ÉireComposites, an innovative design, manufacturing and testing company based in Co. Galway, has today announced it has signed a contract with Wavefoil, a Norwegian supplier of retractable bow foils, to manufacture the composite foils. The foils are nearly 6 metres in length and weigh over 2 tons each. They utilise wave energy by generating thrust when the vessel moves up and down in the waves, similar to a swimming whale. The foils will be fitted onto passenger ferries, fishing trawlers and yachts, ranging in length between 100m and 200m. The Titanic, in comparison, was 269m.
The retractable foils will help to make the marine sector more sustainable and environmentally friendly with fuel savings, emissions reductions and motion damping of ships to improve the comfort on board for passengers. The first developed foil module was retrofitted onto a vessel by Wavefoil in September 2019 and delivered an average fuel saving of approximately 8% during the first year of operation. Following the initial fitting, two smaller vessels have also been equipped with retractable bow foils. In 2020, Wavefoil secured funding to develop and test a prototype of a large foil module, which has the greatest fuel saving potential.
The contract with Wavefoil is an endorsement of the expertise and knowledge of ÉireComposites in developing manufacturing tools that ensure the efficient production of foils on a large scale. The computational modelling of the foils, which will maximise efficiency, is performed by cDynamics, Norway. The mould production for the foils has already commenced, and the first set of foils is expected to be delivered later this year with the foil module being assembled and tested in the final quarter of 2021.
Speaking on today’s announcement, Tomás Flanagan, ÉireComposites CEO said; “We’re delighted to have signed a contract with Wavefoil to manufacture these innovative bow foils. They will help shape the future of the marine industry and ÉireComposites is excited to be playing a role in making this technology a commercial reality. Retractable bow foils are a major innovation in the marine industry; the foil concept dates back to the 19th century but it has never been commercialised successfully due to the lack of a retraction mechanism. This challenge has now been addressed, enabling the development of foils that deliver savings on fuel consumption and hence reduce emissions from vessels.
Composite materials underpin the overall structure of the foils and they enable the doubled- curved surfaces necessary to obtain a smooth and efficient foil geometry. They also introduce structural flexibility, which is essential when the foils exit the water in high waves
and slam back into the water. The contract we’ve signed allows us to manufacture the tooling necessary, as well as the first set of foils, and will allow us to develop the most efficient design.”
Also commenting on today’s announcement, Chief Technical Officer Erlend Vastveit of Wavefoil said; “We look forward to seeing the foils take shape. This is certainly one of the most advanced composite structures ever, due to the extreme loads they need to handle. ÉireComposites has shown remarkable cooperation with Wavefoil so far and clearly contributed to the realisation of our largest foil module”.