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Tuners & Boosters

Table Tennis Boosters and Tuners Ė Are they useful for you?

Many people think of table tennis boosters as simply the replacement of the old speed glue, and something that is only useful for the top players that need extra speed. Although there is certainly some truth in this, advances in booster technology have made them much safer and useful for a variety of applications, making them not only useful for many more people but they can save you a lot of money too! This article will outline some of the uses, so that you can make up your mind if theyíre useful for you. The applications of the 3 Falco boosters are discussed, the Falco Tempo Booster, the Falco Tempo Long Booster and the Falco Life Expander.

NOTE: For a guide on how to use these products, as well as more details and reviews, please read the information and reviews on the individuals items also covered on this site.
NOTE2: Below are my personal opinions on the booster and my own experiences.

Main uses for rubber boosters:

1. A little (or not-so-little) boost for your rubbers

First and foremost, most boosters were designed to give you rubber a speed and spin boost. With one or more application on the sponge, the liquid soaks into the sponge, thereby softening and expanding it and filling the pores with the oil, which add tension to the rubber and makes it more lively, which is a similar effect to what speed glue used to produce.

Although there is an ever growing market of tensioned rubbers available already, they tend to be a lot more expensive than regular rubbers, and this trend seems to have got a lot worse in the last few years. Not everyone is willing to spend this much money, and many people look for much cheaper alternatives. Boosters allow you to improve the performance of a basic and much cheaper rubber, by giving it more speed (and spin in some cases) and increasing the catapult effect. Booster also allow you to tweak a rubber so that you can get just the right speed out of the rubber that suits you.

  • Falco Tempo Booster: Put 1 or more layers onto the sponge, wait about 24-48h for the dome to come back down, then glue the rubber onto your blade. Effect last about 3-4 weeks.
  • Falco Tempo Long Booster: Put 1 or more layers onto the sponge, wait about 7 days for the dome to come back down, then glue the rubber onto your blade. Effect last about 3-4 months.
  • Falco Life Expander: This can be used for a rubber thatís already on your bat, no need to remove it. Rub 2 to 3 application onto the top-sheet. Wait about 15mins for it to take effect. This booster can also be used on the sponge. Effect last about 7 days.

2. Re-tuning a factory tuned rubber

There are many new rubbers appearing on the market, particularly Chinese ones, that are so-called ďfactory tunedĒ, which means they have been tuned or booster at the factory to enhance their performance. These rubber often have a thick layer of glue on the sponge, and are often vacuum packed, all to try and retain the boosting effect until the player start using it. These rubber are usually more expensive than other Chinese rubbers, but still significantly cheaper than the Euro or Japanese rubbers that have this effect in-built.

Unfortunately the effect is not permanent and drops off over time, typically in 3-4 weeks. Although part of the effect remains, as itís been a form of priming (see below), there is a significant loss in catapult and speed compared to itís initial state, which is not acceptable to some players.

To get this speed and catapult back, apply a small amount of the booster, which has the effect of re-activating the factory tuning, so your performance is returned. You need to remove the rubber from the blade to do this, and also remove all the glue thatís left on the sponge. (which is usually not that hard to do).

  • Falco Tempo Booster: Put 1 medium thick layer onto the sponge, wait about 24-48h for the dome to come back down, then glue the rubber onto your blade. Effect last about 3-4 weeks.
  • Falco Tempo Long Booster: Put 1 medium thick layer onto the sponge, wait about 7 days for the dome to come back down, then glue the rubber onto your blade. Effect last about 3-4 months.

 

3. Priming Chinese rubbers

A lot (not all) Chinese rubbers are quite stiff and firm when new, and will loosen up over time, making them feel softer and more lively, and easier and more spinny to play with. For some rubbers this happen after a session or so, but for others it can take much longer. I personally find this quite annoying as I donít want a rubber to play differently for the first few sessions, as it takes more adjustment, and Iím having to adjust again slowly as it loosens up. So is there a easy way to speed this up, or overcome this immediately?

