Composites selected for Australian ferry

Australia's ATL Composites supplied its DuFLEX composite panel system for use in the construction of a 24m/78.7-ft long whale-watching catamaran ferry, Spirit of Hervey Bay.

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Composites bested aluminum in the materials downselect for the recent construction of a 24m/78-ft long whale-watching catamaran ferry, the Spirit of Hervey Bay, in Queensland, Australia. The new craft, designed by naval architect Noah Thompson of East Cape Marine Ltd. (Te Puke, New Zealand), was built using ATL Composites’ Pty. Ltd. (Ernest, Australia) DuFLEX Composite Panel System and DuraKore Strip Planks. The builder was Streamline Catamarans (Hervey Bay, Australia). The boat is the largest yet produced using a custom-prepared DuFLEX Component Pack.

DuFLEX Component Packs are created at ATL’s facility on Australia’s Gold Coast using CNC routing machinery and reportedly provide significant savings on a project, through reduction in labor and minimized waste. Standard DuFLEX panels are cored with rigid end-grain balsa or structural foam cores, and skinned with a high-performance epoxy resin reinforced with E-glass or carbon fiber multiaxial fabric. Panel shape, size, fiber orientation and ply schedules are based on CAD design or engineering specifications to best meet weight targets, bear stress and impact loads, and achieve other design parameters. The panels are finished with peel ply to protect the laminates from contamination and to reduce the amount of preparation required prior to secondary bonding or laminating. A scarfed “Z” joint allows panels to be fitted together for bonding with adhesive. Panels are nested and sequentially numbered to indicate the correct joining sequence, and a nesting diagram is supplied by ATL. DuraKore Strip Planks are balsa end-grain core with laminated Gaboon wood veneers, for traditional hull strip plank construction.

The design specification for the Spirit of Hervey Bay required a service speed of between 18 and 20 knots with 245 passengers on board. Currently, the ferry is achieving 21 knots and saving fuel costs, compared to other similar sized boats, says Wayne Jones, head of Streamline Catamarans. “This is the largest vessel by volume that we have built,” he says. "Our decision to use DuraKore and a DuFLEX Component Package has made the construction much quicker and easier.” Architect Thompson endorsed the selection, noting, “Yes, there is a lot more design time involved in the creation of a complex 3-D program, but this is outweighed by the fact that the prebuilt packages that are created from the program save a massive amount of construction time, primarily through a significant reduction in the number of man-hours. ”

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