Patterns in Minutes - Composite Boat Hulls
The use of Composite Materials has become the preferred solution for yacht and recreational watercraft hull construction. These materials are ideal for marine vessels given the advantages of:
Flexibility of shape
High strength and stiffness with low weight
Resulting smooth exterior – reducing hydrodynamic drag
Corrosion and deterioration resistance
While a vast majority of manufacturer’s rely on composites, growth has been limited somewhat to the luxury segment where cost is no object. Industry experts contend that one of the top areas of focus needed to drive the use and benefits of these advanced materials is in Innovating Manufacturing Technologies. This has led to the adoption of transformative manufacturing approaches with a focus on reduced cycle time, manual effort and overall cost.
Bridging the automation gap between design and production
Current manufacturing methods include 3D CAD for design of the craft and using automated vacuum-bagging and wet layup equipment for fabrication. These innovations help reduce production cycle time and maintain product reliability. The final gap in the process is pattern making and ply layup which is still predominately done manually.
Digital Patterning solutions fill the automation gap. The software helps to accelerate the overall process and reduce costs by addressing the keep pre-production challenges.
Translating the 3D design into 2D patterns
One of the more time-consuming parts of the process is in converting the 3D design concept into the 2D pattern shapes needed for production. The typical technique starts by milling or 3D printing a reduce scale physical model of the design. Mylar or film is then laid over the model, then taped, scribed and cut into pattern pieces.
Digital patterning allows designers to go directly from the 3D CAD file into 2D patterns. Cuts are defined directly on the 3D model and then flattened into 2D patterns in minutes. This saves time and allows for seamless updates if changes are made to the design. With digital patterning there is no need to recreate the prototype and restart the drape and tape process.
Validating pattern fit
The manual pattern making process is not only error prone but also highly iterative. Seasoned professional boat makers can attest to the hours spent developing concepts, cutting the material and tweaking patterns repeatedly until everything works just right.
Patterns generated using digital patterning tools address this by providing on-screen information regarding areas of strain and sag, the two biggest issues with pattern fit. Changes such as cuts for strain relief or to combine pattern pieces are made in real time. This helps to optimize patterns for fit before any material is cut.
Simplifying pattern cutting and ply layup
While advances in automated cutting, ply layup and vacuum-bagging are introduced regularly, this phase of the process is mostly manual. Digital solutions help reduce the labor time and error occurrence by automatically generating the information needed for key production tasks including:
Material Salvage - providing just enough additional material for trimming loose fabric at the perimeter of the part
Piece labels - organizing the effort of correctly placing the right pieces in the mold in the right location
Panel definition and sizing – optimizing the material size for cutting and layup.
Ply Book – helping to ensure the correct ply stacking sequence
The final advantage is that this critical production information is tied directly to the design model and pattern data. So that changes in one area are quickly and easily reflected in all of the downstream materials.
Is Digital Patterning the right solution for your business?
Design and fabrication techniques for marine are continuously evolving. Today’s innovations include the use of digital patterning software. A central benefit of these next generation tools is that they work with existing investments in 3D CAD and cutting and molding equipment.
All of this combines to help reduce cost, ensure quality and optimize production cycle time. To learn more about digital patterning, just click on the image below to schedule a time to speak with one of our experts.