Seeking to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, Solid Sail/Aeol Drive, an initiative steered by Chantiers de l’Atlantique, aims to fit three-masted cruise ships with huge articulated rigid sails of 1,200 m2 each. In February, the Saint-Nazaire-based company took another step forward by announcing the installation of a full-scale demonstrator on its site by 2022. Dive into the extraordinary technology of a project in which many companies from the Bretagne Sailing Valley® are participating.
95 metres long, 2.20 wide, the skins more than 4 centimetres thick skin, but all in all just 20 tonnes of carbon. These are the exceptional dimensions of the demonstrator which will be installed on the Chantiers de l’Atlantique site in 2022.
To build it, Solid Sail/Aeol Drive called on the know-how of several companies in the Bretagne Sailing Valley® which are renowned for their expertise in composites: CDK Technologies, Lorima and Multiplast are responsible for the construction of the tube sections, SMM for tooling and assembly, and Avel Robotics for the sleeves. The sails, made of glass and carbon fibre panels, are manufactured entirely at Multiplast, while Ocean Data System, Awentech, Pixel sur Mer, Blew Stoub and GSea Design have also been involved in this massive project.
The size of CDK Technologies’s 24-metre autoclave dictated the dimensions of the final rig: three sections of this length will be made and then joined by sleeves for the final 72-metre demonstrator. Lorima‘s director, Vincent Marsaudon, explains about the technique used: “The prepreg carbon technique which we have mastered at Lorima, was adopted early. The tubes are entirely made of a monolithic material, which is undoubtedly the best solution for unstayed masts that must last 30 years ”
Lorima is therefore participating in the 33 metre long mast section (1st demonstrator) which will be delivered this summer in order to test the connection between the tube and the steel piece on which it is to be fitted on the deck of the liner. “24 metres of this piece will then be recovered and incorporated into the future mast of the demonstrator ” says Vincent Marsaudon.
Meanwhile, at Avel Robotics, the robot draping of the sleeves has begun. This is a key point in the rigging process, which requires great precision that the robot from the Lorient-based company provides. “Our process does not depend on the operator as it is automated. The result is reproducible quality, which is crucial to this project.” explains Luc Talbourdet. The Avel boss has invested in a second machine dedicated to this project so that he can continue to meet the demands of their ocean racing clients particularly for the manufacture of appendages.
A few kilometres away, on their site in Lanester, SMM is another key player in the project. The company has the largest machining centre in Europe with a 45 m x 10 m x 5 m and two 100-metre long naves. The three female moulds for the mast were machined here and the final assembly will be carried out at SMM. “We made three half-moulds in epoxy carbon infusion with a required precision of 2 mm over 24 m,” explains director Olivier Kerdoncuff. “Each of them can be used to make the port and starboard half-shells using a set of inserts. So the three companies responsible for manufacturing the tubes can be autonomous to make the complete mast.” At the moment, SMM is also working with its boilermaking department on the production of all the assembly beams for the final mast.
The first demonstration mast will be delivered and tested in 2022, the last stage before the marketing of large ships, the first of which, with hybrid propulsion, are expected in 2025, which heralds the real breakthrough into a real scaled up industrial sector for the companies involved in this programme.
“This is a project we are mad keen on,” concludes Vincent Marsaudon. “Given the size of the parts involved, no company in the Bretagne Sailing Valley could respond to the project alone. We all had to sit down around a table and collaborate.” And Luc Talbourdet adds: “The world has changed. Seeing all the competitors that we are exchanging with on the same project working in a new, historical direction is an extraordinary opportunity.”
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Carole BOURLON, Head of competitive sailing and composite sector
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Picture © Creasynth / Chantiers de l’Atlantique