North's Thin Ply Technology moves to masts


This season three TP52s will feature ground breaking Southern Spars TPT masts
Last year we looked at North Sails’ 3Di, originating from Switzerland and the mystery ‘black sails’ Alinghi trialled prior to the 2007 America’s Cup and North’s resultant ‘thin ply technology’ (TPT) - read this article here. To recap: the ground breaking aspect of TPT is that its manufacturing process uses carbon fibre uni-directional ‘tapes’ that are significantly thinner than the usual forms in which carbon fibre is typically supplied to the boating industry. This is in the process of revolutionising not just sail making (ie flexible composites) but potentially every aspect of ‘rigid’ carbon fibre construction too. For while composite engineers are typically limited to working with uni-directional or bi-axial cloths, TPT goes some way to allieviating this constraint allowing engineers to create lighter, stronger, more efficient laminates. As TPT guru, Norths’ Technical Director of 3Di and 3DL, Bill Pearson describes it: “It is hard to get carbon UD pre-preg commercially (at a reasonable price) much under 100gsm (g/m²). Because of the requirements for sails, we had developed our own pre-preg process that was easily manufacturing tape down to 25gsm, and we have gone as light as 15gsm. Obviously if you could build a composite part using four layers of 25gsm material, in place of a single layer of 100gsm, you can have the carbon fibre at four different orientations for the same amount of material and weight. This would allow a lot more design freedom, and much higher resolution in the structural optimisation of any composite part.” While 3Di sails are gaining an increased foot hold in the upper echelons of grand prix yacht racing, this season TPT is making its debut in racing yacht spars with North Marine Group subsidiary Southern Spars supplying masts built entirely using this technology to three of the new generation TP52s: Rán 4, Audi

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