A single layer of a booster can be used to give the rubber a good stretch, soften the sponge a little and make it more lively, and the effect is pretty much permanent. If you wait for the rubber to return to itís initial size, you can then glue it onto your blade, and itís been primed and should play a lot better right from the start, and stay this way for a long time too. As long as you wait for the Ďboosting effectí to wear off before you glue it onto the blade, it should be perfectly legal, as youíve only livened up the sponge and not modified the top-sheet. See the more detailed article on Priming Table Tennis Rubbers on this site for more details.

  • Falco Tempo Booster: Put a single onto the sponge and leave it unglued and out of the package for about 5 days. By this time the sheet has been stretched and shrank again, and should be completely flat with no significant stretching effect present. Then glue it onto the blade with normal glue.
  • Falco Life Expander: Put 2 layers onto the sponge and leave it unglued and out of the package for about 24 hours. By this time the sheet has been stretched and shrank again, and should be completely flat with no significant stretching effect present. Then glue it onto the blade with normal glue.

 

4. Restoring / reviving old rubbers

One of the most common ways that all rubbers degrade over time is that the sponge dries out, becomes less lively and simply loses itís spring. Even if the rubber visually looks OK, you know itís losing itís kick and you no longer get the catapult-feel out of the rubber that you used to. This tends to be more common with the Japanese or Euro rubbers, as they tend to have very dynamic sponges which simply lose their Ďkickí. Some of these rubbers were actually factory boosted, in which case section 2 already highlights whatís required.

Many people will feel that this would be the time to change rubbers, as they have simply reached the end of their useful life-time. However often a single layer of a booster can revive this lively feel and Ďkickí, returning it to a state where itís similar to itís speed and dynamics of the time when you first glued it onto your blade. If the top-sheet has lost some of itís life as well, you might need to revive this too, see section 5 for this.

Although the effect that the boosters give will vary, you really have nothing to lose as the rubber would normally have reached the end of itís useful life. Once youíve tried a booster and know how strong the effect is, youíll know for next time how much to use. As a guide, if you boost a rubber multiple times, only use half the amount that you used the very first time to get the same effect.

  • Falco Tempo Booster: Put 1 medium thick layer onto the sponge, wait about 24-48h for the dome to come back down, then glue the rubber onto your blade. Effect last about 3-4 weeks.
  • Falco Tempo Long Booster: Put 1 medium thick layer onto the sponge, wait about 7 days for the dome to come back down, then glue the rubber onto your blade. Effect last about 3-4 months.

5. Extending the life of rubbers

This is where Falco Life Expander is a unique product on the market, and it not only revived the topsheet of the rubber, but itís brings back itís elasticity! Use of the product once or twice a month will also extend the life of the rubber, making it last up to 3 times longer! This when product was specifically designed for the modern Tensor or tension type rubbers, as these high performance rubbers tend to have a much reduced life time. These are also the most expensive rubbers, so if you can extend their lifetime, youíll end up saving a lot of money! A single bottle is likely to last for years, and it's already paid for itself when it doubles the life of a single Tensor-style rubber!

  • Falco Life Expander: This can be used for a rubber thatís already on your bat, no need to remove it. Rub 1 single layer onto the topsheet once or twice a month once the rubber starts showing some signs of losing grip. A single layer is not enough to give the boost effect, but it restores the grip and elasticity and extends the rubberís life-time.

 

How long do bottles last? How long can you keep them?

The Falco products are oil based products and do not really evaporate, nor do they change their characteristics significantly even over many years. Because only so little is used for every application, the bottle usage is usually quite low so will be able to use a single bottle for MANY MANY years without significant degradation in performance.

 

Will these products set-off VOC detection devices?

The Falco products were designed† with extremely low evaporation rates, which were down to about 1/40th of the legal limit that the ITTF set at the time (5ppm), so any use of these products should not set-off any detection device that might be used in some of the major table tennis events. Note though that many rubbers, when new out of the packets, often well exceed the limits set by the ITTF, so you need to be quite careful and air them really well before use. There are other things that can easily set-off VOC detection devices as well, as the instruments seem overly sensitive and have been known to produce many false alarms.

History of speed glue, their ban and the development of boosters

Speed gluing was a practice used by most of the top players for decades, whereby they re-glue the rubbers on their blades every time before they play in order to achieve a great boost in both spin and speed. This method gave them such an advantage that most of the top players were forced to use it, as otherwise their opponent got a competitive advantage.

