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The most important component in any batting cage is the netting material. Why is it so difficult to compare? Go to one site and you’ll find (54 ply) netting. At another you’ll find a 1500 series. So how do you compare (54 ply) to 1500? It’s tough. Most batting cage manufacturers don’t want you to directly compare, so they code the net twine size.
As a general rule, netting comes in twine sizes. The smaller the number, the thinner the twine. A #24 twine is about twice as strong as a #12 twine. A #36 twine is about twice as strong as a #18. A #42 twine is about twice as strong as a #21.
That’s really all there is to it. The problem is, how do you know the twine size? Many companies simply advertise the twine making it easy. Other companies code their product, so you don’t know unless you ask (a few won’t tell you even if you do ask).
Example: One company sells a (54 ply) series net (note: break strength in chart above). You might think they mean #54 twine size, right? Wrong. Their (54 ply) series twine is the same thickness as our #36 twine size. Their (27 ply) is the same thickness as our #21 twine size. Their own numbering system is close enough to the popular twine sizes that people naturally assume a direct correlation. This is deceptive. Beware of those who exaggerate their nets life span and breaking strength claiming their HDPE nets have the break strength equivalent to that of Nylon nets. This makes it tough to compare apples and apples.
Another company does it a little differently, and a lot more honestly. Their N36 netting should be a #36 twine right? Well, it is and their N30 is a #30 twine. The bottom line is this, just because you see a model number that is close to a twine size, don’t assume it is the twine size.
A good indicator of net quality is the warranty on the net. Make sure you compare warranties to insure you get the best net possible for the price.
At Ultimate Sport Gyms our products use urethane treated Nylon and High Density Polyethylene (HDPE). Both types include UV inhibitors adding to the life of the net. With the Nylon net the netting has an external coating to protect it from the UV rays. This coating will wear off in time. Where the HDPE nets have the protection incorporated internally into the twine fibers giving it a permanent protection the will not wear off. HDPE is lightweight, does not absorb water, and resists breakdown in direct sunlight. Both the Nylon and the HDPE fibers are twisted or braided into twine. HDPE nets do not absorb water as nylon can, therefore resists rotting better than nylon or other materials.
High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
HDPE netting is inexpensive and does not deteriorate as quickly due to moisture. As the netting is exposed to moisture, (HDPE) retains a higher percentage of its strength than nylon. HDPE does not absorb water, so the problem of rotting and shrinkage disappears. HDPE nets are less expensive than Nylon, and although HDPE nets do not have the initial break strength of Nylon, the HDPE net will last longer in an outdoor application. For outdoor use the performance is nearly on par with nylon. These cages may provide the best value for those concerned with both quality and price.
If you have an indoor cage, and durability and break strength is more important than budget, nylon netting is right for you. Nylon has the strongest break strength, and is by far the most durable netting for indoor use. Nylon has excellent resistance to abrasion, and outstanding overall durability. However, nylon is expensive. Because nylon netting can absorb water, many manufacturers treat the nylon with some sort of bonding agent by either dipping or spraying the twine. Although treating nylon with a bonding agent will dramatically reduce nylon’s tendency to soak up water, it doesn’t stop it entirely. Eventually, nylon will likely shrink and rot.
When compared with HDPE netting, nylon is initially stronger than HDPE, but deteriorates faster. Nylon loses between 15% and 20% of its strength each year depending on conditions. For year one, a #36 nylon will have a greater break strength than a #36 HDPE, but depending upon weather conditions, by the end of the third year HDPE may be as strong, and KVX200™ may be stronger.
Although nylon netting has a high initial break strength, if left outside that strength can deteriorate rapidly. Nylon absorbs water and loses strength in direct sunlight. For indoor applications, nylon is an excellent choice. If your netting will be exposed to adverse weather, consider HDPE.
Posi-Lock stitching is a process where these machines tightly weave a thick cord around the rope perimeters in a positive locking pattern, that provides the strongest possible bond between the netting and the rope.
Next to the netting material, the construction is the most important factor determining how a batting cage will wear. If your cage is assembled with light thread, or the stitching is loose, even the best netting can separate form the rope perimeter. Our cages are assembled on state of the art computer controlled sewing machines.
Rather than simply sewing a rope border to a piece of netting, we take the extra time to weave the rope in an out through the meshes, before sewing the rope to the net. This is an important step, because if a stitch were to break, your batting cage would stay together. Other manufacturers simply lay the rope along the netting panel, and some will only stitch the rope to the net every second or third mesh. That puts extra stress on the attachment points and weakens the batting cage.
We incorporate heavy rope borders on the top, the bottom, the vertical corners, and we add a reinforcement rib line down the center of the cage. Finally, we sew an extra rib line that runs down the middle of the top panel from front to back. This provides an extra support point so you can keep the net held high.
Square Mesh is Better. Diamond Mesh is Cheaper.
Due to the way netting is produced, hanging a net on the diamond reduces the amount of waste netting, so hanging a net on the diamond is typically less expensive. Hanging a net on the diamond causes a few problems. First, the net won’t hang as straight. The net pattern causes the batting cage to pull in from the sides. On top of that, batting cages with a diamond mesh will usually have poorer seams, because the rope border has to be sewn diagonally across the meshes, leaving an irregular net border to sew to. Square mesh is typically more expensive to produce, because the ends must be trimmed off. Although it can take more material to hang a batting cage on the square, the finished product is significantly better. A cage hung on the square will open straighter and all four bottom edges will be more likely to reach the ground. The edges will be neater, and the border will naturally follow the edge of the netting.
This is a controversial issue in our industry. The truth is, it depends on the crossover stitch. A knotless net with a great crossover stitch will typically outlast a knotted net. A knotted net will typically outlast a knotless net that has a weak crossover stitch.
A net’s break strength is determined by calculating how much tension may be placed on a strand before that strand breaks.
#12 nylon net will have a break strength of about 116 pounds. A rolled up sheet of newspaper will have a break strength of about 240 pounds. Yet, the #12 Nylon net will last much longer. Why? The newspaper will quickly disintegrate in the sun and the rain, so nobody makes batting cages out of paper! This example is intentionally extreme, but what does this mean? Only that you can’t assume that a net with higher “initial” break strength will last longer than a product with a lower break strength.
Similarly, some batting cage materials absorb water (nylon for instance), some don’t (HDPE). Some materials resist the adverse effects of direct sunlight better than others, some breakdown very quickly in direct sun light. If all netting was made out of the exact same material, break strength would be an important factor in determining how long a net would last, but its not. A net’s initial break strength isn’t always related to its functional break strength. A batting cage will fail if it’s breaking strength drops below about 60 lbs. If a batting cage starts out at 500 lbs. and drops below 60 lbs. in two years, the cage will last 2 years. If a cage starts out at 200 lbs. and drops below 60 lbs. seven years later, that cage will last seven years