STORM Products'slogan is"The Bowler's Company." Understandably its founders are bowling aficionados, but from the top down, many of the company's employees are also experienced bowlers.
STORM is interested in helping every bowler learn to love the sport for a lifetime. From the entry level to the professional, STORM is keen on designing the right bowling ball for wherever their customers are in their game.
Each bowling ball has two primary components: a core and a cover. The core is composed of earthen based materials. The earthen materials are different weight fillers such as glass bubbles, ceramics and calcium combined with polyester resin.
Dave Symes, vice president of marketing, STORM Products, explains that the core, sometimes also called “block,” is manufactured to give the finished bowling ball different dynamic properties. The core material will be adjusted to reach a total of ten to sixteen pounds. “We will put the ball on an RG Swing to measure its dynamic properties,” said Symes. “Based on that information, we’ll add or remove some of the block’s materials and maneuver the core inside the ball until we get the values we want.
"Then the radius of gyration and the sphere are measured on three different axes,” continued Symes.“X, Y and Z axes are measured. The critical value is the difference between the X and Y and/or Z axes. This gives us our differential (flare potential).” The differential is what causes the bowling ball to curve. The larger the flare, the more the bowling ball will curve.
The resin plays a critical role in the core, not only as the “glue” to hold the core’s materials together but also in defending the bowling ball’s durability over its life. “We’re using a Silmar® polyester resin to give us strength in two areas,” explains Brian Wangrud, STORM Plant Manager. “The resin protects the core’s structural integrity. Obviously we don’t want the core to crack when the holes are drilled. We also need the ball to have resilience and toughness in use. We measure how hard the core is to establish its coefficient of restitution – how much will the core rebound each time the bowling ball is thrown? We also never expect the core materials to crumble.
“NAC is always available to us for any kind of problem solving and NAC’s Scott Kelley helped us make an important change in our cure process recently,” relates Wangrud. “We were looking for a faster gel and cure without compromising the hardness of the core. Scott and the Interplastic’s Thermoset Resins Division lab worked with us to find the right MEKP to work with the Silmar resin. We chose a Norac® catalyst and the change has made our cores even harder, more durable and smoother than they used to be. Scott and NAC were instrumental in working with us to bring the change smoothly into our manufacturing system too. They’ll come in at the drop of a hat and give us a hand.”
The core is used to expose the external part – the cover – to the lane. Urethane is STORM’s weapon of choice for sizzling strikes and decisive spares. Once they’ve settled on the correct shape and weight for a core, they’ll use it in several different products but change the urethane cover to get the reaction they want.
“We liken it to a car tire. Do you want a snow tire or a racing tire tread?” asks Wangrud.
The urethane can vary from ?-inch to up to 2-inches depending on what the overall expectations are from the bowling ball’s performance. Symes says the more costly the ball, the thicker the urethane cover will be.
He adds, “There is required maintenance to keep the bowling ball in peak performance. By polishing the cover very smoothly the ball will hydroplane on the oil in the lane. When you ruff the cover up, you’ll get more traction and different reactions on the lane. Any bowler serious about the sport will adjust their cover from time to time.”
…adding the fragrance actually affects the cover properties and gives the bowling ball a little different hook on the lane.
I admit to being incredulous when Symes and Wangrud told me they manufacture custom-scented bowling balls. They are dead serious and they are very profitable. Bubble gum, cappuccino, piña colada, chocolate, cinnamon/ apple, black cherry and strawberry are on the menu along with many other choices.
“We wanted to draw attention to our product and separate STORM from the competition,” states Symes. “The idea was the brainchild of founder and CEO Bill Chrisman. We have been doing this for over five years and our competition
hasn’t followed. Men as well as women enjoy this feature. One of the first comments that come over the chat rooms when we introduce a new bowling ball is, ‘I wonder what it’s going to smell like?’”
The fragrance permeates the urethane and will last for the life of the ball according to Symes. He also said that adding the fragrance actually affects the cover properties and gives the bowling ball a little different hook on the lane. (No wonder my scores are so lousy!) The scented bowling balls are currently part of their premium lines but Symes said they hope to offer the feature on all their products by the end of 2005.
A lot of the company mentality is about giving back to the bowling community and promoting bowling around the world. “We sponsor numerous events, including four national tournament clubs for bowlers of all skills – including amateurs and recreational bowlers,” said Symes. “We have full time representation on the men's and women's Professional Bowling Tours. All of our sales people are very bowling literate, too. We turn great bowlers into STORM sales people. They understand the game so well, they’re naturals,” he laughs. “Right from the top down, we are bowlers. Bill and Barbara Chrisman are the founders and have always been very involved with the sport and are both excellent bowlers in their own right.”
Symes also says anyone who calls STORM with a question about a ball will talk to a live person. “We have at least one or two people to answer technical questions all the time. We are even able to answer questions about the competitive products if necessary. Their web site (www.stormbowling.com) is chock full of tips and information. Bowlers can even sign up for lessons on line for a fee. STORM Products was originally named High Score Products and was founded in 1985 by Bill Chrisman to market a urethane bowling ball cleaner. In the spring of 1991, Mr. Chrisman hired Keith Orton, a pioneer in manufacturing high performance urethane bowling balls, to set up a facility to manufacture bowling balls for High Score Products. The first balls were produced in August 1991.
In the summer of 1994, the company name was changed to STORM Products, Inc. to more clearly identify the company with the growing strength of the STORM name.
Today, STORM Bowling Balls can be found in the hands of many prominent professional and amateur bowlers.