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The Science of Sport Toys

Here at Aerobie headquarters, we test hundreds of products to determine what flies the best. We hope this page will answer some of your questions about our company history and how we use the sciences of chemistry, physics, and especially aerodynamics to ensure the best performance.

Far-Flung Ideas

Why does the Aerobie Pro ring fly farther than any other thrown object?
Would a bigger ring fly even farther? Why don't you make an even larger ring?
How does the Epic Golf Disc's off-centeredness help it fly especially far?

  Better Shape Up

The Scientist Behind the Science

Who invents Aerobie products?
What is the inventor like? What are his favorite sport toys and hobbies?
Where did the inventor first get the idea to make a flying ring?

Materials Science

1. Why does the Aerobie Pro ring fly farther than any other thrown object?


There are really two key reasons Aerobie rings fly so far. First is their thin profile. Aerobie rings are only about 1/8 of an inch (3mm) thick so when thrown, they really slice through the air creating very little drag. A typical Frisbee is over an inch thick.

The second reason is the patented spoiler rim design keeps the center of aerodynamic lift at the center of an Aerobie ring throughout the different speeds of a typical throw. In layman's terms, the rings fly straight at the highest velocity at the beginning of a throw all the way to when it slows at the end of the throw. This is not true for conventional flying discs which often veer off course as they slow.

For a more technical explanation, view inventor/founder/aeronautical engineer Alan Adler's scientific paper about the ring's flight.


2. Would a bigger ring fly even farther? Why don't you make an even larger ring?


Yes, it is probably possible to make a bigger and heavier ring that could be thrown farther if thrown by a strong thrower. Unfortunately, the economic realities are that we must make products that will sell enough to justify their required investment. Most of us are not world class throwers and even those that are enjoy playing with our current size rings and are not necessarily trying to throw the maximum distance most times out.

A larger ring would also be difficult to get placed in retail stores. A larger ring would require larger peg board display space and would have a high price. A retailer demands more sales from a product that occupies a larger area in his store and yet a higher price would probably reduce sales volume.


3. How does the Epic golf disc's off-centeredness help it fly especially far?


The larger a golf disc’s rim width, the farther the golf disc will fly because a wide rim reduces drag. Unfortunately, a rim wider than about an inch is difficult to grip properly. Older design long range drivers typically have rim widths of about ¾”. Newer design ultra long range drivers typically have rim widths approaching 1” for lower drag and greater distance. The Epic driver has an average rim width of 1 5/16” for amazingly low drag and greater distance but to provide a good throwing grip, the rim narrows to 1” in one area. The rim gradually increases as you go around the disc with a maximum width of 1 5/8” directly across from the grip area.


4. Why is the Squidgie Ball such an unusual shape?


Because it’s the most fun to hold, toss, jiggle, and juggle that way. The Squidgie ball’s grooves & gaps just feel good on fingers. Pick one up and you’ll feel what we mean. And no, the Squidgie ball design does not have any special aerodynamics. With the reputation of Aerobie brand products for their flying performance, we often get asked.


5. How are Aerobie discs' shapes chosen?


Alan Adler uses computer flight simulations for his initial design work but the process of designing a new flying disc or other flying product always finishes with flight trials of hundreds of prototypes. The prototypes are machined in our own machine shop and then taken to the fields at Stanford University a few hundred yards away for actual trials. The throwers are selected to suit the product being evaluated. If the product is a new golf disc, experienced golfers will do the trials. If the product is intended as a recreational disc, people of different throwing skill levels will be recruited. Before a design is approved and the decision is made to invest in a production mold, we may make 50 trips to the fields for trials.


6. Why is the Aerobie Orbiter boomerang triangle-shaped?


When a traditional two sided boomerang is spinning and flying toward you, it can be tricky to catch because the missing side may be toward you at the moment you try to grab the boomerang. By making the Orbiter boomerang three sided, we made sure there is always a side toward you when reaching to catch the boomerang.


