The Role of Digital Patterning in Reducing Inflatable Watercraft Production Costs
Rigid Inflatable boats (RIBs) get their name from their construction — a hard v-hull with inflatable siding. The unique design is what gives them their versatility and toughness. Low weight, shock mitigation features, and extreme buoyancy are key characteristics of RIB’s. These critical aspects of the design are derived primarily from the materials, rubberized inflatable tubes and composite laminates for the hulls.
Cost Effective Construction Begins with the Patterns
Patterns and assembly documentation are crucial components in the cost-effective construction of RIBs. Mistakes in the patterns or time-consuming iterative prototyping and fit testing slows down the process. Incomplete or inaccurate construction drawings can also cause production delays or rework issues. These factors combine to sap productivity and increase costs.
Digital patterning software solutions address these challenges. Industry leading applications like ExactFlat reduce or eliminate construction issues by closing the automation gaps between design and fabrication.
The workflow in the digital process follows a simple and streamlined set of repeatable steps:
Step 1. Start with, and then customize the 3D design
3D models are either created from scratch or edited from existing templates found on 3D model sharing sites such as GrabCAD. The models combine both the hard components (composite laminate hulls) and the inflatable tubes into one design model. This helps the designers validate the interactions between parts as well as to ripple changes in one area (ex. widening or relocating storage) across the entire design.
Step 2. Define the pattern pieces and composite plys in 3D
Capabilities within the 3D CAD software are used to cut or combine faces on the 3D model. Surface offsets are used to specify composite ply layers within the context of the design. These 3D “pieces” are then ready for flattening and production-prep.
Step 3. Flatten the 3D design into 2D patterns
3D pieces are converted into 2D patterns in minutes. Saving hours and/or days in the pattern making process.
The use of specific material properties allows the software to simulate the precise unfolding behavior. Ensuring accurate patterns every time.
Strain and sag displays allow the team to identify and correct fit issues before any materials are cut
Step 4. Generate the production documentation
While the quality of the finished product depends entirely on the professionalism of the fabrication team, digital patterning best practices help improve the results. The enhanced information streamlines the production phases eliminates traditional manufacturing process problems. A few of the specific technologies associated with this transition to digital pre-production include:
Automated creation of seam allowance or salvage which helps take the guesswork out of optimizing material use and eliminating waste.
Addition of piece labels and notches which can speed up production by as much as 10x
Generation of composite layer “Ply Books” used to document the orientation of ply layers and to accelerate the molding layup.
Digital Patterning Closes the Design to Production Gaps
In addition to the advantages achieve by utilizing the 3D design model to drive the patterning and assembly documentation processes, the transition to digital also has direct time-saving benefits on production.
With the digital output from the pre-production stages discussed, the marker sets and drawings are edited in 2D patterning software. Then labels are added directly on the pattern pieces and details can be cut out using automated cutters. The integration of design, patterning and cutting data provides the only practical way to deliver customized watercraft in a timely, cost-effective manner.
Meet with the Experts
The transition to digital patterning eliminates manual steps, dramatically reducing cycle time and increasing profitability. To learn more about how your business can utilize this technology to address your productivity improvement goals, click on the link below. You'll be able to schedule a time to meet with one of our experts to discuss the best solution for your needs.