Advantages and Disadvantages of High-Tech Materials in Boat Building

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Advantages and Disadvantages of High-Tech Materials in Boat Building
Published By : National Record
DATE : 23, June, 2016
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The boat building industry is presently foraying into an unprecedented phase of experimentation. This is due to the usage of new materials in the fabrication of what were previously called fiberglass hulls. Lots of new ideas and materials have been introduced and rejected in the boat building trade over the years. Most of them were also proved inappropriate for the construction of production-line boats.

Let's take a look at where the yachting industry has been, where it is expected to go, and what effect these changes will have on the boat owner who is also the end user. It is important to assess if taking a risk is warranted with new, untried materials? Do the exotic new materials actually offer the boat owner real benefits?

A composite is the new term to describe what was previously called a plain fiberglass hull. It refers to the mix of two or more materials in order to build a whole. Fiberglass is a composite as it is a combination of plastic resin with glass fibers. However, in the marine industry composite refers to the use of a core material such as foam or balsa.

Boat buyers should be conscious of several points prior to purchasing a new boat. The first is that new reinforcements, resins as well as core materials are being developed at an unparalleled rate. The second point is that the entire boat building industry carries out inadequate research and development into the materials it chooses and utilizes for the purpose of hull construction. The lack of R&D has been primarily responsible for the number of hull failures in the yachting industry in the past.

It is definitely not a good idea to make use of balsa cores on hull bottoms. Balsa is an absorbent wood material and can absorb large quantities of water. Hull blistering problems draw attention to the fact that even the apparently solid laminates can absorb water.

Builders are coring the hull bottoms with plastic foam nowadays. The logic behind this is that foam won't yield to water absorption and other issues that were encountered with balsa. However, water ingress into the foam core has established a common occurrence. Once this process starts it can lead to rapid deterioration of the hull strength.

Airex was a different kind of foam as compared with the archetypal rigid urethane foams we usually hear about and is a PVC based material which is extremely sensitive to heat. No one bothered to find out how this material would respond to heat. When it was used on decks that heat up or on the hull sides in way of hot engine rooms, Airex foam would become softer and result in laminate distortion and eventually delamination.

Hull blisters are a common problem which surprisingly did not even exist in the history of fiberglass boat construction. By using a lower quality resin that considerably cut the cost of their materials, high production builders achieved massive savings. The hull blistering problem however was born and continues to this day.

If you use honeycomb core on hull bottoms the result will surely be disastrous. Moreover sea water can also enter the foil-thin aluminium honeycomb and guarantee a speedy rate of destruction.

If you are planning to acquire a new or used boat these are the kind of problems you will definitely want to avoid. When serious hull issues arise, resolution of the problem is rarely simple.

Solid fiberglass hulls have been successfully constructed for decades now. Is there really any significant advantage of coring a fiberglass hull? Cored hulls are apparently lighter and stronger as compared with solid laminates. Cored laminates are definitely stronger in flat panels however they are weaker when used with curved surfaces.

Foam cored laminates are tremendously vulnerable to impact damage. They are also prone to core separation. Balsa has superior bonding strength and shear strength. It is also quite strong against inter laminar shearing forces as compared with foam.

When compressive loads are applied in shear mode it has been observed that curved cored panels are distinctly weaker as compared to solid glass panels. The majority of foam cored panels respond poorly to bending. The performance of cores depends primarily on the shape of the panel.

The usage of such apparently "high tech" materials is spreading speedily in the boat building industry nowadays and the axiom caveat emptor is more apt than ever now. Is there any need to take a huge risk with new, untried materials? Or should we simply opt for the good quality fiberglass hulls which have an exceptional track record of success?

Incorporating such materials in boat hulls is an effort to reduce the cost of materials and produce a cost-effective product. The boat owner goes not get any significant benefit and gets lots of added risk.

When you are searching for new or used boats, be cautious whenever the price of a builder's boat as compared to similar boats is significantly less. Whenever a boat is too low-priced keep in mind that it may be low quality as well.

As soon as you select the particular vessel you are interested in try to call the builder to find out whether their decks and hulls are cored and with what materials. Skilled boaters are increasingly getting to know more about the benefits of having new boats surveyed as well.