Ferrocement ship revival?

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by Rocktheboat, Jan 15, 2018.

  1. Rocktheboat
    Joined: Jan 2018
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    Rocktheboat New Member

    Hello,

    I'm new here and hope to add an interesting topic of conversation.

    I have two thoughts on building ships, although I am not a shipbuilder yet, I am a builder of homes and such.

    First off, I love Wolf Hilbertz' research seawater electrodisposition and the ability to put a metal frame charged with low voltage in seawater to accumulate caco3 and mgho as a concrete ferrocement. I feel many things are possible with that technology, boat building being on of them.

    With newer conductive paints, metal armatures could be replaced with fiberglass rods painted with conductive nanocarbon paints so that electro accretion can take place on the frame of a hull.

    Now my real question for your forum is... With the evolution of fiberglass reinforcement rods and fiberglass reinforced concrete mix technology who is to say that ferrocement ship design could not be brought back into the mainstream? (Check out the concrete countertop institute in North Carolina) they do amazing stuff with GFRC , stronger, thinner slabs that have extreme flexibility and crack resistance.

    If one could design a ferrocement ship with a fiberglass rod matrix as the armature then sprayed the GFRC mixture onto the armature you could eliminate the negatives of ferrocement ship designs of the past, water penetration that led to corrosion of metal armatures.

    Would this be viable with new developments and materials?
     
  2. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    Welcome to the forum.

    Materials development has and always will drive new build methods and techniques, though concrete has some inherit disadvantages for yachts. The keys are to match or exceed current material attributes, while retaining sufficient strength and stiffness without paying too much of a weight or other physical penalty, just to achieve this new process. The problem with concrete is it's heavy, for it's strength and stiffness given other choices. So things are added, like 'glass and polyurethane (as examples), to improve some of it's attributes. In the end you'll weigh the pro's and con's and have to make a decision, but concrete has been toyed with for many decades (generations) and though some successes have been done, none not a single one has faired well against more traditional hull material choices, particularly when the cost of the hull shell is taken into account, which on most average size yachts accounts to about 20% or less of the total project outlay in time and materials. This means the savings isn't as significant as you might think and hardly viable, unless substantial savings in time, materials and costs can be employed in its implementation.
     
    Angélique likes this.
  3. Barry
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    Barry Senior Member

    upload_2018-1-17_17-33-42.jpeg upload_2018-1-17_17-34-5.jpeg upload_2018-1-17_17-35-51.jpeg
    There will always be a small group of people who want to build out of ferrocement because it can be done. But from a commercial prospective it is not practical or manufacturers would
    jump to a cheaper product if it could meet service requirements.
    If you are going to go to the trouble of building a steel, or fibreglass armature then coating it in cement, why not just build the fibreglass armature and coat it in resin and have a stronger
    lighter hull. The "low cost of cement" will soon be eroded with more difficulty attaching equipment, bulkheads and continued maintenance. Resale value will be impacted if you look at what you spend and what you might get back when you sell it. But there are those who will build a modern log home for the uniqueness , and there are those who do not look at the
    whole project when taking on a ferro cement hull or consider cost as a factor.
    Par covered the obvious.
    Remember the cost of the hull can be a small part of building a boat. So to save 30% on material on a hull which might be 30% of the cost of a finished boat means that you
    have saved 9% of total cost, but with a lower resale value, higher maintenance costs. The cost of finishing of the boat because it is ferrocement could easily offset any hull construction savings
    Lots of people over the years have said that they are going to build in ferro, but I have not seen a contributor submit completed pictures.
    Again it can be done, but not really a commercially viable material for a boat
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2018
  4. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    In WWII we built a whole lot of "Liberty Ships". They were concrete over steel armatures. They were made of concrete not because of the cost but because of the precious and limited availability, and capacity to produce, steel during that war. Steel was being used for the likes of Artillery pieces, Tanks, personell helmets, landing barges, etc. The Liberty ships had the advantage of having slightly less risk from magnetic mines than steel ships did. They were just as vulnerable, and probably more so, than the steel ships that were hunted by the German wolfpack sub fleet. We lost a lot of them. Ferro is a viable building material but has, in the long view, little to recommend it for boats or ships.
     
  5. RAraujo
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    RAraujo Senior Member - Naval Architect

    I do not think "Liberty Ships" were built of ferrocement... I believe they were the first class of ships to use, extensively, welded construction...
     
  6. Barry
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    Barry Senior Member

  7. ExileMoon
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    ExileMoon Junior Member

    The main problem of steel mesh cement ships is that, after a long period of time, the steel will corrode and swell in the cement, resulting in damage to the shell.

    What you need to find is a material that does not rust.
    Glass fibers do not rust due to contact with sea water, but usually glass fibers are corroded by cement. Of course, there are some special glass fibers that resist the corrosion of cement, but these glass fibers are more expensive.

    Carbon fiber is a very reliable material. But the price of carbon fiber determines that it can not go to the public.

    Materials such as stainless steel wire have the problem of high cost.

    The essential advantage of cement ship is cheap. If you can not be cheap, then it can not stand up.

    There is now an approximation of the material that can be used: basalt fiber. The price is much lower than carbon fiber, but compared to ordinary wire is still a lot more expensive. Perhaps after the technology developed this material may be used after the price drop.


    In fact, there is a problem, these fibers and wire, they are soft. The shape of the hull can not be made directly like a steel wire. You must make a separate mold to form. This also increases the difficulty and cost of construction.
     
