Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

ProZero — Result In Brief

Project ID: 718822
Country: Denmark
Domain: Industrial Technologies, Transport and Mobility

Carbon fibre composites in boat building

Lightweight and super-fast workboats constructed from carbon fibre composites are making headway on the marine market, traditionally the realm of aluminium and steel.
Carbon fibre composites in boat building
Carbon fibre composites are no longer reserved for expensive high-end applications and are finding their way into new markets. These materials are increasingly being used to replace metals in applications where sustainable design and light weight are of greater value, primarily for reducing fuel consumption.

Inspired by their spectacular properties, designers and engineers within the context of the ProZero project set out to exploit carbon fibre composites for marine applications. Project partner Tuco Yacht Værft ApS introduced a series of fast, durable, energy-efficient and low-maintenance workboats for professional use.

Market penetration challenges

Carbon fibre has long been touted as the material of the future. Reinforced plastics with carbon fibres are up to ten times stronger and at least five times lighter than steel. However, producing structures out of carbon fibre composites is much more expensive. A major reason is the high tooling costs.

“In fact, the market for workboats is highly diversified and generally driven by cost. The vast majority of applications require costly, precision-made mould tools that define the ultimate shape of each individual composite part,” notes Mr Morten Andersen. As he further explains, “High investment costs can be compensated either by standardised high-volume production or high profit margins for one-off or low-volume products.” Penetrating a broad and highly diversified market with products made from a costly material was therefore a key challenge for ProZero.

Lowering costs of carbon fibre production

ProZero engineers have successfully developed a modular design platform that allows smooth accommodation of specific customer needs. “The development of a modular production setup offers customers extraordinary freedom in tailored solutions. Aiming to achieve the optimal degree of modularity, we seek to meet the highest possible number of unique client demands with the minimum number of interchangeable design and production elements,” notes Mr Andersen.

The ProZero line can thus be offered at a highly competitive cost despite the high costs associated with carbon fibre materials and composite manufacturing according to customer-specific requirements. The project generated more than 160 ProZero boat designs that can be realised from the same basic set of tools.

Multitude of benefits

Devising a competitive production platform was only a step on the way to developing the full potential that carbon fibre composites can offer the marine industry. The impressive strength-to-weight ratio of carbon fibre composites permits the design of extremely light but strong products compared to the considerably heavier structures made from metals. “In marine applications, lightweight design is key to reducing operation costs since reduced weight makes it possible to reach high performance levels with much less engine power. Low weight thus translates to reduced fuel consumption and less harmful emissions,” notes Mr Andersen.

Thanks to the pioneering work of designers and engineers, the ProZero range of fast boats for professional users achieved weight and fuel savings above 30 and 45 % respectively compared to similar boats made from aluminium. “Due to their low weight and optimised performance profile, the vessels will simultaneously be able to go faster and achieve greater operating range,” adds Mr Andersen. Moreover, carbon fibre’s remarkable resistance to corrosion substantially reduces maintenance and thus the general cost of ownership.

The modular ProZero design makes it possible to provide customers with a tailor-made product within a relatively short delivery time compared to the market average. A potential game-changer, these new custom-made workboats made of carbon fibre composites do not compromise safety and are available at a very competitive cost.

Keywords

ProZero, carbon-fibre composites, workboats, fuel consumption, lightweight, modular design
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