What equipment for an aluminium boat building shop?

Discussion in 'Metal Boat Building' started by RSD, May 9, 2024.

  1. RSD
    Joined: Nov 2022
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    Location: Red Sea, Egypt

    RSD Junior Member

    In Egypt most boats for the recreational dive industry are built from timber, with some built from steel - and the wooden ones tend to roll like all hell. There seems to be a good opportunity to start an aluminium boat building business there building catamarans up to about 20 metres / 66 feet.

    But what equipment would be needed to do this?

    I'm guessing...
    • an overhead crane to move the sheets and subassemblies around
    • a CNC machine to cut the sheets of aluminium
    • a welder
    • ...
    and obviously the tradesmen to do the work...

    What other workshop machinery would be needed?
     
  2. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
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    Location: Milwaukee, WI

    gonzo Senior Member

    Grinders, drills, drill bits, hole saws, circular saw, jig saw, reciprocal saw, sanders, painting equipment, winches and other pulling equipment, metal brake, electrical tools (crimpers, strippers, pliers,meters, etc.), caulk guns, pipe benders, fixtures for cutting and drilling, welding table, clamps, mechanical tools (wrenches, sockets, screwdrivers, etc.), impact screwdrivers, impact wrenches, hydraulic jacks, jack stands and blocks, laser level and alignment tools, exhaust fans, hand tools (hammers, prybars, punches, etc.), scaffolding, office equipment ( computer, screens, printer/copier, etc.). I am sure there is more.
     
  3. RSD
    Joined: Nov 2022
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    Location: Red Sea, Egypt

    RSD Junior Member

    Probably lots more! It's just an idea at this stage.
     
  4. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    Wooden boats don't roll because of the material. If it is excessive the problem is in the design and construction. Aluminum building needs a more controlled environment than steel. For example, you need to prevent the wind from blowing the shielding gas. Ideally you work in an enclosed building. Curtains are sometimes used for repairs or small jobs, but it would be inefficient for production.
     
  5. RSD
    Joined: Nov 2022
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    Location: Red Sea, Egypt

    RSD Junior Member

    Definitely a design problem - the hulls are rounder than a soccer ball!

    One thing I am going to make sure of is that no steel is cut or fabricated in the place - I don't need contaminated welds.

    I'm going to look further into the new laser welding processes as that seems to work well for aluminium from what I have seen on youtube and read so far.
     
  6. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    I've seen them too, but haven't talked to anyone that actually uses them. If it works it may be an option.
     
  7. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: Barbados

    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    Do you have any particular 'off the shelf' designs that you like which you would like to build?

    Re the operators of dive boats in Egypt, will they readily embrace a radical change from a timber round bottom monohull to an aluminium catamaran, or will you need to do a 'hard sell' on them?

    What is your budget for setting up a boat building operation? I presume that the cost of labour is relatively cheap in Egypt, but the landed cost of all the equipment mentioned in Gonzo's detailed list above is probably very expensive, and especially so if the Egyptian authorities decided to slap import taxes on anything that you bring in.
     
  8. RSD
    Joined: Nov 2022
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    Location: Red Sea, Egypt

    RSD Junior Member

    Am looking at working with Nic de Waal at Teknicraft Design https://teknicraft.com/ as he has a lot of experience designing aluminium power catamarans, and modifications of his existing designs will almost certainly meet our needs.

    A lot of the bigger dive centres are owned by European companies that have several dive centres in Egypt plus other countries, and I think that once one dive centre starts running these the other companies won't want to be left behind.

    I haven't set a budget yet as I need to put all the equipment into a spreadsheet and then add costs to see what we are going to be looking at, labour is indeed cheap in Egypt, a welder earns about 25% of what a welder in China earns, as you guessed import taxes in Egypt are quite high (typically 40%) but I do believe that there are exemptions for machinery that is used for manufacturing.
     
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  9. comfisherman
    Joined: Apr 2009
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    Location: Alaska

    comfisherman Senior Member

    Routers are getting replaced by lasers, higher kw usage but a very clean edge. Pulse mig is the welding answer of the day. Lots and lots of small hand tools and overhead lifting will get it done.

