In the final two instalments of this series Bill Pearson will look at some of the current non-sailmaking applications of Thin Ply Technology... that he is allowed to talk about

In the opening article of this series on the evolution of modern sailmaking (April) I started with the following sentence:

It has become increasingly rare that any structure built for a performance sport application is constructed from anything other than composites. At the high end of any performance sport, that is carbon fibre pre-preg composites.

We now come full circle, and back to high-end composites for performance applications, and look at how a technology developed for sailmaking is influencing the wider composites industry in general, over a very broad spectrum of applications. From traditional carbon spar manufacture to AC72 wings, from skis to snowboarding, from Formula 1 to aerospace, on to architecture and design, and even athletic footwear.

North TPT (Thin Ply Technology) is a composite pre-preg and materials technology business that has grown out of the emerging 3Di sail technology. Thin ply technology and 3Di are, let’s say, children of the same parents.

During what is now over three years of development with 3Di we thought that some aspects of a process we were using to manufacture flexible composites (3Di membranes) would also be interesting for the traditional carbon epoxy matrix composites industry, where structures are of course rigid. In particular, the very light weight of the UD (uni-directional) pre-preg tape we were producing, and some of the fabrication robotics developed in Minden, Nevada to deploy these very light tapes, seemed ripe for cross-disciplinary exchange.

Additionally, as we were educating ourselves in the course of developing our 3Di technology, we became aware of a fair amount of academic literature on thin ply composites, and the specific advantages of using many layers of thin material over a few layers of thick material...

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