Friday, September 14, 2012

Design Tools

There has been a bit of discussion around the software tools that I use for by boat design projects.  So I thought that I would expand on some of those capabilities here.

The key design philosophy that I have adopted is to design and build "hi-tech" boats using "low-tech" and mostly "sustainable" materials.  So I am primarily interested in using plywood and other timber products - usually held together with epoxy and often with glass and sometimes Kevlar or other semi exotic skins.  I try to minimise the use of carbon fibre (cost) - but usually have a bit of it in each project.  I am currently testing some green (non petroleum based) epoxy products - and they look promising.

I am not interested in using solid fibreglass or other carbon intensive or petroleum based materials.  I have been using a bit of aluminium but have recently moved to lightweight steel space frames instead.  Too early to tell how successful that will be.

Basically I have four main pieces of software in my design kitbag.

* Hullform - for the hydrostatic related elements - to analyse the model hull displacement and related things.  I have used Hullform for many years now.  A couple of years ago Peter Rye made the source code available and I spent a bit of time building my own custom version which I have compiled under MinGW on Windows.

All my custom software is built with the GNU tools - because they just work.

* MOI - for the graphics design and physical layout.  This is easily the best 3D modelling software on the planet.  I have tried everything from the so called "industry standard" 2D CAD (mostly rubbish) to high end 3D Modelling and nothing even comes close - when designing a complex structure - quickly and accurately.  The thing that I really like is that it just works and keeps working.  It won't crash and destroy your model.  Michael Gibson is a bit of a hero - he has built a great product and deserves our support.  If you are interested in 3D modelling then you can do a lot worse than to use MOI.

* Monoc - my custom software to help with the analysis and design of my custom *monocoque* timber structures.  These are basically bonded plywood cores on laminated frames with longitudinal stringers - all wrapped in glass and sometimes poly or Kevlar skins - glued and encapsulated in epoxy.  I built this years ago and revisit it from time to time as product circumstances change.  It allows for optimisation of the final hull and deck monocoque structure - to achieve maximum stiffness with minimum weight.

* Perform - Someone else's custom software to analyse the *performance* of the combined "hull" and "rig" design - over a dozen or so standard but typical courses.  So what this does is simulate the sailing performance of the current design which then allows comparison and analysis between a number of competing designs.  A process of testing and elimination finds the best performing model.

So when we are close to the end point of any particular design then we will usually have been through an iteration of more or less than a dozen models.  The published design is usually the standout of that process.

PS - Nothing to do with boat design - but these guys are pushing the envelope with their design innovation.  Do any Australian's know why this can't/won't happen in Australia?

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