7. Who invents Aerobie products?


Stanford University engineering instructor Alan Adler founded Superflight (now Aerobie, Inc.) in 1984 to manufacture and sell his newly invented Aerobie Pro flying ring. Since then, we have introduced 12 additional Aerobie brand products. The idea for two of those products was licensed from an outside inventor but Alan invented the other 10 and led the development of all of the Aerobie brand products, from the drawing board to the store shelves. Of course, he’s always interested in new ideas, so if you have a great new idea for an Aerobie product, please don’t hesitate to e-mail us and request our invention submission form.


8. What is the inventor like? What are his favorite sport toys and hobbies?


Alan is a scientist who loves science. He is also the classic inventor who is always tinkering with ways to make things better. He is always trying to improve things related to his areas of interest. He is an avid astronomer so he has invented a new way to bend reflector mirrors for telescopes. He loves boating so he has designed both sail and power boats including a sailboat that won the Transpac race from San Francisco to Hawaii. He has a fascination with flight so for over two decades he has worked on inventing amazing flying sport toys.

Alan enjoys playing with all of the Aerobie sport toys but there is no question which is his favorite. He regularly goes to the park for fun and exercise with a friend and plays long distance catch with an Aerobie Pro flying ring. One of Alan’s greatest joys is seeing people in a park having fun with one of his inventions.


9. Where did the inventor first get the idea to make a flying ring?


Initially Alan Adler’s objective was to invent a better “Frisbee.” It was only after a few years of work on improving flying discs that he came upon the idea that a ring has inherent advantages. A flying ring flies through the air like two airfoils, a leading one and a trailing one. The center of lift of the two airfoils is closer to the center of the ring, making a flying ring more stable than a Frisbee disc. Alan’s first flying ring, the Skyro, set a Guinness World Record for the farthest throw. By adding a spoiler rim on the outer edge of his flying rings, Alan was able to more precisely center the aerodynamic lift and make the ring even more stable and accurate at all speeds during a throw. The new ring with the spoiler rim was named the Aerobie ring. It set a new Guinness World Record.

Years later, Alan returned to the idea of inventing a better “Frisbee.” The Superdisc was his first flying disc (as opposed to ring) that took advantage of the Aerobie spoiler lip for stability and accuracy. The concept does not work as easily on a disc so Aerobie discs need to be much thicker than Aerobie rings and therefore do not fly as far as Aerobie rings.


10. How are Aerobie product materials chosen?


Superflight has developed close working relationships with many plastics suppliers. When working on a new product, we bring the plastics suppliers into the process early to insure the best material is identified or developed as part of the process. Frequently, the best materials for a product are specially blended by our suppliers to deliver a particular set of properties important for the performance of the product. We seldom buy “off the shelf” materials.


11. Soft edges make comfortable catches, but why else are they important?


Besides being great for catching, soft edges on flying sport toys provide a better grip for throwing and they also make our products more durable. A conventional flying disc thrown on pavement will develop scratches and even sharp burrs on the edge. The soft edges of Aerobie flying discs and rings do not even show that they have landed on pavement.

We would like to make a special comment about the importance of soft edges on discs when they are used for play with dogs. Conventional hard plastic flying discs develop very sharp points from biting which pose a risk to a dog’s gums and teeth. Conventional hard plastic discs also pose a threat to a dog’s teeth because they can knock out teeth. Even if you don’t buy our Dogobie or our Superdisc, both of which are great for play with dogs, please don’t play with your dog using hard plastic discs.


12. How many materials do you test before you settle on one?


It depends. The first step in selecting a material for a new product is to meet with our various material suppliers to discuss the properties we need in a material along with such issues as manufacturability and cost. The next step is for our material suppliers to supply plaques or small pieces of candidate materials for evaluation of properties. The third step is to mold prototype products from prototype materials usually in a prototype mold. The prototype products made with the different candidate materials are then evaluated both in the field for performance and in the lab for endurance. Typically the number of materials that make it into actual prototype products is only a handful but initially dozens get considered.