Spectra Line

Pardon the mess, here and/or in other parts of this site!

All will be looking better by mid-November. T.P. (major site update in progress)

An Informative Q'n'A Page...

Spectra line is mainly used by sport kite and power kite enthusiasts. They fly everything from small 2-line Deltas right up to large traction kites used by surfers and land-board riders. This line material is so good for this purpose that it is also used for those experimental giant parafoils which help to tow large ships and thus cut down their fuel costs. Mind you, those lines are as wide as your thumb!

If you ever come across a single-line kite flier using Spectra, you can bet they are up to something interesting, like setting altitude records! Or perhaps they just like the low weight of this material. Very large kites need quite a weighty and bulky spool of line otherwise.

Although I don't personally use this type of line, my largest kite designs - from the 2.4m (8ft) Multi-Dowel Series - would certainly fly even better on this stuff!

Making Dowel Kites is a printable e-book. It's a PDF file download.

Are you ready for some concentrated info on Spectra line? After digging around a little, some interesting facts popped up.

Just to be different, I've decided to use a Question / Answer format to present it all...





Q: What is Spectra?

A: Spectra is a trade-name for a very high molecular density form of polyethylene. Like other synthetic materials, it is made in other forms beside long flexible line. Like bullet-proof vests! Polyethylene, by the way, is the most widely used plastic on the planet. Think 'plastic bags'.

In Spectra, the very long chains of molecules are aligned which gives the material its very low stretch and high strength. In fact, the strength-to-weight ratio is more than 10 times better than steel.

Spectra line sold online is often of a length suited to sport kites (around 200 feet). The idea is to buy a sleeving kit as well and hence save some money. Putting knots in Spectra without sleeving that area first is not recommended!




Q: How does Spectra compare with other kite line materials?

A: It is more expensive than most other line materials. Such as cotton and nylon. For a given strength, it is much thinner and lighter than the other commonly used line materials. That explains why it has been used for altitude record attempts! In fact, Spectra is about 1/3 the diameter of nylon line of the same breaking strain.

On top of this, Spectra has very low stretch, which is important for flying steerable multi-line kites. Can you imagine steering your car with a couple of big rubber bands tied to the steering wheel...




Q: When was Spectra invented?

A: Gel-spun polyethylene was invented by DSM High Performance Fibres of Holland in the 1990s. At that time, the company called the material Dyneema. It was later licensed to Allied Signal in the U.S. and Toyobo in Japan. Dyneema is very similar to Spectra, and is used a lot with paragliders. Spectra is the trade-name used by Allied for its version of the material.




Q: How is Spectra line made?

A: Gel-spun, that's how. OK, I'd never heard of that either... While the hot polymer is still in a gel state, it's forced through a rotating spinneret to form individual strands which bond together as they cool. After this the strands pass through an air-drying and cooling stage before being cooled even more in a liquid bath.

It's no coincidence that spiders spin their incredibly strong web material the same way. Man copies nature.




Q: Who makes Spectra line?

A:

Spectra is the trade-name for polyethylene kite line coming from Allied Signal, a U.S. manufacturer. Actually, the name 'Spectra' is a registered trademark for the material, held by Honeywell International. This company was known as Honeywell Incorporated before being bought and re-named by Allied in 1999.




Q: Does Spectra have any special properties?

A:

  • It floats on water! That's more of interest to fishermen rather than kite-fliers of course.
  • It has a rather low melting point. 147°C (297°F) to be precise, which is not a lot hotter than boiling water! For this reason, it must be kept well away from lines of other types while in the air. A back and forth sawing action by the other line will soon friction-heat the Spectra to the point of failure. Bye-bye kite!
  • It is naturally very slippery, which multi-line fliers love since crossed lines don't inhibit the control of the kite.
  • It is susceptible to 'creep', meaning it will very slowly get longer if it is held under continuous heavy tension. Kite fliers would not notice this, I'm pretty sure.





Hope you found some of this info on Spectra line interesting, useful or even both!

And if you want to try one of my huge sparred single-liners...

Making Dowel Kites is a printable e-book. It's a PDF file download.


Need winders, reels, flying line?

We earn a small commission if you click the following link and buy something. The item does not cost you any more, since we are an "affiliate" of Amazon.

Click here to buy anything you need. Just use the Search box in there if you need different weights or lengths of line, for example.

P.S. Keep an eye out for books by kite author Glenn Davison, a prominent kite person in the USA.

What's New!

  1. Flight Report:
    Club Fly At Semaphore

    Nov 11, 18 10:45 PM

    It was back to the usual Semaphore Park location this month... True to the weather site prediction, a Gentle-strength breeze was coming off the ocean after mid-day. The direction was much more souther…

    Read More

Wind Speeds

Light Air
1-5 km/h
1-3 mph
1-3 knots
Beaufort 1

Light breeze
6–11 km/h
4–7 mph
4–6 knots
Beaufort 2

Gentle ...
12–19 km/h
8–12 mph
7–10 knots
Beaufort 3

Moderate ...
20–28 km/h
13–18 mph
11–16 knots
Beaufort 4

Fresh ...
29–38 km/h
19–24 mph
17–21 knots
Beaufort 5

Strong ...
39–49 km/h
25–31 mph
22–27 knots
Beaufort 6

High Wind
50-61 km/h
32-38 mph
28-33 knots
Beaufort 7

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