“Leading up to the launch of the first Gunboat 68, with construction in full swing in La Grande Motte, France, we continue our series of articles on different aspects of design and construction. Last month we started with the Exterior Design Brief, the “skin” of the boat. This month we focus on the internal structure, the “bones”. …………..…A breakthrough came when FIBRE Mechanics presented us with the opportunity to employ robotically-laid fiber to the structural components on the Gunboat 68 (i.e. the bulkheads and stringers).”Mechanising the boat building process…
The increasing level of engineering sophistication has become a key feature of marine composites; and even though the cost of materials has fallen significantly, it is the labour-intensive nature of modern build processes that makes custom yachts in particular so expensive.
We believe that by making use of the latest automated production techniques, it is possible to cut labour hours while increasing the quality and reliability of the work produced. We are now working on three initiatives that will deliver more cost-effective build solutions to owners of custom yachts and builders of production boats. We group all of this work under the project name 'Mechanise' - with the first stage being a collaboration with North Thin Ply Technology (NTPT) to manufacture custom composite panels for high end boat building yards, and for the boats we build ourselves.Custom Panel Structures…
We have split the process of building a composite panel, such as a bulkhead, girder or joinery partition into three key activities and worked on all three independently...
- Panel skins - base laminates and reinforcing patches are produced on the ATL machine and cut to net shape and size by a cnc controlled cutting beam.
- Core kits - all cnc machined nomex or foam incorporating the detailed cut-outs required for core inserts, and the recesses required for local skin reinforcements.
- Core inserts - shear and UD material combined into sub-assemblies that are installed directly into core kits - such as penetration reinforcements, limber holes, aperture and edge cappings.
All cutting, shaping, laminating and curing is done by machine, and we have the capacity to pressure cure panels and plates in an autoclave up to 8 bar. We don't want to mechanise everything of course - some elements of the panel manufacturing process rely on skill and experience...
- Engineering & design
- Programming of cutting files
- Insert manufacture and installation
- Final panel assembly and inspection
"We have the perfect opportunity to combine the automation expertise of NTPT with the boat building experience of FIBRE Mechanics; enabling us to announce that our panel factory is now open for business…"
- Panel Size: 3.3m x 9.9m
- Three manufacturing sites in UK and Poland
- Reinforcement materials - typically carbon and glass
- Fibre weights from 30g upwards - any orientation
- Core Materials - typically nomex and foam