The beginnings of artificial grass starts with The Ford Foundation’s Educational Facilities Laboratory with the aid of Monsanto Industries and Chemstrand. They were seeking way to encourage the use of synthetic fiber carpeting in schools. They began to test playing surfaces from 1962 to 1966. A school in Providence, Rhode Island was the first large synthetic turf installation in 1964.
When the Houston Astrodome was built in 1965 it was covered and could not support the growth of natural grass. The outfield was painted green to make it look natural. The developer of the Astrodome sought the help of Monsanto to install “Chemgrass”. By 1966 the Houston Astros began playing on Astroturf an the synthetic turf industry was born.
Three Generations of Artificial Grass:
The beginning Astroturf was made from nylon (polyamide) and was in fact basically a thick layer of carpeting. Nylon had the unpleasant tendency to cause ‘burns’ when it came into skin contact, for example, when baseball players had to slide into base. Furthermore, nylon was also a relatively costly material, which meant, at that time, an artificial grass playing field represented a sizeable investment
In the 1980s, the second generation of artificial grass was born for sports made from polypropylene yarn with a 90% sand infill were introduced. Polypropylene was less expensive than nylon. The sand infill was used to stabilize the playing surface, or, in other words, to achieve a more natural ‘ball bounce and roll’ for tennis and hockey, and it also made the artificial grass system even cheaper. The disadvantage of sand was that it acted like sandpaper on the skin when players had to make a sliding tackle and it meant that these surfaces were not suitable for football.
At the end of the 1990s, the third generation of artificial grass playing surfaces was developed for field contact sports such as soccer, American football and rugby. The difference from artificial grass pitches laid the 1980s was that players could make sliding tackles without burning or grazing their skin. This was mainly due to the use of polyethylene as a raw material for the artificial grass fibers and an infill consisting of granulated rubber instead of sand, or a layered combination of both.
More & More Like Natural Grass
Polyethylene was a slightly softer raw material as well as colorfast compared to nylon or polypropylene. The artificial grass fibers were also longer compared with fibers used in nylon and polypropylene playing surfaces. The sport functionality – the interaction between the player and the surface, and the behavior of the ball – remained a key factor in the development of this type of artificial grass. Compared with the first two types of artificial grass, third- generation artificial grass looked much more like natural grass due to the longer fibers.
Artificial Grass Backing
The backing of artificial grass is the stabilizing fabrics in which the fibers are stitched and provide stability to the turf. Normally there is the primary backing and a secondary backing.
The primary backing materials typically are woven or non-woven fabric in one of more layers (usually two) made of strong polyester or polypropylene. The fibers are tufted into the backing in rows.
Secondary backings are designed to hold the turf in permanently so the turfs will not come loose and create a strong turf bind. This backing is usually a urethane backing but can be other types as well.
Hole Punched Backing
Felt Like Backing
Thatch is the curly yarn made from polypropylene that is woven into the turf that creates a look of dead grass. It can be brown, green or tan.
The most common infill for landscape artificial grass is silica sand. It can be angular or rounded. The rounded sand is superior because it has better drainage characteristics. It comes in various sizes but must be able to go the the bottom of the turf.