History and profile
Callenelle is a small village in the Walloon region of Belgium, close to Tournai, Mons (Belgium) and Lille (France). Founded in 1923, Saluc was at that time a chemical industry specialised in tannery products. After 1950, this industry died out and Saluc made a conversion to the billiards balls.
Today,Saluc produces and distributes billiard balls under the registered trademark Aramith in more than 85 countries, and has a marketshare of 80 % worldwide.
The company is also specialised in the production of industrial balls used in all kind of applications, as well as in 9 pin bowling balls and trackballs. The exportation represents 98% of its activity.
One of the major strengths of the company is its upstream integration : Saluc has its own chemical plant, to produce the phenolic resin which gives the exceptionnal characteristics to the finished products. This integration allows the price optimization and quality insurance.
The Aramith legend : Inside Pool’s story on Saluc, the Belgian billiard balls manufacture
* With the permission of Inside Pool Magazine
Without being familiar with the industry, very few would guess that nearly 80% of the billiard balls used worldwide come from a small village in the countryside of Belgium. For over half a century, the company SALUC SA has produced in the secrecy of its premises in Callenelle the unique and well-known Aramith phenolic balls, making this miniscule village the world’s capital of billiard ball production. But how did a company in a region not precisely dedicated to the sport of billiards, come to such an involvement?
“Saluc was established in nineteen twenty-three and was at the time specialized in the manu- facturing of synthetic tannins in Callenelle, supplying to about forty tanneries in the area,” said Curt Bossuyt, CEO. “After the Second World War, the quasi-total disappearance of this industry in the region and the tough competition of some chemical giants progressively compromised Saluc’s activ- ities and forced the company to look for alternatives.”
THE KEY FACTOR: PHENOLIC RESIN
Based on its chemical know-how in the manufacturing of phenolic resins, Saluc detected a valid opportunity in the conversion to making billiard balls. “This choice had two reasons,” said Bossuyt. “The phenolic resin features excellent physical and chemical characteristics. In addition, the billiard market was in full expansion.”
Commercialization of the first balls started in the sixties at a time when competition against three already well-established manufacturers was difficult. Through the continuous fine-tuning of quality and the increase of production levels, Saluc succeeded to take a major competitive lead. Today, Saluc is the only company worldwide producing phenolic billiard balls, exporting over 99% of its production to more than 60 countries.
Contrary to polyester, the phenolic resin that Saluc uses has been specifically designed for the billiard application and is produced within the company in its own chemical plant. This unique tech- nology leads to a material especially suitable, with unmatched characteristics such as its chip- and scratch-resistance. “The Aramith phenolic balls last up to five times longer than other balls made of polyester,” said Yves Bilquin, sales and marketing manager for North America and previously the R&D manager. “Their unique structure, more than one hundred times finer than mineral-filled poly- ester, gives the Aramith balls their specific reactivity and allows them to hold their high-gloss pol- ish over time, resulting in minimal ball and table cloth wear.”
“There is simply no comparison,” said Vito Leo, PhD in material science and solid state physics and associated professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, who performed independent tests on a specifically designed billiard table simulator. “When all kinds of polyester balls found on the market are tested, including DAP-based and other types, both the cloth and the balls are greatly damaged after some times—some even destroyed—whereas the Aramith balls, along with the cloth used, show an exceptional shape even after extensive longevity tests.”
On the top of that, high-end phenolic balls feature an extra-hard, dense, and translucent vit-On the top of that, high-end phenolic balls vitrification layer that gives the exceptional charac- characteristics to the products. “These characteristics make the Aramith sets an easy sell for the retailers,” reported Bilquin. “We give trainings on dealers’ requests that allow the salespeople to explain why the phenolic resin is the natural choice and why upgrading to a higher-end Aramith set gives value to the player. That way, the retailer ensures its customers the highest satisfaction and the lowest yearly cost, thanks to the low table and cloth maintenance the Aramith balls provide. Poolrooms, all massively using Aramith balls only, give more evidence that with Aramith balls one can satisfy the demanding player while still minimizing cloth and ball-operating costs.”
A WELL-KEPT SECRET
Thanks to the upstream process integration, a tight control of the raw material is possi ble. The thirteen-step production process lasts up to 23 days and includes casting and curin processes, combined with unique grinding anstate-of-the-art polishing technology Throughout the process, computerized technology continuously interfaces with and assist craftsmanship to guarantee the tightest tolerances and specifications. Regardless of the man automated and statistical quality controls used each ball is still checked manually before leaving the factory to provide the worldwide distribution network with reliable output.
USED BY ALL THE PROFESSIONALS
The Aramith ball sets are the reference, used in virtually all events an tournaments worldwide, whether in pool, snooker, or carom disciplines. Organizations such as the United States Professional Poolplayers Association, the American PoolplayerAssociation, and many others have also appointed Aramith as the exclusive official balls used in their tournaments. The pool set chosen, as seen on TV, is the Super AramithPro-Cup, which features the famous design-protected six red dots cue ball that cumulates razor-sharp precision with visualization of the rotation, which is a big help for both the viewers and the players. This new product is often requested by amateurs and the pros alike.
