Thursday, August 16th, 2012...12:23 am
Perception/Wavesport factory Visit
I have been sponsored by Wavesport for a couple of years now and am always keen to pass on my knowledge of their products and services. However for the past 6 months I have wanted more. What I realised is although I teach Design and technology so am very familiar with Rotational moulding and manufacture of such products as kayaks I have never actually visited a manufacturing factory.
So I spoke to Wavesport UK who operate in the Perception factory about the possibility of a visit. They obliged so myself and my girlfriend took a visit this summer. What I hope to give you is a look behind the scenes of some kayak manufacture. Why shouldn’t you know how your Kayaks/canoes come from?
First of all a bit of history!
GAYBO LTD have been making kayaks since 1968, when Graham and Bob Goldsmith turned their desire for canoeing into one of the most successful businesses in the industry.
40 years on from building their first boat they now have a purpose built factory in southern England, producing a comprehensive range of kayaks to exacting standards on three cutting edge rotational moulding machines.
This factory has seen many changes not only the materials through the years but the boats they manufacture. Including polar sleds for Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
Today Graham and Bob continue to have a passion for paddling and take pride in seeing people enjoying themselves in the boats they make. This remains as strong nowadays as it did the day they started.
My first impression was the heat, as rotational moulding requires large ovens to heat plastic polymer to specific temperatures the whole factory is very warm. I imagine in the winter months with being quite nice however in summer things could be very warm! Shorts and t-shirts to the ready!
The moulds are expensive a lot of paddlers can’t understand why kayaks cost so much or why manufacturers take so long to release a new boat. Put it this way if a company pays £30,000 (estimated) for a mould for a new play boat or creeker and that boat is available in 3 sizes to suit a range of paddlers, that is £90,000 not a small sum of cash! That manufacturer would have to sell approx 40 kayaks in each size to make the money back on a mould and that is excluding material costs, energy costs, R&D etc.
These moulds are cast Aluminium and feature all the shape you see in the final product whether it be a freestyle kayak or a sit on top. The mould must be perfectly free of dirt prior to the kayak/canoe being manufactured. The graphics (logos) you see on your kayaks are pre-printed onto special screen printed vinyl that can resist the high temperatures of the Rotational moulding ovens.
The moulds must be charged this means putting in the correct amounts of Polymer granules into the mould. This can be a solid colour or a mix of colours depending on the effect wanted.
Once the moulds are ready they are put into an oven for a period of time, the moulds rotate in a heated oven until the polymer granules have moved around the mould and filled every possible area. The thickness can me managed using very clever methods so you can rely on the consistency of your kayak/canoe.
Once the kayak has finished its cycle it must be removed from the oven and left to cool, after this stage the kayak/canoe can be removed from the mould and checked for shape and finish. The cockpit must be cut and sharp edges removed.
Your kayak/canoe will then go to an assembly area to have any fittings/seat attached prior to storage.
It is a fantastic process to watch from start to finish and I now feel comfortable I can answer most questions regarding how kayaks/canoes are manufactured.
I really enjoyed my day at the Perception/Wavesport factory and look forward to my next visit I would urge anyone who gets a chance to visit a factory to take the opportunity.
To end the day off myself Tom Pattison and Wayne Rush Astley took a visit to Burling gap for a spot of surf! Great day!