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Changing Tack with Marine Materials

Reflecting on latest material trends from the London Boat Show 2016

After focusing on the automotive industry, it was time to push the boat out and take a closer look at how advanced materials are being exploited in other markets. This month Materials Girl went to find out a little more about materials used in the marine industry at the London Boat Show 2016.

The marine industryGRP glass fibre in yacht is no stranger to composites – GRP (glass fibre reinforced plastic) was observed in most vessels at the show from luxury yachts to small tenders as it is used in hulls and superstructures to take advantage of its strength and lightweight. In fact one of the few parts of the boat that is not GRP is the keel, which is usually made of iron (or occasionally lead) – obvious really when you consider that this part of the boat needs to be really heavy!

Carbon fibre, conversely, did not feature much in the boats at the show, and as far as we have seen it is only being used by a handful of boat builders for larger structures. That is a big difference to the automotive industry where, particularly in niche and premium vehicles, carbon fibre is often seen in visual components like dashboards and steering wheels. One marine component that did feature carbon fibre in several cases was the mast. Speaking to Dragonfly Trimarans, it is logical in boats like these; there is no keel, so the mast needs to be light in order to avoid capsizing.

We found it quite interesting that some companies chose a vinyl wrap rather than a gel coat finish on the GRP base material. Gel coats are commonly used for GRP and are applied when the structure is in the mould, so is vinyl wrap catching on and if so where is it most prominent?

IMG_0689The show demonstrated a large range of boats in terms of both function and cost. The priciest one we spotted was a 131’ luxury tri-deck yacht – very very stylish and perhaps a little out of my budget! One of the more unusual vessels was the Dutto n Surf Amphibious car. Multi-modal transport is clearly in vogue at the moment – at the end of last year I spoke to a representative from Aeromobil who described their flying car. Makes my Peugeot seem rather dull as a mode of transport; maybe it is time to trade it in and buy a narrow boat for my daily commute?

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