sail-world.com
 
 
News Home Cruising Photo Gallery Video Gallery

 

Sail-World.com : Why don't cruising yachts use much carbon fibre? Why so expensive?

Why don't cruising yachts use much carbon fibre? Why so expensive?

'Carbon fibre masts on Maltese Falcon - but why still so expensive after 50 years'    .

There's no question that carbon fibre is one of the greatest materials ever to have been introduced into sailing. It's light, it's stronger than steel, and it's been around for over fifty years. So why hasn't it become cheaper and cheaper and invaded the mainstream sailing world? Why is it still in the domain of expensive racing boats, and why don't many cruising sailors use carbon fibre?

The answer is given by Nick Denton's technology weblog, Gizmodo:


When carbon fiber was first trotted out in solid rocket motor cases and tanks in the 1960s, it was poised to not only take on fiberglass, but also a whole host of other materials.

What happened?

50 years later it's still an exotic material. Sure, Batman's got it in his suit, expensive cars feature smatterings of it in their dashboards and performance parts, but at $10 a pound on the low end, it's still too pricy for wide-scale deployment. We've been using this stuff for decades. Where's our materials science Moore's Law to make this stuff cheap? Why is this stuff still so expensive?

Turns out that even half a century later, this stuff is still a major pain in the ass to make.
Before carbon fiber becomes carbon fiber, it starts as a base material—usually an organic polymer with carbon atoms binding together long strings of molecules called a polyacrylonitrile. It's a big word for a material similar to the acrylics in sweaters and carpets. But unlike floor and clothing acrylics, the kind that turns into a material stronger and lighter than steel has a heftier price tag. A three-ish-dollar per pound starting price may not sound exorbitant, but in its manufacturing, the number spikes.

See, to get the carbon part of carbon fiber, half of the starting material's acrylic needs to be kicked away. 'The final product will cost double what you started with because half burns off,' explains Bob Norris of Oak Ridge National Laboratory's polymer matrix composites group. 'Before you even account for energy and equipment, the precursor in the final product is something around $5 a pound.'

That price—$5 a pound—is also the magic number for getting carbon fiber into mainstream automotive applications. Seven bones will do, but five will make the biggest splash. So as it stands, the base material alone has already blown the budget.

There's more. Forcing the acrylic to shed its non-carbon atoms takes monstrous machines and a lot of heat. The first of two major processing steps is oxidization stabilization. Here fibers are continuously fed through 50-100 foot-long ovens pumping out heat in the several hundred degrees Celsius range. The process takes hours, so it's a massive energy eater.

Then the material goes through a what's called carbonization. Although the furnaces here are shorter and don't run for as long, they operate at much higher temperatures—we're taking around 1000 degrees Celsius for the initial step before and then another round of heating with even higher temperatures. That's a power bill you don't even want to think about.

Still so expensive and complicated to manufacture -  .. .  
And it doesn't end there. Manufacturers also have to deal with the acrylic that doesn't hold on during the heating process. Off gasses need to be treated so as not to poison the environment. It ain't cheap being green. 'It's a lot of energy, a lot of real estate, and a lot of large equipment,' says Norris. And that's just in the manufacturing of the individual fibers themselves.

Let's take a second to talk about where we are in the manufacturing process, and where we're trying to get. That awesome-looking, rock-hard, ultra-light, shiny panel with its visible weave is what you think of when you think of carbon fiber, right? Well, we've just made the strands; we've still got to arrange them into a lattice that takes advantage of the material's unidirectional strength and bond them together.

Nailing the woven product means making sure that all the strands are pulling their weight. 'You have to be concerned that the fibers are all parallel and are all stretched evenly,' explains Rob Klawonn, president of
the carbon fiber manufacturer, Toho Tenax America. A wavy strand in a lattice will put extra stress on a straight fiber, and that straight one will end up breaking first. To compensate for the possibility of an imperfect weave, manufacturers might thread in ten percent more of the already expensive fibers than is necessary.

