Already a buzzword in other industries, composites and biocomposites may be poised to play a greater role in the nautical sector.
New regulations governing ship’s emissions and wastewater handling have encouraged many companies to focus on going green. The development of technology to make vessels more environmentally friendly has shifted into hyper-speed.
Composites are materials made from a combination of constituents. For example, in carbon composites, carbon fibers are used to reinforce a softer polymer resin. The increasing use of such materials is changing nautical construction practices. Their lightness compared to traditional materials reduces fuel consumption, and biocomposites made with natural fibers can be recycled.
UK-based A C Marine & Composites has focused recent efforts on the manufacturing process, from prepreg composites to resin infusion. Company director Alex Newton stated, “We have invested heavily in resin infusion, as there is much less labor and less exposure to chemicals. We are also looking into investing into a ply cutter to streamline the manufacturing.”
Using Composites in Larger Vessels
Newton stressed that although the composites industry has expanded over the past 15+ years, the lack of standards hampers development, especially for small companies. This contrasts with steel manufacturing and other industries.
“There is no standardization in the composites industry. This has the effect that you lose repeatability, accountability and the level of quality becomes less. The industry needs basic working practices to help stabilize the manufacturing process.”