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North Sails 2021 Innovation - LEADERBOARD

ILCA shakeup delivers a new focus on quality to the class

by Greg Ross 18 Jun 2021 02:09 PDT
Elements 6 Evolution (E6E) © Greg Ross

Only two of the three former Laser builders ILCA builders remain.

Of the five new builders, in the opinion of many, Elements 6 Evolution (E6E) near Bangkok, Thailand, stands out for high-end manufacturing experience.

Set up in 2016, the three E6E principals are Pom Green, John Higham and Pramote Indranoi, had already worked together at Composite Marine International (CMI) before deciding to set up a new purpose-built facility for One design performance craft.

E6E certainly brings a lot of experience to ILCA dinghy manufacturing. As Pom Green says, 'It is a matter of applying the collective skill set in all areas of setup, design production and control to do the best job possible which is always our aim.'

Pom Green - yes, Green Marine was the family business. He studied yacht design at Southampton, a boat builder with extensive experience in composites, a big boat sailor, and a former Youth world champion and 470 Olympic campaigner.

John Higham and Pom, while working on yachts projects in Italy, researched locations for cost-effective manufacture, they ended up in Thailand in 2005, in a joint venture, CMI, between themselves, other well-known industry professionals and Cobra.

Pom explains, 'In Thailand, CMI set up to build medium-sized boats like the Rogers IRC46/ Class 40s, after GFC in 2008 we introduced smaller one designs and dinghies. We were building significant volumes amongst them many RS models, but we did not have the time to introduce the upgrades in technology we really wanted.

'We sold our interests in 2013 to establish a much more advanced technology marine composite entity E6E in 2016. We consider ourselves as a high-end composite product and parts builder rather than just a boat builder. Clients who come in here see it is very different to a typical small boatyard. It is automated and clean. Quality control is front and centre, and repeatability is crucial.

'Our technology span is big, we build the Olympic Nacra 17, the Nacra 15 and 20, Goodall designs, foils for Nacra, Hobie, Starboard and others, as well as aerospace and automobile products employing a variety of processes, prepreg, RTM, Infusion, pressure moulding and automated lay ups and now we have added the ILCA dinghy."

'The polyester open mould process used in the ILCA build is a blast from the past when we have been so focused on close mould, infusion, automation and pre-preg cleanliness, but we have no choice under the strict ILCA build rules. We are, however, as automated as we can be under the build rules and have applied the same build standard and QC processes to the ILCA that we do with all our other boats so, we are turning out a consistent and well-finished product'.

Now to John Higham production engineer and big boat sailor. He sailed the 85/86 Whitbread 85/86 on Phillips Innovator. He raced, and project managed boat builds in Europe for more than 25 years and now with Pom races on Kevin Whitcraft's Thai based TP52.

'We at E6, are a high-performance composite OEM manufacturer with a highly skilled and loyal workforce. Twenty per cent of our staff are engineers. We deal in complexity; our typical composite performance catamaran has about 240 machine-cut parts, between fabric and core, with sixteen separate resin shots.

'For Olympic and top O.D. boats, you must go the extra mile. There is a lot of detailing, and you need to combine automation with a lot of exceptionally good hand labour, and that we have. Also, Quality control of all parts pre-assembly is paramount to ensure essential repetitive high standards.

'When it gets to ILCA, we cannot change the manufacturing processes. They are mandated, but we are exceptionally good at a consistent quality. Every bit of core, every fabric piece is the same dimension and weight.

In the set-up we also focused on the shopfloor environment for the workforce, keeping the processes separate, clean and ventilated by installing treatment and extraction systems in each area including extractors for the ILCA laminating that is being built right now. The waste is all treated including the styrene before emission. We always aim to minimise wastage and reduce single-use plastics in the production and the packaging.

Pramote Indranoi, originally an aerospace engineer, focuses on running the technology for E6E, including all the CNC production, including moulds and fabric.

He added, 'Thailand has a large composites production industry, and we have excellent resin availability locally. Ambient temperature outside of our ten temp/ humidity controlled booths is a consistent 28-32 C deg. all year round so, this makes our ILCA open mould manufacturing output very consistent. The moulds and tooling we make are of the highest quality, and our precision CNC cutting machines production provide high-level accuracy. All fabric pieces come off the machines, labelled with overlap lines drawn, which allows us to deliver precision, repeatability and quality".

The E6E team specialises in high-performance componentry, so it is very precision focused so the resulting ILCA dinghy quality will undoubtedly be a winning formula.

E6E have appointed some key ILCA distributors already, and the first boats have already left for the USA, Australia and Europe as manufacturing enters full swing and welcome conversations with distributors around the world.' Contact , FB; Element6Evolution.

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