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2023 IBEX Innovation Award Interview with beSpline

beSpline Uses Thermoforming Technology to Bring its Shaped Foam Kit to Boatbuilders

Boat hulls and decks are composed of complex shapes. We discovered in the 1940s that fiberglass and resin prove to be ideal materials for achieving those shapes, but materials that start as flat sheets—whether metal, plywood, or foam core—have long posed vexing puzzles for the production team.

The longstanding traditional method for shaping core material in fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP) sandwich construction has been to score flat foam sheets, allowing them to be shaped into complex curves. The downside is that when that flat material is bent, the scoring leaves open channels between the cubes of foam. Those open channels, called “kerfs,” fill with additional resin during the layup or infusion process, adding unwanted weight to the laminated structure.
“Thermoforming” is a more recent alternative method that uses heat and pressure to shape flat foam panels into the curves required in a finished hull. Eliminating kerfs, it eliminates the unwanted weight of extra resin. Quebec-based beSpline uses its own thermoforming processes to offer pre-shaped foam kits directly to boatbuilders.

bespline foam kit

What problem was beSpline’s technology designed to solve?

It is now possible to get a bespoke shaped core kit made of thermoformed foam panels up to 2 inches thick, for the fabrication of lightweight composite hulls. Our process can accommodate several core materials, including PET, PVC, or SAN. Benefits of our Shaped Foam Kit include:

  • Reduced resin intake (up to 4 times) compared to double-cut core, resulting in weight optimization.
  • Optimized core fitting time (up to 60%), as the kit comes ready to install with an installation instruction manual.
  • Improved impact properties (up to 4 times), as the material keeps its original mechanical properties compared to a double-cut core.


Who is the target market for beSpline’s Shaped Foam Kit?

Our target market is boatbuilders using vacuum infusion process or prepreg for the fabrication of their hulls and looking to reduce labor time on core fitting while improving the performance of the boat. Short to medium series boat production (1 to 12 boats per year) is a perfect fit for beSpline.

Who is currently using the product? What feedback have you received?

Boston Boatworks is using a Shaped Foam Kit in the production of the Doug Zurn-designed BB44 and BB52. Lyman-Morse has used a kit for a custom 68-foot sailboat project. Ghostworks has used a kit for its high-speed shallow-draft M90 hull. We also have a flight-simulator manufacturer that has used a kit for the fabrication of a simulator shell!

The feedback has been excellent. We are receiving more and more interest from different yacht builders, but also from other industries as the benefits are appealing to any composite part manufacturer working with singly or doubly curved composite sandwich constructions.

What components is the Shaped Foam Kit being used to fabricate? How do you think it will be used in the future?

Mainly hulls at this point, but our clients are looking to spread its use on deck and interior design panels. beSpline can also produce finished panels on the adaptive mold (using vacuum infusion), so we are expecting to see more demands for finished curved panels in the future.

What obstacles arose during the R&D process?

We had quite a few obstacles, mainly with the heating process and the spring-back control for low-density and low-thickness core materials where we had some buckling effects on the edges. We’ve come a long way to master the process, and it is a great feeling to see this running smoothly now on a production level.

What impact do you see beSpline having on the boatbuilding industry?

This type of product has changed the life of a dozen of boat manufacturers across Europe in the last five years, where thermoformed kits were first introduced. No one has ever come back to using a more traditional 2D kit with cut core after trying a Shaped Foam Kit. We expect to see the same effect in North America, making thermoformed core kit the new standard for boatbuilders, especially high-end yachts, sailboats, and performance boats.

How do you see beSpline’s fabrication process improving?

We are working on increasing production capacity, pushing the limits on the radius that we can achieve, and working with high-density core (>300kg/m3) for pressure vessels.

The IBEX Innovation Awards showcase outstanding marine product development to the recreational boating industry and beyond. The program, managed by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and judged by Boating Writers International (BWI), is one of the marine industry’s most prestigious honors recognizing manufacturers and suppliers who bring new, innovative products to market.

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Your world isn’t flat — we can help. beSpline lowers barriers for companies to implement bespoke shapes and solutions using innovative materials, digital automation, and the latest technologies.

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