Unfortunately the glues used for this practice contained high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which was a health hazard, especially when used in areas with poor ventilation. The health hazards (and probably the potential legal liability that ITTF faced for allowing the practice), eventually lead to the ban of speed glue by the ITTF for health reasons.

There was a fair bit of resistance from players that had been using them for a long time, the ITTFís response was that VOC-free alternatives and other breakthroughs in rubber technology would eventually offer a viable alternative. However, when a few years later some of the manufacturers did come up with VOC-free alternatives, the ITTF seemed to do a back-flip and decided that these would no longer be legal either, as they modified the rubbers which violated existing rules.

Belgium-based Berenger International came up with several top boosters, most of which were re-badged by some of the major table tennis manufacturers, and sold as their own brand, but they also released the Falco brand under their own banner. Although all the major manufacturers, probably in fear of reprisal by the ITTF, stopped selling these boosters after the ban, Berenger continue the production and development to produce some of the top products currently on the market.

Iíll go into the legality of the use of these boosters a little more later, but want to discuss the uses of these boosters, and they can boost rubber performance, extent rubber life, and revive old and worn rubbers.

 

So whatís legal and whatís not legal?

Letís first discuss the term Ďlegalí. There is nothing about boosters that makes them Ďillegalí in terms of violating the rules of a country or state. The legality of boosters only refers to whether theyíre allowed to be used in table tennis events that run under ITTF rules.

The ITTF rules donít specifically address boosters, but they have one rule that may deem some of the booster uses Ďillegalí for ITTF events only, which is:

2.04.07† The racket covering shall be used without any physical, chemical or other treatment.

Whether the application of a booster is allowed is purely dependant on the interpretation of this rule by the event umpire or referee, as they make this decision.

Now a rubber consists of a topsheet (the red or black part) and a sponge (the spongy bit underneath. The†racket covering that the ITTF approves and refers to in this law is the topsheet, not the sponge. It has always been perfectly legal for players to put their own sponges under their topsheet, and among pimple players this is not an unusual practice.

So from this we can deduce that if a booster only affects the sponge, not the topsheet, it should be perfectly legal, agreed?

Now the word†treatment of the racket covering is generally accepted as a procedure that will change the characteristics. We would not class a cleaner as treatment, as itís simply meant to restore the characteristics not change it, right? By similar reasoning, if we use a substance that restores the original characteristics, we are not treating the rubber, but rather weíre restoring it, right?

If you can see and agree with the reasoning, than youíd probably also agree that:

1. Boosting may not allowed for ITTF event, since it stretches the topsheet, which is in affect a physical treatment. However itís perfectly fine for other events and social play. Note that if you apply the rule this strictly, then any type of stretch of the rubber (like when you glue it) is also not allowed.

2. Re-Tuning a factory tuned rubber is allowed, as youíre simply restoring the rubber to itís Ďfactory tuned stateí, which is how it was when you first bought the rubber.

3. Priming Chinese rubbers is allowed, as youíre only loosening up the sponge, and when you apply the rubber to the blade, the topsheet is in itís un-stretched and original condition.

4. Restoring / reviving old rubbers may be allowed as long as you donít stretch the top-sheet (and therefore enhance the performance of the rubber) but only restore it to itís initial characteristics.

5. Extending the life is allowed, as youíre only restoring the grip and elasticity, while extending the lifetime of the rubber in the process.

 

Some final thoughts

As some of you probably know already, the use of tuners and boosters to increase the performance of rubbers is actually quite common at the international and other high levels, as reported by many international athletes. Since these more recent boosters are not detectable by the instruments used by the ITTF, they run no risk of being disqualified.

Some players simply donít accept the ITTF ban of boosters at all. The ITTF banned speed glue for health reasons, but there is no evidence that boosters pose any health issues at all, so why should they be banned when speed glue was allowed for several decades.

Some players use boosters since they simply cannot afford the expensive tensioned type rubbers, and boosting a much cheaper and more durable rubber is the only way they can compete with players who are sponsored or who can afford the more expensive rubbers. Why should the rich or sponsored have an equipment advantage?

Even if you feel strongly about not using boosters to enhance the performance for ITTF endorsed events, you can still use them for every other event, plus you can see that there are some other very handy uses for boosters as well, which are perfectly legal!

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