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Category: Athletics

Polyurethane Holds & the Future of Climbing

The sport of rock climbing has grown in popularity in recent years, and it is easy to see why. It can provide a great way to get into shape, and thanks to rise of indoor climbing facilities, climbers are no longer at the mercy of the elements to get in a climbing session.

Plus, the sport is highly customizable thanks to highly individualized polyurethane climbing holds. All skill levels – from weekend warriors to lifelong professional climbers – can be accommodated. 

Polyurethane Takes Hold

Polyurethane is the essential ingredient in the creation of these holds, which often are the oddly-shaped, brightly-colored objects seen dotting the face of climbing walls. The holds are meant to mimic the edges of a rock face that a climber might use to propel him or herself up the side of a mountain or cliff.  

Polyurethane holds come in many shapes and sizes. Often a hold for a beginner may be large enough to accommodate the climber’s entire hand. For expert climbers, holds tend to be smaller and are often more jagged, meant to only be held by a finger or just a few toes. Hundreds of holds can populate a single climbing wall. Having an abundance that are differently shaped and sized is essential to the popularity of a new wall by climbers.

3D Printed Polyurethane Holds

In a bid to create further-customized holds, some enterprising enthusiasts of the sport have started producing their own through 3D printing. To create these custom grips, the user must create and print a thermoplastic polyurethane mold. Once created, the mold is then filled with a polyurethane resin that is allowed to harden to a finish strong enough to support the weight of a climber. Upon completion, the hold is popped out of the mold and is ready for application or to be further customized through sanding or painting. Best of all, the 3D-printed custom molds are reusable.

A Polyurethane Future for the Sport

In just the span of a few decades, climbing has gone from a fringe pastime for adrenaline junkies to a mainstream sport with international competitions. Enthusiasts have polyurethane in part to thank for its role in the mainstreaming of climbing.