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13th July 2017, Renens

Collaboration brings ATL prepregs to boatbuilding

Prepreg panels in autoclave. © North Thin Ply Technology/FIBRE Mechanics North Thin Ply Technology (NTPT), headquartered in Renens, Switzerland, is teaming up with FIBRE Mechanics, of Lymington, UK, to bring advanced composite solutions based on advanced tape laying (ATL) to boatyards.

The two companies are developing prepreg composite panels made to the exact specification, shape and size required by the design of structures such as bulkheads, girders and interior joinery panels, with the emphasis on reducing labour time and cost, optimising the performance and achieving a high quality.

“We have built thousands of carbon and glass structures over the years, with ever increasing engineering sophistication and build quality,” says Geoff Stock, managing director or FIBRE Mechanics. “The NTPT automated tape laying process takes quality and precision to the next level while at the same time reducing labour hours and shortening supply chains.”

FIBRE Mechanics has significant experience in the application of prepreg components and NTPT are experts in prepreg automation technology –are built offsite as structurally-optimised, efficiently-manufactured.

“Unidirectional prepreg is the most cost and structurally efficient prepreg,” adds James Austin, CEO of NTPT. “Using our ATL machines, we can achieve the required specification more efficiently than weaving or multiaxial stitching machines, and offer mechanical performance benefits, because there is no crimping of the fibres. In addition, we can easily incorporate very specific reinforcement patching where required, and conversely not depose material in the way of penetrations, with the machine working to sub-millimetre accuracy.”

In the new collaboration, FIBRE Mechanics will be responsible for client liaison, specification development, CNC-cut core kit, core insert manufacture, and quality assurance of build.  NTPT will manufacture the unidirectional prepreg and the laminate skin preforms at its Polish facility. The core and core insert kits join the preforms in Poland, where the final panels are built by NTPT, under the supervision of the FIBRE Mechanics boatbuilding team.

Through the automation of this process by NTPT and FIBRE Mechanics, key challenges for – and often barriers to – composite construction of both custom and series production boats are addressed. The labour time to produce complex parts will be much reduced, the accuracy and high quality of manufacture will be consistent and repeatable and supply chains reduced – resulting in panels that are optimal in terms of weight, cost and structural performance.

The panels are constructed on a large format table so nesting efficiencies can be maximised, or single panels up to 3.3 metres x 9.9 metres can be produced. 

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