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A boat made from recyclable thermoplastic composite

News International-French

11 Mar 2016

Arkema and Lalou Multi unveil Mini 6.50 Arkema "Innovation" prototype sailboat.

The companies chose JEC World 2016 to unveil this prototype sailboat. The hull and the bridge of this 6.5m boat are  entirely made from a recyclable thermoplastic composite, thanks to the Elium resin, infused with carbon fibre.

The boat is the result of the open innovation venture set up between Arkama and Lalou Multi, a race boat specialist.

Daniel Lebouvier, technical coordinator of the project at Arkema: “This is a liquid thermoplastic acrylic resin. It is processed in the same way as the resins traditionally used in boat building, and features all their mechanical properties, but is recyclable unlike those resins. This means that end‐of‐life parts made from this resin can be ground and reused to manufacture new parts. This is an answer to the major issue of the treatment of end‐of‐life composites. Arkema is the first company to be marketing a resin of this type, and the mini 6.50 Arkema 3 “Innovation” will be the first boat built with this type of resin to be sailing the oceans.”

The collaboration between Arkema and Lalou Multi, also called “open innovation”, driven by a quest for innovation and technological development, has never been so tangible. Following the developments brought in to the Arkema Multi 50 trimaran since 2012, a veritable showcase of the products and knowhow of this global chemicals group, the construction of a Mini 6.50 prototype is now highly consistent with this approach.

Fabienne Roucayrol, project manager at Lalou Multi: “As part of discussions on the 2014–2018 partnership with Arkema, and mindful of further developing the Group’s products, Lalou Multi put forward the construction of a new boat, the objective being that this Mini 6.50 should be a showcase for Arkema products as well as our know‐how in their processing, in particular with this new innovative resin. Following R&D work over eighteen months and countless processing tests, we hit upon the right recipe in December 2015. The hull and the bridge of this new boat are made entirely from the Elium recyclable composite resin. This major innovation complements the many innovations introduced in the boat itself by architect Romaric Neyhousser.”

Elium is the first liquid thermoplastic resin to be used to manufacture composite parts. It is processed using straightforward methods identical to those used for thermoset resins, and features mechanical properties that are similar to epoxy resins. Its thermoplastic nature makes the Elium resin post‐formable and recyclable.

The construction of the boat was planned like a genuine research project. This new resin, fresh out of Arkema’s laboratories, had never been used in this type of manufacture.

Daniel Lebouvier: “To begin with, Elium applications were aiming at composites with fibreglass using the RTM (Resin Transfer Molding) technique. In the case of the prototype, the infusion and carbon fibre technique was used. This was a more challenging situation in which we had no experience, in particular to manufacture large components. So we had to find the right conditions and fine‐tune the product. We were able to do this, despite the tight timetable, thanks to very close collaboration between the Lalou Multi team, Romaric Neyhousser, and Arkema’s research teams.”

Arkema and Lalou Multi
The story between the enterprise Lalou Multi and Arkema began in 2012, at the time of the construction of the Multi 50 trimaran of skipper Lalou Roucayrol. Driven by weight reduction and reliability objectives, Lalou had no hesitation in innovating in ocean racing by calling upon Arkema’s products to build his trimaran. In fact, the cockpit glazing and the helmsman’s protective bubbles are fitted with Altuglas ShieldUp sheeting, which helps reduce overall weight while affording optical properties. And unlike other boats, the entire trimaran is assembled with glue joints, which deliver an optimum flexibility weight ratio.

The Mini 6.50 Arkema 3 "Innovation", a veritable laboratory for Arkema products For this new Lalou Multi boat, the objective of the architect, the skipper and Arkema was to include as many technologies from the group as possible from the design stage.

Bostik’s adhesives were used for the structural assembly of the boat. In particular, the bulkheads and the bridge were glued to the hull with methacrylate and MS Polymers adhesives, and the foamed structures were assembled using a polyurethane adhesive.

The cockpit windows and the hood were made from Altuglas ShieldUp, a material that is transparent like glass but lighter and able to withstand the most extreme conditions. The boat is therefore entirely bonded together with Arkema products. 

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