    We have three tecnicraft boats in Kodiak, know at least two of them have had lots of follow up welding. One had foil issues that needed a lot of welding, the other had much of its bows cut out lots of new framing put in and re plated. Third one is new to town, hopefully it's not gonna need major surgery.
     
  10. C. Dog
    Joined: May 2022
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    Location: Coffs Harbour NSW Australia

    C. Dog Senior Member

    Aluminium fabrication is a noisy and messy business. It is mostly worked with tungsten edged wood working gear, and the shriek of a high speed wood router on aluminium is something else, so is a planer or circular saw.

    Check out modern composite infusion techniques using resins with fibre reinforcement and lightweight core materials. Strong, light, fast to build and much less industrial than aluminium.

    Aluminium boats that live on the water are prone to corrosion damage, they are rigid and transfer a lot of force to passengers and crew, they are also very noisy, particularly when moored at night time.

    It is critical that surface treatments, fittings and fixtures, electrical systems and components, lubricants and sealants, even mooring location, are all chosen to give the least chance of corrosion.

    The old timber boat in the marina pen next door, full of copper, brass and steel, can eat holes in your hull.

    It is rugged and tough, ally boats often get a beating and stand up to it, just not my first choice of material for other reasons unless toughness is a major requirement.
     
  11. comfisherman
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    comfisherman Senior Member

    The fitting and corrosion issues are valid, but I've never felt like glass building was less noisy or industrial than alloy building...
     
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  12. RSD
    Joined: Nov 2022
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    Location: Red Sea, Egypt

    RSD Junior Member

    Good to know about the lasers being the best choice for cutting - thanks! Will also look at Pulse mig, and as previously mentioned the laser welding as well. I think that it will be a case of building a new facility from the start with an overhead crane etc.

    Very interested in what you have said about the Teknicraft boats in Kodiak. Any thoughts on how much of the problems are down to the designer and how much to the builder? I presume they are the ones built by All American Marine in Bellingham?
     
  13. RSD
    Joined: Nov 2022
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    Location: Red Sea, Egypt

    RSD Junior Member

    I'm not keen on doing anything with resins in Egypt - too hard to control things like the temperature for a start, noise during fabrication isn't a huge issue - everyone is very used to noise in Egypt!:)

    Corrosion control is something that we will have to be mindful of, toughness is something that is definitely required, noise at night when moored isn't an issue out there.
     
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  14. comfisherman
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    comfisherman Senior Member

    The laser cutting is cool, had my first batch done the other day on an electrical panel. Owner of the laser previously used router and cnc plasma, he mentioned it put him in a new category for electrical use. Must be a decent jump when an industrial shop mentions an increase in use.

    I'm not sure on the builders, there are three now. Have to walk the docks when I'm back in town and see who put them together. Was some time ago when they did all the work on the big ones foil. Don't remember much except it getting lots of extra plating to reinforce.

    The little one had issues in both the bow and foil, just remember how much they cut out and added to fix. Remember the repairman going round for round arguing with the designer.

    They certainly seem to go through the water nice.

    They designed a jet boat that's certainly a rocket ship, that was built by mavrik marine. Guy who has mavrik probably has aluminum tuned better than anyone else. Was involved with a small alloy builder when I was young, and have seen the inside of a lot of shops. Mavrik blew me away, probably the most effective per hr workers I've seen in a yard of any type.
     

  15. RSD
    Joined: Nov 2022
    Posts: 96
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    Location: Red Sea, Egypt

    RSD Junior Member

    Many thanks once again - a lot of good information there!

    Seems like I am going to have to research both laser cutting and laser welding! I might have to make a trip to the Fabtech show in Orlando! Re Bajan's comment about import duties on machinery, I have just remembered that Egypt has a free-trade agreement with Turkey so that will be another avenue to explore. One fortunate thing about Egypt is that they make a lot of aluminium there so there including marine grades so there will be no need to import aluminium.

    Any idea what sort of seas these vessels are being used in? One unfortunate thing with the Red Sea is that the wind blows directly parallel to the coast for 95% of the time and so the seas can get quite rough there.

    I will take a look at Mavrik's website - sounds like they run a good operation.
     
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