Tape Drive

Tape Drive, for example, has been around since the beginnings of molded sails and is the exclusive domain of UK Sailmakers. In fact, UK Sailmakers was one of the first sailmakers to acknowledge the Airframe patent, immediately applying for a licence to build sails using this new technology. Instead of laying thousands of individual fibers along load paths, however, Tape Drive uses high-strength tapes to accept the loads in the sail in a two-step process in which a base fabric or membrane defines the sail's three-dimensional shape and the tapes lend structural strength. Both the tapes and the base membrane can be made from any available fiber, and the ability to combine fibers in a sail allows the sail designer to make the most of each fiber's best properties.

The tapes, some with breaking strengths of up to 1,900 pounds, radiate from the corners of the sail with a heavier concentration in the high-load areas. The tapes are glued to the membrane, turning the entire structure into a single com ponent without any of the problems associated with seams. In Tape Drive sails the base membrane resists stretch uniformly throughout the sail so that there is no uneven distortion or shrinkage in any particular region. The result is a web of fibers that makes the sail resistant to tearing. If the sail does rip, the tear travels as far as the nearest tape where it is quickly arrested.

Just as with 3DL and Genesis, UK Sailmakers is constantly refining its product. As more is learned about the strength and stretch resistance of the tapes, more can be done to place them on the sail surface where they can be the most effective. With such an innovative way of making sails, it's likely this technology will be around for a long time.

With the obvious success of molded sails, be they Genesis, 3DL, or Tape Drive, Doyle Sailmakers, headquartered in Marblehead, Massachusetts, had to find a way to get into the market without stepping on the Airframe patent. It seemed that the easiest and most expeditious way was to manufacture the sails out of the jurisdiction of the Airframe patent, and with a modern loft in Australia the company had a ready-made solution. This, however, is only a small fraction of the story. In fact D4 offers a very successful process that builds upon Genesis and improves

Doyle's D4 sails on board Titan. The D4 technology is starting to rival 3DL and Tape Drive.

upon some areas of 3DL. Specifically D4, which makes up its sails from panels similar to the Genesis model, uses less adhesive for laminate bonding because of the increased pressure that it applies on the laminate surfaces. Again, because there are so many other variables in a sail, it's hard to substantiate some of the claims surrounding D4, but it makes sense that you can apply more pressure to a small flat laminate than you can to a large curved one.

In terms of the overall construction process, the D4 sail designer divides the sail into sections similar to those for a paneled sail, in which horizontal seams form a dividing line. For example, a mainsail with five battens would typically be built from six sections, with each section manufactured separately. Actual construction then begins by laying out large flat sections of polyester films coated with a UV-resistant resin upon which a machine similar to the one used to lay yarns on a 3DL sail places fibers according to a computer-generated design. These yarns are then coated with adhesive and bonded to the film, an additional lightweight scrim is laid over the substrate along with a second film, and this sandwich of film, adhesive and fibers is laminated together using extreme pressure and heat. Afterward, when the new laminate has had a chance to cure, these flat sections are scribed using a large plotter that shapes the luff, leech, and foot curves so that once the sections are joined together, the finished sail will assume a designed shape with the edges already drawn. The various sections are then glued together and the sail is finished the same way as a paneled sail - with corner reinforcements, bolt ropes, batten pockets, and other hardware - and the edges are trimmed with tapes.

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