Feb 4, 2014 at 7:58 pm #1312892
Cuben fiber, like all technology, will become cheaper over time.
However, right now it's > 2x more than silnylon.
I still can't really justify buying a cuben tarp… mostly because I own like three tarps right now. Spending $600-900 on tarps seems rather silly.
I imagine part of this is that Cuben Tech Corp has patents filed so they get a monopoly and no competition.
So assuming they filed their patents in 1992 that would mean they expire in 2012?
It could be that they filed a few in 1992 but maybe additional patents over the next five years.
Another potential is a competitor for cuben coming in and out pricing them! That would rock but I don't see anything on the horizon.Feb 4, 2014 at 8:05 pm #2069977
I'm not sure that it is necessary to spend $600-$900 to get a decent cuben fiber tarp.
A couple of years ago I bought one from HMG. It was a demonstrator of the Echo I tarp, so it had probably been put up a few times. Otherwise, I have found it to be perfectly decent for my purposes. $140, I think.
I wouldn't be afraid of another one like that if I needed one.
Besides the obvious light weight advantage, I like it for being totally waterproof and for being slightly more compact when rolled up, as compared to silnylon.
–B.G.–Feb 4, 2014 at 8:11 pm #2069980
> I'm not sure that it is necessary to spend $600-$900 to get a decent cuben fiber tarp
Oh … yes but I have 3 of them and a cuben fiber tarp is $200-300
The one I want there is $315… this is 2.5x more money than the other silnylon tarp I want :-P
What's the volume difference? That's kind of cool. I hadn't thought of that.Feb 4, 2014 at 8:13 pm #2069982
Re: cost of cuben tarps being "$600-900"
Where the hey are you finding these uber expensive tarps?
You can get a Zpacks Hexamid Soloplus tarp for like 280 or so total.
Having lost my full time job recently, i had to cancel my order of the above (it was hard to do), but i recently found a part time job and so bought a used MLD cuben solomid for quite reasonable (more than 50 dollars cheaper than the above).
Yeah, it's still a bit expensive, but characterizing it as the above is more than a bit exaggerating. It's got some nice properties, besides being light weight. Doesn't sag and doesn't absorb moisture. It's easy to patch and repair in the field (tape).
It's also easy to modify with tape. For example, my solomid is my winter tarp and so i'm going to add an IR reflective liner to be used with candles–with simple tape. In the summer (but i don't summer backpack too much all in all), can just flip it inside out to reflect the Suns rays and heat away.Feb 4, 2014 at 8:16 pm #2069985
"What's the volume difference?"
I can't give you a hard number. If you hold two tarps in your hands, you can tell the difference. Compact volume does not mean a lot to most backpackers. However, the more compact your gear is, the more gear you can cram into a smaller backpack, and the smaller one probably weighs less than the bigger one.
–B.G.–Feb 4, 2014 at 8:27 pm #2069992
@johnnyh88Locale: The SouthWest
On the contrary, I've read that the price of cuben gear at MLD and HMG will be increasing soon due to the rising cost of cuben. I imagine it will be increasing at other places as well.Feb 4, 2014 at 8:29 pm #2069994
Anyone know why the price is going up? Is demand outrunning supply?Feb 4, 2014 at 8:31 pm #2069996
this is a price fluctuation not a trend… just look at it over time and the price is falling.
I don't have data for cuben (because I couldn't find it) but literally ALL technology in the last 100 years follows this trend.Feb 4, 2014 at 8:34 pm #2070000
@tracedefLocale: Southern California
Great question about the patent … even without the patent though, I suspect that the cost to setup the manufacturing process and hire the talent to build and run such an operation would require an industry bigger wanting cuben bigger than ultralight packers / hangers to make it a worthwhile pursuit …
As it stands, I don't see sailboats using Cuben anymore, in fact, I don't believe I've ever seen one, Mylar composites / Dacron seem to be fairly common ….. and the high end racing boats are even using solid wings … which suggests there may be a trend away from composites / cloth type sails altogether on the high end racing boats that cuben was originally designed for … the point being, less demand for Cuben probably suggests less of an incentive for new market entrants, should patents be a non issue….. but who knows ….
From 2007: What happened to cuben fiber sails? http://forums.sailinganarchy.com/index.php?showtopic=51648Feb 4, 2014 at 9:02 pm #2070010
@m-lLocale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
Take the Zpacks hex solo, it's only $200. If it's lightness your after, then that is quite a bargain.Feb 4, 2014 at 9:15 pm #2070019
@saparisorLocale: Pacific Northwest
Just a note that some cuben shelters are larger in volume when packed than a comparable silnylon one. I'm comparing two mids that I currently have; it's the cuben mid's reinforcement patches, especially the "cone" at the top of the pyramid, that is a less-pliant material that doesn't fold as well as an all-silnylon mid. If volume was the sole criteria, I'd pick the silnylon. However, the volume of the cuben isn't something that would stop me from carrying it.
This probably isn't the case with two comparable flat tarps where there is less "other" material like zippers and heavier reinforcement or structural patches.Feb 4, 2014 at 9:30 pm #2070027
Maybe whatever sailboats are using instead of Cuben would make for a good tent?
I think light weight and waterproofness is good for sailsFeb 4, 2014 at 9:40 pm #2070030
"As it stands, I don't see sailboats using Cuben anymore, in fact, I don't believe I've ever seen one, Mylar composites / Dacron seem to be fairly common ….. and the high end racing boats are even using solid wings … which suggests there may be a trend away from composites / cloth type sails altogether on the high end racing boats that cuben was originally designed for … the point being, less demand for Cuben probably suggests less of an incentive for new market entrants, should patents be a non issue….. but who knows …."