Alone, the strands aren't the strong stuff that manufacturers need. They're a reinforcer like steel is in concrete. Right now carbon fibers work with a thermoset resin. Together they make a composite that can be manipulated to take a certain shape. The trouble is that once the resin has been shaped and cured in an autoclave, that shape cannot be modified without screwing with the product's structural integrity. A small mistake means a lot of waste—and time. Thermosetting takes over an hour, which is a long time considering how fast the automotive industry stamps out body panels.

So carbon fiber doesn't just require one genius fix to get it into a lower price class, it requires an entire systems overhaul. As with anything offering a big financial reward, the industry is on it.

Those sweater-type acrylics, for instance, might be used in place of the ones manufacturers use now. 'The equipment is less specialized, so that might cut the precursor cost by 20-30 percent,' says Norris. They're also checking out renewable carbon fiber starters like lignin, which comes from wood, instead of the current petroleum-based stuff.

Alternate conversion processes—namely swapping thermal for plasma heating—could lower costs as well. 'It cuts the time down because you don't have to heat the entire furnace; you generate the plasma to surround the filaments,' explains Norris.

Scientists haven't quite nailed the chemical process to get carbon fiber to work with thermoplastic resins quite yet, either. But once they do, Klawonn of Toho Tenax America predicts 60-70% cut in cost in the conversion process. The big change is that thermoplastics are quick to set and can be melted and remelted, which limits waste when there's a mistake.

Change is on the horizon. Norris points out that carbon fiber has been installed in place of aluminum on newer commercial airliners like the Airbus A380. 'They're moving more mainstream, but up until now it's always been in industries that can afford to pay for the performance.' Let's just hope the cost caves before the industries that need it do.

For more articles on the latest in technology, go to the Gizmodo?nid=90243 website.




by Gizmodo/Sail-World Cruising

  

Click on the FB Like link to post this story to your FB wall

http://www.sail-world.com/index.cfm?nid=90243

6:15 AM Wed 2 Nov 2011 GMT






Click here for printer friendly version
Click here to send us feedback or comments about this story.


News - USA and the World

Overall race leader, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker) has had an eventful few days since the start in Cape Town on Wednesday. Their goal is to be first home in their home port of Abu Dhabi - six other boats willing. ... [more]  

2014 Turkey Day Regatta - The largest of Alamitos Bay Yacht Club's popular holiday sailing competitions the 67th Turkey Day Regatta has nearly 300 sailors on 216 boats in 21 classes, several of them world champions taking the weekend seriously. ... [more]  

Usual skipper Seve Jarvin and for’ard hand Sam Newton were joined in the team by James Wierzbowski for today’s race and led from shortly after the to defeat defending champion Thurlow Fisher Lawyers (Michael Coxon, Dave O’Connor, Dave Ewings) by 38s. Coopers 62-Rag and Famish Hotel (Jack Macartney, Mark Kennedy, Peter Harris) was a further 21s back in third place. ... [more]  

2014 Argo Group Gold Cup - Take time to remember. It was mid-October, one week before the brilliant Sunday Finals of the Argo Group Gold Cup and Bermuda was slammed by the second major storm in a week. Tropical Storm Fay - or was it Hurricane Fay by then— had hit Bermuda with a sneaky left jab only five days earlier. ... [more]  

Brian Carlin, On Board Reporter for Team Vestas Wind reports on the delights of using the 'bathroom' while clocking along at 20kts plus in the Southern Ocean. ... [more]  

At the RC44 Oman Cup the 10 competing teams enjoyed a great sailing day on the Gulf of Oman for the penultimate day of the 2014 Championship Tour. Racing started in a seven-knot north-westerly breeze which built steadily throughout the day. ... [more]  

The world’s largest sailing media group, Sail-World.com, held its first continental group meeting at the Marine Equipment Trade Show (METS) this week. METS is the world’s largest B2B Marine show and this year it had a record 1358 exhibitors and more than 21,000 Marine industry representatives. ... [more]  