ARAMITH, A NEW REFERENCE FOR CUES
“Bringing value for the end-user and value for the trade has been Aramith’s baseline for its success. This is why Saluc decided to integrate its knowledge, skills, and know-how in relation to the balls to optimize the design of other products that interact with the balls,” explained Bilquin. As such, besides a whole new range of high-quality table accessory kits and ball and cue cases, the company disclosed during last April’s BCA trade show a break-through ultra-low deflection shaft and cue program. Based on several new high-tech components and advanced technologies, including the Acuerate technology, this cue is designed to become a new reference in the cue industry. Endorsed by several professional players, its attractive price will allow every player to have access to a high-end cue with proven low deflection capabilities.
A WHOLE RANGE WITH THE TIGHTEST SPECIFICATIONS.
Besides pool, snooker, and carom billiards, numerous other varieties of billiard games exist throughout the world. Besides more than 800 different billiard types, Saluc makes balls in a range from 3/8 inch to over 7 inches, for applications going from industrial, comput- er, and medical to 9-pin and duck-pin bowling balls.
The Aramith phenolic resin is manufactured in several varieties, going from the Premier quality to the PREMIUM to Super Aramith (which is used most in high-precision carom balls) and Super Aramith PRO, used for the top-of-the-line pool balls. With the increas- ing quality, the resin gets a finer grain, resulting in fantastic polish that remains over long period of times. Most importantly, though, through the different hardening steps, the material gets a transparent vitrified surface that is highly wear-resistant, making the ball and the cloth last a lot longer.
Regardless of the quality level, all balls are controlled along seven basic criteria: density, balance, diameter tolerance, roundness, color precision, surface polish, and brilliance.
The Premier variety is the most widely known, because of its excellent price-to-quality ratio. Still, the PREMIUM variety was recently introduced as the next generation to the Premier quality to assure even lower yearly ball and cloth cost. With its Vitrotech technology, the PREMIUM ball surface is com- pletely through-hardened, giving it its unique transparent vitrified surface and increasing the surface density and hence its longevity. Its very fine molecular structure has been engineered to resist to the high-friction temperatures when theball slips into roll. As its surface doesn’t rough up, it keeps its smooth polish a lot longer and won’t rough up the cloth either, making a lot of dollar difference for the table operator.
As the top of the line, the Super Aramith PRO set distinguishes itself by its beautiful design and numbers and the maximized in-depth vitrification of its More importantly, it is a fully matched professional set, where precise calibration of each ball guarantees maximum consistency within the set. The Super Aramith PRO also exists in the Centennial design produced for Brunswick.
SIGNATURE OF TRUE QUALITY
Many people still seem to think that ball diameter tolerance or roundness is the major characteristic for a billiard ball. While they are not without importance, these characteristics are relatively easily achieved. And still even if you have the best ball tolerance, you’ll enjoy it only as much as the precision of the rail mounting, which is always much lower than the ball.
That’s why the quality and precision during the game is dictated much more by the balls’ raw material, their molecular structure, and their density and the resulting rebound quality.Too much rebound or too little results in erratic ball behavior, making shots and ball repositioning very random.
Chemical production processes are also extremely important, as they may seriously influence the balls’ balance. A lack of balance results in a zigzagging roll, definitely influencing the contact point between two balls and making you wonder why you missed that shot.
Finally, on the high-end side of the line the rate of consistency for all these characteristics between any balls within that same set is maximized to almost perfection, because it is essential for professional play. That’s the case of the Super Aramith PRO ball sets, which are individually matched to constitute a quasi-per-fect homogeneous set. This is why Aramith has for decades been exclusively selected by practically all professional federations and champi- onships worldwide. These top-of-the-line specifications are applied in snooker and carom profes- sional ball sets as well. No wonder that in the carom discipline, which many consider as one of the most difficult disciplines in billiard sports, Aramith is undisputedly the only brand being admitted.
The world of billiards changes over time and, more significantly, since last year. The players are increasingly becoming more demanding about high-performances products. Now league players bring their own ball sets to play with a quality product instead of a lesser-maintained, lower-end set he may find on the table.
“This is to address these more demanding and discriminating players that Aramith is devel- oping new attractive high-end products such as cases, allowing to hold a set and cues,” said Bilquin. “We will work more closely with the trade to have these products easily available to the retailers and the poolrooms.
“Billiards is a sport of passionate people. We as manufacturers are as passionate to supply players and trade with the products that make them enjoy their sport, while increasing their performance. Aramith is committed to bring value to the end user, value to the trade.”
05/2012 – The best products come together !
IWAN SIMONIS S.A./Belgium, world leader in the manufacture of billiard cloth, is pleased to announce the acquisition of SALUC S.A./Belgium, world leader in the manufacture of ARAMITH billiard balls.
The union of these two complementary Belgian products – loved by amateur and professional billiards players the world over and sanctioned by the majority of the championships and tournament organizers worldwide -will help to reinforce the promotion on the international level of these two globally reputed and high-quality billiard products: the IWAN SIMONIS cloth and the ARAMITH balls.