Last week, we announced our full line of 2016 Axe Bats. Today, we’ll take a closer look at the making of one of those bats, the Element HyperWhip L138D.
This is a hard one to miss, because visually, its angled top makes it different than anything currently on the market. There are good reasons for that.
To explain, we sat down with Hugh Tompkins, Axe Bat’s Director of Research & Development, who has been working on the project from the beginning.
Q: First of all, what is the Element HyperWhip L138D?
A: It’s the most balanced BBCOR-certified Axe Bat we’ve ever made. It’s also the industry’s first bat with an asymmetric, composite-alloy hybrid barrel designed with an Engineered Hitting Zone.
Q: It’s a one-piece construction?
A: Yes. The metal portion of the bat uses our new Mantic Alloy, which is our strongest alloy yet.
Q: And the top is angled?
A: That’s right. The last 3 inches of the barrel are made of carbon fiber, which slopes away from the hitting face at the very top. We call this our HyperWhip Fusion Barrel.
Q: What was your goal with this bat? What did you set out to accomplish?
A: To give you a little background: When bat makers try to make a super-balanced, one-piece alloy bat, they typically have to shape a very tapered barrel. So the bat essentially becomes this cone from the end cap to the handle. With the Element HyperWhip L138D, we wanted to make a one-piece alloy bat that still had a big, full barrel with a large sweet spot. We also wanted to figure out how we could leverage our Engineered Hitting Zone to help us in that quest.
Q: When did you start working on it?
A: We’ve been testing some version of this bat for the last two years.
Q: Can you take us through the process? Where did you start?
A: The first thing we had to do was make sure the construction concept was sound. So we took our one-piece alloy bat and fused 3 inches of carbon fiber on the end. That bat wasn’t tuned for performance or balance, and the top wasn’t angled. It was really just to test whether we could fuse carbon fiber to alloy.
Q: How did you test it?
A: The best way to test that kind of construction is with time and hits. So we hit that first bat thousands and thousands of times to see how well that connection between the carbon fiber and the alloy held up. Time is also a critical component because carbon fiber and aluminum have a voltaic interface; if you touch carbon fiber directly to raw aluminum and let it sit over time, you’ll get electrical corrosion, so that’s a big concern when you’re working with both materials.
Q: How did the bat withstand both of those tests?
A: Superbly. We still have that first test bat back in the lab right now. And it’s still going strong, still 100% intact.
Q: How did you come up with the idea of shaping the tip?
A: After we had the construction nailed, we started asking ourselves: “How balanced can we make this bat?” We knew that taking weight out of the end of the bat would give us better balance and bat speed. And since we have a hitting zone and a non-hitting zone, the backside of the bat at the very top is excess material. We decided to take that material out. So we angled the end and, in so doing, created the first bat with an angled end cap.
Q: How much material did you remove from the top?
A: It was about one-quarter of an ounce. The hitting area at the very top is about one-half inch higher than on the non-hitting side of the barrel.
Q: Why stop at 3 inches down the barrel with the HyperWhip Composite Cap? Why not come farther?
A: Well, at a certain point, it just becomes a composite bat. We wanted it to be an alloy bat. We wanted to fill that need for the players. We already have a composite bat, and a lot of our college players still prefer a one-piece alloy; they like the stiffness and feel of the barrel. So stopping at 3 inches kept the carbon fiber portion well out of the sweet spot of the bat, but still allowed us to take out enough weight at the top to give that really balanced swing weight.
Q: How balanced is the Element HyperWhip L138D?
A: This is our most balanced BBCOR bat. The balance point is about one-eighth inch closer to the hands than the balance point on our two-piece composite bat.
Q: What happens if you hit the ball on the seam where the alloy and carbon fiber meet?
A: The performance on the seam is the same as it is on the rest of the barrel. The composite and aluminum overlap on either side of the seam by about one-quarter inch. Having an aluminum wall and a carbon fiber wall in the same spot on the bat is actually great. In fact, other bat makers have made aluminum barrels that were lined with carbon fiber. It gives a good amount of pop, so it was actually quite easy to tune the seam portion of the barrel to match the rest of the barrel’s performance.
Q: Who tested this bat during the development process?
A: We used our internal bat testers, as well as a bunch of high school and college players locally. We also sent prototypes to some of our bigger, Axe Bat-exclusive colleges nationally.
Q: What was the feedback from the college players?
A: Once we had the HyperWhip technology dialed in, the feedback was overwhelming that the bat was super-balanced, which is exactly what we were going for.
Q: Is the HyperWhip Composite Cap approved for high school and college play?
A: Absolutely. It was funny, though. When I first brought this bat to the testing lab that certifies all BBCOR bats for the NCAA, I pulled it out of the bag and the guy just kind of laughed, shook his head, and said: “You guys really like pushing the envelope, don’t you?” Admittedly, it’s a big change, just like our handle was when we first went through approvals. And it’s a change only we can do because of our handle.
Q: What type of hitter will prefer this bat?
A: It’s for the player who wants a very balanced bat and all the bat speed that comes with that, but still wants a large, full barrel.
Q: I take it you’re happy with how it turned out?
A: Very much so. What we’ve done is take an alloy bat, keep the barrel big and full, and make it slightly more balanced than our two-piece composite bat. That is a huge technological achievement.