by Friedrich J. Deimann
When I finished High School, I was finally able to start training as a boat builder. During the 4-year apprenticeship, I was able to learn to build wooden boats to perfection.
This was a great experience as wood is a very nice boat building material. However, it soon became clear to me that wooden boat building is not up to date, especially when it comes to the maintenance effort, the manufacturing costs, and the use of rare, slow-growing tropical woods.
After my apprenticeship, I worked for 4 years in a shipyard in which we manufactured luxury tender boats and composite components for the mega yacht industry. That was very interesting for me because here I work with high-end processing of composite materials in e.g. Vacuum infusion or prepreg process.
Things that fascinated me:
- Allow processing to take any shape.
- How quickly components can be reproduced.
- How high-strength and efficient construction can be achieved through a designed fiber orientation
- How light the components are
- How little care the finished products need in contrast to wood.
- How durable the products are
The only thing that really bothered me about the composite construction was the materials themselves. From the point of view of the processor, the materials required for the production are all extremely harmful to health. The fibers itch on the skin, the resin systems trigger allergic reactions in many processors.
And what also bothered me is that in most cases you have to hide the materials behind colored layers of paint, because they are simply not visually appealing materials.
Another punk I noticed was the vast amount of petroleum-based materials we processed every day, such as resins, foams, carbon fiber, etc.
After this experience, I began my further training as a boat and shipbuilder and took the construction of my Masterpiece as an opportunity to take a detailed look at the composite building materials. I started researching reasonable alternatives to traditional materials.
I discovered university projects focusing on the car industry, which dealt with the use of natural fiber-reinforced plastics. However, these projects were not about structural components, but about interior trim parts such as door panels made of hemp, kenaf, and sisal fiber mats.
Based on the research it became apparent that flax fibers, given their high tensile strength and low density, could be a suitable material for my purposes.
The biggest challenge was to find a manufacturer who could offer the flax fiber as a long fiber fabric or scrim, similar to that I was used to from the glass- and carbon fiber processing.
it turned out to be almost impossible. Specialized, professional suppliers like Bcomp did not exist yet at that time (we are talking about the time around 2010). Eventually, I found a manufacturer in England who had a single fabric on offer, which was somewhat in line with my expectations.
However, enough time had to be planned for the order of a 50m fabric roll because the manufacturer had a different core business. First of all the machines had to be set up, which was only worthwhile from a purchase quantity of 5x rolls of 50 m. A bulk order had to be organized. Unidirectional or biaxial fiber fabrics were far from possible at the time.
As that was not enough of a challenge, finding a suitable resin system that is not petroleum-based and has the same strength properties and durability as a conventional epoxy resin turned out to be even more difficult. There was simply no such thing on the market yet.
For my masterpiece, I was able to test a resin system that was not yet available on the market. This also caused some problems .. it was a highly reactive temperature resin.
- High curing temperature 130 ° C
- Exothermic reactions/burning of the vacuum film
- The deck had to be built twice
- Good final strength
- 80% bio-based (only the resin)
Today my Masterpiece is hanging under the ceiling of our workshop in Bremen and serves as a constant reminder of what GREENBOATS stands for: performance, sustainability, and aesthetics. It is fascinating to see how much has changed in the past 10 years and we expect even more changes in the coming decade.