Mylar, Dacron, etc are basically fancy names for polyester or also commonly called PET.
Cuben incorporates same (the UHMWPE fibers are bonded between two films of mylar aka polyester/PET), but cuben doesn't any stretch to speak of, which could be a minus or issue with sails. Polyester doesn't have much innate stretch either, but can be woven in such a way to have mechanical stretch–which may be better for sails?Feb 4, 2014 at 9:45 pm #2070032
They don't want sails to stretch either.
Like if it's more in a flat shape, rather than stretched into a curved shape, I think you can run into the wind better.Feb 4, 2014 at 9:50 pm #2070034
Have no idea Jerry, am not a sailor.Feb 5, 2014 at 4:43 am #2070070
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
Jerry, they actually want sails to form into airfoils. They provide a bit better efficincy when on the water than flat sails. I believe they are cut that way, thou I never worked at a sailmakers loft.Feb 5, 2014 at 5:50 am #2070078
I saw a documentary where they were building a sail for a racing boat. They had a big curved plastic form in the exact shape that they wanted the sail to form into. They then hand built the sail on the form. They had these cool rigs where the workers would be suspended over the form while they did their work.
Neat stuff.Feb 5, 2014 at 6:05 am #2070084
As new stuff is developed, the cost of producing it generally falls over time – not necessarily the price. To have the price fall as well you need either competition or price elastic demand.
I'm sure Cubic Tech has pretty much got the production of this stuff nailed down. They've been making it for close to a decade now in decent volumes. I expect the actual cost of making it is pretty low ($5/yd?). The hang up on price here is not likely cost. Rather, it remains expensive because it's more profitable to have it that way. We view cuben as premium stuff – and in some applications it is – which allows Cubic Tech to price it at whatever we will pay.
My expectation is that eventually we'll get some decent competition. Other companies will somehow circumvent patents and produce similar material, which will cause one of these companies to target the middle tier price points and thus prices will come down. Dimension Polyant might be the saviour here, but only if they can develop some lighter fabrics suitable for tarps.Feb 5, 2014 at 7:05 am #2070100
Even when they cut the sail to make an airfoil shape, I think they don't want the fabric to stretch and form a different shape.
Cuben is super high end sail fabric and doesn't stretch. I don't think that is an accident, must be a desired characteristic.
In my limited sailing experience, I remember really yanking on the sail to tighten it to go faster into the wind.
If you're going with the wind, doesn't matter, sail can billow out and form an angle and doesn't matter so much.Feb 5, 2014 at 7:13 am #2070108
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
Dan, the cost of making cuben is not that high. The materials are all cheaper synthetics: PET films, carbon & kevlar and spectra/dynema threads. Unlike rosin/cloth, they are very loosely woven.
The precision of the machinery is another story. 5' rollers that cannot vary more than a a few 10 thousands. I wonder what their wastage is? I suspect that it is moderatly high. Maintenence on the machinery must also be very high.
Patents, well, patents are easily subterverted by goverments or large amounts of dollars. There is really nothing new there, a loose weave of high strength fibers and plastic film making it waterproof/wind proof. Perhaps, it *could* be made with melted plastic around a core of woven threads instead of pressing plastic onto the threads. Different material, different patents. A friend experimented with extruding melted aluminum onto a high speed roller to produce aluminum foil. Different process, different patent, same result.Feb 5, 2014 at 7:22 am #2070113
But we're piggybacking on sail makers
No way anyone would do anything for ultralight backpackers – niche market – not worth the development cost
You would have to make a huge amount of fabric for material costs to come close to development costs
And you'de have to make a large amount of fabric so you'de have inventory costs, and if the fickle BPL crowd found some other new shiny thing then your inventory would become worthlessFeb 5, 2014 at 1:08 pm #2070238
@bzhayesLocale: So. California
Cuben right now is most definitely a niche market, but it seems if they could get the price down considerably it would work its way into mainstream outdoor gear. It seems like cost is what is keeping MSR, BA, and REI out of the Cuben market. Is there a technical reason why the big companies wouldn't use the stuff if it were cheaper? It appears to me a lot more money could be made if the price went down considerably. That tells me, that this is expensive stuff to manufacture compared to other fabrics.Feb 5, 2014 at 1:26 pm #2070249
Thin Cuben is fragile. Mainstream companies don't want to deal with it because customers will return gear because it ripped.
You have to tape or glue it which is different than sewing that they're used to doing. Probably takes longer to tape or glue than just sew.Feb 5, 2014 at 1:33 pm #2070253
"You have to tape or glue it which is different than sewing that they're used to doing."
Not necessarily. This is what I've been exploring for the last month or two. Some cuben items need to be taped. Other cuben items can be sewn. A few need both.
I had to experiment with getting the stitch correct. Plus, which would you rather have happen? The thread tears the cuben first, or the thread tears itself first? In many cases, the cuben fabric is more expensive than the labor to assemble it, so I would rather use weaker thread that tears first before the cuben tears.
–B.G.–Feb 5, 2014 at 1:50 pm #2070262
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
Cuben will come down in price a few months after a lighter/higher performance alternative is in production– and we'll be riding on the coat tails of the new stuff, starting a whole new churn in gear buying and selling.
+1 on sailmakers leading the pack. One spinnaker would equal the yardage on a lot of packs or tarps. Yacht racers have deep pockets when it comes to slight changes in performance; many own their boats with multiple partners, spreading out the costs.
Can't afford THREE Cuben tarps? Quel dommage!
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