches. The artificial grass carpet is now ready.
- The artificial grass carpet is then rolled and a coating of latex is spread on the underside of the carpet. A secondary backing made of a stronger material is also coated with the latex and both the grass carpet and the backing are then rolled into a roller that presses and seals the two together.
- The latex is then cured by placing the artificial lawn under heat lamps.
- The grass carpet is then fed through a machine that cuts off any extra lengths of grass.
- The carpet is finally rolled into lengths and sent for packaging, from where it is shipped to the seller.
Today, the engineering and manufacturing of artificial grass have come a long way. The latest artificial turfs are manufactured with chemically-treated high-quality materials that make them UV resistant, water resistant, softer, less abrasive and very similar to real, natural grass making them suitable for varied applications, both, big and small.