Mass production technologies for boats

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by JonathanCole, Jul 23, 2005.

  1. JonathanCole
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    JonathanCole imagineer

    Where would one find information on the technologies used to mass produce boats? Boats are complex devices, somewhere between an automobile and an airplane. Most larger boats (over 15 meters) that I have seen are custom, one or a few of a kind. If you had a design with wide applicability and demand, is there anything that prevents mass production to reduce costs and to make the product available to a larger number of buyers?
  2. ErikG
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    ErikG Senior Member

    Nothing new under the sun...

    Nothing new under the sun...

    Mass production is already done in areas that really can benefit it.
    Dinghies are rotomolded etc. But molds intended to be used in that way are expensive to manufacture and material that are fine to use in smallish boats can not be used in larger craft as these materials need to be engineered and have different strength in different areas.
  3. BillyDoc
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    BillyDoc Senior Member

    Nothing at all, it all depends on volume


    Volume is everything when you are talking about mass-production. For example, a hull could be thought of as a separate problem from the interior furnishings. If you go with fiber/resin you can apply various techniques to get that hull. Assuming a mold to fix the shape: you can lay it up by hand, use a chopper gun, vacuum bag it, use resin transfer molding, or variations on these themes and related ones. You could also lay up continuous long fibers with a robot arm and do resin transfer molding after layup — which would give you a very nice hull! Clearly, though, the sophistication of the technique used correlates strongly with the cost, unless it is amortized over large numbers. Programming that robot would involve a lot more effort than hand laying up a few hulls, but once you had the program and the tooling you could kick them out the door at a wild rate.

    Going with metal boats (my personal favorite), once a design is fixed all the parts can be cut with CNC cutters, formed, jigged, and robot-welded. Here again, the sophistication involved with the production of tooling and robot-welding correlates with very high unit cost if the production numbers are low, and low unit cost if the numbers are high. The tooling to implement mass-production techniques can cost far more than the value of the boat that results!

    Most people don’t realize that the mold necessary to make a $5 plastic trash can can cost half a million dollars! And that is just the mold, the injection molding machine that uses that mold isn’t cheap either. You have to really have confidence that you are going to sell trash cans to make that kind of investment.

    So to give a straightforward answer to your question, “You bet they can be mass-produced.” There is nothing intrinsically difficult about mass-producing a boat. The issue is, can they be mass-produced economically. The only way you can get a handle on this is to first have a good idea of the number of units to be produced. You can guestimate the cost of tooling fairly accurately for a particular design and technique, industrial engineers do this sort of thing all the time. The tough thing to estimate is the production volume and to juggle the unit cost accordingly to see if there is any profit there.

  4. Sander Rave
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    Sander Rave Senior Member

    Jon, Billy is right although a trashcan isn't exactly a complex product like a boat. He hits a point where he is talking about design and CNC cutters, robot welders etc.

    Geometry and complexity of the ships you're talking about makes it almost impossible to mass produce. You could make some prefab parts, and this is already done. I think the part where a difference can be made if you plan to scale up production, is development and pre production.

    By automating configurations of one type of ship, you can make your CAD/CAM generate the right lay-out, drawings, order the crude materials, send files to the CNC cutters via a nesting program and program (for instance) the weldering robots. The gain is a generic design in stead of one off designs (and drawings and programming and labour and loss and mistakes and...)

    This takes some investments in qualified personel and time to generate a generic design. We did likewise projects for sash windows and harbour crane grabbers. Like ships these are mostly small quantities (app. 1-200) in different configurations, which can be easily generated from a generic CAD model if the specifications are inserted to a spreadsheet.

    I believe the factories like Bavaria use this kind of production automation. Still a lot of production workers walk around, because even the most simple soul can make complex choises much easier than a robot
  5. fcfc
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    fcfc Senior Member

    You technically can mass produce any ship. But can you sell at least 10 000 identical a year ? a so small serie that it would make cry nearly any automotive builder.

    I think biggest series in ship are in the thousand for the whole life of the serie. A quantity so small even for a Ferrari production engeener (about 3000 cars a year).
  6. cyclops
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    cyclops Senior Member

    As the few wealthy people get more of the worlds money divided up between them. The remaning poorer not so wealthy are forced to buy not so custom designed boats. Yes, mass produced larger boats are coming, due to less wealthy people. Real wealth gets what they want without haggling.
    1 person likes this.

  7. CDBarry
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    CDBarry Senior Member

    What do you mean by mass production technologies?

    There has been a lot of work in adapting lean, six sigma, etc. to ship building and it has worked, and some mass builders are doing it too, but most rec boat folks don't do much in this line.
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