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High Tech Materials and Yacht Building

Posted by at 28 March, at 14 : 08 PM Print

High Tech Materials and Yacht Building

“Space age” composite materials have been taking the aviation and aerospace industries by storm in recent years. Such composites are known for their combinations of lightweight and durability. Because of those two properties, composites are increasingly being used in everything from aircraft to body armor.

Now, they are beginning to be used in the construction of the hulls of luxury motor yachts.

What are Composites?

By definition, a composite is a material that is made up of two or more materials. Composites in and of themselves are not new to the marine industry. Boat builders have been combining fiberglass with wood, or other materials, to make composite hulls since the 1940s.

What is making them more attractive now to motor yacht builders and designers, is the make-up of modern composites, which allows for significant weight savings and the development of complex shapes and structures.

Another reason why yacht builders are leaning more towards composite construction more so now, than in the past, is due to the fact that composites can now be effectively used in bigger and bigger hulls.

According to the trade magazine, The Motorship, “The leisure sector has adopted composites much more widely, with designs of up to [240 feet] in length being constructed in composites. Here solutions for creating temporary molds for the composite construction have been developed to make the composite construction economically feasible.”

Motorship went on to say that in 2014, American superyacht builder Palmer Johnson launched the world’s largest carbon composites superyacht, their [157 foot] Super Sport. The hull and superstructure for this yacht were built by the Norwegian sub-contractor, Brodrene.

Composite materials, while not about to replace traditional materials such as aluminum and fiberglass, for luxury yacht construction, do offer interesting options to builders and designers. As Michael Kasten, with the Kasten Yacht Design Group has said, “Composites are an absolutely excellent engineering material and offer a considerable range of choices with regard to economy, strength, lightness, ruggedness, construction methods, etc.”

Kasten goes on to say that as an engineer he would find it difficult to categorically say if one material is “better” than the other, but composite gives him and his team more options to meet the needs and budget of an yacht owners desires.

Carbon Fiber and Other High Tech Materials

Beyond composites there are other “high-tech” materials being used and considered for future yacht construction, such as carbon fiber. Like composites, carbon fiber came into its own in aerospace and military applications.  Carbon fiber came into prominence in the aerospace industry in the 1950s, as it made spacecraft and jets faster, and more fuel efficient, without sacrificing durability.

Cross Section Carbon Fiber

Cross Section Carbon Fiber

It also has exceptional heat tolerance, which makes it ideal for spacecraft construction. Carbon fiber was instrumental in the development of experimental military aircraft and is now being used extensively in the civil aviation sector. A good portion of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is made from carbon fiber composite.

Designers and builders of Superyachts are now turning their attention to this remarkable material. Carbon fiber has already been used in the construction of certain parts and appendages of luxury motor yachts, and over the past few years we have seen its use in all carbon fiber superyacht construction projects, such as McConaghy Boats’ Adastra trimaran and Palmer Johnson’s Supersport range, which features superyachts in 114Ft to 239Ft range. Regarding the composite yacht projects Palmer Johnson has said, that the use of composites has enabled them to reduce the structural weight by two thirds. This saving is reflected in increased performance, fuel savings and improved stability.

palmer-johnson-carbon fiber-yacht

Understanding the complexities of motor yacht ownership can be hard. If you would like to benefit from our expertise in these areas, or if you have any questions or comments about this blog post, do not hesitate to contact our Sales Specialists, or call us at (855) 318-6328.

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