At the ISAF Sailing World Cup Final in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates 2013 World Champion Florian Gruber is expecting the Open Formula Kiteboarding event to be the, 'strongest fleet this year.' ... [more]  

Volvo Ocean Race: Fleet heads into the Southern Ocean + Videos *Feature by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com/nz
At the latest report, Volvo Ocean Race Control, reported Dongfeng Race Team as being the leader in the second leg to Abu Dhabi. Winds were reported to be 18-25kts, with Team Vestas Wind and Team SCA recording the highest boatspeed of 20kts. ... [more]  

2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup Final - Abu Dhabi - The ISAF Sailing World Cup Final in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates is set to be an 'experience of a lifetime' according to American Women's 470 sailor Briana Provancha. ... [more]  

America's Cup: Source named in Bermuda venue leak *Feature by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com/nz
San Diego sports journalist, Matt Calkins, has named one of the sources of comment that the 35th America's Cup will be held in the British Oversea Territory of Bermuda. Writing in the San Diego Union Tribune, Calkins claimed that San Diego Tourism Authority CEO, Joe Terzi, had told the U-T. ... [more]  

2014 RC44 Oman Cup - Consistency was hard to come by and no team managed to stay in the top half of the fleet in all three races. Chris Bake’s Team Aqua (GBR) was the most consistent team of the day picking up 11-points, Nika and Charisma both added 12-points to their overall score. ... [more]  

Team Vestas Wind’s Rob Salthouse perches perilously on the edge of his bunk, eyes fixed on a well-earned freeze-dried feast, steam snaking up towards his nostrils. ... [more]  

Ensuring a safe fuel supply for America’s 12 million registered boat owners may have to wait, said Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that the agency will further delay the final rule on how much ethanol refiners must blend into the nation’s gasoline supply under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). ... [more]  

Yates Cup: US supermaxi Rio100 wins first offshore race + Video *Feature by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.com/nz
The supermaxi Bakewell-White design, Rio100 (Manouch Moshayedi, USA) has won her first race, sailing in the Yates Cup. She finished at 7.30am on Saturday morning, followed by the Botin 80 Beau Geste 14 minutes later with the Volvo 70 Giacomo 67minutes later. See video in this story. ... [more]  

The wind continued to blow on day four of the Airwaves Noumea PWA Dream Cup to produce another action packed day in New Caledonia, as a further three races for the men and four races for the women were completed in 15-25 knot winds. By the end of the day Ben Van Der Steen headed to the top of the rankings after a near perfect display. ... [more]  

The Oman RC44 Cup delivered another challenging sailing day for the fleet competing in the final event of the 2014 Championship Tour. Consistency was hard to come by and no team managed to stay in the top half of the fleet in all three races. Team Aqua was the most consistent team of the day picking up 11-points, Nika and Charisma both added 12-points to their overall score. ... [more]  

The fast southeast sailing continues in the Volvo Ocean Race but where excitement and adrenaline began—discomfort has taken over. We’re seeing an average of about 25 knots of wind but the sea state is making life somewhat miserable! ... [more]  

To summarize the last 24 hours of the Volvo Ocean Race in one word: change. The weather, the water, the sails, and our bodies are all equally (and rapidly) changing. The first full day at sea, we have experienced what some trips see in a week—if they’re lucky enough. However, that said, change can also be frustrating. ... [more]  

A new and exciting Viper 640 European Event in 2015 has been announced by Rondar Boats Ltd. Lake Garda is one of the great sailing venues and already there are signed up entries from the UK and Australia, with potential entries from the USA. It’s a serious sailing regatta and Italian holiday in one event! ... [more]  

On Monday 17 November, an impressive line-up of speakers at 13th International Sailing Summit shared ideas and best practice from around the world, demonstrating how the sailing industry can change to increase and retain participation, through innovation, technology and cultural changes. British Cycling has seen its membership grow by 567% since 2005. ... [more]  

