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Which future arising for the materials used in nautical construction? Sustainable materials and new technologies

The 35th edition of Metstrade in Amsterdam ended last November 2023. Enthusiasm, participation and a record attendance was noticeable: 1,540 exhibitors, coming from 53 countries in 11 pavilions, crowded corridors hosted 28,900 visits by 18,630 visitors of 130 nationalities. The number of sector pavilions has also increased this year, with the debut of the Foiling Technology Pavilion and the Startup Pavilion, alongside the now consolidated Superyacht Pavilion, Construction Materials Pavilion (CMP) and Marina & Yard Pavilion. Luca Rizzotti, founder of The Foiling Organisation and We Are Foiling events, confirmed that the first edition of the Foiling Technology Pavilion (FTP) was a great success.

Which future arising for the materials used in nautical construction? Sustainable materials and new technologies
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ICOMIA has launched its report ‘Pathways to decarbonising propulsion for the recreational boating sector’. “When you work on a day-to-day basis, you can be unaware of the scale, the variety, the pace of innovation and new developments occurring in the recreational boating industry. There is so much passion and enthusiasm in our industry and to see it condensed in one place is truly exciting”, saidICOMIA CEO Joe Lynch.

“The marine industry is moving at an incredible pace to meet the many opportunities and challenges facing it. We were pleased to do our part for this 35th anniversary edition by offering several well-received new features targeting sustainability, people, skills, inclusiveness and innovation”, said Niels Klarenbeek, Director of Metstrade.

The Construction Material Pavilion, which showcased raw materials and sustainability in yacht construction, saw many exhibitors and great participation this year. The underlying theme was certainly environmental protection and sustainability. The growing sensitivity towards nature and the environment has multiplied the efforts of science and technology to discover methods and technologies that focus on renewable resources, clean energy and eco-sustainable materials.

The issue of sustainability is not easy to solve

Linen fibres or volcanic rock (basalt), resins of natural origin. Nature can provide the base materials for boat building composites to replace the synthetic materials that have been widely used for the past 70 years. Niche boat builders already embrace new, recyclable materials and demonstrate durability. Larger series production yards follow step by step, rationalising the new environmentally friendly components to be market-ready and cost-efficient.

At a time when the marine industry is looking for solutions that can respond to the environmental concerns, in particular with regard to the industry’s impact on the ecosystems and global resources, one example above all is Greenboats, a pioneer in the development of natural fibre composite (NFCs) materials, and represents a driving force for eco-sustainable material solutions in the development of composites (Figure 1). Recently, they announced the partnership with Fassmer which will allow the production of their eco-friendly composite materials in the Fassmer factory. This collaboration will create a globally unique production site, distinguished by its production scope and sustainability. in the development of NFCs.

As part of this partnership, a pioneering natural fibre-reinforced production plant for composite laminates is taking shape. Designed to produce laminates up to 6 m x 2.5 m, the facility will feature the use of eco-friendly flax fibres and bio-based resins. A choice of efficient materials, a commitment to sustainability with products with significantly reduced CO2 emissions.

Fig. 1: Greenboats, a pioneer in the development of NFCs materials

Friedrich J. Deimann, founder and CEO of Greenboats, underlined the importance of this collaboration which represents an important step towards the industrialisation of new materials. To build the lightest possible boat is a primary objective not for the race boats only, inside the CMP, Hypetex presented a coloured carbon fibre, which was successfully used to create the logo visually as part of the hull for an IMOCA 60 Race yacht. By harnessing sustainable flax fibres, Hypetex continues to push boundaries in the composite industry. Hypetex’s FlaxTex™ technology offers a unique process of colourising and coating flax fibres, enabling the integration of aesthetics into products (Figures 2 and 3). This technology opens a world of possibilities for designers and manufacturers looking to combine sustainability with striking visual appeal.

Fig. 2: Hypetex coloured carbon fibre

Fig. 3: Hypetex coloured flax fibre

Another natural material that is increasingly interesting for the nautical industry is cork. Amorim, presented Navicork for the marine decking industry, created for different types of vessels, using cork as their raw material. Cork is a 100% natural, reusable and recyclable material, light, resilient, versatile and with excellent levels of thermal and acoustic insulation, cork has unmatched qualities. Navicork FD01, the solution developed for decks, offers exquisite aesthetics and a soft and cool under-foot feeling, delivering extraordinary comfort and grip (Figure 4).

Fig. 4: Amorim’s Navicork for the marine decking industry, created for different types of vessels, using cork as their raw material

3D printing

3D printing has been well represented this year at the Metstrade, showing an increasing interest from the boat construction industry.

Caracol, which is a key player in large format robotic 3D printing, with around 10 years of experience in 3D printing parts for advanced sectors, and V2 Astilleros Y Embarcaciones S.L., an innovative Spanish boatbuilder, announced their partnership. They aim to exploring and developing new solutions for the boat building sector and producing sustainable boats and structural components using recycled materials and large format additive manufacturing. V2 Boats and Caracol will be combining the know-how matured in years of work in the sector.

V2 Boats will be installing a Heron AM platform in Spain to manufacture boats —including complete boat hulls and components such as super structures, furniture, and more— and support companies in the marine industry, both in the Iberian peninsula and LATAM region.

Fig. 5: Caracol 3D printing and V2 Boats combine their know-how in boat manufacturing sector

Through this partnership, the companies believe that it will be possible to further expand and advance the use of large format 3D printing, bringing it into production of finished boats and parts.

Massivit exhibited the Massivit 10000 and 10000-G which enable automated mould production and tooling for composite manufacturing. Both aimed to the production of large complex custom moulds, allowing to print within a few days, instead of weeks, an instrument that will ensure a great benefit to the yacht manufacturer.

In the the FTP pavilion, Addyx introduced the WSM-170, a 3D printable polymer that creates a water-soluble expanding mandrel, revolutionising the design and production of hollow tubular components in composite material. It was created with the aim of strategically combining additive manufacturing with the advanced composite materials industry, facilitating the creation of hollow components in composite material with complex geometry.

The WSM-170 is unique. It functions as a rigid lamination support at room temperature, also allowing debulking directly on the mandrel. During curing, it acts like a silicone rubber, eliminating the need for an internal bag, but with the use of an external mould. After polymerisation, the mandrel dissolves easily in water without solvents, leaving the hollow composite component without residue, thus resulting in a material with low environmental impact (Figure 6).

Fig. 6: Addyx’s WSM-170, a 3D printable polymer that creates a water-soluble expanding mandrel

Within the Foiling Technology Pavilion, Marin, the Netherlands top institute for maritime research, presented The Foil Design JIP, a project currently involving eight participants but open to new participants who can contribute to this initiative. The project now in its second year, is expected to be completed by January 2024.

What does the future hold?
From what we have seen, main topics are foils, electric motors and environmentally friendly, recyclable, low-polluting materials. Surely, we will see a lot of research dedicated to materials, technology, structural problems in the coming years. Save the date for JEC World 2024 to discover the latest materials and technologies.

More information www.metstrade.com