SVC helps out boat builders

For the past several months, boat and airplane builders have come from as far away at The Netherlands to learn a different way to fabricate moldings for parts and boat hulls.

Professionals attending the week-long workshops at Skagit Valley College say the new technique provides better and cheaper moldings. More importantly, it helps businesses meet more stringent environmental regulations.

Mark Gray came from Bellingham where he is a production manager for Sea Sport Boats to witness the process first hand.

He said the process produces a lighter, more cost-efficient part, and that the process will help Sea Sport reduce styrene emissions.

“It’s a very clean process,” Gray said.

During a recent workshop, 11 people, comprised of students in the Marine Maintenance Technology program at Skagit Valley College along with industry professionals, teamed up to tightly wrap a plastic bag around a molding. Then resin is sucked in throughout the molding.

Greg Hardy, a component specialist with Groen Brothers Aviation, a gyroplane manufacturer in Salt Lake City, said his company is already using the vacuum process and that it produces a very lightweight, compact and strong part.

Mark Swietzer, department chair of the Marine Maintenance Technology program, said the closed molding vacuum infusion process contains any emissions that might otherwise enter the atmosphere. He added it is a cleaner process than having an employee spray resin to fabricate a part.

Andre Cocquyt has taught the class internationally since 1998 to a total of approximately 900 students. He emphasized how clean the process is and pointed out the students attending the workshop didn’t have to wear masks and protective suits during the infusion process.

“From a health point of view and an environment point of view, there’s no reason not to do this,” Cocquyt said.

Educating professionals about the new process comes as emission regulations are tightening. Cocquyt said that businesses have to comply with the Clean Air Act, which was originally approved in 1990, by August.

He said an Ohio-based company has already been cited for not making progress meeting standards. That business was given a 30-day deadline to comply with regulations, a difficult task considering it normally takes 16 months to two years to comply with such regulations, Cocquyt said.

Skagit Valley College started holding the workshops last May. In addition to providing a service to boat builders and airplane manufacturers, it also brings in more people to the community. During one of the workshops, 140 people visited Oak Harbor.

The Marine Maintenance Technology program has been operating at Skagit Valley College since the 1960s. It moved into its current location on Technical Drive off Goldie Road in 1975. In addition to the workshops for industry professionals, there are currently 35 students earning their Associates in Technical Arts degree. The two-year program guides students through aspects of boat construction and installation and maintenance of boat systems.

For one student who moved to Oak Harbor from Eugene, Ore. to earn his degree, the effort was worthwhile.

“It’s the only facility that teaches repair and maintenance of boats,” said Jim Morris, who lives on his boat at the Oak Harbor marina. Once he completes his degree, Morris plans on returning to Eugene to open his own business.

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