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Why Aluminium?

Aluminium is without question the most well reputed material for the construction of robust workboats. A relatively large craft built from aluminium will be lighter and stronger than if it where built from fibreglass. Marine grade aluminium has such high impact resistance, that a Buddy boat can withstand a collision that would seriously damage a fibreglass craft. Marine grade aluminium also has excellent corrosion resistance, in most cases aluminium boats will last up to 50 years in the harsh saltwater environment. Aluminium is by far the lowest maintenance material that could be used for boat manufacturing. Aluminium does not rust or rot. Residual values for aluminium boats are high - making overall cost of ownership low.

Advantages of Aluminium

Strength

Aluminium has a higher yield strength than steel. It takes a force of around 30,000 psi (207MPa) to bend mild steel to the point where it won't spring back into shape when released. This is known as the 'yield strength'. 5-series Aluminium alloys will not yield until about 39,000psi (275MPa) - roughly 30% stronger than steel. A typical fibreglass hull, by comparison, is fairly brittle and will crack before flexing significantly. Practically speaking, this means that an aluminium boat will be able to withstand collisions that would dent the same boat made of steel, and write off the same boat made of fibreglass.

Material Aluminium Steel
Weight 2.65t/m3 7.86t/m3
Yield Strength 275MPa 207MPa
Ultimate Tensile Strength 310MPa 345MPa
Corrosion resistance Excellent Poor

Weight

Aluminium is only around 35% of the weight of steel. This means that given a weight constraint, we can afford to use about 3 times more material in an aluminium boat than in steel - allowing us to use thicker shell plating, bulkheads, frames and decking.

A lighter vessel is easier to launch/recover by road trailer and typically only requires half the engine horsepower to match the performance of a similarly sized fibreglass boat. Even a fully equipped Buddy workboat is light enough to be launched and recovered by most truck-mounted loader cranes, offering greater access to canals and riverbanks that would otherwise be out-of-bounds to multi-ton cranes and flatbed trailers.

Durability

New aluminium deck plate (right) and the same plate with the protective oxidisation coat (left)

5083 marine-grade aluminium alloy is preferred for marine applications because of its strength and resistance to salt-water. It has the highest strength of the non-heat treatable aluminium alloys and retains exceptional strength after welding. Marine-grade 5083 has a working life of around 100 years.

Aluminium corrodes differently to steel. Unprotected steel will rust when it comes into contact with oxygen and water and the resulting layer of corrosion is still permeable, meaning the material can rust right through if unchecked and untreated.

Unlike steel, when aluminium corrodes the resulting layer of oxidation is air-tight and rock hard, keeping the material underneath very highly protected. Even scrapes and scratches will form their own protective coat over time. This is why we recommend the hull is not painted, and the majority of operators choose not to anti-foul - further reducing maintenance costs and environmental impact.

Cost

The initial outlay for an aluminium craft may be higher than that for a comparable steel or fibreglass build, that cost will quickly be recouped:

  • Hull maintenance typically amounts to a cursory visual inspection, regular cleaning and replacement of the sacrificial anodes. This should keep the hull looking like new in 10 years time.
  • Aluminium does not need any protective painting, and the majority of operators do not apply anti-foul - this saves the cost of regular rubbing down and re-painting. The money you will have saved having your steel boat repainted will more than pay back the difference.
  • As mentioned, aluminium vessels can operate with smaller engines than similar steel and fireglass builds, offering a saving on the initial cost of an engine and superior fuel economy.
  • Aluminium vessels have a high resale value thanks to the long life and high durability of the material.
  • At the end of a vessel's working life, the aluminium can be sold for recycling, also reducing the impact of natural resources.

Ease of Customization

Our range of aluminium vessels lend themselves to tremendous amounts of customization. Unlike fibreglass (which would require a mould for every permutation of the design), we can start with a basic hull and easily change the length, beam, cabin layout, deck configuration, etc. to suit customer's individual requirements. Our CAD system allows us to quickly modify existing hulls to suit customer's particular needs while minimizing cost.