Why are composite materials used in boat building?

Press release in English
(Krake Catamarane) A research project at the Technical University of Central Hesse is about the development of a lightweight construction concept for sport boats and yachts. Prof. Dr. Stephan Marzi from the Giessen Institute for Mechanics and Materials Research is working with the boat builder Krake Catamarane from Apolda in Thuringia. International cooperation partners are Prof. Anders Biel from the Swedish University of Karlstad and the Lamera company from Gothenburg. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is funding the THM project contribution as part of the Central Innovation Program for SMEs with 190,000 euros.

In modern boat building, manufacturers mainly use thermosets such as glass fiber reinforced plastic as the basic material. The material is light and dimensionally stable, but has a number of disadvantages: it tears and splinters quickly, is difficult to dispose of, and its production is very energy-intensive. Stainless steel, which is also used, is very heavy and therefore leads to high fuel consumption.

The project partners therefore want to use a new material for the outer skin of the boats. The “Hybrix” developed by Lamera is an easily formable composite material made of a microfiber core, two metal layer laminates and two layers of adhesive. The core can be made of steel or polymer material. Metals such as aluminum or steel can be used for the laminates. Compared to a pure steel construction, the new lightweight construction saves 75 percent of the weight of the ship's hull while maintaining the same mechanical properties. The new material has good thermal and sound insulation properties and, unlike plastics, is non-flammable.

(Lamera) In the project, the researchers want to optimize Hybrix for use in boat building. A suitable fastening technique must be found. Suitable large-scale processing methods such as grinding, coating and edge covering are to be researched. The mechanical properties of the metal sandwich structure are simulated and tested experimentally. Finally, the influence of salt water, sun and wind on the material must be investigated. At the end of the project, two prototypes are to be designed and built based on a boat already manufactured by Krake Catamarane, using the new material.

The research project will run for two years. It is supported by the Federal Ministry of Economics and the Swedish innovation agency Vinnova with a total of 675,000 euros.