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There's some exceeding clever interpretations of production technology at Azimut, says Phil Draper.

APRIL 2003

I have always been a big fan of lateral thinking. I get impressed for two real reasons. One is that I believe such ‘out of the box’ logic expands horizons and the other is because I know that not everyone can do it. I seem to have spent most of my life thinking ‘I wish I had thought of that’; I’m sure you all know what I mean.
I’ve seen two interesting instances of such lateral inspiration recently. Both were automated machine tool system solutions at Azimut.
What this Italian motorcruiser and motoryacht building operation has done to impresses me so much is to take two very different types of CNC equipment, both of which are now almost commonplace in high-volume small-boat plants, and re-think how they could be made to contribute to its own relatively low-volume big-boat business. Both are to be found at its new Avigliana King facility, which concentrates on building 85 or so 16.8-20.7m (55-68ft) motorcruisers a year.
The first example is that plant’s new robotic gelcoat-spraying system. Now the conventional approach with this sort of technology is for the robot to remain fixed and mould tooling to either pass before it or through it. However, Azimut has done the complete opposite. Its tooling is simply too big to move around, so its robot moves from lamination station to lamination station on an overhead gantry.

“Azimut has done the complete opposite. Its tooling is simply too big to move around, so its robot moves from lamination station to lamination station on an overhead gantry!” 

The other example is its new CNC cloth-cutting machine. The traditional approach here is to get the system to cut lots of relatively small reinforcements pieces for relatively small models in relatively high unit volumes. What Azimut has done that is so unusual is to take a standard system hooked up to a massive vacuum bed that is 20m (66ft) or more in length. That way it can cut lengths long enough to run the entire length of its biggest moulds, so cutting down on lamination time and expensive overlaps, while at the same time getting a more consistent end product.
So here is a clear example of ‘out of the box’ thinking having a serious impact on what goes on inside the box, the boatyard box!

© Phil Draper