GC32 Racing Tour: State-of-the-art in catamaran design, the GC32 is attracting considerable interest due to its conceptual similarity to the AC72 and AC62 foiling catamarans pioneered in the America’s Cup. However as the GC32s are smaller one designs with soft sail rigs, they provide both professional teams and private owners with the opportunity to experience airborne catamaran racing. ... [more]  

Designed primarily for single-handed or double-handed racing, the high-performance monohulls have also been a fixture in such East Coast distance races as Newport-to-Bermuda and Marblehead-to-Halifax. Now the Class 40 is coming to the historic Annapolis-to-Newport Race for the first time. ... [more]  

Spectacular performance by Bakewell-White maxi early in first race *Feature by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.com/nz
The revamped Bakewell-White supermaxi, Rio 100 (Manouch Moshayedi) turned in an impressive performance in the opening stages of the Yates Cup. Sailing against a variety of benchmarks which included a a Volvo 70, a Botin 80 and an ORMA 60, Rio 100 came from behind to enjoy an impressive lead over the monohulls after 90 minutes of sailing. ... [more]  

As promised the wind arrived on the third day of the Airwaves Noumea PWA Dream Cup to provide an enthralling day of challenging racing in winds ranging from 10-25 knots. After almost seven hours of racing three eliminations have been completed for the men, whilst four races have been completed for the women. ... [more]  

America's Cup: Team New Zealand responds to Venue rumours *Feature by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.com/nz
Emirates Team New Zealand has responded to reports published in Bermuda and mainland USA, that Bermuda has been selected as venue for the 35th America's Cup. In a media release sent mid-afternoon, New Zealand time, Emirates Team NZ CEO Grant Dalton said in response to unconfirmed reports that Bermuda had won the right to host the 35th America’s Cup, that the team had not been told of a decision ... [more]  

Amidst a 10% growth report on having issued over 9000 certificates worldwide in 2014, the recent Annual General Meeting of the Offshore Racing Congress is pleased to announces numerous improvements approved for use in the ORC Rules and policies for 2015. ... [more]  

Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15, Leg 2. Team Alvimedica’s OBR Amory Ross reports on the Leg 2 start and progress. Well, now we know what it feels like to be shot from of a cannon! That was utter insanity. When the gun went I think there was almost no wind at all—two knots or something—but as we slowly crept out from under the shadow of Table Mountain it changed drastically. ... [more]  

The start of Leg 2 offered all the wind conditions you could want. I will not lie: I was pretty nervous to begin leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race (Mom called it ‘Stage Fright’); I think the whole team was pretty nervous. Here we are, having confidently completed the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race—after 27 days at sea! ... [more]  

The ISAF Sailing World Cup Final in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates is set to be 'an experience of a lifetime' according to American Women's 470 sailor Briana Provancha. Some of the world’s top Men’s and Women’s 470 teams will make up the individual fleets with some excellent racing on the cards. ... [more]  

After finishing third in the annual RC44 match race championships, Team Nika seem to have got a taste for the podium. It was a tough day on the water for the start of fleet racing at the RC44 Oman Cup, with many teams struggling for consistency. ... [more]  

St Barth Cata Cup 2014 - Game on! by Dominique Ladouceur
The boats are ready and the sailors have all had a chance to test their catamarans in a very rigorous St-John Bay. The conditions will be windy at the start of this seventh edition of the St-Barth Cata Cup. Sailors will be facing winds from the west at 18 knots with gusts at 22 knots on the first race day. ... [more]  

While more modifications are being mooted for the champion supermaxi yacht Wild Oats XI as part of her preparation for next month’s Rolex Sydney Hobart yacht race, a high-profile new member of the team was revealed on Sydney Harbour today. ... [more]  

