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As a manufacturer of some of the most advanced marine leisure craft in the world, Sunseeker International are used to the challenges of bringing ever more complex and adventurous designs to production.
(Published on May 2005 – JEC Magazine #17)
Over the last year, Composite Integration Ltd has worked closely with the technical development team at Sunseeker to develop an in-house Vacuum Assisted Resin Transfer Moulding (VARTM) facility to manufacture a range of components. The items identified initially as being ideally suited to this type of closed-mould process were mainly hatch covers and relatively small mouldings. Both the economic and engineering advantages of accurately and efficiently close moulding double-sided items were immediately apparent.
When faced with the requirement for a highly structural composite rotating roof structure on the new Predator 82, VARTM was identified as being the most obvious route to manufacture this large scale and highly complex product. The design called for a rotating circular component over 4m in diameter with demanding structural and cosmetic properties. The moulding consists of a complex fibre laminate around a foamcored inner structure. The fibre content and orientation vary according to the specific strength requirements and range from a standard combination mat in the less stressed areas to unidirectional carbon and glass in the main cross beams. In addition to the moulding complexity, a limited time-scale added to the challenge, with the patterns, moulds and moulded component being required in less than three weeks.
Composite Integration worked closely with the Sunseeker design team to produce tool designs that would allow patterns of both halves of the component to be produced simultaneously. The product also required truly complex and accurately formed foam cores. Diab UK Ltd joined the project to lend their expertise in this field and to develop the hand-made prototype shapes into production-viable foam “kits”.
Once the product structure and tooling design were finalised, extensive use was made of Sunseeker’s exceptional in-house CAD design and large scale CNC machining facilities to produce two highly accurate patterns within the time constraints. The patterns were CAD modelled with all the necessary flange, runner and seal details so, once machined, mould halves could be rapidly taken from them with little extra detailing. The moulds were constructed using a vinylester based tooling system and completed within seven days.