The construction of aluminium hulls is a profession in its own right. Specialists in this field require many years' experience and training. Staff of Gouwerok Shipyard are trained in-house and externally to become expert yacht builders. Everyone has his or her own specialism – from detail engineer to pipe fitter, and from work placement student to certified welder, everyone contributes to the complex construction process in accordance with a well-oiled and coordinated plan. The expertise and experiences of all generations of ship builders so far has contributed to the ample knowledge of the work planning team and the expertise on the floor. As a result, each hull that takes to the water is a new first-class product that the outfitting yard can easily continue working on.
The drawings produced by the yacht architect and the client are turned by the Detail Engineer into a 3D model, in which the hull is developed down to the smallest detail. Cutting files are then produced of every part and every detail. These documents are used by the cutting plant to cut the parts out of aluminium in order to make a construction kit.
The 3D model then forms the basis for the Work Planner to develop the working drawings and order lists, giving the work floor the necessary information and allowing the materials to be ordered.
A trainee yacht builder prepares each part so that it is ready for production. This varies from trimming to placing the strips on the aluminium parts.
The builder assembles all the parts into subsections and sections. These may be small subsections, such as a tank, to complete sections, such as an engine room. The larger the section, the more complex it is to build. Constructing sections properly is precision work which requires a great deal of experience.
All sections are aligned in the correct spot and placed at a height. This work is done very accurately using lasers. Because aluminium warps when welded, its height and alignment must be monitored throughout the entire construction period.
The hull is welded up using advanced pulsing MIG MAG machines. This part of the process is crucial: by welding up the construction parts, skin and decks, the hull becomes a strong and sleek whole. The joints are checked at random by squeezing and X-raying them. Parts such as tanks are put under pressure to see whether there are any leaks and the X-rays show whether the joints have been welded through sufficiently.
All of the aluminium parts are flat when they arrive. As many parts are curved, such as the strips, skin plates and structural parts, these parts must be bent. These specialists in the shipyard are responsible for turning the aluminium into double curved surfaces.
The pre-outfitter ensures that the hull is delivered ‘free from hot work’. He installs the foundations, ducts and ropeways etc. for the very complex on-board systems.
Much permanent pipework also consists of aluminium and is installed when the hull is built. Installing all these pipes properly is precision work that requires a great deal of knowledge, experience and skill. The pipes are welded using the TIG welding process, which is a specialism in itself.