In yacht and boat building the most commonly used materials are the so-called composites. By cleverly combining the positive properties of at least two components, they often have outstanding features – some of them even specially adapted to their respective areas of application. It is hardly surprising that they are also used for high-performance applications in the aerospace industry, in power engineering for the likes of wind turbines, in medical technology, in sports equipment manufacturing and in the automotive industry.
However, wherever there are bindings, these can also ‘break’ – be it through external influences or material fatigue. Regular tests are therefore indispensable. The iX-600 portable inspection system from UNX Technologies in Taiwan provides contactless inspection of multilayer composites, even for large surfaces. It uses image processing to detect weak points that are invisible to the human eye. In addition to a thermal imaging camera, a uEye board level camera with autofocus from IDS Imaging Development Systems is used.
In maritime applications, the demand for composites is continuously increasing. In addition to floor elements, side walls, ceiling panelling or doors, toilet compartments and separation units made of composite materials can be supplied. Moreover, load-bearing parts such as floors, walls or roof panels are possible and provide considerable weight savings. A classic example of a composite material used here is CFRP – carbon fibre reinforced plastic. It has a high stiffness and is very light at the same time. Or also GFRP – glass fibre reinforced plastic, a material made of plastic and fibreglass. It is cost-effective and yet very high quality.
With such lightweight construction materials, the individual components are not combined into a single material, but exist virtually side by side. Therefore, damage such as bubbles, pores, foreign inclusions and delamination (peeling off of layers) can occur from the manufacturing processes. Even during operation, i.e. while the vehicle is moving, the strength of the material can be impaired, for example by an impact event. An impact against a composite panel can leave no visible damage on the outside. Inside, however, it will still lead to a reduction in compressive strength. Regular testing of the materials is therefore not only sensible but also vital for safety. Yacht manufacturers usually use the ultrasonic or impact-echo method to detect defects. This is based on the use of sound waves. It was developed in the 1980s for testing reinforced concrete components and is currently widely used. However, this process requires contact between the parts and is time consuming.
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