TheGoalNet Posted March 30, 2017 Share Posted March 30, 2017 The Future of Graphics My first pair of pads were league owned brown leather Coopers. The first pair of pads that I actually owned were white Foster Air-Tecs that my parents bought me. After day 2 of Jim Park’s Goalie School, with the brown leather Coopers, my legs were covered in bruises and my parents freaked out. They triple checked I was sticking with goalie and took the plunge. We walked into the Westwood Arenas pro shop, bought the lightest pads that fit me, and it went from there. I mention this because it gives me in an extremely interesting point of view. I have lived through brown leather, colored pads, custom graphics, deer hair, foam stuffed, solid core pads, and now OD1N technology. This article was inspired by the teaser pics of the Brian’s tiger blocker a few years and then the release of the 1S. The key link between them? Hi-res printed graphics. With full disclosure, I think the standard 1S graphic is boring and the colors look a little weird, but I get it. It’s a starting point and it’s going to revolutionize what we see on pads, how graphics are applied, and even where graphics are applied. I have been waiting for something like Hank’s custom 1S pads to validate my theories and it’s just a matter of time now. The reality is that the he-res printing is the future of pad graphics and, eventually, pad art. As started above, the current poster child for the digital printed graphics, the 1S, isn’t going to be remembered in the same light as Koho 580. No one will submit it as an entry for the greatest graphic of all time, but it's also the first commercial iteration. Bauer should commended for taking a risk and pushing the envelope. Did people jump on the original composite goalie sticks or square foam pads? NOPE. Aeroflex pads came out in the 1980s and it was only in 2000s that foam was widely adopted. Cam Ward or Theo were the only guys crazy enough to see the light of composite sticks 10 years ago and stick with them. Now every pad is foam and over 50% of the NHL goalies use composite sticks. It takes a while to get conservative pros to switch and yet many consumers need to see pros in the gear to validate a new technology. I am guilty of this myself and ordered my GNetik’s without Smart Straps because I thought they were a marketing fad. I absolutely love my current strapping set up, but I acknowledge that I skipped out on a game changing technology. If I had to do it over again, I would order Smart Straps. Since the Smart Strap was launched, it revolutionized strapping and everyone has gone that route. We will continue to get new designs like the pending 1X, SLR, and 2nd generation Smart Strap. The benefits of applying printing technology to goalie pads should be obvious and the design possibilities are endless. When I hear people ripping on the 1S, I think everyone is overlooking the future possibilities for a new level of customization, supply chain stream lining, and manufacturing efficiency. This will also completely democratize pad graphics and, eventually, pad artwork. In the future, any kid with a Photoshop like iPhone app can design his pads with the same level of detail as a Daveart mask, e-mail the CAD file to the OEM, and get his completely custom pads in a couple weeks. Heck, Daveart’s next area for expansion is probably pad graphics. The smooth surface of the 1S pads, without all the stitching for graphics and lacing of traditional pads, also opens up the possibility for better after sale customization and graphics change over. This is awesome for kids that keep gear for more than a single season and change teams. We’ve all seen Pad Skinz applied to gear with varying level success, but I don’t think anyone can deny Andersen’s St Pats set or Trav4s Potvin theme are nearly as desirable as factory graphics. They are also the most quality applications of Pad Skinz to date. Once more OEMs go this route, companies will manufacture stock gear in all white and then ship it to stores. Stores would then own a seat of Photoshop, a large printer, design bespoke customer specific graphics, and apply them in house. This will become standard practice like baking skates. Some stores, like Pro Skate Goal, are already doing this to stock graphics and Brian’s has the best execution so far on an OEM level with the Net Zero line. However, smooth pads and high quality printing will take it to the next level. It will look significantly higher quality compared to today’s aftermarket customization and provide designs beyond fixed colored zones. One other avenue I have not heard mentioned yet with printing, or potentially coatings, is adding textures to different sections of pads. There is the possibility that the printers could apply a grip like material to certain areas of the pads for better rebound control. It also feasible that a coating with less friction could be used in other areas for better sliding. I understand that some people do things like this today with weave on the inner edge only of the pads, but that is complicated. Applying a coating to flat surface is simpler to produce, easier to apply, could be done after the pad is manufactured, and will take less time. Theoretically, all this simplicity should also drive down pad costs and reduce lead times for custom orders. Unfortunately, this is not econ 101 and that is not likely to happen anytime soon, if at all. The consumer demand for this new technology will create economic demand. OEMs will also need to recover the R&D costs and new manufacturing equipment costs sunk into developing these new technologies. Those two factors will probably keep the cost where they are at, or higher, for the foreseeable future. In fairness, R&D is a key factor to disruptive ideas and should be supported. I will probably get scorned for saying this, but this new way of building pads will also improve the quality of pads produced overseas. The less physical human labor required for equipment assembly, the less variables there are to monitor in quality control. In turn the quality should improve with equipment from overseas. There is a major upside for North American manufacturing to reduced labor though! Reducing the amount of labor required to finish a pad should open the door for companies to re-shore equipment back to North America. Labor cost is normally the top factor that initially drives manufacturing to Asia. Removing this large cost should present a compelling business case for OEMs to bring things back. I am not naïve in thinking this is happening tomorrow, but it’s the path I want to see happen. The next generation is more socially conscience and reshoring will only help sell more equipment while supporting the community at the same time. (Note: Image is a combo of printed & sewn graphics) Looping back to the topic at hand of the graphics themselves, there is only one reason I can see for stock graphics to exist in the future. Companies still want instant brand recognition for live games, highlight clips, or photos. As we watch more content on smaller screens, it’s harder to instantly recognize company logos. With stock graphics, it’s much easier to identify who’s wearing what…”Oh, that is the EF3 graphic, Price is still in CCM pads”. Beyond the brand recognition marketing benefit, I see no reason that each goalie won’t have his own custom graphic with the level of detail that he has on his mask. Brian's has started to combine printed graphics with sewn graphics and it's already producing a better detailed product. For the next generation, just imagine what Brian’s currently does on steroids! (Note: Image is a combo of printed & sewn graphics) Hopefully this deep dive has enlightened everyone to the future of graphics, or at least my vision of it, and how this will improve pad art work, functionality of pads, manufacturability, and the supply chain. Next time you look at a 1S pad, you shouldn’t get disappointed the colors look a little unorthodox, you should get excited that your next pair of pads could a be your own personal Picasso. They could feature your team’s logo, a continuation of your mask theme, or an exact replica of the pads you had in high school. Idealistically, they should be available in half the time of today’s custom pads today or even printed at your local hockey store. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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