Will commercial ships soon be built using Armacell core composites?

Well, new developments in testing have been performed to gain accreditation and approval for this. So what’s the latest?

Partners in the Realisation and Demonstration of Advanced Material Solutions for Sustainable and Efficient Ships (RAMSSES) project are working to demonstrate a composite ship that weighs 40% less than a steel equivalent, providing significant reduction in fuel usage and emissions.

Led by Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding (DSNS, Gorinche, Netherlands) and Damen Gorinchem (DSGo), a six-meter high, composite hull section was revealed in July 2020, after a development of three years. Titled, “Custom Made Hull for Offshore Vessel”, this is one of 13 demonstrators being constructed in the RAMSSES project.

The whole cycle from product design, alternative fiber architectures, novel joining solutions, novel resin development, validation of large composite structures, scaling up infusion technology and risk-based design are currently being developed and tested under the auspices of the marine classification society Bureau Veritas (BV). Additionally, the partners introduced the possibility of infusing thick laminates up to six meters in height that represent full-scale ship hull structures.

As described in CW’s Dec 2019 feature “Removing barriers to lightweighting ships with composites”, and in DSNS press releases, there are no approved guidelines for composite ships. Regulations covering composite shipbuilding only cover vessels up to 500 tonnes — approximately 25 meters in length. RAMSSES aims to address this by scaling up the composite technology and capacity to design, produce and market composite vessels up to 85 meters long in full compliance with Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and class regulations.

This will be achieved by approving the production process of large composite structures with economic improvement and key performance indicators for fire resistance, impact resistance and structural robustness.

Impact tests on the RAMSSES demonstrator at DSNS in the Netherlands, are proving that composites are very resilient to harsh marine environments. Several impact tests passing helicopter emergency landing loads were demonstrated on the RAMSSES hull shell and its composite helicopter deck.

This work section of the RAMSSES project is led by DSNS and Damen Shipyards Gorinchem, Evonik has developed the resin to infuse the composites. After the assembly, TNO will undertake full-scale tests for approval of design, quality management and structural performance.

“The work we are doing here is important for the future of shipping. Sustainability is a major focus in industry right now and shipbuilding is no exception,” says Marcel Elenbaas, senior engineer at Research & Technology Support DSNS. “The use of composites for larger ships has significant consequences for the entire design of the ship. If it is lighter, a vessel uses less fuel and produces lower emissions. The vessel also requires smaller engines, which means more space for additional systems, making for a more versatile platform. And of course, composites require considerably less maintenance than a steel vessel. With RAMSSES we have the opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness and viability of large-scale composite shipbuilding.”

The exciting RAMSSES project has even been partially funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 723246. Other demonstrators in the RAMSSES project include innovative components and modular lightweight systems, maritime equipment, the application of high-performance steels in load-carrying hull structures and the integration of composite materials in various structures for global repair.

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