Marine

North Sails unfurls game-changing new sail technology

North Sails unfurls game-chang...
A North Sails 3Di in action
A North Sails 3Di in action
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Example of 3Di sail construction
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Example of 3Di sail construction
A 3Di sail being heated over its mold
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A 3Di sail being heated over its mold
A North Sails 3Di in action
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A North Sails 3Di in action
A sample of Spread Filament Tape (SFT)
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A sample of Spread Filament Tape (SFT)
Spools of Aramid, carbon fiber and Dyneema awaiting assembly into Spread Filament Tape
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Spools of Aramid, carbon fiber and Dyneema awaiting assembly into Spread Filament Tape
A North Sails employee coats fibers with thermoset adhesive
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A North Sails employee coats fibers with thermoset adhesive
Fibers on backing paper are dried, rolled and cut into narrower widths
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Fibers on backing paper are dried, rolled and cut into narrower widths
Full view of North Sails' Spread Filament Tape manufacturing machine
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Full view of North Sails' Spread Filament Tape manufacturing machine
A North Sails employee continuously checks tape material weight
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A North Sails employee continuously checks tape material weight
The computer-guided tape-laying head
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The computer-guided tape-laying head
Another view of the computer-guided tape-laying head
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Another view of the computer-guided tape-laying head
The top section of a 3Di main sail
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The top section of a 3Di main sail
Detail of different tape layers
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Detail of different tape layers
Computer graphic image of tape layer arrangement
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Computer graphic image of tape layer arrangement
A completed sail is ready for the heating process
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A completed sail is ready for the heating process
The entire sail is sealed in a vacuum bag prior to the heating process
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The entire sail is sealed in a vacuum bag prior to the heating process
Software controls the heating process during sail consolidation
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Software controls the heating process during sail consolidation
Software development is an ongoing process at North Sails
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Software development is an ongoing process at North Sails
Exploded view of different tape layers
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Exploded view of different tape layers
After consolidation sails are finished on the large prep floor
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After consolidation sails are finished on the large prep floor
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View gallery - 22 images

Sail technology has come a long way since the days tall ships were carried along by billowing clouds of canvas. In fact, new aerodynamic discoveries coupled with exotic materials have turned modern sails into veritable works of high tech art. Today, sailmakers know that the less a sail distorts (through stretching, shear, compression or shrinkage), the more force or drive remains available to power the boat - especially helpful when you're in a close race for that final buoy. Now, the innovative designers at North Sails have woven an interesting array of tricks into their unique new 3Di line of "canvas" - laminated, heat-molded sails that hold their shape so well, they come close to performing like rigid airfoils.

If you've ever tooled around in a wind-powered boat, you know that sailing is about change: constantly shifting wind speed and direction, variable currents and waves ranging from ripples to breakers - all conditions that can affect sail shape and negatively impact its performance. Key to the North sails' ability to resist both stretch and compression is their construction from various lengths and multiple layers of "spread filament tape" (SFT) oriented along several axes. SFT starts out as a single length of thread that has had its component fibers spread out and laid parallel to one another, then sprayed with thermoset adhesive for an overall thickness of about 35 microns.

A sample of Spread Filament Tape (SFT)
A sample of Spread Filament Tape (SFT)

Depending on the particular sail design, the SFT can be made of various combinations of Aramid (aromatic polyamide), carbon fiber or Dyneema (ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene or UHMWPE). Aramid is strong and resistant to both tension and compression, but is easily damaged by UV rays (none is exposed in completed sails). Carbon fibers are also resistant to tension and compression, but are stiff and fragile. Dyneema is resistant to tension but not compression, yet it's durable and resilient. North makes 20 different Aramid/Carbon/Dyneema SFT blends at its Nevada facility, each with a different set of properties, which provides great flexibility in customizing the final product. Special software guides the precise placement of each SFT strip, adding an extra dimension of quality control to the whole process.

A 3Di sail being heated over its mold
A 3Di sail being heated over its mold

Once the SFT strips are assembled, they are sandwiched between layers of non-woven polyester, then placed on heated 3D molds for consolidation (the bonding of materials with like properties). The end result is an almost isotropic sail (resistant to omnidirectional forces) that holds its shape well over a broad range of wind speeds, stretches less and maintains its designed structure for a longer period of time. Ultimately, it may seem like a lot of trouble to go through for a sail, but history shows the pursuit of optimal performance seldom occurs on the path of least resistance.

Source: North Sails

Check out the video below to see some of the sails in action:

North Sails 3Di Sailmaking Technology on TP52 Decision

View gallery - 22 images
3 comments
greglo23
Who decides to put music so loud in these videos that you can barely make out what is being said about the actual product !!
Gregory Day
I agree with greglo23 - the music is obtrusive to the point where I abandoned watching the video - North take notice please.
Charles Barnard
Quality suffers when everyone is a video-maker...