Why You Should Buy a Technology Cue
What's the deal with technology cues?
The whole class of cues designated as “technology” started in 1992 with a robot named Iron Willie. Iron Willie was created by Clawson Cues (now The Predator Group) to help their research team understand the physics of the pool cue better. By using Iron Willie, researchers were able to make shot after shot while keeping all the variables that go into playing pool constant. This resulted in a perfectly consistent stroke which could then be quantified and scientifically analyzed. This consistent stroke allowed researchers to test performance levels when they changed a variable in the pool cue's design (mainly to the cue shaft at first), and viola, a new class of cues was born.
New and better technologies have been developed since then by Lucasi Hybrid, Predator, OB-1, McDermott, and many other name brand pool cue makers. Today, technological innovation is not just concentrated in the pool cue shaft; it's now focused on all parts of the cue (like in pool cue butts by brands utilizing 4-piece butt construction, and in the wrap with advanced grip technologies).
What Is Deflection, and How Do Technology Cues Fight It?
I've heard a lot about cue ball deflection lately. What is it, why is it bad, and what are technology cue brands talking about when they say their shaft lowers it?
Deflection, also known as squirt, is what naturally happens when you hit the cue ball. When the cue ball is struck to the left or right of dead center, side spin is created making the ball veer from the direction of the stroke. This veer deflects the cue ball off target, making it necessary for the player to compensate. This compensation is different with each stroke, depending upon how far from dead center on the cue ball you hit, and different still with each individual cue shaft. Reducing deflection will make your stroke, and consequently your aim, more accurate. The cue ball will then go exactly where you want it to.
"When the cue ball is struck to the left or right of dead center, side spin is created, making the ball veer from the direction of the stroke. This veer deflects the cue ball off target, making it necessary for the player to compensate."
Technology (aka performance) pool cues reduce deflection in a number of ways: by reducing the mass of the pool cue shaft, by reducing the diameter of the tip, by utilizing special construction techniques in the cue butt, and by using vibration-reducing materials in the wrap.
Technology shafts are lighter in the first three inches where the shaft makes contact with the cue ball than standard shafts. Generally, the less mass at the end of the cue, the lower the deflection. Many technology cue makers hollow out the end of their shaft to cut weight and then fill the hole with composite materials like carbon fiber or epoxy to keep structural stability and reduce vibration.
Low end mass however, isn't the only way a technology cue combats deflection. The material the shaft is made out of, its balance point, the shape of its taper, the material of its ferrule and size of its tip also affect the ultimate amount of squirt produced. The material a cue shaft is made out of not only affects its overally durability, but its ability to aim. Most shafts are made out of Maple. Maple has historically been the gold standard wood used in billiards because it is a hard wood and responds well to curing and straightening. Some technology brands (like Lucasi Hybrid, Predator and OB) employ a radial construction in their cue shafts, which gets rid of any deflection due to competing directions in the wood's grain and effectually increases the shaft's “sweet spot” throughout the entire length.
A shaft's balance point is important because the closer it is to the tip, the less end mass the cue has and the lower the deflection will naturally be.
Taper shape plays a part in advanced technology cue shafts like the Lucasi Hybrid Zero Flex Slim or the Predator Z2. These shafts have a conical taper, which brings the balance point closer to the tip, therefore reducing the end mass and deflection.
Some technology shaft ferrules are made out of super light weight and strong space age materials that are also low in density. This gives an advantage to the technology shaft over a regular shaft because the lighter, thinner ferrules weigh less, making overall end mass lighter, and deflection lesser.
The diameter of a cue's tip also affects its ability to reduce deflection. Smaller tips weigh less, thereby decreasing end mass. It must be noted however, that the tip shape has not been proven to affect deflection. For example, the 11.75mm tip on a Lucasi Hybrid Zero Flex Slim or Predator Z2 shaft is more accurate than the 12.75mm tip on a Lucasi Hybrid Zero Flexpoint or Predator 314-2 shaft and even more accurate than a standard 13mm tip.
Four-Piece Cue Butt Construction
Some technology cue manufacturers also take deflection reduction a step further by utilizing four-piece cue butt construction and/or special vibration reducing wraps. Four-piece butt construction helps by creating a more solid base with which to hit the ball with less room for vibration created when you hit the ball to travel to the cue tip. Lucasi Hybrid uses a special memory foam, called X-Shox in its cue wraps, which also works to absorb vibration. This material works as a shock absorber, swallowing up to 27% of the total vibration created in each shot.
How does all this help my game?
It's no question that a reduction in deflection and vibration is going to help your game by making each shot more accurate. Not only will a technology cue make your aim closer to true, many models will also help save your arm during long practice sessions. If you're an experienced player who knows his/her game and is ready to take it to the next level, changes to your game a technology cue brings could very well give you the boost you need.