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Lightweight Composites for Heavy-Duty Solutions

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In various parts of the marine industry, composites (often referred to as fiberglass or FRP), are usually thought of suitable only for recreational boats and small cruisers. However, composites have been used for the Navy's 57 m (188 ft) coastal minehunters and 46 m–49 m (150 ft–161 ft) yachts in the U.S. and for larger minesweepers and patrol vessels in the U.K. and Sweden. Ten years ago these vessels would have been at the upper limits of perceived size limitation for FRPs, but presuming limitations on the size of vessels using composites as the primary structural material are premature. Composites are presently used for sections of large steel vessels, including nonpressure hull decking, nose sections, sails and diving planes for submarines, weapons enclosures and masts for destroyers, funnels on cruise ships and hatch covers for barges. Research is ongoing for use of composites in larger deckhouse sections for combatant and structural hull materials for 200 m (670 ft) fast freight vessels. Potential uses on large steel cargo and auxiliary vessels include bulbous bows, bow fairings, hatch covers, stern fairings, deck machinery enclosures, and nonstructural interiors. Composites have also been used as a complete hull restoration for a vintage steel yacht. This paper reviews current usage and explores future potential for the use of composites on larger vessels. Issues of damage tolerance, corrosion resistance, flammability, classification, and regulation are investigated. This paper does NOT present the highest level of technology in the composites industry. It is simply presented as a primer for those who normally work with steel and aluminum to think out of the metal box.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2001-04-01

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