According to information from the manufacturer, the continuous-fiber reinforced thermoplastic sandwich panels provide weight savings of more than 50 percent over plywood. The panels feature continuous glass fiber face sheets and foam cores, a configuration that PolyOne found improved bondability to different surfaces and improved thermal lamination to varying materials and finishes. This provides the design flexibility that boat builders expect.

The Hammerhead panels can be installed using traditional methods of tabbing and glassing, Hornberger explains, and are used in both cosmetic and structural areas, including flooring, bulkheads and stringers.

“They can be bonded to the support structure and joined together at the seams, which can be easily covered,” says Hornberger. “Gel coat can be applied with minimal sanding and surface preparation, compared with the traditional labor-intensive sanding process needed to achieve a smooth, level surface for a finish coat.”

Beneteau also is striving to streamline labor-intensive processes. The company is a partner in a European Union-funded project to automate certain boatbuilding processes, such as sanding and grinding, in order to improve worker safety. “The target is mainly to reduce repetitive motion,” Surun explains.

The collaborative COROMA (which roughly translates to Cognitively Enhanced Robot for Flexible Manufacturing of Metal and Composite Parts) notes that the project has already demonstrated a completely automated sanding application and expects to roll out new technologies next year.

After all, sailors aren’t the only ones looking for a streamlined vehicle to boost their performance. Builders, too, are always looking for new strategies to streamline their manufacturing processes.

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