Rolex Sydney Hobart 2014 - Wild Oats XI and Audi ready: photos
Volvo Ocean Race: Meek's tips pay dividend in Leg 2 squalls and calms *Feature
Volvo Ocean Race - Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing in search of hometown glory
Airwaves Noumea PWA Dream Cup - Waiting game continues on day 2
Barcelona World Race skippers named as scientific agents
Volvo Ocean Race: Stop-start battle to the Cape of Good Hope
Volvo Ocean Race: Leg 2 starts at high speed in 35kt winds
Volvo Ocean Race - Team SCA off to gutsy leg 2 start
ISAF Sailing World Cup Final - Heroes and champions in Nacra 17 fleet
ISAF Sailing World Cup Final - Talented Finn pack all set
RC44 Oman Cup - Synergy crowned RC44 Match Race Champions
Volvo Ocean Race: Leg 2 start - action replay video from Cape Town
Volvo Ocean Race: Team Alvimedica on tour in Cape Town
15th Ambassadors Cup - Brazil claims victory
Route du Rhum - Alex Pella first ever Spanish skipper to finish first
SSL Finals 2014 - Star World Champion Stanjek to race with Olesen
ISAF Sailing World Cup Melbourne: Finn fight looming on Port Phillip
Rugby man appointed Chief Executive Officer of Yachting Australia
Welcome back: Congressional Cup Joins Alpari World Match Racing Tour
18ft Skiffs: Smeg's second Red-Line run down Sydney harbour in 40kts *Feature
Volvo Ocean Race: Start Wednesday - Cyclone season awaits Leg 2 fleet   
Airwaves Noumea PWA Dream Cup - Opening day in New Caledonia   
RORC Transatlantic Race - Competitive fleet ready to race   
Volvo Ocean Race: Leg 2 Media Conference - Full replay *Feature   
Volvo Ocean Race - Team Vestas Wind ready to race   
Volvo Ocean Race: Young sailors get behind ADOR ahead of Leg 2   
18fters: Getting through the 'Death Zone' in a 35kt breeze *Feature   
Volvo Ocean Race: Sam Davies speaks openly about the first leg *Feature   
ISAF Sailing World Cup Final: Exciting 49er and 49erFX action expected   
America's Cup: Significant changes made to Protocol, but issues remain *Feature   
2014 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race - the 70th   
Stoke Beer 18ft Skiff Auckland Champs: Knight Frank lead after 5 races   
ISAF Sailing World Cup Final - RS:X elite Abu Dhabi bound   
120 boat start line for Tasar Worlds in Busselton   
Melges 24 U.S. Nationals - Full Throttle team grabs their sixth title   
RC44 Oman Cup - Grand final showdown on the horizon   
Visit Doyle Sails New Zealand at METS 2014   
Top Kiwi Finn sailor debuts in the 2014 Star Sailors League Finals   
2014 Butler Cup - Shane Young wins match race regatta   
Adventures of a Sailor Girl: News and interviews from Nov 16 show *Feature   


For this week's complete news stories select    Last 7 Days
   Search All News
For last month's complete news stories select    Last 30 Days
   Archive News







Sail-World.com  


















Switch Default Region to:

Social Media

Asia

Australia

Canada

Europe

New Zealand

United Kingdom


http://www.sail-world.com/event_images/image/Twitter_logo_small.png http://www.sail-world.com/event_images/image/FaceBook-icon.png  http://www.sail-world.com/event_images/image/RSS-Icon.png

United States

Cruising Northern

Cruising Southern

MarineBusiness World

PowerBoat World

FishingBoating World

 

Contact

Commercial

News

Search

Contact Us

Advertisers Information

Submit news/events

Search Stories/Text

Feedback

Advertisers Directory

Newsletter Archive

Photo Gallery

 

Banner Advertising Details

Newsletter Subscribe

Video Gallery

Policies

 

 

 

Privacy Policy

 

 


Cookie Policy

 

 



This site and its contents are © Copyright TetraMedia and/or the original author, photographer etc. All Rights Reserved.  Photographs are copyright by law.  If you wish to use or buy a photograph contact the photographer directly.
XLXL NEW US
LocalAds   DE  ES  FR  IT