Evolution or Revolution?

The big news this past week came from the annual ICast event where several rod and blank manufacturers announced they were building product with the new 3M Nano-Silica Matrix Resin.  According to 3M, rods and blanks which utilize the new resin can be made lighter, stronger and tougher. Setting aside the expected marketing claims, most custom rod builders will want to know just how much of a real difference the new resin system will make in the blanks they’ll be buying in the coming year.

Before you can speculate on what any new resin system might mean in regard to improved rod performance, you need to understand why it’s there in the first place.

The perfect rod blank would have no resin. in use, the carbon power fibers would stay bundled together and in perfect alignment without any resin, even as the rod was flexed. But we know that doesn’t happen. When a rod is flexed it changes shape, moving from round to oval. The more you flex it the more it wants to go oval. Without a resin binding the structure together, you won’t be able to flex it without the fibers separating from each other. So the main purpose of the resin in a rod blank is to keep the fibers bundled together.

Traditionally, most resin systems used in rod manufacturing have been less strong than the fibers they’re holding together. When a rod fails from overload, the initial failure isn’t caused by the fibers breaking – It’s caused by the resin being unable to hold the fibers together beyond a certain point. The instant the fibers blow out of the matrix (resin) the tube (rod blank) buckles and you have a catastrophic failure. The final result is broken fibers and a broken rod, but it all began when the resin reached the point where it could no longer keep the fibers bundled together.

A stronger resin can hold the fibers together under a greater flex, thus allowing the rod to sustain a greater load before failing.  When you hear someone say that this new resin results in a stronger rod, this is what they’re talking about. And this is what the new 3M product claims to do.  Immediate improvements should be seen in the area of greater resistance to things like “high sticking.”

As far as the resin increasing rod durability, that’s a bit harder task for any resin to accomplish. The sad fact is that most rod failures do not occur due to overloading. They occur due to abuse such as impacts from hitting the rod on or with something, or allowing lures or other rods to “chatter” against each other while zooming down the lake in a boat. In order for a resin to provide greater durability, it has to create a harder substrate which is more resistant to bruising or fracturing. 3M is saying that the nano-silica particles in this new resin system do exactly that, at least to some extent.

The reality is that this new resin system is most likely going to result in some advancement in terms of increasing the amount of load or flex a blank  can withstand without failing.  It may even improve the amount of abuse a rod can withstand, but it’s not going to result in any sort of unbreakable rod. Not even close. The same abuse that will break your current rods will still break the rods made with the new resin system.

So how much of a revolution this new resin system represents really depends upon your expectations. If you’re expecting it to create a high performance yet unbreakable rod, you’re apt to be disappointed.  But if you’re a little more realistic and will settle for a lighter rod with a little more durability that will still perform at the highest level, you’ll likely be quite pleased with the blanks you see appearing in the next few months. Maybe that’s not exactly a revolution, but it’s certainly a worthwhile advancement in the continued evolution of the fishing rod.

Tom Kirkman


1 Comment

  1. Bob Balcombe on July 31, 2010 at 4:10 am

    Josh at Lamiglas talked about the new resins at the rod get together last April. It was interesting
    Good Wraps Bob