Why are there different types of plastic in disc golf?

Why are there different types of plastic in disc golf?

The most important tool for playing disc golf is the discs. Disc golf can be played without teepads, trees, or even baskets, but discs are necessary. Let’s dig into how disc golf discs are made, why there are so many different plastics, and how those plastics might affect the flight of a disc.

  • Manufacturing: Overview of the general manufacturing process
  • How is the same disc different?: Our plastics and how they differ
  • Supreme Plastic: What sets the Supreme plastic apart
  • Aesthetic changes: The different visual effects we can produce
  • How is the same plastic different?: An explanation of runs

Manufacturing: How are discs made?

Disc golf discs are made with plastic injection molding. In injection molding, plastic pellets are melted down, mixed together, and squeezed into a metal mold with a cavity in the shape of a disc. The plastic then cools and is removed from the mold retaining the shape of a disc.

There is evidence of the manufacturing process on the surface of the disc. The mold needs to be designed to come apart so the disc can be removed once it’s done cooling. The mold is pressed together super tightly, but even with that, a small amount of plastic gets forced into the seams where the mold comes together. This excess plastic is called “flash” or “flashing” and it’s removed as a part of manufacturing. However, the lines where the flashing was are still visible and are known as the “parting lines” because that’s where the mold parts.

From these parting lines we can tell that there are three pieces to the mold for a disc: the top, the rim, and the bottom. Also from looking at a disc we can tell where the plastic is injected from. The sprue, commonly referred to as the “nipple” is on the middle of the bottom of the disc. This is a stem attached to the disc as it exits the mold that is trimmed shortly after.

A Dynamic Discs Supreme Trespass being removed from its mold
The pieces of the mold for a Dynamic Discs Felon visible along the parting lines

Plastic injection molding can be a bit of a balancing act for manufacturers because of the tight tolerances and number of variables. There are inherent inconsistencies in plastic supply, melting temperature, injection pressure, and timing for each step. And each one can make a difference in the final product. These are minimized at Latitude 64 by having a mostly automated process to remove human error.

How is the same disc different?: Our plastics and how they differ

The mixture of plastic that is melted to be made into discs can be engineered to optimize for different things. It can be optimized for grip, durability, or a number of aesthetic designs.

The plastic used for our starter sets is Prime Plastic. We use this plastic because it provides quality discs with good grip and we can provide starter packs at a beginner friendly price as well. Prime plastic is usually flatter along the top and not as durable when compared to our other plastics. The flat top helps with a consistent release and the durability isn’t as noticeable for newer players because most aren’t hitting obstacles hard enough to deform the disc.

From Prime Plastic, the natural step up for most players is Lucid and Fuzion Plastic. Lucid and Fuzion plastic are both designed for durability and grip with Lucid Plastic tending to be a little bit more durable but Fuzion Plastic tending to have a little more grip.

The Dynamic Discs Vandal in Prime, Lucid, and Fuzion plastic

Discs in Lucid and Fuzion Plastic tend to be domier than Prime Plastic. “Domey” is a word used to describe the height of the middle of a disc compared to the outer edge. So a disc that is very flat has relatively little change in height, but another disc might be “domier” in comparison because it has more height in the middle.

Along with the change in dome, there is usually a bit of a change in flight characteristics for Lucid and Fuzion plastic as well. They tend to be more overstable than Prime plastic. A relatively reliable way to measure this change in stability is to measure the parting line height. The way to do this is to put them both on a flat surface and compare them to see which has a higher parting line. Usually, the disc with the higher parting line will be more overstable.

Two Dynamic Discs Raiders with differing parting lines
Bubbles visible in the Dynamic Discs Lucid Air Escape

With the density of Lucid Plastic, most discs come out weighing around 165-180g. But some players have difficulty getting discs up to speed so they see better results with lighter discs. So to accommodate this we have Lucid-Air plastic. This is the same as Lucid plastic, but with air bubbles inside making the disc much lighter around 155-165g.

Even with all the skill and knowledge latitude 64 puts into their manufacturing, some discs won’t be within tolerances. Those discs aren’t just discarded though, they are reground and used in the manufacturing of BioFuzion plastic. BioFuzion is very grippy but not quite as durable as either Lucid or Fuzion plastic. But that’s not always a downside. Many players prefer to have some of their discs in BioFuzion plastic because they will wear down and fly more understable while still feeling the same as their other, more overstable discs.

