Propelling the Marine World

Composite materials were first used in the marine industry back in the 1970s, when Hexcel supplied glass reinforcements for performance boats, canoes and dinghies. Hexcel now has a comprehensive range of products aimed at racing yacht and luxury boat builders that include America’s Cup, IMOCA class and DNV GL-approved prepregs, woven reinforcements and multiaxial fabrics for hull and deck structures, masts and appendages.

Hexcel is a leading manufacturer of woven, multiaxial and non-crimp fabrics, supplying a wide range of Lloyds Register approved products for boat building. The HiMax™ multiaxial range includes ultra-lightweight carbon biaxials, reinforcements with micromesh, woven with enhanced infusion and non-print through as well as carbon unidirectional tapes, solutions for infusion control and non-stitch finish.

Sunseeker, the renowned British luxury motor yacht manufacturer, has implemented Hexcel’s HiMax™ DPA technology technology in the Predator 50, its new performance cruiser. Hexcel developed the novel HiMax™ DPA technology for its range of multiaxial reinforcements. It comes pre-tacked for ease of laying up multiple fabrics in preparation for infusion. Designed to provide the optimal level of tack while minimizing additional weight, it eliminates the need to spray an adhesive onto the fabric surface, which reduces the risk of inconsistent application, restricted resin flow, contamination and excess weight. This has proven to be a market-leading composites technology with more than half of Hexcel’s marine fabrics now being supplied with DPA reinforcements.

For the past three years, the DIAM 24 has been the boat of choice for the Tour de France à la Voile. Hexcel materials have been used for the DIAM 24 mast construction from the outset. With a carbon fiber, epoxy single-skin laminate, the masts are constructed from HexPly® M79 prepreg, which offers a flexible cure cycle so production times can be optimized to the builder’s specific needs. A unidirectional fiber is used to achieve weight and stiffness targets with a twill fabric achieving a good surface finish and impact resistance.

One of Hexcel’s latest innovations in marine is Hexcel’s HexPly® SuperFIT™ prepregs (or semipregs) which are glass and carbon fiber reinforcements that have been partially impregnated with epoxy resin, leaving one tacky face and one dry face. The high resin content of the tacky face provides easy positioning of the materials in the mold and holds the plies together. Meanwhile, the dry face facilitates repositioning of plies, especially beneficial in large structures, and facilitates the draining of air or volatiles inside the laminate, thereby minimizing voids. Direct contact with the resin is reduced or eliminated, having a positive impact on health and safety during manufacturing. SuperFIT™ prepregs are recommended for use with the low temperature curing HexPly® M79. HexPly® M79 SuperFIT™ is ideal for boat builders looking for alternative technologies and new materials to reduce the manufacturing cycle time. It is easy to process, can be used in conjunction with conventional prepregs, and is suitable for automated layup processes (requiring no decontamination of equipment).

HexPly® XF2 is another new technology developed by Hexcel to help reduce yacht-building cycle times. It is a surfacing prepreg that is easy to handle that provides good drapability and tack to adhere to the mold tool for a highly efficient lay-up process. HexPly® XF2 also gives an excellent surface finish with no pinholes or visible overlaps, providing excellent out-of-mold quality that greatly reduces post-processing operations, saving time and labor costs.

Hexcel continues to develop new technologies and help marine manufacturers improve their designs for better, more efficient watercraft.