R-TECH Materials is celebrating its tenth year of testing composites for the marine industry.
The Port Talbot-based laboratory has worked with several key players in the marine industry including Lloyd’s Register - one of the world's leading providers of professional services for engineering and technology and a maritime classification society - which appointed R-TECH Materials as its exclusive global laboratory in 2012 to test composite samples, components and products to ensure they are suitable for a life at sea.
R-TECH Materials has conducted over 100 tests for Lloyd’s Register, including failure analysis on corroded water systems from a super yacht; a liquid gas pipework and a swing arm from a jetty.
Being inherently light and damage-resistant, composite materials have been used for several decades to manufacture all manner of marine vessels - from the hulls of super yachts to top side structures for large ships. There has also been a growing use of composites on military ships, such as the French La Fayette Frigate and the Swedish Visby-class corvette stealth ship.
By running a variety of laboratory tests, R-TECH Materials 22-strong team of highly qualified engineers, materials scientists and chemists can characterise the composite material; check if it’s fit for market; identify quality issues; solve processing problems and determine why a product has failed. They can perform reverse or back engineering - revealing how, and from what, a material has been made.
R-TECH Materials can also manufacture hand lay-up laminates using exactly the same methods as traditional boat builders to ensure authentic results.
Dr Geraint Havard, R-TECH Material’s Composites Manager, said: “We’re delighted to be celebrating our tenth year testing materials for the marine industry, six of which have been with Lloyd’s Register as their global laboratory, collaborating with them on common research themes. Over this time we’ve developed a particular specialism in the independent testing of polymers and composites and our rigorous tests - which determine mechanical, thermal and chemical properties - help our clients fully understand the materials, components and products they are producing and how they will behave in a marine environment.”
Mayur Jogia from Lloyd’s Register (LR) said: “LR has a long-standing reputation for integrity, impartiality and technical excellence. Our compliance, risk and technical consultancy services give clients confidence that their assets and businesses are safe, sustainable and dependable. Safety is at the core of our business and this is of paramount importance in the classification of marine and offshore structures. Materials used in fabrication of structures built to LR class must be approved by LR. This is essentially a two-part process consisting of a surveyor audit of the site where the materials are manufactured and approval testing of the material in accordance with our rule requirements.
“One of the options offered to clients is approval testing to be coordinated by LR in the UK. Six years ago we started working with R-TECH Materials to provide one-stop approval testing of laminating resin, gelcoat resin, fibre-reinforcements. This successful relationship has now been extended to offer client approval testing of chocking resin, not only for LR material certification, but also for EU RO Mutual Recognition certification.”
As well as testing for the marine industry, R-TECH Materials also works with aerospace and automotive sectors testing the mechanical, thermal and chemical properties of non-metallic materials, components and products. These include plastics and fibre-reinforced composites for material approval and characterisation, to identify quality issues, solve processing problems or identify why a product has failed.
R-TECH Material’s fully equipped composites testing laboratories include a state-of-the-art Zwick universal testing machine which operates in a temperature range of -70°C to 250°C, as well as a Hirox digital microscope and Zeiss Scanning Electron Microscope.
With the capability to test complex orientations to loads from 1N up to 1500kN, R-TECH Material’s standard tests include tension, interlaminar shear, in-plane shear, shore hardness, compression and mechanical properties of sandwich panels, as well as fatigue testing (in tension or in bending). This testing is carried out to ISO and ASTM standards under controlled temperature and humidity conditions, all accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Authority (UKAS).
This year R-TECH Materials is on track to secure aerospace approval from the National Aerospace and Defence Contractors Accreditation Program (Nadcap) and it has also teamed up with Zwick Roell to run a second round of its highly successful training course on mechanical testing of composites in April.