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Modular Marine Hull Rail Design

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First Principles

Function over form. The objective of this strategy is to build a vessel like no other. The goal is lightweight, strong, efficient vessel which can be propelled mainly by solar PV energy. Instead of building on legacy technology this method of building boats is based by using efficient hydrodynamic hulls, and building above the water.  The target waterline is less than two hundred feet, and an air draft of 18 ft (6 m), so the vessel can fit under any bridge and can transit the Rhine river up to Basel, Switzerland. The primary goal of the vessel is to act as a workboat platform, and also as a AirBNB yacht which can be used on the oceans, rivers, and European lakes. The configuration of the superstructure determines the end use of the craft, while the hulls remain essentially the same.

Rail Hull Technology: Similar to lots of component builds and commercial buildings (exterior skin support structure), this rail technology is for building maritime vessels. Multihulls are already some of the most efficient hydrodynamic craft, and this strategy evolves from that goal. In this case, the three hulls become rails to which the super structure is attached. This brings all mechanicals and living quarters above the waterline. There are no through-hull fittings, and no exposure to sinking from any hull breach. There is no bilge. The hulls have positive floatation. While there is some compromise of space by not going below the waterline, a huge amount of problems are overted. 

Modular Block Build: Using a patented modular concept, use 1/8 plywood in 2 x 4 or 4 x 8 ft structural box components which are attached together. Inside box is weave of carbon fiber tow and bubble pack to provide positive flotation, even with a hull breach. Additional hard points (for attaching external structure) can be easily layered up on the inside of the block. 

Attaching Superstructure: There are a number of strategies to attach superstuctures (and decks) between the hulls. The most common would be a lug attach point (similar to aircraft wings) to the sides of the structurally enhanced blocks.

Roll Formed Stainless: Use of roll formed stainless steel for the exterior skin eliminates paint and any finishing. Similar to SpaceX design on their spacecraft (no paint, no excess weight).

No Finishing: This stainless steel skin concept pays for itself immediately in terms of paining and finishing costs. Typical hull preparation and paint costs on multihulls less than 50 ft. can run above $10,000.

Assembly: Since modular blocks are laser engraved, assembly is easy. Similar to the housing industry using ICF (insulated concrete form blocks), this version can be stacked and assembled vertically or horizontally. Blocks are bonded together with fasteners and epoxy. Since each block is a watertight bulkhead, it is already a collision-sinking resistant. 

Transporting Modular Box Hull and Structure Components: This concept allows shipping anywhere in the world via container freight. It also allows almost endless combinations of build vessel length and width. 

Production Replication: The box beam modular construction also makes replication a production line and assembly process easier for small teams of builders. This process gives the advantage to customer builders and DIY owners.

Robot Assembly: Similar to loading container ships, modular blocks can easily be assembled and fastened (bonded) by automation. Think of a Tesla ship Gigafactory. The nature of using a standardized block, also lends itself to fabrication automation. Sheets of 4 x 8 ft. plywood can easily be laser scored and folded up into a box quickly. Spray foam or componsite weaving could easily be deployed to make the module with positive floatation and vacuum bagged watertight.

No Mould Needed: The most expensive part of boat building is the mould building process for production boats. Once made, a mould is very difficult to change, hence a break-even production process needs a certain number of hulls to make profit. This process mitigates that process in a variety of ways. First, a modular construction gives the buyer flexibility into vessel dimensions, and the builder on-demand expansion without any changes (there is no mould). Second, the modular box production can easily be ramped up for production. 

Built in Stairs: The rail concept gives the buyer and builder flexibility to make stairs and vertical level changes with ease. 

Hull Shape: One of the advantages of the rail system is that there is no complex hull shape for the multihulls. This saves countless hours, tank testing, and on-the-water development time. The thin hulls track forward.

Furniture and Interior Structures: Using 1/8 plywood for interior furniture, cabinets, and other fixtures gives a standard which can be easily crafted using inexpensive laser engravers and hand tools. The tried and proven process of building up (bonding) layers to make 3D or structural members is easy to do. Weight savings and strength is the name of the game. Thin veneers or applications can easily complete structures for a beautiful finish to any degree of luxury.

The World According to Dimensions: In the USA, the standard panel size is 4 x 8 ft. So that becomes the panel standard to work from. Use what exists, and go on from there. This not only saves cost, but more importantly gives you a huge supply network to work from. Sometimes sourcing material is the most difficult part of the build. This is especially true over the past pandemic year where building materials have skyrocketed in price, if you can even find the material to buy.

First Principles: Function over form. Make it look pretty later. As Elon Musk says, Most people live life by analogy. Be different. Think function as the primary driver for design.

Laser Engraver: A large low power laser engraver is perfect for marking and cutting panels. CO2 lasers work perfectly for this process. Anything thicker than 1/8 inch leads to slower cutting and marking speeds, and more smoke. Having a more automated panel marking and cutting machine make production level fabrication easier. A laser engraver can also easily mark parts with a QR code which allows you go keep part information in a FileMaker database for reference, or for assembly instructions.

Label Printers: Use label printers for fast datum point markers. They are also great checklists and for marking components. I recommend combining labels with a QR scan code so you can refer to a FileMaker database (or online website page).

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