Achieving a 100kg Weight Saving

To compete in the world boat racing championship, the Groupe Finot designed the 'Fila' sailboat and needed a design partner with experience in new advanced materials and optimization methods to drive enhancements to the ship's keel – the foundational structure of the vessel. The Fila features a hydraulic “canting” keel which plays a crucial role in sailboat racing. Its job is to re-right the boat when the wind tips the boat to one side – or even capsizes. When the boat lists to one side, there is more wetted surface area and friction as the boat cuts through the water, resulting in reduced speed. The canting keel, which rotates around the boat, increases the stability and speed of the boat by keeping it upright with the sails in the wind.

As work began on a project to improve the performance of the Fila sailboat, Altair ProductDesign was selected as a development partner. The goal of the Altair ProductDesign team was to optimize the internal structure of the keel to reduce weight, lowering its center of gravity and attain maximum rigidity.

The team began by assessing the design of the keel, which was made of extra-high-strength steel. Altair ProductDesign collaborated with steel manufacturers SSAB Tunnplåtand SSAB Oxelösund to increase the use of ultra-high-strength steels in the new keel. Thanks to a combination of Altair ProductDesign's light weighting experience and simulation software that evaluated the new materials and a new shape, Altair engineers were able to transfer weight to increase the boat’s “righting moment”. The Altair team implemented its own HyperWorks simulation software to optimize the design of the keel with the optimization software determining the best design based upon required structural parameters for a given package volume.

In the final meeting, legendary sail boat designer, Jean-Marie Finot was impressed with the new shape of the keel and said it was the best he had seen. This was high praise coming from a naval architect of his stature. By the end of the project, the optimized keel was 100kg lighter than the initial design.

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