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July 15, 2015

Protechwood – Anatomy of a Boat Builder: Five Day European Tour

A recent five day tour of some of Europe’s key boat building factories by The Catamaran Group yacht brokers highlighted important design innovations and new directions in technology from leading European builders such as Lagoon, Yapluka and Alliaura Marine.

The trip allowed yacht brokers and staff to see first hand how catamarans such as the Lagoon 500, Lagoon 420 and Yapluka 70 are put together using a blend of the latest technology and well trained labor specialists.

PART 1: LAGOON – BLENDING ART AND SCIENCE TO PERFECTION

Nick Harvey, President of Lagoon America, provided an in-depth and insightful tour of the Lagoon facilities that have all gone through incremental and sometimes revolutionary changes in the four key areas of boat building: molding, trimming, assembly and expedition/finishing.

Over the last 20 years Lagoon has been constantly tweaking and revising the process to include the use of robotics, template designs and rapid prototyping thus speeding up the production process. A highly skilled and mobile workforce ensures high-end finishing with up to three separate quality control checks before the boat leaves the factory.

One of Lagoon’s leading figures in directing design and implementation has been Bruno Belmont, a graduate of the Southampton School of Naval Architecture who helped introduce new composite techniques that have saved up to 50% in costs when applied to new models such as the Lagoon 500 and 420.

The construction of the Bordeaux III factory underscores the growth in production and engineering requirements that are taking place within Lagoon at the moment.

Situated between Bordeaux I (Aluminum) and Bordeaux II composite workshop, Bordeaux III will cumulatively occupy more than 15,000 square meters of space. It includes an assembly space 120 meters long; 25 meters wide.

The factory will also house a 2,500 square meter pre-assembly platform, offices overlooking the river, stores, diverse workshops and a company restaurant for the entire Bordeaux site.

Outside facilities will notably include a 6,000 square meter area outfitted for the pre-launch preparation of boats, an inclined plane launch facility and landscaped areas highlighting the facility’s integration into its riverside environment.

Bordeaux III will focus strongly on the Lagoon brand and the Lagoon 500 in particular. Advanced construction techniques are currently being applied to the Lagoon 500 and Lagoon 420 which are outlined further below under the molding section.

Inside the Construction Process

What follows is a brief description of the Lagoon boat building process that have helped establish the French yard as one of the dominant catamaran builders in the world today.

MOLDING

The construction process gets underway in the molding department where a female mould is sprayed with gel coat resin.

This is followed by a hand lay up of fiberglass, more cloth and more resin.

All fiberglass used in the mold room is pre cut, labeled, and delivered to mold room team for building of hulls, decks, and grids. The delivery of fiberglass kits ready for use assures precise fitting and correct quantities.

With each layer of fiberglass a coat of resin is applied, and the process of hand rolling the fiberglass layers begins. Each layer of glass is carefully rolled by use of small grooved rollers, which will remove trapped air and excess resin. Once this process is completed, then the next layer of fiberglass can be applied.

Overhead receivers are used for securing the bulkheads as well as locations for hatches and access areas for deck mounted hardware. The overhead liner also provides locations for conduits for running of electrical wiring as well as for instrumentation wiring.

Vacuum Bag-Infusion with Vinylester Resin

This technology is less than 10 years old and is revolutionizing the construction of modern catamarans such as the Lagoon 500, Lagoon 420 and recently the Lagoon 570.

After comparative laboratory trials, this technique provided excellent engineering results. These results are equal to or superior to pre-preg in as much as fabric compaction is achieved without the slightest possibility of air being captured in the composite.

The fabric is positioned with the same precision used in pre-preg. This technology also allows Lagoon to construct simultaneously the outer skin, core and inner skin, as well as the structure (in case of female mold construction). Using glue between each layer is unnecessary.

For each hull made, a sample can be saved for engineering or chemical testing. The Tg obtained is at least 80°C (110°C in vinylester).