  8. PAR
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    PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

    This isn't correct. Given the total project cost, the concrete costs are quite small in relation to it. Saving say 10% on a completed build might seem something, but not worth the related costs, such as labor increases tying the armature together for example.
     
  9. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    Liberty ship was a generic name used as a handle for ships that were mainly for supply service in the Atlantic theater of war. The namesake ones were built at Liberty shipbuilding in North Carolina I think.

    The article that Barry referenced states that the WWII ships were built by McCloskey, which is true. The McCloskey shipyard with which I am intimately familiar was in Tampa Florida located in an area called Hookers point.

    Nostalgia: Some of you will know about Johnson sails. Clint Johnson was the sailmaker at Tampa McCloskey. Of course that was long before the emergence of his sail loft in Clearwater/St. Pete. No the concrete ships did not have sails. The wooden lifeboats did. There was also all manner of canvaswork other than sails.
     
  10. Angélique
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    Angélique aka Angel (only by name)

    from post #1
    That's all research from the 70's, and it seems it didn't catch on yet, maybe it didn't reach the right public, maybe there are other reasons for the lack of enthusiasm so far, perhaps someone here has experience with, and/or knowledge of this system, and is willing post a review here...

    PDF: - - IEEE - JOURNAL - ON - OCEANIC - ENGINEERING, - VOL. - OE-4, - NO.3, - JULY - 1979
    Electrodeposition of Minerals in Sea Water: Experiments and Applications - by - WOLF H. HILBERTZ





    "Maldive Barnacle" Biorock Reef Structure - pic 1 - - pic 2 - - usable technic for boatbuilding . . ?
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2018
  11. JSL
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    JSL Senior Member

    There are about 9 concrete 'Liberty Ships' anchored as a breakwater off the McMillan Bloedel paper plant in Powell River BC. - have been there since the late 50's and do their job. You can google map to take a look. They are about 350' long.
    A yard (Victoria, BC) I worked in had built 'Victory' *ships of steel. (*the British Commonwealth equivalent) during WW2
     
  12. RAraujo
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    RAraujo Senior Member - Naval Architect

  13. rwatson
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    rwatson Senior Member

    A much better description of concrete boats The Concrete Fleet of WWII http://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/wwii/the-concrete-fleet-of-wwii/ in both WWI and WW II, including the 9 sunk as breakwaters.

    Since the term "Liberty Fleet" was based on "September 27, 1941, as "Liberty Fleet Day" and launched the first 14 vessels. In his speech at the launch ceremony, Pres. Franklin Roosevelt cited Patrick Henry's famed speech and stated that the ships would bring liberty to Europe." , and nearly 3,000 were built in various shipyards, Ships for Freedom: The Liberty Ship Program https://www.thoughtco.com/the-liberty-ship-program-2361030 then the concrete boats ( some who took part in D-Day) have strong claim to being a Liberty Ship ie. Ordered and paid for by Britain.

    " Reviving the Concrete Fleet
    With the advent of World War II, steel was once again in short supply. In 1942, the U.S. government decided to revisit the experiment with concrete ships, and the United States Maritime Commission contracted McCloskey & Company of Philadelphia to construct a new fleet, again to total two dozen ships. Thirty years of improvements in concrete would make this new fleet lighter and stronger. Construction started in July 1943, and the ships were built at an amazing rate with one being launched every month. They were appropriately enough named after pioneers in the science and development of concrete, including a Roman engineer named Vitruvius Pollio who lived in the first century bc.

    Two of these ships did see combat service. In March 1944, the SS David O. Saylor and the SS Vitruvius set sail from Baltimore for Liverpool, England, to join the fleet preparing for the D-Day invasion. "
     
  14. rwatson
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    rwatson Senior Member

    One of the BIG points in favour of Concrete/non Ferrous hulls that HASNT been mentioned, is Longevity and Maintenance.

    Commercial steel ships have an economic lifetime of between 15 and say 35 years, and that includes some very expensive preparation and re-coating over that time.

    The lack of rust on say a Basalt armature, might possibly double or triple that, with a fraction of the re-coating costs for a properly compounded concrete structure.

    This might be a major issue for many applications. For example, Netherlands houseboat hulls
     

  15. dsigned
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    dsigned O.R.C. Hunter


    I am not of one mind with some of the others on the forum on this topic. Admittedly, they have more boat building experience than me, however to my knowledge, there aren't many (or any) that have a better understanding of the current state of concrete mix design. Furthermore, again to my knowledge, there haven't been any attempts to make a "modern" "ferro" boat (the latter of which would be a misnomer, as it wouldn't be ferro at all). Finally, the best example of a ferro sailboat built to date was a boat built back in the 1970's: Helsal I. And again, to my knowledge, few, if any, homebuilt ferro boats used any kind of pre or post-tensioning system.
    [​IMG]

    In other words, I am of the opinion that the development of cementitious bound fiber boats is a poorly researched area. I think many of the conventional objections to concrete boats are either eliminated or dramatically reduced with modern fibers (PVA fiber, non-reactive fiberglass, tensioning), aggregate (microspheres, etc.) and admixtures (reactive powder/pozzolans, superplasticizers/water reducers, etc.).

    This thread is where I've laid out some of my arguments:
    Ok everyone, it's that time of the year again: time to talk about concrete https://www.boatdesign.net/threads/ok-everyone-its-that-time-of-the-year-again-time-to-talk-about-concrete.59200/
     
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