When putting around a basket, most players' top priority is getting a good grip and clean release. So most of the time, players will prefer a disc in our Classic, Classic Soft, or Classic Blend plastic. The Classic plastic is stiff, the Classic Soft is fairly flexible, and the Classic Blend is a blend of those two. Players will choose a softer or more stiff plastic to fit their needs based on putting style, climate, or just personal preference. Because of the inherently slower speeds and shorter distances around the putting green, durability isn’t as important for these plastics and most players are happy to make that tradeoff for consistency.

We also have some plastics that are usually reserved for special runs or team series. Hybrid plastic is a hybrid of Lucid and Fuzion, but “Classic Hybrid” is a putter plastic that fits right in between Classic Blend and Classic. An “X” suffix will mean that a disc is a stiffer version of that plastic. So Lucid-X is stiffer than Lucid and is also usually more overstable and durable.

Left to Right: Classic, Classic Hybrid, Classic Blend, Classic Soft

Supreme Plastic: What sets the Supreme plastic apart

To celebrate our ten year anniversary, we’re releasing the Supreme Series including the  Escape, Trespass, and Fugitive in the Supreme Plastic. This is similar to Fuzion Plastic but it feels better and is more consistent. The flashing around the outside is minimized because of the NexEdge technology, and the NexFeel technology makes the grip incredible.

NexEdge technology on a Dynamic Discs Supreme Escape

Another way these discs are an exception is because they can’t be manufactured in the same molds as the other plastics. So we reproduced the molds with the changes needed to make them part of the Supreme Series. We also applied the same process to our putter plastics creating Classic Supreme plastic for the Sockibomb Slammer and Supreme Judge.

Aesthetic changes: The different visual effects we can produce

The most common visual effect on our discs is Burst. Latitude 64 has perfected using two colors at the same time in a specific way to produce this Burst effect. It’s usually only available in opaque plastics such as Prime, Classic, and Fuzion.

Our newest visual effect is “Orbit”. Orbit discs are usually white with a ring of color around the outside. This is similar to the Orbit  Eye or Raptor Eye effect where discs are black around the outer rim and middle with a bright ring of color. Both of these effects are also only available on opaque discs.

Top: Fuzion Burst Maverick and Fuzion Vandal Bottom: Fuzion Orbit Felon and Classic Supreme Orbit Sockibomb Slammer

Players who are looking to play after dark (or they just want their discs to glow in the dark) are going to want to look into Moonshine discs. Moonshine discs were originally only available in Lucid plastic, but are now available in Prime and Classic plastics as well. Usually the Lucid-Moonshine discs start out more overstable than the same disc in Lucid plastic, but as they both get worn in, they end up flying fairly similarly.

Ice is another newer variation of plastic that started with Lucid plastic being very clear and looking almost like ice, if ice was all different colors. We’ve also come out with Fuzion-ice plastic that while not really looking like actual ice, the purity and slightly different feel is also distinct from normal Fuzion plastic.

Glimmer is a variation of Lucid plastic that has a really cool sparkling effect. And Chameleon is a variation of Lucid plastic that will change colors similar to a duochrome effect as the disc is viewed from different angles.

Left to Right: Lucid Ice, Lucid Ice Glimmer, Lucid Chameleon
Part of a run of Dynamic Discs Supreme Trespasses

How is the same plastic different? An explanation of runs

When discs are manufactured, they make hundreds at the same time. And that batch is referred to as a run. When discs are all part of the same run, they usually have fewer variances between them. Which is why if you buy two identical discs on the same day, they might feel a slight bit different from the same disc and plastic bought a few months later.

A lot of players will talk about finding a particular run of a disc that will usually all have the same characteristics. Maybe there was a “domey run” of trespasses or a “flat top run” of Felons. Some players will even specify that a color of a specific run is unique from the others. While that may sometimes be the case, most players would be hard pressed to tell the difference between runs, much less the colors inside of that run.

A delicious comparison:

Personally, I like to make comparisons between disc manufacturing and cookie baking. With types of plastic being the types of cookies, batches of cookies being the runs, and each tray of cookies being fairly similar and the batch as a whole being relatively consistent. But some will be able to tell the differences between last week’s batch and this one. But obviously there’s several orders of magnitude more precision with disc manufacturing.

Hopefully with this information you can feel confident selecting your next disc and completing your bag. All of the plastics in this blog are available right now at the Dynamic Discs store! Check them out here!