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The partnership between Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Corporation and its raw material supplier, the Moulding Products Division of Interplastic Corporation, has resulted in a range of innovative personal watercraft. These SMC-based watercraft are 25% lighter and better performing than the previous models.
(Published on November-December 2008 – JEC Magazine #45)
Yamaha was looking for a material or technology that could be incorporated into SMC (Sheet Moulding Compound) in order to save weight and thus improve the overall performance while reducing the fuel consumption of its watercraft. After identifying a nanotechnology-based candidate ingredient, exfoliated clay, Yamaha and its partner Interplastic successfully developed a new SMC material called NanoXcel™.
The new material was conceptualized to introduce nanocomposite technology into the FRP market through the development of a low-density sheet moulding compound (SMC).
Improvements related to mass reduction, drag coefficient (surface smoothness), and durability are critical to this development. Previous attempts at lowmass materials were unable to meet the weight, durability, and surface finish requirements. The nanoclay and urethane hybrid resin chemistry made it possible to develop a nanocomposite material capable of achieving the criteria by eliminating calcium carbonate filler.
First nano-engineered boat hulls
With nanotechnology, Yamaha Motor was able to create a hull material that utilizes a nano-created filler which is layered thousands of times over so the bonding surface is much larger and stronger than before. The nanocomposite material provides higher mechanical properties and durability (toughness). It also has an improved moulding flow capability so the material can flow much better over part shapes, thus giving the part more consistent strength. Now much less filler is needed, resulting in a lightweight, stronger material that delivers a great ride. NanoXcel is developed from FRP products by incorporating nanoengineered materials into SMC. It is used as a replacement for standard SMC currently used to produce Yamaha’s WaveRunner products.
Only minor process changes
SMC is a material that consists offibreglass for strength, a filler for bulk, and a resin for bonding the materials together. SMC is processed by the closed mould, compression moulding process. Yamaha is the only company that has successfully developed a SMC material that is strong enough to meet the extreme structural demands of personal watercraft. It is also the only manufacturer in the personal watercraft industry with full-scale high-compression moulding capabilities.
NanoXcel was developed to be processed using existing equipment. Specifically, all the raw material inputs (resin, glass, nanoclay, fillers) are produced using the existing manufacturing capacity. The NanoXcel sheet is processed in a standard SMC line with minor modifications.
The moulding process requires no equipment changes or modifications, and there is no increase in the cycle time. Nor are any additional steps, controls, or handling procedures required during the moulding process and the post-moulding manufacturing processes. Both the current material and NanoXcel™ can be moulded and manufactured without resetting the manufacturing process and equipment. Compression moulding uses a closed mould that captures and contains any harmful volatile organic compounds until they are neutralized before opening the mould.
Benefits of NanoXcel:
Improvements and future prospects
The new nano-engineered material reduces the weight of the hull, deck and liner by 25% (without using microbubbles) while increasing the part strength. When compared with standard 1.9 density SMC, this weight reduction noticeably improves acceleration and topend speed performance while reducing fuel consumption. Nanotechnology also improves the material flow conditions in the moulding process, which results in an improved surface finish without sanding and reduces defects in the painted surface.
NanoXcel is currently being used for Yamaha hulls, decks and liners on personal watercraft, but has the potential to be extended to create additional parts and product lines. Yamaha Motor believes this innovation will create new momentum in the marine industry to develop stronger, lighter materials that can deliver significant benefits to consumers.
Already on the market
In 2008, Yamaha models that feature NanoXcel hulls, decks and liners include the all-new Yamaha FX Cruiser® SHO™, FX® SHO™ WaveRunners® and Yamaha's high-output models. These models are already available and start at $11,599 MSRP. "Consumers will instantly be able to feel the difference provided by NanoXcel. The lighter weight material, with its remarkably smooth finish, is more nimble and agile in the water than anything else we've sold," says Mark Speaks, president of Yamaha Watercraft Group. "We will be continuing our pursuit of advanced technologies wherever we can find real benefit for the consumer."
JEC Composites Magazine: What kind of part do composites play in your products?
HAROLD WALLACE: Our products are personal watercraft. Without composite materials, there probably would be no personal watercraft industry today, least wise, not a product like the personal watercraft enthusiasts of today are enjoying. We use NanoXcel SMC and traditional SMC composite materials to construct the hull, deck and liner portions of Yamaha personal watercraft. With these composite materials, our engineers can better shape the hull to maximize function and performance. Not only can they design the watercraft with a structural integrity that withstands the most severe of riding conditions with little to no damage, but they can also create styling and ergonomics within the deck that our customers are proud to own and like to be seen riding.
Composite materials provide all of this while providing a surface that allows for a class A surface finish. And composite materials accomplish everything above at a much lower cost than any other structural material.
I would like to say thanks to all the different companies and their people along with the people here at Yamaha that were a part of the development of "Nanoxcel" material. Without their many contributions to this project, we may not have "Nanoxcel" today. A great group of people to work with. Thanks again.