TRIMMING

Some cleaning and adjustments are made in this facility. The windows, ports, hatches, lockers and other openings are cutout and cleaned. Any voids, low spots or imperfections are ground out and repaired at a central inspection station. From here the bridgedeck is moved to the assembly line where the modular interiors are attached.

Pre-assemly

Prepping booths house hulls prior to delivery to the assembly line and help streamline the process and maintain high organizational levels in the process.

ASSEMBLY

All the pieces of the puzzle start to fit together in the assembly bay. These include the installation of pre-cut wood interiors made in the wood shop.

The “moving” assembly lines are characteristic of all Lagoon factories. This method of bringing the pieces to the stations where workers and their tools are located is extremely efficient in reducing the wasted man-hours that occurs when the moving assembly line is not employed.

Raised assembly lines and mezzanines are other design features that are not seen in many major sailboat manufacturing facilities. This design feature affords a safer platform for Lagoon workers and easier access in and out of the yachts. These rolling assembly lines allow yachts to move from station to station. The tools and craftsmen remain in place.

Bulkhead Installation

The bulkheads are installed and bonded to hull (and later to the deck) for stiffness, and all wiring is placed in the pre-designed raceways port and starboard. The engines, tanks, hoses, through-hulls, cabinets, windows, ports, and hatches are all installed on this line.

After the entire interior is assembled, the deck is then set onto the hull using the same poly-sulfide adhesive and sealant along with bolts for a strong, waterproof bond. The bulkheads are bonded on all 360 degrees to the hull and deck surfaces.

The deck hardware including the winches, hatches, sheet stoppers, blocks, cleats and toe-rail are attached. Each piece of deck hardware is installed by teams of two, with one on deck and the other below bedding and tightening each nut and bolt.

A Touch of Wood

The interior furniture kits are produced by the Beneteau wood shop and shipped to the various production plants in France and the Marion, South Carolina site. The wood is completely finished with varnish and ready for assembly. Beneteau’s furniture factory runs 3 shifts producing over 6,000 finished pieces of furniture per day and a completed wood kit every 15 minutes.

This speed is achieved by the use of many huge computer controlled cutting and finishing machines. Interior furniture is pre-fitted in a duplicate mold of the hull grid mold, prior to final installation in the yacht. This extra step allows a precise fit of all interior furniture and ensures efficiency of assembly outside the hull.

Ultrasound machines are used to cure the resin on laminated wood that are fused together in three layers.

Greater speeds were introduced with the inclusion of four CNC routing machines that work off coded templates and quickly punch out grooved interior wood finishing for the latest Lagoon models on the production line including the 420, 500 and Lagoon Power 44.

Furniture is protected with clear plastic sheeting and foam held in place by tape.

The woodshop identifies processes for both regular and irregular wood finishings and additionally has a separate building for fusing non-visible wood pieces that are used on a typical Lagoon catamaran.

EXPEDITION OR FINISHING

The completed hull is then lifted into one of the huge in-house test tanks. The engine and electronics are tested as well as all the through-hulls for any leaks. The finished boats then go to a final inspection stage where a team goes over the entire hull, deck, interior and exterior checking each system for integrity and quality. Any boat that shows anything that is below the standard gets repaired before it goes out to the shipping area.

Yachts are also fitted with floorboards, cushions, and loose gear is stowed in sail lockers. Final quality checks are preformed and the yacht is released to shipping department.

Conclusion

Lagoon has consistently fine tuned the boat building process over the last 20 years and introduced some ground breaking techniques into certain stages such as Vacuum Bag Infusion

Molding.

Wherever possible technology is used to aid, streamline and improve the process but there is a high degree of human interaction to enforce quality control and improve production line speeds.

The combined advances in molding, trimming, assembly and expedition are being used creatively to produce the latest line of top models including the Lagoon 420, Lagoon 500 and Lagoon Power 44.

Coming Soon

PART II: YAPLUKA

PART III: PRIVILEGE

Source by Protechwood

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