One problem for high performance yachts is to produce a light enough, strong enough structure. This is possible with modern fiberglass “composite” construction, but at substantial cost to produce the molds. Thus, composites are expensive for limited construction. However, the term “composite” means a combination of any two different materials. Prior to advent of fiberglass, “composite construction” meant a combination of wood and metal, generally wood planks and perhaps primary framing over steel, bronze or aluminum secondary framing and other heavy structure. Prince Edward’s, (later King Edward VII) famous yacht Britannia was yellow pine over steel frames and was certainly a high-performance yacht in her time. This system is now being used by a few builders of large, mainly traditional “revival” design yachts, but it is applicable to much wider range of boats and could help reduce the cost and increase the availability of limited run yacht construction (and possibly opportunities for yacht design commissions). The most important development is the ready availability of CAD/CAM/CNC design and cutting (for both metal and wood), but engineered wood, and modern coatings and adhesives, and even composite fastenings are also important enablers. The major framing structure is cut out of metal by plasma arc, water jet or laser cutters using standard metal industry techniques and equipment. The wood shell is made by strip planking, cold molding, or a combination, carvel or lap strake planking, or plywood. Planks or shell “plating” can be CNC cut as well, providing substantial reductions in labor for a oneoff or limited production boat compared to either making a mold for a fiberglass boat or for traditional wood construction. Finally, large heavy timbers are not required which not only reduces labor, but allows use of sustainable timber resources and sequesters the carbon that the tree took from the atmosphere while growing in a form that hopefully will last for some decades at least.
CNC Enabled Wood/Metal Composite Construction of (Relatively) High Performance Sailing Yachts
Barry, Christopher D. "CNC Enabled Wood/Metal Composite Construction of (Relatively) High Performance Sailing Yachts." Paper presented at the SNAME 24th Chesapeake Sailing Yacht Symposium, Annapolis, Maryland, USA, June 2022. doi: https://doi.org/10.5957/CSYS-2022-004
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