12th July 2017 - North Thin Ply Technology™ (NTPT), a world leader in lightweight prepreg materials and process automation technologies, and FIBRE Mechanics, experts in composite boat construction and project management, are collaborating to bring advanced composite solutions to boatyards in a package that addresses labour time, cost, performance and quality.
Using the expertise of both companies – the FIBRE Mechanics team have huge experience in prepreg components, and NTPT are experts in prepreg automation technology – structures such as bulkheads, girders and interior joinery panels are built offsite as structurally-optimised, efficiently-manufactured, prepreg composite panels, made to the exact specification, shape and size required by the design.
“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".
“Unidirectional prepreg is the most cost and structurally efficient prepreg,” explains James Austin, CEO of NTPT. “Using our ATL machines, we can achieve the required specification more efficiently than weaving or multi-axial stitching machines, and offer mechanical performance benefits as 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 way of penetrations, with the machine working to sub-millimetre accuracy.”
FIBRE Mechanics are responsible for client liaison, specification development, CNC-cut core kit, core insert manufacture, and quality assurance of build; with NTPT manufacturing the unidirectional prepreg and the laminate skin preforms at their 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: labour time to produce complex parts is much reduced; accuracy and high quality of manufacture is consistent and repeatable; supply chains are 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 3.3m x 9.9m can be produced.