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Magma Structures delivers superyacht masts

News International-French

15 Jun 2015

Composites specialsts, Magma Structures, have delivered the tallest carbon composite free standing masts

Manufactured at the company's waterside facility near Portsmouth, UK, the masts have taken over three years to engineer, develop, test and build using advanced composite manufacturing processes.

The rigs are designed to withstand bending loads of more than 40Mn; more than twice the load on a Boeing Dreamliner wing. The masts support a sail area greater than a standard sized football pitch, with full automation in terms of sail deployment, setting and reefing. The masts were ordered by a German shipyard and are destined for a sailing superyacht.

Magma Structures undertook all the structural engineering design, prototyping, testing and build of these highly technical rigs and is responsible for commissioning the rigs, controls, sails, automation and monitoring systems. Over 70 people have worked on the build of the rigs, including an in-house team of specialist composite design engineers.

The rig concept was designed by Dykstra Naval Architects in the Netherlands; the load analysis and engineering drawings were compiled by Magma Structures' in-house engineering design team. Each mast is able to rotate using systems mounted on 'wings' at the side of each mast; adding to both the design complexity and build challenge.

High performance carbon fibre was used in the manufacturing process of the masts; a similar grade to that used in motorsports and high-end aerospace products. The very high specific strength (stength/weight ratio) of carbon composite and its exceptional fatigue and corrosion resistance make it the ideal material for large free-standing structures which need to withstand high bending loads. Despite their height, each cantilevered freestanding mast weighs around 50 tonnes.

The rigs are embedded with fibre optic sensors to give real-time, comprehensive load data on all aspects of the rig as well as safety warning, historical data condition monitoring and information to optimise the sailing performance.

Clive Johnson, Managing Director of Magma Structures commented, "These rigs are amongst the most technically challenging free-standing carbon composite structures to have been manufactured due to their size, design load requirements and the marine environment in which they will be used. The skills developed and experience gained from building these rigs are already having a direct impact on projects we are developing in other sectors including composite bridges, stadia and buildings where the benefits of manufacturing in composites can be signficant."

Damon Roberts, Technical Advisor to the project noted, "The high strength, fatigue restistant nature of carbon has been the key in enabling us to develop and manufacture a free-standing structure much larger than anything currently built, including the current generation of wind turbine blades, and with much higher bending loads. The embedded fibre optic monitoring data is invaluable in giving us real-time data to optimize the sailing performance as well as verify the design concepts and give us load case data to minimize the maintenance."