In 2017, TWI in collaboration with other 17 partners of the Fibreship Consortium (TSI, CIMNE, ULIM, IxBlue, RINA, VTT, DANAOS, etc.) began the FIBRESHIP project to investigate the use of composite materials to build a ship. While the use of composites is commonplace for smaller vessels, this project aimed to test the materials for a larger vessel. Large vessels are conventionally built out of steel however, the advantages of light weight composites are difficult to ignore. The Fibreship project is also looking to research multiple ways of increasing the life cycle of large vessels. Partnered with multiple investors, TWI is uncovering any possible defects and benefits to the use of the material. Further information about the FIBRESHIP project can be found on the project website.
FIBRESHIP demonstrator construction timelapse video
TWI has been successfully testing the materials used for the ships developed in Fibreship project (a container ship, a ROPAX and a fishing research vessel). As well as ‘bend testing’ the strength of the joints, the team has innovated a way of breaking down the ship so that the glass fibre sheets stay in one piece. The research team discovered that, by placing carbon fibre between these sheets, they can then heat the material up using an electrical current, which will in turn disintegrate the adhesive, allowing for the sheets to come apart intact. Due to this, more of the ship’s cost can be recuperated by, for example, selling the material for other uses elsewhere.
Whilst this is going on, the FIBRESHIP consortium is also looking at the life cycle and management costs of such a vessel and how the cost compares to steel. This includes a new system of monitoring the health of the structure, combined with long-term damage control strategies. Being a non-corrosive material, the fibreglass reinforced panels will outlast steel, and also produce lower greenhouse emissions during construction.
Working with partners such as Bureau Veritas, iXblue, RINA, VTT, COMPASS, TSI and Tuco Marine Group has allowed for the fire testing to take place as well as testing how water will affect the joints. With the project due to finish next year, TWI is still looking to complete more non-destructive testing in order to uncover any possible defects found with using this material.
The use of fibreglass on a ship will provide many benefits for future ship builders and designers. The reduced weight means that fuel consumption will be reduced significantly, as well as the cargo capacity being increased. Moreover, the vessel itself is aesthetically pleasing, whilst lowering operating costs of the ship, depending on its size.
This project will equip future ship designers with the knowledge they previously did not have access to, due to a lack of research. This once again displays TWI’s ethos of being at the forefront of cutting edge technology, and being adaptable to an ever-expanding market.
Luka Hans joined the ACS (Adhesives, Composites and Sealants) section in 2018 as a project leader after working as a project manager within the defence industry.
Graduating in 2016 with a Masters in Aerospace Engineering Luka Hans continues to broaden his experience by working with pioneering joining technologies within ACS.