High Modulus Expands into Asia

14 April 2008

High Modulus has opened its operation in Qingdao, China, well-placed to serve the company’s growing number of Asian customers.

Last month the company opened a Representative Office, which will focus on the sales and market development of customers in the region. High Modulus has also entered into a Joint Venture agreement with Sino Composites, an established materials distributor in China. This new collaboration enables the B3 SmartPac, an engineered composite construction solution for production boatbuilders, to be offered to customers in Asia more cost-effectively and more efficiently.

High Modulus has been supplying customers in Asia for many years, most notably Cheoy Lee Shipyards in Hong Kong, with whom it has a twenty-plus year relationship. However, the past four years have seen a more proactive approach to the market growth, culminating in these recent developments.

“We have been building our presence and relationships in the Asian market over the last few years,” says High Modulus CEO, Richard Downs-Honey, “And we are excited to have taken these next steps which will allow us to realise the potential of the growing domestic boatbuilding market in China, Malaysia, Thailand and other locations in Asia. There is much chat and hype about the growth economy in China, but to really leverage the opportunity you have to be proactive and do something – which is what we have done and will continue to do. Being able to provide the B3 SmartPac from a local base will mean that customers benefit from improved delivery times and cost efficiencies.”

The B3 SmartPac solution combines optimised and practical laminate specifications with pre-cut reinforcement and core materials. The laminate specification, development work and prototyping for each new project will continue to take place at High Modulus’s head office in Auckland, New Zealand. This ensures that each Asian project benefits from the wealth of composites knowledge and experience within the High Modulus engineering team, which now boasts over 50 staff members. The engineering design is converted into cut-files (or templates) and sent to Sino Composites. They in turn use these cut-files to pre-cut and label each individual material part before packaging them in the order to be used and delivering them to the customer with a comprehensive construction manual. This complete package enables the builder to produce repeatable high-quality boats cost-effectively.

By applying its marine expertise to an aviation project, High Modulus has also incorporated ideas from the aviation sector into its own design methodology.

Entrepreneur Lapo Ancillotti approached High Modulus in 2004 and asked whether the company could help him with his latest project. Whilst Ancillotti was known for his involvement with the management of yachting projects, this new venture aimed to develop a high-performance experimental kit plane suitable for amateurs to build as simply as possible.

The High Modulus team’s aim was to design a monocoque structure, but with detachable wings so the whole kit is capable of fitting in a 20ft container. The fuselage, wings and tail were designed to enter the kit completed, so amateur builders have confidence in the critical structures, and can focus on bolting the parts together. This monocoque approach is just one of the ways in which the Furio plane differentiates itself from traditional aviation structures, which are typically more complex assemblies.

High Modulus teamed with ANZES (Air New Zealand Engineering Services), with whom they are co-operating separately on a multi-million dollar, multi-year “Research for Industry” project funded by FRST, and through this gained an insight into the differences between aerospace and marine design methodology. Of particular interest was the approach to statistical analysis of mechanical tests, and the similarities between the load bearing on wings and that on the centerboards of canting keel boats. As a result of this collaboration, High Modulus now has the capability to perform its materials and laminate tests to US Military Standards, which are recognized around the world; and a more in-depth understanding of the shock load and pressure distribution in dynamic loading of daggerboards on canting keel yachts.

The various Furio components of the fuselage, wings, tailplane and control surfaces were each approached individually to establish the best manufacturing method to suit the geometry and laminate requirements. The majority of the components were infused carbon fibre with PVC foam cores.

The first plane was publicly unveiled in Auckland in early February, with kits 2 and 3 already in build.

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