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Sea Ray to build boats using closed mold process

27 July 2001


Sea Ray, a boatbuilding division of Brunswick Corp, has signed an agreement with UK-based Plastech for hull and deck tooling, molding presses and injection equipment for Resin Transfer Molding (RTM). Sea Ray said now has exclusive rights to Plastech's patented Multiple Insert Technology (MIT) closed molding and plans to implement full automation within the work cells this year. The company said it has been validating the technology for use in its manufacturing facility for over three years.

Mike Hungerford, marketing services specialist for Tennessee-based Sea Ray, said the validation process includes full-scale boats, which are being test driven in all conditions. Sea Ray wants to accumulate hundreds of hours of testing before the company goes to full production. Hungerford said that 2002 model-year 182 Bowriders would soon be produced using the technology even though Sea Ray is just now receiving all the components of the production system from England. Sea Ray is studying other technologies for the production of larger boats, said Hungerford.

Plastech, based in Gunnislake, Cornwall, was founded in 1984 and holds many patents. ""From our research and extensive testing, we found Plastech's technology to be a common sense approach that gives us the controls we need to produce consistent and repeatable quality,"" said Sea Ray's Jeff Skuda, vice president of manufacturing technology. ""Although closed molding processing is not new to the boat manufacturing industry, it was paramount for us at Sea Ray to select a process that would produce hulls and decks with repeatable part thickness,"" Skuda continued. ""That's why Sea Ray took a lot of time to find the right technology to meet our stringent quality standards. MIT, which features rigid bolster technology, offers close and repeatable dimensional tolerances while giving us optimum control of part thickness.""

""Our MIT process introduces a superior level of automation and quality for boat manufacturing,"" said Alan Harper, president of Plastech. ""This raises the bar in the industry and gives Sea Ray a distinct competitive advantage."" Harper also explained another benefit of MIT tooling is the ability to mold complex structural shapes - a must for Sea Ray for intricate computer-assisted hull and deck designs currently being shaped with automated five-axis mill routers. ""We are excited to grant a technology transfer license to Sea Ray because of their long-standing reputation for producing the world's finest fiberglass pleasure boats. There's no better company in the world to showcase the quality results achieved through our patented MIT. tooling.""

Hungerford said an advantage of MIT over other closed-mold boatbuilding systems is that the multiple inserts used by Sea Ray create the opportunity to produce more hulls in a shorter span of time. Harper said that the multiple inserts allow for much of the preparation to be done outside of the mold, thereby speeding up the process. Hungerford said that as many as six hulls could be produced in one 10-hour shift using a single ""bolster,"" or molding cell. Less people are needed to manage the process than in conventional open-mold boat factories, and this translates into a savings of two-thirds in man hours, said Hungerford. Other advantages include a 90 percent reduction in emissions, and a completely consistent hull shape, reducing fitting out time.

Hungerford said that Sea Ray has years of experience using low-pressure closed molds for smaller boat parts, having produced 40-50,000 components over the years. Sea Ray manufacturers fiberglass boats from 5.5 metres to 20.7 metres.