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The VIP Treatment

Intermarine Savannah’s Vacuum Infusion Process
The VIP Treatment
A new construction method is not only environmentally friendly and cost-effective, it also improves the product.

By George L. Petrie — August 2001
   
 
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Builders of fiberglass boats and yachts are in the midst of what may prove to be a sea change in the way they ply their craft. The days of building hulls with chopper guns and hand-laid glass in open molds are numbered. Partly because of environmental concerns, but also because of the promise of higher quality and lower cost, progressive builders are implementing a variety of faster, cleaner, and better molding processes for everything from PWCs and runabouts to megayachts.

While a few innovative methods have been developed over the past several years, one created for megayachts by Georgia-based Intermarine Savannah is noteworthy. (In a future issue, we’ll discuss processes more suitable for boats in the lower end of the size range.)

In traditional fiberglass construction, hulls are laid up in open molds, each layer of fiberglass being coated with a layer of resin applied with a spray gun or roller and worked into the laminate with a squeegee. Workers are clad in rubber boots, Tyvek paper suits, and face masks with air filters to protect them from styrene vapors given off by the resin. The process is labor-intensive, and the quality of the finished laminate depends strongly on how well each layer of resin is applied; there is little tolerance for error.

In newer molding processes, laminates are generally laid up dry, covered with an airtight membrane, then vacuum-infused with resin. Perhaps the most well-known resin-infusion process is SCRIMP, patented by Seemann Composites, the remainder of the acronym standing for Resin Infusion Molding Process. One of the key distinguishing features of SCRIMP is its resin distribution material, which facilitates resin infusion and which must be removed from the laminate after fabrication. Owned by TPI Technologies, the SCRIMP process is currently licensed to several yacht builders and has been used in building hulls as large as 90 feet.

Intermarine believes it has created the next step beyond SCRIMP. When Thom Conboy took the helm at the Savannah yard five years ago, he set his sights on building hulls much longer than 90 feet. During the ensuing years, his engineers developed an infusion process that could create components of virtually any length. This process is now being used to build the hull, deck, superstructure, and major internal members for the yard’s new 123-foot series motoryachts as well as the deck structure of its 145-foot model.

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This article originally appeared in the June 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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